Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: Complete Controls Guide

Everything you need to know about all of the control settings for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch.


Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the defining games of the Nintendo Switch. Sold in console bundles and standing as the best-selling game of the Switch, there aren’t too many owners of the hybrid console who don’t have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

While the game is relatively simple in its controls, there are multiple set-ups, the option to make use of the motion sensors on the controllers, and some advanced controls that you need to know to become a great racer.


In this Mario Kart 8 Deluxe controls guide, we’ll be going through the various controller options, how to set-up the controls, the basic controls, and all of the advanced controls – such as getting the perfect speed boost at the beginning of the race and how to defend.

In this guide, the buttons Left, Up, Right, and Down refer to the buttons on the direction pad (found on the left side of the controllers or the right-side of single Joy-Con controller) in the way that you see them presented when you hold the controller for a race.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Controller Options

On the Nintendo Switch, you have four different controller options when you play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: handheld console, dual Joy-Cons, single Joy-Con, and the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.

Assuming that you use the dual Joy-Cons option in the Charging Grip, the dual Joy-Con controls are the same as the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller controls for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

All of these controller options can be used with analogue steering or with the tilt controls. The single Joy-Con controls allow you to enjoy four-player local racing through one console.

Once you’ve selected the kind of controller that you’ll be using, you can then have a look at the controls set-up.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Controls Set-up

A key aspect to the controls in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the three settings that you can select while you’re choosing your character and customising your kart.

At any stage while picking your load-out, you can press + or – to bring up details about your character’s speed, acceleration, weight, handling, traction, and three other options. Those three options are the Smart Steering, Tilt Controls, and Auto-Accelerate.

In the image above, all three options are switched off; here’s what they do if you turn them on before a race.

Smart Steering Controls

If you turn on Smart Steering, the silhouette image of Mario in a kart on the left of the three options will show an antenna out the back of the kart. If you turn the option off, it will show a no entry symbol where the antenna was before.

Smart Steering is best suited to beginners and young players of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, as the feature automatically drives the kart and stops it from falling off of the track. It also stops players from being able to use shortcuts.

For more experienced players, this option is very tedious but is switched on by default for all new players and controllers.

You can switch it off in the initial character select screen by pressing + or -, or by pressing + during a race, and then the appropriate button (L or SL) noted in the top left of the menu.

Tilt Controls

Nintendo likes to flex their motion-control innovations whenever they can, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe being no different. Tilt controls can offer a new challenge or prove to be annoying if you don’t know that they’re switched on.

When selecting your character and kart for the upcoming race, press + or – to see the menu. To see if Tilt Controls are on, check out the middle image at the bottom of the pop-up kart stats.

The image will depict your current controller load-out. If you have analogue steering on, the left analogue – or only analogue – on the controller will be yellow. If Tilt Controls are on, it’ll show two yellow arrows either side of the controller image.

If you want to turn Tilt Controls off during a race, go into the menu by pressing + and then either Y or Left/B if you’re using a single Joy-Con.

All controllers can use the Tilt Controls set-up, allowing you to steer your kart by tilting your controller. You still need to press all of the appropriate buttons to perform functions such as throwing items, doing tricks, and accelerating.

Auto-Accelerate Controls

The Auto-Accelerate option does exactly as you’d expect: it allows the game to effectively hold down the accelerate button for you.

This can help against hand-cramping on the small single Joy-Con controls, but it also removes your ability to moderate speed by easing up on the accelerator – a common tactic used instead of breaking.

The Auto-Accelerate controls option is found when selecting your character and kart by pressing + or – to bring up the kart statistics overlay.

Of the three symbols at the bottom, Auto-Accelerate in the one of the right (depicted by a silhouette of Mario with an arrow in front of his kart). When this option is turned on, the arrow is shown in yellow. When Auto-Accelerate is turned off, the arrow changes colour to a pale grey.

To change the Auto-Accelerate controls while in a race, simply press +, look to the top right of the menu, and then press R or SR – depending out your controller type – to change the setting.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Basic Controls

In this section, we’re just going to run through all of the basic controls, assuming that you have Auto-Accelerate, Tilt Controls, and Smart Steering turned off.

Control Dual Joy-Con / Pro Controller Handheld Controls Single Joy-Con
Acceleration A A X / Left
Steer Left Analogue Left Analogue Analogue
Break B B A / Down
Reverse B (hold) B (hold) A / Down (hold)
Look Behind X X Y / Up
Hop R / ZR R / ZR SR
Perform a Trick R / ZR (at the top of a ramp or ledge) R / ZR (at the top of a ramp or ledge) SR (at the top of a ramp or ledge)
Drift R / ZR (hold while steering) R / ZR (hold while steering) SR (hold while steering)
Use Item L / ZL L / ZL SL
Pause + + + / –

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Advanced Controls

Although the set controls of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are quite simple, there are plenty of advanced controls to learn that can greatly enhance your racing.

From getting a boost at the start of the race to defending yourself, these are all of the driving techniques and advanced controls that you need to know.

How to get a Rocket Start in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

It used to be that getting a speedy start in Mario Kart meant that you’d have to press the accelerate button on every number shown on the race countdown.

In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, to get a boost at the start of the race, you simply have to press and hold accelerate (A or X/Right) as soon as you see ‘2’ shown on the countdown. If you time it right, you’ll get a big Rocket Start.

How to Drift in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

In order to keep your speed up when you’re steering around sharp corners, and potentially get a turbo boost, you’ll want to pop a Drift.

While you’re driving, with the accelerator (A or X/Right) held down, hold down R or SR to drift, and turn your kart with the left analogue.

It takes a bit of time to master, but to help make things a little easier, you can pick karts with higher handling and grip ratings (seen by pressing + or – when in the character select screen).

The one thing that you’ll need to look out for, though, is the inward drifting bikes. The Comet, Jet Bike, Master Cycle, Sport Bike, and Yoshi Bike feature an inward drift, which means that the drift control is the opposite way to the other karts and bikes.

How to Drift Brake in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Sometimes, especially in high-speed races, drifting can get a bit out of control. So, to quickly realign your kart and drop the speed of the drift, you can use a Drift Brake.

To perform a Drift Brake, while drifting, simply tap the brake button (B or A/Down). It certainly helps you to get around tight corners in the 200cc races.

How to get a Drift Turbo Boost while drifting

While you’re drifting, you’ll notice coloured sparks flying from your rear wheels. These sparks indicate the size of the Mini-Turbo that you have charged up from the length of your drift.

Blue sparks mean that, when you release the R or SR button, you’ll get a Mini-Turbo boost.

Yellow sparks mean that, when you release R or SR, you’ll get a Super Mini-Turbo boost.

Purple sparks mean that, when you release R or SR, you’ll get an Ultra Mini-Turbo boost.

The longer you hold your drift without going off of the track, hitting an item, or being thrown out of the drift by any other means, the larger the boost your Mini-Turbo will provide when you eventually release the drift button.

How to get a Jump Boost in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

To get a Jump Boost, and to perform a trick in mid-air, all you have to do is press R or SR when you drive to the top of a ramp or off of an edge.

If you time the button press just right – at the very peak of the ramp – you’ll get a bigger speed boost. If you time it wrong and jump too early, you might miss the ramp altogether and fall off the track.

How to get a Spin Turbo in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

While driving around the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe tracks, you’ll encounter antigravity zones. In these zones, your wheels turn to face the track, making your kart or bike hover.

In the antigravity zones, you’ll be able to gain a Spin Turbo boost by bouncing into other racers.

How to perform a Spin Turn in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

To quickly turn your kart or bike around when you find yourself stationary, you’ll want to perform a Spin Turn.

When your kart or bike isn’t moving, hold down the accelerate (A or X/Right) and brake (B or A/Down) buttons at the same time and then steer with the left analogue in the direction that you wish to turn.

How to perform a U-Turn in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

A U-Turn works in a similar way to a Spin Turn; however, a U-Turn is performed while you’re still driving around. It’s a technique that can only be used in the Battle Mode but is very useful in the balloon-popping arena.

When you’re driving, hold down the accelerate (A or X/Right) and brake (B or A/Down) buttons at the same time and then steer with the left analogue in the direction that you wish to go with your U-Turn.

How to Hold an Item and Defend in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is set-up to give racers chasing the leader an edge, with the further back a driver is, the higher their chance of getting a more powerful item. So, those out in front can expect to be bombarded by items.

The only defence that race leaders have against the chasing pack is strong driving and holding certain items to defend the rear of the vehicle.

Single Bananas, Bob-ombs, single Green Shells, and single Red Shells can all be held behind by pressing and holding L or SL, keeping them on the back of the kart or bike for as long as you hold the button or until they get hit.

To then use the item, all you have to do is release the L or SL button – likely wanting to direct it backwards by pulling backwards on the left analogue just as you release the item. You could also use the look behind button (X or Y/Up) to see if your opponents are closing in on you.

The biggest problem for those out in front is picking up Coins. However, when an item box does, almost inevitably, land you with a Coin, do not use it unless you’re on nine coins and want that ten-coin speed boost.

As you can’t hold two of the exact same item, if you hold onto a Coin until you hit another item box, you’ll all-but guarantee that you’ll get an item that you can use for defence.

How to Draft in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Drafting is another way in which chasing drivers can get ahead of race leaders. Timing a Draft well can see you slingshot past one or multiple karts that are ahead of you.

To Draft in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, all you have to do is drive behind another racer. After a few seconds, you’ll see a wind stream pick-up either side, at which point you’ll start to drive faster. When you see the opportune moment, pull out to the side and use the speed boost to overtake them.

If the roles are reversed, and you can see another racer trying to Draft past you, throw an item backwards or hold an item in defence while trying to swerve into them.

There you have it: your complete controls guide for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch.


Ben Chopping

Will give almost any game a chance, particularly those that include wildlife, monsters, or prehistoric creatures of any kind.

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