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Andy Prest: North Vancouver gets a starring role in Mario Kart

A new track for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes Princess Peach and pals racing along the Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Olympic cauldron and Lions Gate Bridge feature prominently in a new track for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, as does a popular North Vancouver attraction.

Congratulations North Shore, we’ve finally made a huge impression on the global stage.

Sure, other things have gained our little not-quite-the-same-as-Vancouver corner of the world international fame before. Yeah that was West Van’s Cypress Mountain Resort playing a starring role in the 2010 Olympic Games as the ski hill that hosted special performances from the likes of Shaun White and a bunch of hay bales.

And anyone of a certain age will certainly know North Vancouver as the home of Bryan Adams and Jason Priestley, two first-ballot inductees into the Jean Jacket Hall of Fame. And many of the younger generation will famously know the North Shore as the place they will never be able to afford to live.

And we can’t be that many years away from erecting a sign on the North Van side of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge claiming “Welcome to North Vancouver, Home of Connor Bedard.”

But all those things take a backseat right now to the starring role the North Shore is playing in a video game that is amongst the best-sellers of all time. Mario Kart has been a classic since I was a kid. I vividly remember firing projectiles at my cousins hour after hour in my Grandma’s basement. Then we’d play Mario Kart.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the best-selling version of the game by far, came out on the Nintendo Switch in 2017, and since then more than 50 million copies have been sold around the world.

For those of you who haven’t played a video game since Duck Hunt, a unique part of the modern gaming world is that games you’ve already purchased can get periodic updates and extension packs, and last year Mario Kart 8 Deluxe started releasing new tracks to spice up the beloved old game. Many of the new tracks take the cartoon racers through the streets of the world’s famous cities, including New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo.

Earlier this month the latest wave of tracks came out and Luigi and his pals made their first visit to Canada, on the Vancouver Velocity track. The race course passes a couple of famous Vancouver landmarks – the Olympic cauldron, a parking garage – before quickly veering into “Vancouver Park,” which is probably Stanley Park, and features a “Grill” serving both “Meat” and “Fish.” Classic Vancouver.

But the track gets very North Shore very quickly, with Lions Gate Bridge seen off in the distance as you pass through the park. And then you’re magically transported to North Vancouver, passing under a sign labelled “Suspension Bridge” to enter a long treetop section of track. It’s obviously the Capilano Suspension Bridge, with some animated improvements such as curves, bats, and an anti-gravity zone. All those things should really be part of the actual suspension bridge experience, considering how much you pay to get in there. (Just kidding, bridge buddies!)

Seriously though, for a North Shore local it is pretty neat to get the opportunity to be a turtle skeleton driving a wheeled pirate ship through bootleg Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. The tree-top adventure finally ends when racers hit a ramp at the end of the suspension bridge, spitting them straight across Burrard Inlet, over a cruise ship and back downtown.

That’s the end of the North Shore screen time, but much more fun is to be had as you race through a hockey arena, pass an homage to Roger Neilson, and scoot past the Vancouver Public Library’s stylish downtown branch. There are plenty more fun Vancouver sights to see as well. If you don’t own the game yourself, maybe give your niece or nephew a call and try it out?

If nothing else, it will give you a chance to experience driving on the North Shore without waiting 90 minutes to cross a bridge.

Andy Prest is the editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.

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