Mario Kart the card game – on card design.

I wanted to spend a minute discussing the face design of the cards for the Mario Kart card game.

Dipping in my toe…

I had the idea to create this card game since shortly after receiving a gift from my younger sister.  I had not made a card game before, but I had quickly decided that I wanted to playing card’s basic design to be rotationally symmetric like standard playing cards and UNO cards.  The only other requisite I had in mind was when I envisioned the cards, I saw them with a large central circle that would display either the card’s number or an image of the attack item.   I  started making card design templates in early 2007.

green card template png
Test image from 1/10/07

Of course actually designing a complete game and the cards to go with it was one of many projects that was put on the back burner for years until I realized that I had nieces that enjoyed both Mario Kart video games and playing UNO cards.  This was the push that I needed to accomplish this task.

The basic design

While I was designing the card distribution and game play, I was also working on the basic card design.  I have no graphic arts training, and any image editing I’ve learned has been self taught.

red test
A few test designs on the way to the final.

Even with these limitations, the cards design that I came up with is something that I’m very proud of.  As I worked toward the final design of the card faces, the predominant feeling that I wanted the cards to impart was ‘speed’.  Overall, I think I accomplished it.

Blue three, final design

Color choices

During development, one version of the game had five colors (suits) instead of four.  I ended up scrapping that version and went with four colors instead.  I chose red, blue, green, and orange.  UNO has red, blue, green, and yellow, but I replaced yellow with orange.  I’ve played UNO in low light situations and had trouble discerning the yellow cards due to the low contrast.   When I had five colors, the fifth color was to be pink.  Considering the Mario theme, I think pink is a more appropriate suit color than orange.  I ultimately went with orange in this edition because it seems more balanced than having two colors from the red family.  I am considering making a future edition of the game that swaps in pink cards for the orange ones, let me know if that would be worthwhile.

The item cards

The next biggest design obstacle was the design of the item cards.  In this game, as in many others, the majority of the cards are described by two categories, color (suit), and number (value).  A red three, for example.  The item cards are intended to be an extension of the regular cards, not a new category of cards in and of themselves.


It should be seen as a red three that is also an item/attack, not as a green shell card.  The game play reason for this is that only another red card or three should be playable on this card, not another green shell (unless you’ve adopted this as a house rule).  It’s a difficult concept to express, and I haven’t quite found the right way to do so, either in this blog post, in the game rules, or in the card design.

When I designed the item cards, I really wanted to show off the item in a fun way and the best way to do so is in the large central circle. Unfortunately, putting the icon here deemphasizes the card’s value.  I tried to have the icon share the space with the value, or only appear on the card corners, but I never found a visually pleasing way to do that.

The importance of the card’s value is further reduced by how it shares space with the icon on the indexes.  In truth, I would much rather have the value displayed at the same size as with the regular cards.  I tried several variations of how to show both the card value and item icon in the index, but I never found a design that I thought wasn’t overly ‘busy’.


Ultimately due to time constraints I went with the design you’ve seen here

Value reduced in size, icon added

In closing

As I mentioned in my last post I am satisfied with this work, but I know improvements are possible.  Perhaps in the future, making a second edition or special edition would be an appropriate use of my time.

I appreciate having a place to share these thoughts in an organized manor.  I would love to connect with any readers that found some value in this game or post.  Feel free to comment and follow.  And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the other things I have produced for my YouTube channel.



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