While racing simulation heavyweights like Gran Turismo 6 and Forza Motorsports 5 were some of the plums of this year's Entertainment Electronics Expo – at least for gear heads – we couldn't help being charmed by the latest instantiation of Nintento's long-running racer, Mario Kart 8.

Fans of the franchise will have the option of using Wii U's motion-based controls or the conventional versions to join the better-than-ever on-track mayhem. Nintendo has returned motorcycles to the mix of vehicles in MK8, as well as offering players the opportunity to get above ground with hovering karts and an anti-gravity feature that occasionally flips tracks on their heads.

The head-to-head competition is still at the heart of why Mario Kart is such a crowd pleaser, and the multi-player features are strong, though streamlined for MK8. We played – and were trounced – in a two-way battle versus a random E3-goer, but the motion controls proved pretty flawless in the first go-round. Four-way play is available, as ever, for a single console, and online races support up to twelve racers at a time. Our gut tells us that the more live racers you have to battle with, the better MK8 gets.

Every other piece of the game is familiar but refined... in a good way. Game play is fast, weapons are hilarious to deploy and courses seem to get easier the more you have time to learn them. Friendly faces abound: Luigi, Peach, Donkey Kong, Bowser, Yoshi and Mario (of course) are among the characters set to return to the franchise. Scroll down below for a video.