A Super Mario Kart interview from the 1992 has resurfaced on the internet after being translated to English for the first time.
The interview covers many topics including why the franchise is based on go-kart instead of car racing. However, series creator Shigeru Miyamoto and directors Hideki Konno and Tadashi Sugiyama discussed about why drifting was added to Mario Kart.
According to Miyamoto drifting was added because it was fun and it allowed players to drive kart in a way that is not possible in real life:
“One of our core ideas was that you’d be able to have fun driving these karts in ways that you couldn’t in real cars; in that sense, it wouldn’t be much fun if the karts couldn’t drift, would it? At the same time, if they slide around too much you can’t drive, so we had to give them some grip, and strike a complex balance between the two. The drift idea was there from the beginning, you see. We continually refined the idea with the goal of making it a technique that any player could do.”
To make drifting easier to execute the director mapped it to the L and R buttons instead of realistic control scheme. The developers added a small speed boost to drifting so that players would drift as much as possible.
Konno further said that in real life the cars drift very slowly, but their controls were cool. The developer wanted to incentivize players who had learned the skill:
“In a real car, drifting actually happens at slow speeds. Our drifting controls were different from F-ZERO, and I thought they were cool, so I thought we should incentivize players who had learned the technique by making drifting a little faster.”
Sugiyama also revealed the reason for making drifting faster in Super Mario Kart:
“Konno and I did some races together when we were playtesting. He decided to drift, and I just raced normal grip style. It was there that decided we should make the drifting a little faster.”
However, they admitted that stil drifting was not implemented perfectly in Super Mario kart, and that is the reason that those players who drive in Super Mario Kart without drifting will still be faster.