Single Player Modes
- Mario Grand Prix (GP): Eight racers compete in a series of races for points. Characters not selected by the player are controlled by the computer.
- Time Trials: Drive around any track to get the best time. Best times are saved on the Nintendo 64 Controller Pak.
- Mario Grand Prix (GP): Eight racers compete in a series of races for points. Characters not chosen by the players are controlled by the computer.
- VS: Race up to four players in Split-screen action.
- Battle: Battle up to four players in Split-screen action. Choose from any of the battle courses.
In Mario GP, players can choose between four difficulty levels of game play. These levels include:
- 50cc - Easy (fairly slow-paced)
- 100cc - Intermediate (medium speed)
- 150cc - Difficult (fast-paced, and occasionally the AI cheats by letting computer characters drive far faster than you can) (Sometimes your kart may start slipping without a cause, if that happens hit the break to avoid spinning)
- Extra - Same as 100cc, but all courses are mirrored. All left turns become right turns and vice versa. You can unlock Extra mode by winning 1st place on all four cups in 150cc mode.
There are 36 tracks in total (16 race tracks, 4 battle arenas, and 16 tracks that are mirrored images of the other race tracks). Each Cup contains a total of four courses. As you progress from the Mushroom Cup to the Special Cup the length of each course gradually increases and they will have more traps and complex corners. Unlike Super Mario Kart there are three laps per course instead of five.
- Luigi Raceway - (Distance - 717m) - Easy raceway. Contains long straightaways and easy corners.
- Moo Moo Farm - (Distance - 527m) - A very small, bumpy farmland course. Watch out for Chubby the mole, as he will jump out of mole hills, knocking karts out of the way.
- Koopa Troopa Beach - (Distance - 619m) - Named for the giant rock that can be seen right after the starting line. Watch out for the crabs and the rising tide.
- Kalimari Desert - (Distance - 527m) - A desert raceway. Watch out for the two steam locomotives that pass through the track.
- Toad's Turnpike - (Distance - 1036m) - Probably the most dangerous track. Avoid the cars, trucks, and buses. (Sometimes a terrible but difficult to do bug occurs here that involves lanching a kart to one of the two walls, if done correctly, the kart will be teleported 1/2 of stage farther, if not, Lakitu will only put the kart back in place)
- Frappe Snowland - (Distance - 734m) - A giant ice land filled with snowmen and ice sculptures of the characters. A small stream cuts across a ramp.
- Choco Mountain - (Distance - 687m) - Watch for signs along this course warning you of falling rocks.
- Mario Raceway - (Distance - 567m) - A course similar to Luigi's Raceway, with wider turns and piranha plant hazards.
- Wario Stadium - (Distance - 1591m) - A very twisty and turny track.
- Sherbet Land - (Distance - 756m) - A slippery track made of ice. Watch out for the penguins and the frozen water.
- Royal Raceway - (Distance - 1025m) - This track is located just outside of Princess Peach's Castle. Watch out for piranha plants.
- Bowser's Castle - (Distance - 777m) - Don't fall into the lava and watch out for the Thwomps on this course.
- DK's Jungle Parkway - (Distance - 893m) - A track located in Donkey Kong's jungle. Go too far off the track and the natives will chuck rocks at you.
- Yoshi Valley - (Distance - 772m) - Characterized by steep canyons and a giant Yoshi Egg blocking the bridge. Try not to get turned around by this maze-like track.
- Banshee Boardwalk - (Distance - 747m) - Watch out for the bats when you enter the haunted mansion and the zig-zag boardwalk area.
- Rainbow Road - (Distance - 2000m) - The longest track in the game, Rainbow Road takes approximately 5-6 minutes to complete. Several Chain Chomps roam the course.
- Big Donut - This arena is in the shape of a large donut. The inside of the donut has no walls so watch out for the lava.
- Block Fort - This arena consists of four "forts" situated in a square pattern. Each fort is three levels high and is a different color. There is a green, blue, yellow, and red fort.
- Double Deck - This is a four level high arena. It is easy to lose track of your opponents in this level.
- Skyscraper - This arena is the top of a skyscraper. Knocking deponents off the track instead of relying on the use of items can be a useful strategy to employ in this arena.
There are eight racers in Mario Kart 64. These characters are Peach, Yoshi, Toad, Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Wario, and Bowser. These racers are split into three groups. The maximum speed of all the karts are about the same.
- Pros: The Lightweights accelerate well and can get a good position off the starting line. Don't lose much speed when they go off-road. Their Maximum speed is slightly higher than the #Middleweights Middleweights and Heavyweights.
- Cons: The Lightweights lose much of their speed when turning corners without sliding. They usually spin out when crashed into by Heavyweights.
The Lightweights include:
- The Middleweights are well balanced racers. They don't have any real pros or cons.
The Middleweights include:
- Pros: The Heavyweights don't lose much speed when turning corners without sliding. They usually don't spin out when the are hit by other players.
- Cons: They have low acceleration which causes them to take a long time to reach their maximum speed. When they take their kart of-road into sand or grass their speed will greatly decrease.
The Heavyweights include:
When you run over Item Boxes placed on the course, the Item Window will appear on the screen. The items in the box shuffle rapidly the slow to a stop, like a slot machine.
- Mushroom: Temporary boost of speed. (Does not appear in Battle Mode)
- Triple Mushroom: Three temporary speed boosts. (Does not appear in Battle Mode)
- Golden Mushroom: Boost your speed as many times as you want. After its first use the Super Mushroom is available for a limited time. (Does not appear in Battle Mode)
- Super Star: You receive invincibility for a limited time. Bananas, Shells, and enemies will not hurt you. You can also run into opponents causing them to spin out.
Attacking Opponents Ahead
- Green Shell: Travels in a straight line. Hit an opponent to cause them to spin out.
- Triple Green Shell:; Three Green Shells spin around the kart. Use them at any time. Hit a banana and you lose one shell but you will not spin out.
- Red Shell: Homes in on the first opponent ahead of the driver.
- Triple Red Shell: Three Red Shells spin around the kart. Use them at any time.
- Spiny Shell : Chases the kart in the lead. Any karts in its path are doomed. (Does not appear in Battle Mode)
- Thunder Bolt: (Lightning Bolt) The lightning bolt will shrink all opponents. Your character can then squish anyone who gets in the way. (Does not appear in Battle Mode)
- Boo: Allows you to steal other racers items as well as turning you invisible to many on-course obstacles.
Placing Items on the Course
- Banana: Hit this delicious fruit and you will spin out. (Sometimes you don't slip instantly after touching the banana, your kart may start slipping but you can return to safe pressing B button)
- Banana Bunch: Five Bananas will trail behind the kart. Drop each banana wherever/whenever you want. (Does not appear in Battle Mode)(Usually more efficient when an opponent touches the banana tail to make a banana trap)
- Fake Item: A bomb which disguises itself as an Item Box. (Can be identified for being opposite to its original twin, instead of ? a ¿ is displayed on the fake)
Enemies and Hazards
- Chubby - This mole on Moo Moo Farm who will occasionally pop his head up out of the holes that litter the course.
- Crabs - Koopa Troopa Beach
- Steam Locomotive - Kalimari Desert
- Cars, Trucks, and Buses - Toad's Turnpike
- Snowmen - Frappe Snowland
- Boulders - Choco Mountain
- Piranha Plants - Mario Circuit
- Penguins - Sherbert Land
- Thwomps - Bowser's Castle
- Off-road native rock throwers - DK's Jungle Parkway
- Giant Yoshi Egg - Yoshi Valley
- Bats - Banshee Boardwalk
- Chomps - Rainbow Road
- While in the developmental stages Mario Kart 64 was titled Super Mario Kart R.
- Magikoopa was originally slated to appear as a racer, but was replaced with Donkey Kong.
- Mario Kart 64's Rainbow Road track also appeared in F-Zero X as the first track in the Joker Cup.