What's not to enjoy? A colorful cast of Nintendo favorites, a fantastic mix of old and new tracks, and the delightfully chaotic racing that comes when you combine go karts and spiky blue shells. Races are short and exciting whether you're playing with friends or by yourself, as grand prix mode's three different cc classes cater to all skill levels. There's also time trial mode, which pits you against no competitor save yourself as you race to beat your best time and complete three laps in as few minutes as possible.
For gaming on the go, you can't really ask for much more. It's hard to complain when a title gives you solid gameplay and variable challenge in quick bursts as often as Mario Kart does, yet there are a few negative things prevalent in the DS title worth mentioning.
For all of its portable goodness, the DS version does have one design quirk that prevents it from being the ultimate on-the-go racer: the inability to save your progress in the game's Grand Prix mode and return to it at a later point. When wi-fi isn't available, you'll be spending quite a bit of time running through the many different race cups, so it's a shame that you'll have to stick with a grand prix until the last race lest you exit out and have to completely start over.
For console versions, it's an understandable choice, as a pause screen and the luxury of time make working through a cup an excellent leisure activity. Portable racing, however, is a slightly different animal. Sure, you can close the DS's lid and resume your racing at a later point, but being unable to play any of Mario Kart DS's many other modes without quitting the grand prix can be more than a little frustrating. Knowing that you'll have to complete the entire grand prix for it to count could make it a less appealing choice for a gamer on the go, especially if you're trying to complete the cups to unlock the game's extra characters and karts.
Other dubious elements include the snaking technique, which quickly grew to dominate the multiplayer arena, effectively killing some players' interest in competing. The infamous rubber band AI common to the Mario Kart series is also present, though still manageable by skilled players.
These still seem like niggling complaints, however, when one looks at the big picture of Mario Kart DS. Excluding the few things mentioned above, it captures the spirit of kart racing like no other, and shines even brighter by giving us the package in portable form.