Super Mario Kart can be played by one or two players. All gameplay uses a horizontal split screen view. In single player mode, the top displays the course, while the bottom screen can either display a rear-view mirror perspective, or an overhead view of the whole track, displaying where all the racers are currently. In multiplayer, the bottom screen is assigned to the second player's view.
There are two single-player modes. In Grand Prix, one player races seven computer-controlled drivers. Engine classes of 50cc, 100cc, and 150cc are available (150cc is available upon acquiring gold in all the cups in 100cc). Larger engines result in faster vehicles and a greater level of difficulty. There are four cups to select: the Mushroom, Flower, Star, and Special Cups (100cc and 150cc only). Each cup consists of five tracks (Most associated with levels from Super Mario World) and the player must receive fourth place or better to advance to the next track. Places five through eight are given the "ranked out" title. In Time Trial, the player races through one track in an attempt to set a record for best lap time or course time.
There also are three multiplayer modes. Grand Prix plays just like the single player version, but with one less computer-controlled driver. In order to proceed to the next track only one player is required to rank in the top four. Match Race is a one-on-one race on any track. In Grand Prix and Match Race modes racers can collect coins which affect top speed and acceleration. In Battle Mode, two players choose from four levels specially designed for battle mode and try to pop the three balloons surrounding the other player with items such as Koopa shells or banana peels to win. In all modes, Lakitu rescues drivers who have driven off the track.