I don't think Mario Kart: Super Circuit for the Game Boy Advance is a good game. I didn't like it when I first tried it out years ago, and still don't like it after recently acquiring every gold medal. My issue with the game is simple: Super Circuit feels terrible to play. And no, it's not because of the hardware it's trapped on; F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (which came out several months prior) is an excellent GBA game with silky smooth controls. Super Circuit's problem is that it loyally models itself after Super Mario Kart, meaning that you're going to be involuntarily sliding, bouncing, and crashing into walls.
Racing games are somewhat unique in that their quality is first and foremost determined by how they play. Games with awkward or poor controls can have other strengths to help mitigate that (story, visuals, growth), but how many people are willing to devote more than an hour to a racing game if it just doesn't feel good? Of course, you have to be careful differentiating between "terrible controls" and a "high bar to entry"—I wasn't a fan of Wipeout HD when I first played it—but by the time you've conquered the "normal" difficulty of a game, it's likely that you'll know where you stand. For Mario Kart: Super Circuit I tried to keep an open mind, testing out every racer and different drifting strats, but I could never get a handle on how slippery the game felt even after finishing 150cc.
If you haven't played Super Circuit, just imagine playing a Mario Kart game wherein steering always makes you feel like you're drifting. Right turns can easily morph into a wide arcs, preserving your sideways momentum as if the tarmac is frozen. Worse still, nudging left or right to course correct can send you in strange directions, making you overshoot item boxes by dumb margins. As for drifting, it would frequently send me so far off course that I never used it for 150cc, given that cornering accurately won races more reliably than trying to eke out a speed boost here and there. In Super Circuit it feels less like you're in control of a go-kart and more like you're barely in control of the entire course, sloppily rotating it around your racer like a greased turntable.
The sliding is a huge pain in the ass because it transforms most turns into an exaggerated ordeal. It's not too hard to clear 90° angles but for anything wider, you're going to have to use the brake in order to avoid veering off road, which doesn't sound too annoying—except for the fact that the AI doesn't have this problem! Nowhere is this issue more vexing than in the Extra tracks, which are all taken from the winding SNES courses. Enjoy agonizing over hairpin turns as the computer zooms past you, able to effortlessly change direction even with a mushroom active (seriously, try the Extra Star Cup and tell me the game controls "just fine.")
While most of these complaints can be levied at the original Super Mario Kart, I think hindsight should've allowed Intelligent Systems to produce a better-playing game. Even if they wanted to be loyal to the hoverboard-like controls, it baffles me that they also kept the "bump racers and lose coins, regardless of weight" aspect. This dumb, cruel system needlessly makes the AI stronger, forcing you to avoid bumping racers even as Bowser unless you want to risk spinning out early. And strangely, even though the game includes all of the old SNES tracks, it removes a lot of their unique hazards like monty moles and thwomps... despite thwomps appearing in the regular GBA tracks. I also think the modern item box system makes the tracks worse, given that if a racer ahead of you takes an item box, it can leave you powerless for an entire lap.
While I don't like Super Circuit, I'll grudgingly admit it has a couple of things going for it. The game is vibrant and pretty, containing a lot of unique backgrounds that help distract the player from the ugly pixel warping on the race course. The SNES tracks, while inferior and flawed, still add a good amount of value, effectively doubling the playable content. Lastly 150cc is a fair and challenging difficulty most of the time, where poor steering will be the cause of your loss rather than suffering a flurry of red shells or blue shells. The dreaded blue shell in particular is extremely rare, showing up about once every twenty races or so—which is fine by me.
I don't regret having grown up without Mario Kart: Super Circuit, especially since I had F-Zero: Maximum Velocity to fill my portable speed-needs. I've always been in a bit of a love-hate relationship with Mario Kart, but I can still appreciate the flavorful track design and quirky vehicles of Mario Kart Wii, 7, and 8—basically every game other than the first three. Hell, I still hold a lot of nostalgia for Mario Kart 64, despite that entry having some of the longest, most dry circuits in the series. But these games remain fun to play, no matter what gripes I have; I can't say the same for Super Mario Kart, and in turn, its hunchbacked successor Super Circuit. Most tracks feel too similar, impassable walls blend in with the floor, but worst of all, it's a chore to play. We might be living through a nostalgic gaming renaissance, but Mario Kart: Super Circuit puts forth a sobering argument as to why sprite racers will be one genre to never see a comeback.