Super Mario Kart can be played by one or two players. All gameplay uses a forced 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.
The first single player mode is Mariokart GP, in which one player races seven computer-controlled drivers or AI. 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 and the player must receive fourth place or better in any track to advance to the next. Places five through eight are given the "ranked out" title. The second mode is Time Trial, in which the player races through one track in an attempt to set a record for best lap time or course time.
Three multiplayer modes are also available: The first is Mariokart GP, which plays just like the single player version, but with one less computer-controlled driver. In order to proceed to the next track only one of the drivers is required to rank in the top four. The 2nd mode is Match Race, which is a one-on-one race on any track. The last mode, Battle Mode, is the only mode in which players do not race. 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. The last player with balloons wins.
In Mariokart GP and Match Race modes racers can collect coins which affect top speed and acceleration. In all modes, Lakitu rescues drivers who have driven off the track for a price of two coins. In Battle Mode and Time Trials, there are no coins and thus no charge.