This page is for any general information about the game that you should keep in mind when racing.
Midway Gates and Goals
During levels there are Midway Gates that are placed at the halfway point of the course. If you walk through this as small mario, you will instantly become Super Mario and if you are already Super/Caped/Fire, nothing happens. These also act as a checkpoint, so if you die later on in the level, you will be brought back to the Midway Gate instead of starting from the beginning.
During races, it is recommended that you do not get any Midway Gates until the one inside of Iggy's Castle. This is because the first jump in Iggy's Castle is significantly easier to make when you are small Mario, and no time is lost if you accidentally hit the Koopa and shrink.
Goal posts at the end of levels have a ribbon that normally you would want to hit and get Gold Stars. However, once you get 100 Gold Stars, you are sent to a Bonus Game, which during a race is nothing but a waste of time. So do all you can to avoid getting sent to the Bonus Stage. Usually you will be able to run straight at the goal on the ground and finish.
Getting Hit and Death
Whenever you are hit by an enemy, if you are small Mario, you will die. If you are anything but small Mario, you will shrink down to the small Mario state, and if you have an item in your reserve, that will drop down for you to get. Other ways you can die include falling down holes, not reaching the end of the level before time runs out (very unlikely), getting pushed off the screen dring autoscroll levels, or getting squished when attempting a cape zip through blocks.
Never ever ever ever ever EVER ever pause. If you are about to die, let it happen. There is nothing you can do to stop this and pausing will only waste time. The ONLY time you will want to pause is, for example, if you lose your cape, and have to go back to a level to get a new one. When you are playing an already beaten level, if you press start then select, it will exit the course.
Entering Castles and Ghost Houses
Right after you select to enter a Castle or a Ghost House, there is a small cutscene that will play of Mario walking up to the door and opening it. This is a waste of time and can be skipped, so you should just mash on your A or B button to skip it.
It's a good idea to be familiar with the Overworld. Depending on the race goal, you want to know your route before you begin. Sometimes during races you might have a brain fart and start going the wrong way. Practice, practice, practice your routes.
It is also worth noting that on the overworld, there are different colored levels. Yellow marked ones are normal and can only be beaten one way. Red marked ones (the first being Donut Plains 1) have multiple exits that take you on different routes.
Keys and Keyholes
Though each level has a regular goal (excluding things like Switch Palaces, Ghost Houses, etc.), sometimes there is a secret exit that can be gotten by using keyholes. This is important to know, especially because all Star World levels must be beaten with the keyhole to progress to the next one. Mario must be holding the key and collide with the keyhole to activate it. You cannot just throw the key into the keyhole or anything like that. If you are riding on Yoshi, you can grab the key in his mouth and continue through the keyhole.
In total there are 4 Switch Palaces throughout Dinosaur Land. In some levels there are clear blocks with outlines of a certain color. The switch palaces, when beaten, will fill these in with blocks of that color. They are Yellow, Green, Red and Blue. The yellow switch is accessible after beating Yoshi's Island 1. The green switch is accessible after beating Donut Plains 2 through the secret key exit. The red switch is accessible after beating Vanilla Dome 2 through the secret key exit. The blue switch is accessible after beating Forest of Illusion 2 through the secret key exit.
There are a bunch of different types of blocks and switches throughout the game. These are the ones that are most important:
This is the Prize Block. It does a whole bunch of things from popping out a mushroom, flower, cape feather or Yoshi, to just being plain old coins. Know which ones are where in each of the levels. After hitting a Prize Block, it will turn into a Used Block.
This is the Message Block. If you are casually playing the game and want to learn some tips the developers put it, go ahead and knock em. But for racing purposes, you never want to hit these as they are major time consumers.
This is the Rotating Block. When you hit this, it will start to spin and allow you to jump through it. You can also twirl on top of it to destroy it and perform the cape zip. Sometimes it will act as a prize block and give you mushrooms/fire flowers. Know which is which.
This is the On/Off Switch block. When riding on moving platforms, you will have to hit this to switch the tracks to continue through the level.
This is the Glass Block. Items will cycle inside until you decide to hit the block, and will continue to cycle while bouncing around outside. Once you grab the item it will stop.
Though not seen during most races, these are the Switch Palace blocks. The yellow one will give you a mushroom, the green one will give you a cape feather, and the blue and red are only used as platforms.
Yoshis are Mario's dinosaur friend who come in four different colors and all of which very rarely used in races. The standard green yoshi that you will be able to hatch out of a block on almost any level in the game outside of star world. When he eats different enemies, a variety of effects can happen: he just swallows them (things like fish), he can spit out the shell (buzzy beetles and non-red shells), he breathes fire (red shells), gain wings to fly (blue shells, and only until he swallows the shell), gains the ability to stomp when he hits the ground (yellow and rainbow shells), or he will just fail to eat them at all (larger enemies like charging chucks). All the other color yoshis are found in star world levels and when hatched from their eggs as babies can be picked up and carried around, during which if something of applicable size is near their face, they will eat it. Once a baby yoshi is full (4 enemies/shells or 1 power-up), mario will automatically drop the yoshi and it will grow to its adult size where it can be ridden. Red yoshis breath fire instead of spitting out shells, regardless of their color, in addition to the eaten items other abilities; red yoshis are found in star world 1 and 4. Yellow yoshis will do a ground stomp no matter what shell is in their mouth, and is found in star world 3 and 5. Blue yoshis gain wings regardless of their mouth's contents and is only found in star world 2; however, you can turn any other color of yoshi into a blue yoshi by taking the wings exit in a level such as cheese bridge or valley of bowser 2.