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Toad and others doing a Grand Prix in Toad's Factory.

The Grand Prix (known in earlier games as Mario GP), also colloquially referred to as Championship, "Story Mode", or Tournament is the main single-player mode in the Mario Kart series. In Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 (as well as 3-4 players in Co-op mode for Mario Kart: Double Dash!!), Grand Prix was open to two screens. In Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart Wii, and Mario Kart 7, the Grand Prix is for single player mode only. In Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, four players can play Grand Prix. (Players can choose any 4-32 tracks they wish; after 4-32 tracks, all points are tallied Grand Prix style and trophies are awarded.)

In this mode, the player(s) race against seven other computer-controlled racers (or 11, depending on the game). Races take place on 4 different tracks in 1 of 4 cups (1 in 8 cups in Mario Kart DS and onward) and racers compete to get the most points. The racer who has the most points after the final track is the winner. In the first 3 games, if the player did not rank 4th or higher, they lost a life and had to redo the track.

In every Mario Kart game released so far, winning in this mode is the primary method of unlocking hidden content. For Super Mario Kart, this mode unlocked a now-standard engine class and the now-standard Special Cup. For Mario Kart 64, this mode unlocked the "Extra" engine class. Winning in this mode in Super Circuit unlocked the Extra Tracks. In Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, this mode unlocked karts/bikes, Mirror Mode, some new cups, and extra racers. Additionally, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, more Battle Mode courses can be unlocked. In Mario Kart 7, and Mario Kart 8, only characters and cups can be unlocked (vehicle parts were unlocked by collecting coins). Also, winning the entire Grand Prix in every engine class in every Mario Kart game after 64 will unlock an alternate title screen, with changes ranging from minor (a palette change in Super Circuit) to complete (Double Dash!!'s version). However, in Mario Kart Wii and onward, players wishing to unlock the next cup in an engine class only have to place 3rd or better.