The Mario Kart modes are the different modes that can be played in a Mario Kart game.
Main Article: Grand Prix
The mode used for unlocking certain objects, characters, or cups is the Grand Prix mode. This mode is one of the most important (if not the most important) modes in any Mario Kart game. The player will choose a cup and engine size and then will start. Each cup has four courses (other than Super Mario Kart, where there are five). Grand Prix mode is only available for one-player if the player wants to unlock new things (except for Mario Kart: Double Dash!! where two player is allowed and if one player wins the gold trophy he/she will probably unlock something).
Main Article: Time Trial
Time Trial is also another mode. This mode is--and has been ever since the beginning--only for one player. The player will try and get his/her best time on a course. If the player wants to beat his/her time that he/she had played before, they can load a Ghost Car (which is the player's kart from the previous record). In order to have a Ghost that has been raced by the player, the player must save the ghost in his/her memory card. In later games, Nintendo decided to add in their own Staff Ghosts, which is where after the player has gotten a certain time on a certain course, he/she will unlock a Staff Ghost. Mostly, the Staff Ghosts are hard to beat and takes a lot of practice to beat them.
Main Article: VS Mode
Another mode that is used to have fun with friends is VS Mode. This mode requires two or more players (unless it is Mario Kart Wii, where it also becomes one-player). VS Mode, up until Mario Kart Wii, is only the players, and no CPU. In Mario Kart Wii, the player can choose whether there is CPU or not in the "Rules" menu. The one thing about VS Mode that is different from Grand Prix is that the player can choose which course, and not just what cup. VS Mode goes on forever until the player chooses to stop (this being the rules up until Mario Kart Wii, where the player chooses how many courses there will be in game in the "Rules" menu).
Main Article: Battle Mode
Battle Mode is a unique mode that hasn't been found in any other racing game series and is fun to play with friends. Much like VS, this too has been two-or-more-players-compatible up until Mario Kart Wii where it can also be one player. The player tries to hit his/her opponent with his/her item. There are many styles of battle, the most familiar being Balloon Battle.
Mirror Mode is a mode appearing in Mario Kart 64 (in which it was titled "extra") and in every game since Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, in which all the courses are mirrored. Players must remember all the tracks in order to complete this. Usually, characters or vehicles can be unlocked by completing cups in mirror mode.