Nintendo hopes strong early sales of "Mario Kart 8" will help spur sales of the floundering Wii U gaming console.

Story highlights

"Mario Kart 8," the latest in the popular series, was released Friday

It comes as Nintendo's Wii U suffers from lackluster sales

Nintendo is hoping the software will help sell hardware

Early signs are good -- Wii U sales are up big in the UK

CNN  — 

It’s the gaming industry’s gold standard, once named by Guinness World Records as the most influential video game in history.

Now, Nintendo is turning to “Super Mario Kart” once again, hoping the beloved, 22-year-old franchise can save sales of its faltering Wii U console.

“Mario Kart 8” was released on Friday. It comes at a time when once dominant Nintendo has already slashed its sales forecast for the Wii U down to just 3.6 million for the current fiscal year.

By comparison, sales of Sony’s PlayStation 4 console, released nearly a year after the Wii U, have already eclipsed the Nintendo’s total Wii U sales since its 2012 launch.

Among the 5 million Wii U titles sold this fiscal year, “Super Mario 3D World” and “New Super Mario Bros. U” have been among the most popular, and a new “Super Smash Bros.” title, featuring Mario alongside other classic video game characters, is due later this year.

But “Mario Kart 8” might be the Japanese company’s best chance for the popular plumber to help the slow-selling console regain its footing.

Early results are promising.