I love Mario Kart. I have racked up over 150 hours on Mario Kart 8 for the Switch and have even taken part in local tournaments. So when Nintendo announced Mario Kart Tour, a mobile version of the game, I was incredibly excited.
It is safe to say that most people owned a version of Mario Kart growing up. When they hear I have Mario Kart at university, they often want to play and reminisce about their many hours playing Mario Kart Wii. It seems there is still a desire from young people to play Mario Kart but buying a Switch and Mario Kart would set you back £300, most students must invest their money elsewhere.
That is why the idea for a mobile version of Mario Kart makes sense. Creating a more widely available Mario Kart Tour, that is playable on the go, would do the same for the series as Pokémon GO did for Pokémon. All Nintendo have to do is not mess it up.
Mario Kart Tour launches on Android and IOS on the 25th of September. This free-to-start game will feature old favourites and brand-new tracks based on real locations, which will rotate out fortnightly. Characters now also have alternate skins; an idea fans have been requesting for years. However, as more details are revealed and leaks continue from the beta, it seems Mario Kart Tour may not be as fantastic as I had imagined.
My main concern is the lack of multiplayer. Mario Kart thrives on multiplayer, on those hilarious yet rage-inducing moments as you hit your best friend with a blue shell on the final lap. Driving around and crushing AI players does not feel anywhere near as satisfying, though in the current version of Mario Kart Tour this is the only option.
Mario Kart Tour also looks to have dumbed down many of the core mechanics. The choice to make the game only playable vertically limits the field of vision for players. Ironically this mimics the only negative of multiplayer Mario Kart, the squashed view. Furthermore, Mario Kart Tour is full of microtransactions. Players of early builds expressed their concerns about the stamina system within the game. The number of consecutive races you can play without paying to restore stamina is limited.
I am not going to criticise all mobile microtransactions here, they are a legitimate and necessary way for developers to make money from their free titles. However, including predatory lootboxes, or ‘gacha’ mechanics in Mario Kart Tour does frustrate me. Despite Nintendo disavowing lootboxes in a recent statement, beta testers saw the option to use Tour’s premium currency to purchase a ‘Pipe’. This pipe gives players a kart, glider, or character (all with different rarities). With no way to buy just your favourite character (for me, it is Shy Guy), players must instead resort to playing the odds. I must note that as the game is not yet available, these microtransactions may be different in the full release.
The reason Nintendo is likely making a simpler version may be to protect future sales of their console exclusive Mario Kart. They are using a mobile version as a promotional tool to entice fans to buy a Nintendo Switch. It would not be the first time Nintendo has done this, with Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing both receiving smaller mobile games before their latest instalments. I hope that this is true, and Mario Kart 9 is just around the corner.