After more than 27 years of intense racing tournaments and deadly multiplayer co-op, the “Mario Kart” franchise has finally made its way onto mobile devices with the newest entry in the series, “Mario Kart Tour.” Mixing elements of traditional “Mario Kart” games with smartphone friendly features, “Mario Kart Tour” often comes to a skidding halt with the typical setbacks that plague modern mobile games. Despite its flaws causing it to occasionally drift off course, “Mario Kart Tour” continues the legacy of its predecessors as an undeniably enjoyable and addicting game at its core.
Hoping to further capitalize off the success of the mobile gaming market after releasing games like “Super Mario Run”, the “Mario Kart” franchise seemed like the next surefire path of success for Nintendo. Trailing only behind mainline “Super Mario” titles and the “Pokémon” series, “Mario Kart” has long been one of Nintendo’s most popular and best selling franchises with 137 million copies sold over the course of its nine game lifespan. With the last new entry in the series (Mario Kart 8) released back in 2014 for the Wii U (and re-released as “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” in 2017 for the Nintendo Switch), fans have been eagerly awaiting the next mainline game and new tracks for five years.
In “Mario Kart Tour”, players race across the world with Mario and friends in new tracks inspired by real-life locations, along with other classic courses from the series. Every two weeks players can log in to find new locations, characters and daily challenges available to engage in. Capitalizing on the anticipation and hype behind it, “Mario Kart Tour” produced two record shattering numbers after its initial release in late September with over 20 million downloads on its first day.
In the usual Nintendo fashion, “Mario Kart Tour” takes many liberties to try and move the series forward but often does so in questionable ways. Possibly the most striking aspect of the app is the lack of landscape mode in lieu of a vertical design, often making it feel like the game is in control of itself. Also the game’s manual mode, the recommended style of playing, has a large learning curve and takes time to become adjusted to as racers start drifting every time users touch the screen.
“Mario Kart Tour” also suffers from repeated courses and a sluggish menu that can make content frustrating to navigate. Even though courses have interesting alternative layouts between different cups and are updated every two weeks, the constant recycling of the few courses available gets stale quickly when compared to other “Mario Kart” games and with the way that content is rolled out.
The addition of costly microtransactions and the lack of online play has also left many fans upset with the app. Although “Mario Kart Tour” is free-to-play, many of the game’s characters and rewards (along with the 200cc racing mode) are locked behind a monthly fee of $4.99 for the Gold Pass. Beyond the Gold Pass, “Mario Kart Tour” also offers in-game bundles that reach upwards of $20.00.
Even with its jarring control options and the annoyance of unreasonably high priced microtransactions, there is still much enjoyment to be found with Mario and friends. “Mario Kart Tour” distinctly stands out with its polished and eye-catching visuals, making races even on mobile devices still feel as smooth and satisfying as ever. The inclusion of different types of mission-based challenges in addition to standard racing courses also helps to liven up and diversify the game’s content in new and refreshing ways.
“Mario Kart Tour” may not live up to the hype fans were expecting, but it still carries on the addictive and fun traditions of the series nonetheless. Although off-putting microtransactions and recycled content can often send the game down the pipeline, the strong roots and base mechanics of Nintendo’s latest mobile game make it worth multiple visits to lands in the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond.