Mario Kart Tour Is Fun, But Should Drift Into Better Updates Or Risk Falling Off Course
By Will Torrance
On April 27th, 2008, Mario Kart Wii was released worldwide, and has since become one of the most beloved games Nintendo ever made. Though not the first in the franchise, it’s certainly the most renowned, selling over 37 million units, and ranking number nine in the list of the best selling video games of all time. All this, along with fun tracks, multiple characters to play as, and tight motion controls are what built this game into a cult classic. Many consider this game to be a huge part of their childhood.
11 ½ years later, on September 25th, 2019, Nintendo released Mario Kart Tour, a mobile game for iOS and Android that let people play Mario Kart on the go without having to buy a Nintendo Switch (despite a Switch only costing around $300, against the iPhone 11 Pro’s retail price of around $999). It’s currently at around 90 million downloads, and the game itself has been very well received, earning a 4.5/5 from Google Play and a 4.8/5 on the App Store. With all that in mind, Mario Kart Tour has cemented itself as a good mobile game. Whereas other Nintendo mobile games were either a hit (Pokemon Go) or a miss (Dr. Mario World), it looks like this game is an obvious hit.
While the game is currently loved by many, especially in this school, it’s not perfect. It is fun, but the idea looks a lot cooler in theory than it did when put into practice. For one thing, it doesn’t exactly have a lot to do. You just race around on courses like regular Mario Kart games, and collect points, which get you stars. You get enough stars on enough of the tracks and you unlock new courses and characters. There are many courses that you can unlock (or buy with real money if you’re that desperate), and there’s plenty of characters to choose from- Just kidding you have to unlock them. What’s that? Were you looking forward to playing as someone actually fun? Fine, take Toad. The rest you have to unlock or buy. Same thing with the karts, too.
That’s part of the problem with the app, there’s no customization right off the bat, so you have no way of finding your play style. Having that sort of freedom right off the bat gives you a taste of different ways to race, instead of just praying that maybe this time, you’ll finally get Yoshi. The characters do have their own special moves, which I guess is supposed to justify the “unlocking” thing, but it feels more like a way to stretch out a shorter game. Plus, a lot of the character abilities either function the exact same way: as an item or are entirely broken. So, you get anywhere from a free red shell to what, like, 10 mushrooms? The game was already fun without it, you don't need to add it to the mobile game. Yes, past Mario Kart games had unlockables, too. I get that. However, those games start you off with a variety of character/kart options, all different sizes and speeds, so you can at least play around with it.
Not only is this game short, it’s also, by comparison to other installments to the Mario Kart franchise, incomplete. There’s no local multiplayer, and, even worse, no Battle Mode, a game mode that’s been in every Mario Kart game since the very first game came out in 1992 (and yes, in case you were wondering, it was available from the start). They may be in a future update, but why not have them available right from the beginning, especially if every other game in your franchise does. The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that the steering is, according to a lot of the people I’ve asked, atrocious. I’ve also heard a lot of complaints that the game won’t let you play in landscape mode, much like other racing games on the App Store. There’s also a lot of problems with having to replay a lot of Grand Prix races just to get 5 stars, which is fine, but you have to get them to progress at all. In normal Mario Kart games, getting stars on all the races was more of a challenge and less of a chore.
As for the rest of the game, it’s still fun. The controls take some getting used to, but it’s simple once you get the hang of it. My personal favorite thing about the Mario Kart games were the tracks, which are always really unique, and are set in these vibrant and thematic worlds that you never get to see in normal Mario games. In Mario Kart Tour, they brought back a lot of classic tracks, which is fine, but they didn't bring back any of the crazier, more fun ones. It was mostly the linear tracks with more grounded paths. Even the new tracks they added are just okay. It sounds nitpicky, yes, but after you’ve raced Koopa Beach for the 20th time, you start to lose interest.
All and all, Mario Kart Tour isn’t perfect, or even measurable to the Switch’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had, and maybe even more fun if they actually added multiplayer and battle mode. However, with some apparently slow updates, it might take a while until we get it. Again, this feels like it was cooler in concept than how it initially turned out, but the game can still get better. Despite some of these problems, it hasn’t diminished its popularity. Looking around QV, you’ll see people playing it, or talking about the characters they have, or comparing their different karts. It’s sort of nice seeing people interact over a beloved Nintendo franchise…
Wait, where’s Luigi?
Are you serious?
They forgot LUIGI?!