Mario Kart Tour offers fun and simple take on classic series

November 15, 2019 — by Leo Cao

I’ve been a Mario Kart fan for as long as I can remember. I’ve spent countless hours perfecting my strategies for certain courses, amassing an embarrassing number of points in multiplayer and beating friends regularly. So, when Mario Kart Tour was released on Sept. 25, I was ecstatic.

Nintendo’s efforts to expand into the mobile gaming world have been met with mixed reactions. Mario Kart Tour is Nintend’s seventh take at a mobile game after previous attempts, including Super Mario Run and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. These both failed to gain traction because of their awkward controls and a fee to unlock certain parts of the game. 

Mario Kart Tour smoothly transitions the controls from traditional console gaming to mobile devices. Your kart accelerates automatically and is maneuvered by swiping your finger to the left or right. Players can choose between traditional turning controls or a drift control option that locks you into a drift as soon as you start turning. 

The classic aspects of the original game have been preserved in the mobile version. Players can swipe up to launch weapons forward and swipe down to throw them backwards. When navigating through the curves and throwing turtle shells at opponents, it felt like the original Mario Kart game. Additionally, classic race tracks have been adjusted to take advantage of the vertical perspective and the single-handed inputs. 

Another well-developed aspect of the game is the reduced time commitment. The tracks are short and each race is only two laps instead of the typical three that is in the original Mario Karts. 

Players can get through a race in a few minutes and a full cup is only three races. There are bonus challenges that take even less time, such as missions in driving through a certain number of rings. These challenges are even quicker than a full race and add on to the well-executed pick-up-and-play nature of the game.

For all of these positives, however, there remains one major drawback: the monetization scheme of Mario Kart Tour. Most of the characters, karts, and gliders have to be unlocked in a lottery system, where you pay rubies to get a random prize. While you can get rubies from just playing the game, they are designed to be very rare, which forces you to spend money if you want a new driver or kart. 

Of course, many games follow this model of encouraging players to pay real money for virtual in-game currency. But the issue with Mario Kart Tour is that it doesn't provide enough value. 

Three rubies cost about $2, and each spin with the slot machine costs 5 rubies. You have to insert these rubies into an in-game slot machine that rarely gives you your desired character, kart or glider. It is unreasonable to make it difficult to accumulate currency without paying real money, and not be able to choose what you spend the currency on even after paying. 

With such a low chance of paying out and getting your desired new items in the game, this layer of microtransactions is frustrating but is still overshadowed by the fun of the gameplay of this racing game. 

Once you get used to the unconventional control system and ignore Nintendo’s money grabbing, Mario Kart Tour proves to be an addicting, free take on the popular series.