The Major Momentous Mania of Mainstream Mobile Mario Kart

The Nintendo Wii is one of the highest-selling video game consoles of all time, but at the beginning of the Wii’s lifespan, the system only had a few heavy-hitting titles under its belt. Sales were up across the board for Nintendo, but there were no strong indicators that the Wii would be able to maintain its rate of growth after the initial hype of the console’s release. But that all changed on April 10, 2008. This fateful day saw the release of a nostalgia-inducing juggernaut that would come to stake a claim in the memories of millions around the world. That game was none other than Mario Kart Wii.

The Mario Kart franchise is a series of games known for their tremendous ability to entertain people regardless of gaming skill, and the 37.2 million copies of Mario Kart Wii sold attest to this fact. To this day, Mario Kart has remained a best-seller through its successful releases on Nintendo consoles such as the 3DS, Wii U, and Switch. But the modern area brings about new market to conquer: mobile phones. Mario Kart Tour for iOS and Android is Mario Kart’s first foray onto a non-Nintendo platform, a fact that both critics and fans alike have regarded with a degree of skepticism. However, the question still stands: will this gamble stand alongside Mario Kart Wii’s lofty position atop the podium of Mario Kart greatness, or will it prove to be a blue shell for the series moving forward?

One of the first things that has to be understood about the transition from console to mobile is that mobile phones do not offer the luxury of a controller for the player to use while gaming. This lends itself to a number of problems. First and foremost, the developer is forced to create controls that are at once big enough for the player to use but not so big as to clutter up the small screen. The compromise that Mario Kart Tour makes ends up cutting the accelerate button from the game entirely. Instead of accelerating at the pace the player wants, the game, in effect, drives for you. One can still steer left to right by using their finger or by tilting their phone, but the core experience of driving feels like it has been significantly watered down in the game. Secondly, the issue of pricing a mobile app encourages what are called “gacha” mechanics. “Gacha” mechanics encourage players to spend real-life money on in-game currency. In Mario Kart Tour, the “gacha” mechanics show up in the form of a mini-game in which the player fires off a cannon that reveals a new kart, character, or glider. These rewards have varying degrees of rarity, with some being so rare to the point where players feel as if they have no choice but to pony up if they want to flat-out buy Diddy Kong for 36 American dollars. By locking characters behind astronomically low odds, Mario Kart Tour turns a big profit at the expense of the player.

“It takes a part of the game away when you have to rely on luck to get things,” CHS junior Sam Willard-VanSistine said. The allure of winning a prize simply does not factor into this minigame, and instead of being a fun bit of variety in the standard gameplay, the process of winning unlockables is tedious and frustrating.

The fact that Mario Kart is a mobile game makes up for almost all of the flaws listed above. The expectations for mobile games are lower because players understand that there will be more restrictions than a game on a console or PC, and the ease of portability that surpasses even portable consoles like the Nintendo Switch is the definition of convenient. In addition to that, Mario Kart Tour constantly keeps its fanbase engaged with new content that is rolled out fairly regularly. Moreover, the new content brings back beloved tracks and characters, and even features character costumes for the first time in the series. This fanservice is integral to the success of the franchise, and longtime Mario Kart devotees will not be disappointed with what they get.

“I like the replayable aspects of Mario Kart Tour, especially how they keep adding new tracks to play,” CHS senior Eli Kupetz said. The perks of adding new tracks continuously keeps players coming back and allows for them to have a great way to fill five minutes.

All in all, Mario Kart Tour is by no means a smash hit. The game will surely continue to rake in tons of money for Nintendo for years to come, but the game is fairly run-of-the-mill as far as Mario Kart games come. With that being said, the ability to play Mario Kart for five minutes of free time while waiting in line is a treat, and for what one pays for the game, Mario Kart Tour is a good time.