After the long, rumor-filled wait, Mario Kart Tour has finally made it to smartphones with the start of its closed beta. I can say without a doubt that Nintendo has done it again. Much like Super Mario Run, Nintendo has created a mobile game that is not only simple and easily played with one hand, but is also turning out to be completely worth your time.
These are the five things you need to know about Nintendo’s up and coming mobile racer.
1. It Controls Like a Dream
Racing games are rarely bad on mobile. In my opinion, they’re one of the few genres that work well with a digital analog stick and buttons. So when the rumors first started of a Mario Kart game on mobile, it sounded completely feasible. Little did I know that they would go on to innovate on mobile controls and make the most accessible Mario Kart to date.
Like I said above, you can play Mario Kart Tour entirely one-handed. You hold down on the screen to accelerate (preferably in the conveniently empty bottom just like Super Mario Run) and you turn by sliding left to right. Slide a bit more sharply and you can drift. Tapping used items and swiping down throws them behind you. They also added a snazzy arrow to show your trajectory so that even your grandma could play it. And that’s not a joke, my actual grandmother played one of the early tracks and got first place despite never touching a Mario Kart game in her life. That’s how easy Nintendo has made it to approach Mario Kart Tour and I’m all for it.
2. You Don’t Unlock “Bad Loot”
Unless you really hate Koopa Troopa, Mario Kart Tour has given every loot box drop value. In loot boxes, you unlock Gliders, Karts, and Characters. Each have their own traits and abilities, and most are viable.
Most interestingly of all, they’ve set each course with a “designated driver” of sorts. If you select the racer shown in the thumbnail, you get a track specific bonus for that race. For example, if you play as Donkey Kong on the Dino Dino Jungle track, you get a character bonus of getting 3 items at once when you open an Item Box. Seeing as to how Donkey Kong doesn’t start unlocked, this gives you a reason to return to previously beaten Cups as different characters to collect all 5 Shine Sprites on each track.
3. Winning Isn’t Enough Anymore
You heard that right. Each track now has the dreaded mobile game “stars” requirement. Thankfully, Nintendo have made the requirement in Mario Kart Tour obvious: get a high score. Every action you take in the game adds to your score for the race. Getting first place simply nets you 1500 points, enough to get 2-3 Stars and move onto the next race in the cup. Actions such as drafting, drifting, collecting coins, and landing attacks with items will bolster your score and get you the 5 Shine Sprites needed to complete the track. These are necessary because the game demands it.
You need Shine Sprites to make any progress in Mario Kart Tour. Each cup has a required amount of Shines needed to unlock it, same goes for the tiers on your “Battle Pass” (for lack of a better term), each level earning you racers, karts, and emeralds (the premium currency this time around). I was personally surprised by the amount of emeralds in the (ugh) Battle Pass, as they seemed to flow freely, making my first hour or so with the closed beta run very smoothly.
4. Your Time Feels Respected
The broad appeal of mobile games lies in their accessibility, pick up and playability, and overall addictive, simple nature. When that façade fails, most mobile games devolve into cash grabby brazen attempts at your wallet meant to “save you time.”
While Mario Kart Tour isn’t completely devoid of paid time savers – it does have a stamina system after all – it never feels like your session ends abruptly. Stamina regenerates generously, while Cups are now broken down into four individual races instead of one continuous Grand Prix. 2 Lap races keep the pace brisk to accommodate short play sessions but knocking out an entire cup in one sitting still feels naturally Mario Kart-y.
Despite only being the beta, I really hope Nintendo keeps these generous features when the full game launches. I’d hate to see it end up buried in a shallow grave of microtransactions.
5. It’s Still a Mobile Game
As stated above, even Mario Kart Tour has fallen into the trappings of the mobile game market. Loot boxes are already a given when it comes to any mobile game, but overused features such as stamina and a star system were unexpected. So far Nintendo seems to be handling them tastefully by doling out stamina like it’s free and showing the player clear prerequisites to earn stars. Emeralds are starting off plentiful but there’s no telling how scarce they’ll get as I progress further. The game is still in its closed beta, so the fear that any of this could change between now and the final release is strong.
Nintendo’s mobile division gained a ton of goodwill in the gaming community following the surprise gem that Super Mario Run turned out to be, so those lucky enough to join me in the closed beta are likely just as excited as I am about its eventual completion and release. After finally getting hands-on with the game, I’m very happy to say that Nintendo has reaffirmed my trust in them and I hope Mario Kart Tour is flooded with support upon its official release when it (hopefully) launches later this year.