The Blue Shells are soaring once again as Mario, Peach, and 18 other racers compete to be the best racer in the Mushroom Kingdom. The iconic kart racing franchise finds new traction in this mobile iteration but takes a few wrong turns along the way. How does Mario Kart Tour compare to Nintendo’s other mobile offerings? Let’s take a look.
Nintendo’s venture into the lucrative mobile market has been fairly successful since the release of Super Mario Run back in December 2016; March 2017 for Android devices. With the game’s simplistic controls and lack of microtransactions; players only having to pay $13.99 (prices may vary by region) to access the entire game, it seemed like Nintendo was definitely into something good. The subsequent releases of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Dr. Mario World would, unfortunately, go on to include microtransactions with the latter almost heavily relying on players to spend real money in order to progress through the game.
At its core, Mario Kart Tour is a satisfying addition to the popular racing franchise that handles surprisingly well on mobile devices. Players have the option of utilizing two different control methods: Simple – slide your finger LEFT and RIGHT to steer with UP and DOWN reserved for using items and Drift – same controls as before, but the drifting happens a lot quicker; perfect for those looking for an extra challenge. Races are organized into Cups, featuring tracks from previous Mario Kart titles – each containing three standard races against other real-world players, as well as a Bonus Challenge which is a solo mission whereby players must complete a specific task: pull off a Rocket Start, drive through a certain number of rings etc. Grand Stars are awarded after clearing each race which can be used to unlock additional Cups.
During each race, players can earn Points through various means including: your position in the race, successful rocket starts, collecting coins, and duration of glides – just to name a few. These points will help level up your driver, kart, and glider; each earning a special bonus during races – drivers, for example, are more likely to activate Frenzy Mode, sending out a massive amount of items towards other racers.
One notable difference is the character selection, or lack of, in this case. After launching the game for the first time, players are gifted with a single driver, kart, and glider for FREE – all of which are completely random as to which character you’ll start racing with. The emphasis here is that Nintendo is looking for players to spend real money in order to race as their favourite characters; again, it’s completely random as to which one unlocks each time. As players complete courses and earn Grand Stars to progress through the game, Tour Gifts will also grant drivers, karts, and gliders – the difference being that it’s not random; pictures indicate what will become available.
There are several ways that players can spend money in order to increase their stats, earn Grand Stars, and unlock different drivers, karts, and gliders. The primary payment method is Rubies which are offered in various bundles that range in price from $2.79 up to $99.99 (prices may vary by region). Players can spend their Rubies at The Pipe which will randomly select a driver, kart, or glider for use in the main game. Daily Login Bonuses and Tour Gifts will occasionally reward players with FREE Rubies from time to time for those looking to save their hard-earned money.
Special Offers are also available for purchase which, at the time of this review, contains Rubies, Mario (driver), and Star Tickets which can be used to unlock Grand Stars. This limited-time offer will set players back $27.99 (prices may vary by region) and has an expiration date; offer disappears after a certain number of days. Nintendo also offers a monthly Gold Pass which unlocks additional items found in Tour Gifts, special badges for completing Gold Challenges, and the exclusive 200cc Mode for expert racers to tackle!
The amount of in-app purchases in this game is a little disheartening, considering how successful Super Mario Run was three years ago. The all-in-one premium charge was well worth the money and should’ve been utilized in this title as well. It’s understandable that Nintendo is looking to make significant profits with this financial model, but a lot of players can easily feel discouraged if they are unable to progress WITHOUT spending money or simply cannot afford it in the first place.
It should also be noted that a lot of standard characters are missing from the Mario Kart Tour roster including Wario, Baby Luigi, Waluigi, and even Luigi himself is missing! Perhaps they’ll be added at a later date – shocking to NOT see them available at launch, however.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable Mario Kart experience to play on the go, consider picking up Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch instead; the recently released Nintendo Switch Lite would make the perfect travel companion. The microtransactions alone are a real shame given how much potential there was in a mobile iteration of the beloved franchise.
Mario Kart Tour is available for download on iOS and Android mobile devices.