It’s never nice to be disappointed by a game, but sadly that’s exactly what has happened – for rather a lot of people, it seems – with the launch of Mario Kart Tour. We were excited by the prospect of seeing Nintendo’s beloved kart racer crammed onto mobile devices, but in reality, the game itself is hard to love.
There are a few little positives to cling to, like the adorable and impressively HD graphics – these mobile renderings of your favourite characters look pretty much identical to their Nintendo Switch counterparts, and the tracks are more detailed than you might have expected. And speaking of the tracks, there is a really nice mix of old and new: the game offers a range of remastered classics (which hark back to classic console iterations of the franchise) as well as brand new circuits that are based on real-life locations.
But the slick presentation, sadly, isn’t enough to make this game enjoyable. Picking up Mario Kart Tour is frustrating in a lot of ways, so much so that it has inspired us to do something that we rarely do at Den Of Geek – we’ve put together a list of suggested improvements, in the possibly-misguided hope that a better version of the game could at some point be released. Here, then, is our wishlist of things that might make Mario Kart Tour more fun…
Tone down the microtransactions
Mario Kart Tour is free to play, but it is absolutely riddled with microtransactions. Although you can unlock a steady stream of new tracks simply by finishing each race that presents itself – and you’ll slowly earn Rubies that allow you to take random punts on the prize-giving pipe that spurts out karts, accessories and characters – the game offers loads of opportunities for players to chuck real-life money into the ether.
Of course, it is par for the course in mobile gaming to have the option of paying real money for in-game currency so that you can unlock items quicker. But Mario Kart Tour takes this even further, offering a monthly subscription that charges a £4.99 monthly direct debit. If you pay this absurd price, which is equal to an Apple Arcade subscription that would give you over 100 individual games, you’ll have even more chances to unlock rare items. Also, only people that pay for this ‘Gold Pass’ are able to access the 200cc race mode. This really does seem like overkill, and it makes the game feel like a cynical cash-grab. Scrapping the Gold Pass altogether might help Mario Kart Tour earn back some goodwill, but only time will tell if that is going to happen.
Make the gameplay more challenging
Although the characters and tracks look great, there is something that feels a bit off about the actual racing in Mario Kart Tour. The controls themselves are fine, and you could even argue that they’re impressive in their simplicity: you can use one finger to play, swapping between steering, chucking items and checking your rear-view for rival racers. It feels like a natural way to streamline the Mario Kart control scheme for mobile, which is all we could’ve asked for.
However, despite the workable controls, the whole experience of racing feels like it’s on rails. You don’t have to press a button to accelerate, but thanks to the recent console offerings (which also use auto-acceleration), a lot of gamers will already be used to this. But Mario Kart Tour also makes it impossible for you to fall off the edge of a track or even go slightly off-road. Just when you think you’re going to plummet off a bridge, the game corrects you, making it feel like even steering is slightly unnecessary. The whole thing feels too easy, like bowling with the barriers up, and the overall experience could benefit from giving players more opportunities to get it wrong. Falling off the edge of the world should be part of the fun!
Add a nice big multiplayer mode
One of the weirdest things about Mario Kart Tour is that the whole game is currently angled around solo play. Even though you’re racing against numerous other characters at any given point, all of them are controlled by bots that are assigned random names. And given that the Mario Kart franchise has become a staple of sofa-based evenings with your mates, not being be able to challenge your friends to a race on Mario Kart Tour feels like a massive missed opportunity at launch.
As it stands, the entirety of Mario Kart Tour is essentially a single-player story mode. You tackle one race at a time, and completing it will unlock the next one on the list. This is a fine way to kill a few idle minutes, but racing against your mates would add a whole new dynamic to proceedings. Thankfully, the in-game menu does promise that some form of multiplayer will be “available in a future version update.”
Support single-player offline fun
And finally, one element of Mario Kart Tour that really grinds our gears is this: despite the fact that you’re always playing on your own against the computer, this game simply doesn’t work if you aren’t connected to the internet. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, in a world where offline games for mobile devices are a rare breed, but it still stands out as being odd.
It is easy to offer cynical suggestions as to why an online connection is essential. Is the game so desperate to lure us into microtransactions that it literally won’t allow us to open the app if we aren’t in a position to hand over our bucks through the internet? Perhaps the explanation is less sinister than that, though – maybe the game file would be too massive if the game couldn’t draw on an active connection. But still, unless your commute takes you through a haven of 4G signal, you’ll find playing this game on the go to be quite tricky.
Of course, only time will tell whether Nintendo wins over gamers with future updates to Mario Kart Tour. The upcoming addition of multiplayer could shake things up in a big way, so we’re holding out hope on that front. As for the other alterations that we’ve dreamed about here, we’ll just have to wait and see. Certainly, at launch, it feels like Mario Kart Tour has slipped on a banana skin…