After nearly six years without a new Mario Kart title, Nintendo has finally answered fans' pleas for a new game with the release of Mario Kart Tour - a brand new entry and the first-ever mobile release for the famous karting franchise. Unfortunately, the waiting period has produced what will probably go down as the worst game in the entire Mario Kart series. From bad controls, aggravating microtransactions, and a missing multiplayer mode, Mario Kart Tour is thoroughly disappointing.
Limited Gameplay & Bad Controls
Porting a beloved console game into a mobile device is bound to come with huge changes, with one of the biggest being the task of translating video game controller buttons to a button-less device. Mario Kart Tour's controls are, in theory, simple to maneuver and do retain all the features of using a controller. However, the one-handed gameplay of holding down the screen to accelerate and sliding your finger to steer creates a difficult steering system, making it impossible to be precise while racing. Trying to get an item box, race on a dash panel, or make a jump on a ramp becomes harder when it's so difficult to steer. And when it comes to gameplay, using just one finger to race is pretty boring when it all comes down to it.
Additionally, the drifting and tilting features (which players can decide to turn on and off based on preference) are both difficult to figure out and annoying to maneuver, which probably comes from the limited control system. While it may just be one of those things gamers have to get used to, it might just be better to stick with your Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch, with controls that are intuitive and comfortable.
Nintendo has never had the greatest track record when it came to hidden fees in their mobile games. When Mario Kart Tour was advertised, it appeared that Nintendo had finally figured out how to create a truly free-to-play mobile game with enough features and gameplay to satisfy the casual gamer. While there is still plenty to do for free, the game does feature a disappointingly large number of microtransactions and hidden costs.
First off, the game offers a monthly $4.99 subscription, called the "Gold Pass" which grants players access to several features, including more racers, karts, and rubies (a form of in-game currency). The Gold Pass also unlocks the 200cc race mode and the ability to earn badges from completing certain challenges. This $4.99 fee may not seem like a lot to the casual gamer, but its price point mirrors several game subscription services, like Apple Arcade and Google Play, which is incredibly unfair.
Secondly, many of the brand new features Nintendo advertised for Mario Kart Tour, such as brand new characters and kart customizations, are locked behind a gacha-style mechanic called the "Pipe" with terrible rates. With some characters sporting a less than 0.3% chance of dropping, it's possible players will be spending real money on purchasing rubies at their chances to unlock these rare characters.
Finally, and probably the most aggravating transaction - the eponymous Mario of Mario Kart costs $19.99 for players to unlock. That's right - the symbol of the series is locked behind a twenty-dollar fee. Sure, players get some rubies and stuff with that purchase - but does Nintendo really think that transaction is fair?
No Multiplayer Mode
Bad controls and extra fees suck, but at least players can race alongside their friends, right? Nope. Mario Kart Tour currently features no multiplayer mode. Rather than the ability to race with friends, the game pits players against other racers with genuine-sounding usernames, though it's merely a simulation - upon actually racing with them, it's likely that these other racers are bots.
All is not entirely lost with this feature. Multiplayer mode is likely something that will be added to Mario Kart Tour in the future, as the game's current menu features "Multiplayer" as a grayed-out option, with text explaining that it will be added in a future update. However, considering past Mario Kart titles appealed as a game to be shared and played with friends, it's surprising, and frankly, disappointing, to see such a key feature missing from the game. Nintendo has not yet released any details on when the ability to race with friends will arrive, or if it will be available to all players or only those subscribed to the Gold Pass.
Mario Kart Tour has only been out a short time, but it's already managed to disappoint loyal fans of the franchise. Here's to hoping Nintendo has some good updates for the mobile game in the future - or at the very least, is working on the highly anticipated Mario Kart 9.
Mario Kart Tour is available for iOS and Android devices.