Mario Kart Tour landed on mobile this week and has given us a chance to experience the spinoff franchise as we have never experienced it before - portrait-style, using touchscreen controls, and trying to maneuver our way through a sea of microtransactions. Mario Kart Tour is also built on a system similar to Candy Crush. Players race their way through cups earning Grand Stars. Earn enough Grand Stars, and you'll unlock more cups.
While the ability to race against other players around the world in real-time is not yet an active feature on the app, there is still an opportunity to pit yourself against everybody else - well, not everybody else, but 19 other randomly selected players. Each week, one of the cups is selected and awarded the status of Ranked Cup. There, you can compete in its four races as often as you like, earning points as you go. The more points you have compared to the other 19 players you've been paired with at the end of the week, the more rubies you'll win.
It's an incredibly simple system, but also a very addictive one, which begs the question, why has Nintendo not tried to apply something similar to Mario Kart 8? While Mario Kart 8 has the advantage of players being able to compete with each other in real-time, there's not really much rhyme nor reason for doing so. Players earn points for doing well and lose them when they do poorly, and Nintendo keeps track of our running points totals. However, we receive no prizes based on that total, nor are we even ranked to see how we compare to everyone else.
Nintendo could do something as simple as throw up our rankings online. Everyone has a point total, surely it can't be that hard to put them all in order and have players fight to be the best in the world? Alternatively, it could tweak and adapt the system it has created for Tour - ranked cups or even leagues where players are paired with others who have similar scores to ensure as even a playing field as possible, similar to how online leagues work in FIFA.
The system could even borrow from what Crash Team Racing has been doing these past few months. Its Grand Prix have allowed players to unlock new karts and characters, again giving people more reason to venture online as they only have a limited time to earn enough points to unlock certain things. It really wouldn't take much tweaking of the Tour system to do that.
The truth is, Mario Kart 8 is going to stay the way it is. Why? Because it can. It is currently the best-selling Switch game of all time and will likely remain in that spot until the next Nintendo console comes along, whether its online features get tweaked or not. The simplicity of Mario Kart is one of the things that makes the game so popular and so appealing. Perhaps Nintendo worries that if it were to turn the game's online features into some sort of cascading league system, casual players would be turned off. A valid worry, but a disappointing one nonetheless.