Nintendo has been around for quite a while now. Recently celebrating its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, they’ve continuously taken leaps and bounds for the gaming industry, while still keeping the family-friendly image that makes them so marketable. They revolutionized video games with Super Mario Bros. in 1985, making all sorts of games since with the iconic brothers as the leads including role-playing games, sports games, and, of course, kart racers. Their most recent adventure, Mario Kart: Tour, attempts to bring their well-known kart racing formula to iOS and Android mobile devices. Does it work?
No. No, it does not.
In Mario Kart: Tour, the controls are very tricky to handle, but this is part of the territory for mobile games since there’s no sticks and buttons like with a console game. You can use gyroscopic controls (tilting your phone) if you want, but I find this awkward and extremely difficult to drift and boost. I preferred the touchscreen controls that require you to drag your finger across the bottom of your screen, but there’s no floating joystick or d-pad to help with accuracy. With nothing to place your finger on it’s difficult to tell where I need to slide my finger. I swipe and swipe at my screen, but it only seems to read my movements when it feels like it. As a result, I often find my character careening into the side of the track and crashing despite my best efforts.
While the graphics are pretty decent for a mobile game, it’s nothing grand. Other free games for your phone look better, such as PUBG or Fortnite. The character models look good, the karts have a good shiny texture, but good graphics don’t make up for lacking gameplay or horrible business strategies.
The worst thing about Mario Kart: Tour are the micro-transactions. This game calls itself “free” when really it’s what the internet has dubbed freemium. For a supposedly free game, there’s a lot of content locked behind payments. This is a common problem with mobile games, as I discovered in an interview with coworker and avid gamer Chris Crawford, “Most mobile games are like that, like ‘Oh, it’s cool for a bit. I guess I can keep playing, but where’s my money going?'”
The microtransactions in Mario kart: Tour are especially disgusting. In normal games, you can play at any difficulty level you want, and change it at any time. Even if one setting isn’t unlocked from the start, you can unlock it (eventually) for free. In Tour, that just isn’t the case. You have to pay for the hardest difficulty, at $4.99 a month. That doesn’t seem too bad but think of it like this, by the time the year is over you will have spent $60 on a “free to play” app! The game also blocks off most of the rewards you could earn behind their subscription and gives you only half of what you could otherwise be gaining. That’s not only locking gameplay elements behind a paywall, but that’s also locking the enjoyment of rewards for playing the game behind a paywall.
It astonishes me that people defend this game as acceptable. It’s not–plain and simple. Not even by mobile standards. It’s littered with micro-transactions that block elements and crippled by unsatisfying gameplay. It’s really just an overall mess. Do yourself a favor and don’t play this game, unlike the other ninety million people who already have. It’s only gotten that number due to brand recognition and if not for the Mario name and Nintendo seal of approval, this “game” would be getting trashed at every turn.
I’m not going to beg you to avoid Mario Kart: Tour, but I am going to insist that you can find better.