Let’s be honest, when it comes to Nintendo’s efforts on smartphone devices, the results haven’t exactly been stellar. From Miitomo – the company’s first strange experiment – to more familiar faces including the likes of Fire Emblem, Dr. Mario and even Animal Crossing, none have left a last impression in the same way Nintendo’s console releases often do.
Mario Kart Tour is the latest to get the smartphone treatment and once again the feedback has been mixed at best. From the unsatisfying control options to a lack of proper multiplayer to its ridiculously expensive microtransactions (at the time of writing Birdo and enough gems for ten launches of the pipe costs a huge sum of £19.99) it’s not exactly hard to see why.
Criticisms aside though, Mario Kart Tour does feature some rather interesting ideas. Ideas that I’d love to see perhaps implemented in the next inevitable console sequel…
Weird Characters and Variations
Trying to actually obtain the rarer characters in Mario Kart Tour is more often than a pretty fruitless affair (or expensive if you were to purchase gems). It can’t be denied though just how unexpected and enjoyable some of the choices are. Bus driver Waluigi, Yoshi dressed as Rudolph and a pastry chef Shyguy are just some of the excellent examples we’ve already been treated to. Even a brand new character, Pauline has joined the race. Who knows who will be next.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was an outstanding game but one area it did get criticized on was the fact it featured far too many babies, metal characters and Koopalings. For the next entry take a page out of Mario Kart Tour’s book and cram in as many characters as possible. Bring back Diddy Kong and Birdo. Add entirely new ones. Even better go weird with the choices and maybe throw a pharaoh’s attire on Luigi or put Mario in some lederhosen.
The weekly leagues in Mario Kart Tour have added a nice element of competition to the game (much needed I might add especially since proper multiplayer has only just launched and even then in test form). Competing against twenty other random racers for the best combined score across three tracks has kept me returning even if just to confirm I remain high enough in the chart to receive some goodies and raise my tier rank.
It’s a neat system and one that keeps the game feeling alive. Even if the next console release doesn’t retain this point-based system, I could see this sort of thing also working for time trials, forcing players to put in their best combined times with a certain racer or vehicle set. The hook of ranking up is also addictive too.
Every two weeks Mario Kart Tour introduces a new event complete with a handful of racers and vehicle parts usually tied in with said theme and even one or two tracks. While a majority have focused on different cities of the world including Paris, New York and Tokyo there have also been a few timed with certain celebrations like Halloween (introducing Luigi along with a bunch of ‘scary’ themed gear) and Christmas (where Santa Mario made an appearance). Much like the weekly leagues, introducing new events themed around actual real-life celebrations breathes life into the game. It keeps it feeling current.
I for one know I’d love to see some characters decked out in Valentine’s Day gear or the Broodals from Super Mario Odyssey show up for an Easter-themed event.
Keep Adding More Tracks
It seems like an obvious one and to be fair something Mario Kart 8 already did with its two excellent DLC packs on the Wii U, but it’s always worth saying again. Keep adding new tracks to your game and players will keep returning. Sure, adding new cosmetic items gives your characters a fun new look but at the end of the day, you’ll be using them on old tracks you’re already very familiar with. Adding new tracks injects a helpful dose of freshness into the experience and has kept me returning to even the flawed Mario Kart Tour. Seeing which track from the series past will make a return next is pretty exciting.
This year’s Crash Team Racing has definitely benefitted from introducing new tracks post-launch with fans throwing nothing but praise its way for doing so and whether the next Mario Kart chooses to do the same via bulky packs or drip-feeding tracks one at a time you can bet it will keep gamers coming back.
Perhaps the suggestion that will most likely divide opinion, but the scoring system in Mario Kart Tour I’ve found to be surprisingly enjoyable. It adds an extra layer to the racing rewarding slick driving and effective use of power-ups. It’s also thrilling stinging together combos in the teens and beyond. Sure it’s hurt a little by the fact players using higher-level characters and karts have an advantage (in typical free to play fashion) but with a console version you can do away with all the levelling and unfair systems.
Now I’m not saying that this should dominate the next Mario Kart title but rather be added as an extra mode for those after something besides straight-up racing or battle. Much like Super Smash Bros. with its ‘Coin Battle’ mode, let’s see the Mario Kart series try something new whilst also retaining the tried and tested examples like Grand Prix or Time Trial. Including a scoring variation could be a massive win, it may also be bad but it’s worth at least exploring the idea further with a sequel.
If there’s one feature fans are eager to see return to the Mario Kart series, it’s the mission mode. Last seen in Mario Kart DS and then again in limited form in Mario Kart Wii, these bite-sized tasks added some welcome variety to the mix testing your driving ability, accuracy with weapons and even placing you in boss battles.
While Mario Kart Tour doesn’t offer quite the same level of imagination in its mission types, it at least shows Nintendo hasn’t given up on this concept. Being tasked with gliding as far as possible or throwing bombs at stacks of Goombas or avoiding explosive barrels is a refreshing change of pace, especially when most of the time you’ll simply enter into a two-lap race. When we eventually see a new console Mario Kart I hope missions are carried over from Mario Kart Tour with it.
While my overall feeling toward Mario Kart Tour is somewhat muted, it hasn’t dampened my excitement for the next proper console entry in the series. Believe it or not, there are some neat ideas to be found in Mario Kart Tour. It’s just a shame they’re wrapped around fairly mediocre racing and microtransactions aplenty. Here’s hoping Nintendo learn the right lessons from Mario Kart Tour and develop some of its better ideas in Mario Kart 9.