Mario Kart Tour Beta Impressions – Pay to Win and Missed Opportunities

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Nintendo has always been pretty reticent to release their bigger franchise on other platforms, especially mobile phones. That’s slowly been coming to an end as more and more big hitters arrive on Android and iOS devices. Mario Kart is the next to do so, with a closed beta that began on May 22nd and will run into June before the final game hits later in the Summer. While anything can change as it makes its way to full release, there’s enough here to get a good sense of the game. Here are my impressions of the Mario Kart Tour beta on Android.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Mario Kart Tour is a fun game that does a decent job of converting the MK experience to the mobile environment. The controls are a bit floaty, and their reliance on single touch mechanics makes for a less enjoyable game than it could have been. But from the first moments of learning the game to later ones after hours of practice, you’ll actually have a nice time with it. Mario Kart Tour will never become your favorite game in the series, and if you have a Switch with MK8 Deluxe available, you’ll definitely want to play it instead, but that’s not what it’s aiming to be. For what it tries to accomplish, it does it well, but with a ton of caveats.

This is a mobile game from start to finish. While other Nintendo efforts into this arena have subverted expectations in many ways, forgoing pay-to-win and other nefarious means of separating players from their cash, Mario Kart Tour goes all in. That means there’s Gacha mechanics by the truckload, and not for cosmetic things. How fast your kart goes and what sorts of items and powerups are available to it are directly tied to how much you’ve played the game, or how much money you pumped into it. So that’s tough to swallow, especially considering that there are so many other mobile game pet peeves mixed in.

This includes the aforementioned single touch controls. Mario Kart Tour can only be run in portrait mode. This works well, better than expected actually, but longtime players will surely miss landscape views with more robust controls. Currently you hold your finger on the screen to accelerate, moving it from side to side to turn and drift. The game could easily offer more traditional controls, though that might step too much on the main series for Nintendo to tolerate. Similarly, the multiplayer seems to be against ghosts rather than real players. Hopefully that changes though, as it doesn’t make a ton of sense at the moment.

Along with this there’s the usual time-locks, which includes leveling up your character and pretty much every part of their setup (kart, glider, etc.) as well as stamina. Mario Kart Tour offers players a set number of hearts which dictate how many races they can play through. These refill slowly on their own, or players can pay to get new ones immediately. Combine this with the game’s two separate currencies and you’re in for a smorgasbord of mobile game elements that turn many players off.

If you just want to dip in for some MK action from time to time, not investing in the economy or unlock structure, then Mario Kart Tour will likely never bother you too much and will instead offer a lot of fun. But for those seeking a more traditional gaming experience this game will be a bit of a shock. This is still the beta though and much can change on the way to full release. For those who want to avoid pay-to-win and Gacha mechanics, it’ll require a lot of work from Nintendo to make you happy.

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