If you’re lucky enough (and old enough) to remember the Nintendo 64, you’ll also remember that “Mario Kart” was one of the greatest games ever made for the system. In fact, it’s one of the greatest games made for any system, ever. Although different versions of the game existed on different platforms, the N64 version was special. “Goldeneye” might get more recognition in the ‘best game ever’ stakes from some gamers and reviewers, but even those who love that James Bond classic would have to admit that “Mario Kart” wasn’t far behind.
As is the case with so many classic video games from the past, “Mario Kart” has been recreated as a mobile game for the modern age, and it’s available for Android phones under the name “Mario Kart Tour.” While not every conversion of a classic game to the touchscreen format has been a success, we’re pleased to say that we have no reservations about “Mario Kart Tour” whatsoever. It looks great, it plays smoothly, and perhaps most importantly of all, it has a very unique feature in the context of modern mobile games. It’s possible to play it and enjoy every aspect of it without making a single in-game purchase. It’s completely free to play, and you won’t miss out on anything if you don’t spend cash. In an era where we routinely see reports of children running up huge bills on their parents’ phones by accessing premium gaming content, that makes for a refreshing change.
Having Mario and the rest of the gang of characters from the “Super Mario” games available to play with on our phones is a nostalgic treat, and means that the plumber from the 1980s stays with us as we enter a new decade. We’re becoming used to seeing Marion in strange places now. A few years ago, there was an online slots game released called “Plumber,” which starred a character that will look very familiar to any “Mario” fans. As the name of the character doesn’t appear on the online slots, we’re not sure that its creators went as far as trying to acquire an official license, but the fact that they used the character at all underlines the enduring appeal of Nintendo’s finest creation. Very few video game characters turn up at online slots websites. Those that do have transcended the video game format and become iconic in their own right. You could make a strong argument that Mario was the first-ever video gaming icon.
Let’s put all the nostalgia aside for a moment, though, because we want to talk about the game! Once you’ve downloaded the file, you’ll find that a secondary download follows (in the region of four hundred megabytes), so make sure you have the room to spare on your phone before installing the game. As soon as that’s done, you’ll need to create a Nintendo account if you don’t have one already. Link your new or existing Nintendo account to the game, and from there, you’ll have access to a limited set of features. “Mario Kart Tour” is insistent that you learn the basics before you’re allowed to wander through the wider game world, so knuckle down and beat the four mandatory races presented to you. This is a good opportunity for you to learn how the controls work, but don’t get too accustomed to them. As soon as those races are over and you have access to the options menu, there’s an adjustment you need to make.
There are two ways you can ‘drive’ your cart in “Mario Kart Tour.” The first is the standard way, in which your gestures on the screen will direct the front wheels of the car as it makes its way around the track. This is the easiest way to play the game, but also the slowest. The second is ‘drift’ mode. This is a little harder to master as your gestures now control the back wheels rather than the front wheels, but it’s far more rewarding. Firstly you can ‘rev your engines’ in drift mode as you’re waiting for the race to start and thereby get a boost off the grid, and secondly, you can build up a drift bonus as you race. That manifests in the form of extra speed, and that’s frequently the difference between finishing in second place and finishing as the winner.
While winning is good, winning isn’t everything. Your final race position will be taken into account as you’re awarded points at the end of each race, but you’ll also get points based on how many tricks you performed during the race, how many bonus items you picked up, and even the current ‘level’ of your car and your outfit. Hitting your opponents with items is also a great way to pick up points, so don’t get too downhearted if you’re stuck in the middle of the pack or toward the back of the race. That just means you have more opportunities to attack the racers ahead of you and score points off them.
As much fun as it is to play this game on your own, it’s even more fun to play it in multiplayer mode (which was also true of the console game all those years ago). There are two ways you can do this – either as a local match-up with someone sitting close to you in real life or from a greater distance using friend pin codes you can generate from within the game. While beating the bot opponents of the single-player game is satisfying, there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of defeating a friend in real life – especially if you’ve done so with a clever piece of maneuvering on the final corner which has left them spinning in fury as you cross the line.
In summary, this is a great game. It’s among the very best Nintendo mobile games released to date, and if you’re a fan of the original, it’s an absolute “must-have” for your phone. Whether you’re a newcomer to “Mario Kart” or a grizzled veteran, this is the type of game that the entire concept of mobile gaming was invented for!