When I first moved to New York as a starry-eyed 22-year-old, I lived in a five-bedroom with four roommates, one bathroom, and approximately 12 cockroaches. We were young and free and didn’t care that our commutes were an hour long or that our dishwasher was a glorified drying rack — we mostly cared about Mario Kart. We were five recent college grads from different backgrounds with different jobs and different friends, but Mario Kart united us.
We’d gather once a week for a potluck dinner and a Mario Kart tournament. Every week, without fail, I’d fight to be Toad, I’d choose the smallest car, and then I’d zip around Mario Circuit (or fall off Rainbow Road) — usually coming in second or third because my dexterity is average at best. It was a blissful time. And then we grew up, I moved out, and I was left Nintendo-less and aching for the sweet lull of Koopa Troopa beach. And then I got the greatest email I’ve ever received: Mario Kart has come to iOS. I obviously had to try it out, so I subsequently spent an hour puttering around the world of Mario Kart Tour (for research! I promise!). This is what I found.
First of all, the basics: Mario Kart Tour is a free app for both iOS and Android, with in-app purchases for fun upgrades/characters and an optional $4.99 membership fee for The Gold Pass, which gives you a harder level of play (200cc for those of you in the Mario Kart know) and additional items and badges. You start off the game with one character (they gave me Bowser) and one kart, which is fine, but I really only ever want to play as Toad (the red one, please) or Peach (gotta stick to my comfort level and this is what the boys made me play as when I was a kid — watch out for my frying pan). You unlock new characters as you play more and get rubies, but I can see already that if I want to have the characters and karts of my dreams, I’m gonna have to pay.
The game itself is easy to understand and hits most of my nostalgia points. You have an option between automatic and manual and you can turn on the sensor option to have your kart move with your phone. The game has you holding your phone vertically, which feels weird at first, but I got used to it and eventually was winning first place every time (whatever, I’m amazing). The “Tour” part of the game is what makes it unique, in that you aren’t trying to get to Rainbow Road, you’re moving from city to city — starting off with New York City. The cities change every two weeks, so you’ll get a constant stream of new content.
I’m no gamer and the extent of my game collection is Candy Crush and Sims on my partner’s Xbox, so I’m honestly thrilled. If you’re a Mario Kart purist, this game may not be your favorite, but let’s be real — iOS games are made for long commutes and waiting rooms, and this game absolutely fills that space. Plus when you add in the nostalgia, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered — five stars.