- The newly released Mario Kart Tour is Nintendo's biggest mobile game launch ever, with more than 20 million downloads in a single day, based on data from SensorTower.
- Mario Kart Tour changes the series' classic formula a bit, introducing touch controls and microtransactions.
- The game manages to capture most of the fun the series is known for, but unlocking new drivers and courses can feel like a grind.
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More than 20 million players downloaded Mario Kart Tour when it launched on September 25, making it Nintendo's most popular mobile launch ever. The game's rolling start shouldn't come as a surprise — Mario Kart is Nintendo's best-selling game on multiple consoles and Mario Kart Tour is free to install on iPhone and Android.
In comparison, Nintendo's Super Mario Run had 7 million downloads during its first day on the App Store, and Nintendo's highest-grossing mobile title, "Fire Emblem Heroes," had 1.8 million downloads on launch day, according to data from SensorTower.
While Mario Kart Tour features the same memorable characters and race tracks from the console games, the game has been redesigned to work on a touch screen and incorporates some popular monetization methods used by other free mobile games.
In Mario Kart Tour, your car moves forward automatically and you can steer left and right using the touch screen. Mario Kart Tour won't let you fall off the course like the classic games, so the controls aren't too hard to manage. You'll play against seven computer-controlled opponents in a series of races; a multiplayer mode is planned for a future update.
Nintendo offered an early look at Mario Kart Tour to a select number of players in May, but the game has changed a bit since then. During that beta test, players had a time limit and would eventually need to spend money to lengthen their play sessions.
The time limit has been removed in the final version of the game, but a lot of the game's drivers and races still need to be unlocked. Unlocking all of the rewards would take hours of grinding away at the game, but you can also spend cash to unlock things faster. From the way Mario Kart Tour is set up, it seems like Nintendo wants you to spend as much as you can afford.
First, there's a $5 monthly "Gold Pass" that gives you access to the fastest races and more rewards. Then, you can buy "rubies" in packs costing up to $70 for a chance to unlock random items. Finally, the game offers a set of items that can be purchased every two weeks for $20.
There are ways to unlock items without spending money, but hours of effort will only lead to a handful of rewards. Nintendo knows some people will definitely be willing to embrace the microtransactions, and the game grossed more than $1 million in its first day, according to data from SensorTower.
Mario Kart Tour is still a fun way to pass the time, but the constant grind to unlock the characters and races I want make it less enjoyable than the original games.
Here's a closer look at how Mario Kart Tour works:
Mario Kart Tour can only be played online and requires a Nintendo account to keep track of your progress.
Races are divides into a series of "cups." Each cup I played had three races and a challenge at the end.
Before each race, you'll choose a driver, cart, and glider, then you'll pick the speed you want to race at, with 50cc being the slowest, and 200cc being the fastest.
Using specific characters or equipment can give you added bonuses in certain races. Unfortunately, you'll have to unlock them first.
Controlling Mario Kart Tour is easy — your car will move forward automatically and you use the left and right sides of the touch screen to steer. I prefer advanced mode, because drifting can give you an extra speed boost.
While the names make it seem like you're playing against real people, you're actually just racing computer-controlled bots. The faster the race, the tougher your competition will be.
First, you'll earn some experience points to improve your driver and kart. Increasing your driver's level will help you earn more rewards from races.
The Bonus Challenges at the end of each cup require you to use a specific driver to complete the challenge during a single lap.
Depending on your score after each race or challenge, you'll earn Grand Stars that unlock new cups.
Between races, you'll start to see the differences between Mario Kart Tour and its classic counterparts. There are all sorts of microtransactions encouraging you to spend money to unlock new items.
For $4.99 per month, the Gold Pass will let you unlock items faster. You also need it to race at 200cc, the fastest and most rewarding speed setting.
You can also buy rubies in huge packs worth up to $70. If you spend five rubies, you'll unlock a random item.
The Daily Selects offer a random collection of items each day that you can unlock using coins you collect in races. However, you can only collect a maximum of 30 coins per race.
If there's an item in the Daily Selects you like, you can also spend rubies on a special race called coin rush that lets you collect hundreds of coins at once.
Finally, the game offers a rotating gift set that includes unlockable items, rubies, and other collectibles for $20. The set will change every two weeks.
In the end, Mario Kart Tour is still pretty fun to play, but the constant grind needed to unlock new drivers and courses left me a bit disappointed.