‘Mario Kart Tour’ game review: Mobile version of Nintendo racer is ruined by greedy microtransactions


Freemium offering for Android and iOS has great graphics and easy-to-learn gameplay, but monthly Gold Pass is a shameless cash grab

Jamie Lam |

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'Mario Kart Tour' offers fun gameplay but tries too hard to make players spend real money.

The celebrated Mario Kart franchise has made its way onto smartphones around the world. Yet despite top-notch production values and fun (but simple) gameplay, Nintendo’s freemium game is too pushy in forcing players to spend real-world cash.

The Mario Kart formula is recreated faithfully in this mobile offering, with players being able to choose a driver, kart and glider before matching up against seven AI opponents in high-octane races on Mario-themed courses.

Controls have been simplified, with acceleration being automatic. Players only have to swipe left and right to steer, and there is also the familiar drifting mechanic that gives a short burst of speed with the right timing. Nintendo also made the decision to design the game in portrait mode only, but it’s easy to get used to the orientation of the screen and it is better for one-handed play.

The graphics are gorgeous and many iconic race courses from previous console releases are here with the same shortcuts and obstacles, so seasoned Mario Kart fans might have an advantage. The crazy item system is also back, so feel free to lob red shells, banana peels, and spray squid ink at your foes in your race to the top.

Players can also collect different characters and karts through the slot-machine gacha system, which requires coins and gems (the premium currency) to operate. These are actually doled out at a pretty reasonable pace through regular play, so you don’t have to spend real money unless you really love (and have an obsessive need) to collect every single Mario character.

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However, where the game falls flat is the introduction of the subscription-based Gold Pass which costs HK$38 per month. Unless you buy this pass, you are locked out of the speedy 200CC class races, which should be some of the most exciting content the game has to offer. Players in the gold club also get exclusive rewards for completing races, but it’s still a lot to ask from fans for a mobile title.

Overall, Mario Kart Tour is still worth a download for some casual racing on the go. Just stay away from the Gold Club cash grab and collect the free virtual gold coins instead.