After months of radio silence, Nintendo has finally revealed the launch date for Mario Kart Tour. The mobile version of the company's famous kart racer will be arriving on iOS and Android on September 25, meaning you won't have to wait long to destroy the dreams of your loved ones with a well-timed blue shell.
Like most of you, we're excied to see how Mario Kart shapes up on the small screen. The franchise revels in fun, colour, tight controls, and cartoonish power ups, rather than greyness, and grim and gritty ‘realism’.
At the same time, we're also left wondering whether it will actually work on mobile. Notable kart racers for iOS and Android are in short supply. Beach Buggy Racing 2 is fun but lacks charm and character; Angry Birds GO! is pretty but dull; Sega’s Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed was great, but cut down from handheld versions – and has long vanished from app stores.
With a mobile Mario Kart, we want the good stuff: loads of tracks, great touchscreen controls, gamepad support, online multiplayer (but no forced online access), and a pricing system that doesn’t make you want to punch your own face off (yep, we're looking at you, Dr. Mario World).
One of our intial fears was that we’ll get a one-thumb on-rails freemium Mario Kart, and although a new trailer confirms the game will feature one-touch controls (which makes gamepad support seem unlikely), players will still need to master drifting, turning, and item-slinging in order to become the champ. It also looks like there'll be an abundance of tracks, with classics like Rainbow Road making the leap over to mobile along with new courses inspired by real-world locations, and ranked online multiplayer to boot.
In terms of pricing, Mario Kart Tour will be free-to-play, so it looks like Nintendo is still feeling burned from Super Mario Run, which had a premium price tag and performed below expectations. That said, it's still unclear how in-app purchases and in-game currency will actually work. Screenshots suggest they'll give players a way to unlock new karts, characters, and items - which is pretty much what you'd expect - so hopefully they'll be a purely cosmetic additon, rather than one that impacts gameplay.
Whatever happens, we'll try and remain cautiously optomistic until we can actually take Mario Kart Tour for a spin. In the meantime, here are five Nintendo games you can already play on your iPhone, iPad or Android device – and five more we’d love to see.
Nintendo games to play on mobile today
Super Mario Run
Super Mario Bros, distilled to one-thumb auto-running? Sacrilege! But it works. Instead of being reductive, the limitations force you to focus on timing and path-finding, especially when trying to grab every coin. The varied, smart level design helps, too.
It’s not all great news – the requirement for an internet connection to play is bafflingly stupid. Otherwise, this is a fun, polished Mario game for mobile, even if it’s not a ‘proper’ Mario game.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
Animal Crossing seems a good fit for mobile, given that it involves quick repeat trips to an endearing gaming world. In the mobile version, you rock up at a camp ground, aiming to make friends, swap goodies, and craft your camp.
There’s a whiff of freemium and busywork about the place, though – the game’s keen to have you spend cash to speed up build times and the like. But for fans with patience, this is a decent enough Animal Crossing lite.
Fire Emblem Heroes
This turn-based strategy effort dumps you in a world where people very much like killing each other. You then get a gang together to duff up the bad guys, bring about world peace, and feel smug.
On mobile, the game’s stripped-back to single-screen battlegrounds, with speedy fights. IAPs, cooldowns, and Nintendo’s weird online-only requirement don’t exactly fan the flames. But as a lightweight tactical RPG, Fire Emblem Heroes is an enjoyable blast.
We know this isn’t technically a Nintendo game (it’s by Niantic). But when you think of Pokémon, you think of Nintendo. More importantly, Pokémon GO gets you off of your bum.
The game has you hunt Pokémon using AR, roaming the streets and then lobbing balls to capture the critters. You then train your Pokémon up and have them fight to secure Pokémon Gyms, found at local landmarks. It’s certainly a more entertaining way to get a bit fitter than RunKeeper.
Dr. Mario World
Dr. Mario World is an intriguing puzzler hampered by shoddy (and at times downright cynical) free-to-play monetisation tactics. As a concept it's fairly straightforward: rotate and drag tumbling capsules to match colours and eliminate viruses, saving the mushroom kingdom from a gnarly outbreak. It's rather standard match-3 fare, and if you're a fan of the genre you'll probably enjoy your time with Dr. Mario World for the first half-hour or so.
After that the freemium monetisaion machine goes into overdrive, with convoluted in-game currencies (there are three in total) and levels that feel designed to sap lives (which take 30 minutes to regenerate) souring the entire experience. In our humble opinion, Dr. Mario World is a shining example of how not to do mobile games.
Nintendo games on mobile we’d like to see
The Legend of Zelda
Zelda games are great. Whether you’re bumbling about a blocky world in The Legend of Zelda on a NES (or the Nintendo Classic Mini: NES), or constantly getting killed in Breath of the Wild, the mix of puzzles, action, and adventuring is intoxicating.
Wipeout had funky icons and a cool soundtrack, but F-Zero was the true king of futuristic racers. Right from the original, dizzying and very flat SNES incarnation, it was always a bit more bonkers than its rivals – and we loved it for that.
We know this kind of game works on mobile – witness Zorg’s AG Drive. It plays things much straighter than F-Zero, though. We want to tilt and tap our tiny craft around deranged looping tracks created by Nintendo.
Whichever incarnation of WarioWare you think of, it would work great on mobile. There’s the original GBA release, with its chunky graphics and single-screen tap-based minigames. And then there are the sequels, full of super-fast motion-based challenges.
But there’s the time element, too. A few rounds of WarioWare would be ideal fodder to squeeze into odd moments when you’d otherwise be gawping at Facebook. At least as long as Nintendo didn’t ruin everything with paywalls, loot crates, online-only play, and timers for extra lives.
You get rhythm action games on smartphones – Guitar Hero, Planet Quest, and superb platform/stealth/rhythm mash-up Beat Sneak Bandit are standout examples. But Nintendo’s quirky Rhythm Heaven series combines barely contained chaos, breakneck pace, inventiveness and head-bobbing rhythms in a way we’ve not yet seen on mobile.
The sequels are great, but we’d give our back teeth to get an English translation of the original GBA Japanese-only Rhythm Tengoku – or even just the adorable and furiously addictive Bunny Hop challenge.
Game & Watch
If you’re old, your first Nintendo handheld was probably a Game & Watch. These basic LCD games mostly involved belting left and right to catch/avoid objects, the action gradually speeding up until your inevitable demise.
Many mobile games offer similar simplicy in terms of controls and challenges, but lack the charm, nostalgia factor, and Nintendo flare found in the likes of Parachute and Octopus. Also, plop a Game & Watch on top of a modern smartphone and it’s a similar size to the display. Clearly, this is fate and has to happen.