Virtual Reality Comes to Mario Kart

Mario Kart VR Launches in London

In what could be the moment virtual reality shifts into high gear and becomes a mainstream component of video games might be here with the launch of Mario Kart VR, an arcade title that many gamers are calling the “perfect” VR experience.

If you’re not familiar with Mario Kart, the series got its start back in 1992 for the Super Nintendo and continues to this day. As the name implies, Mario Kart is a kart racing title that stars the cast of Nintendo’s popular Super Mario Bros. series of games. As players make their way around tracks derived from Nintendo’s IP, they can obtain power-ups and items to help them along the way. As technology has progressed, Mario Kart tracks have grown into theme park-style levels with flying, diving, and karting portions all within the same track.

To be it another way, Mario Kart is perhaps the perfect racing game for the virtual reality space. And so far, gamers seem to agree.

CNet published a report straight from the London arcades where people are able to play the new Mario Kart VR experience. Gamers were placed in one of four seats and then donned HTC Vive headsets and tracking sensors on their hands. When in full gear the journalists invited to sample the game recalled how they were fully immersed in the world at a level impossible to achieve through traditional means.

Writing for CNet, Andrew Hoyle says, “As I moved my head, I could look around the virtual world. I looked to my left and saw the other players (mostly journalists also attending the launch event) looking around too — or at least, I watched as Peach, Luigi, and Mario looked around.”

The launch of Mario Kart VR in London represents an expansion of the Bandai Nintendo VR arcade concept launched in Japan. If the London game is successful there will be a further roll-out of the game to Tunbridge Wells and Leeds according to Engadget.

Initial reports are all focusing on the novelty of transforming Mario Kart into a VR experience. From the physical actions of exploring your environment to the act of physical obtaining the in-game weapons, testers universally report that they are amazed at the levels of immersion the game brings – and those that grew up with the games truly feel like they are a part of the world in a whole new way.

Unique to the public realm, Mario Kart VR is part of a handful of tech demo ventures that show off virtual reality technology to a wider audience that might not have access to it at home. In a mild resurrection of the arcade concept, virtual reality games that require powerful equipment to play are finding success as arcade games due to the lowered barrier of entry for participation coupled with the need of technology manufacturers such as HTC Vive to show off their technology to the public. Make no mistake, HTC Vive’s ultimate goal is to sell more VR headsets and if they need a killer app like Mario Kart VR to do it then they’re more than happy to go that route. We can only hope to receive a home release of the beloved franchise sometime soon.

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