Mario Kart is the king of kart racers, and for good reason. When Nintendo announced a special partnership with HTC last year to bring Mario Kart to VR arcades around the world, gamers understandably flipped. Despite running on an HTC Vive, though, there are no plans to bring Mario Kart VR home, which is a massive missed opportunity on Nintendo's part.
Smart entrepreneurs step in when they see a missed opportunity, and that's what developer Ivanovich Games seems to be doing. But it's not just capitalizing on the massive void Mario Kart VR has left though, it's also capitalizing on the lukewarm reception that Mario Kart Tour on Android has been getting by launching a mobile version of Touring Karts in Q4 of this year.
Let's start with the VR version, which you can wishlist on Steam right now. The game shares a familiar Kart aesthetic that you'll immediately recognize but sets itself apart in a number of important ways. 22 real-life circuits have been adopted to a more kart-friendly size and style, and over 30 Formula-1 style karts can be chosen from and customized as well.
Power-ups aren't just what-you-see-is-what-you-get like Mario Kart, rather, they can be combined to make several different weapon and item types that all do a slew of crazy things. There are 45 in all, so it's quite a bit more than the handful of mushrooms and stars that Mario Kart players are accustomed to. You don't just tap a button to launch the power-ups or shoot the weapons though. This is VR; you shoot the guns as you would expect, and throw the objects you would expect to throw, as you would actually throw them in real-life.
Several control options mean this should be incredibly accessible for any player. Options include handheld controllers, traditional motionless controllers, traditional steering wheel accessories, Wii-like steering wheels with a controller in the middle, 3D rudders and more. It's extensive, to say the least, and it shows just how much work Ivanovich Games is putting into this title.
For the VR version, you'll find options to play the game in 4 different views: sitting in the kart as if you were really driving it for full-immersion, driving the kart in 3rd person for a wider view of the surroundings, sitting in an arcade cabinet-style seat to help folks who might get motion sick, or even standing in the middle of a roomscale setup and controlling the karts as if they were remote-control cars. Even the mobile version features several different view types, including an AR version that's similar to that roomscale setup, where karts look like they're driving around in your own living room.
8-player cross-platform gaming is quite impressive, especially given the massive number of platforms the game is being made for. The SteamVR version is scheduled to begin Early Access on September 9th, 2019, so it's just around the corner. Oculus, Viveport, Windows Mixed Reality, and PlayStation VR versions of the game are scheduled to launch in Q4 of this year as well. Those Android and iOS mobile versions are also slated for Q4 2019, and the non-VR version will be heading to Steam, PlayStation, Switch, AppleTV, and Mac at the same time.
Check out the trailer below!