Whether you like it or not, virtual reality is becoming a pretty big deal in the technology and entertainment industries. VR is being touted as the ‘next big step for gaming’ by many, and with all the hype surrounding PSVR, Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, it’s hard to really disagree with that. Nintendo has already stated that it’s interested in adopting the technology as well. One game I think would suit it best is Mario Kart.
VR is already covering many different gaming genres. One of the most popular is racing. Sony’s studios are already hard at work on GT Sport VR and Driveclub VR for the PS4’s PSVR headset. While those titles are the total opposite of Mario Kart, the core elements of the racing formula are fundamentally similar across both kinds of experiences. With that said, we already have a point of reference for the direction this hypothetical game could take.
Many folks who have tried those aforementioned titles have gushed over how immersive the experience is. I haven’t tried gaming with VR yet, but I have put a headset on, so I understand the gist of it all. Being more on the fantasy side of things, Mario Kart in VR would no doubt feel pretty different from that of Gran Turismo or Driveclub, but it’s still a racer nonetheless. Imagine driving at highspeed through those wacky courses? Mario Kart 8 cranked the heat up to 11 with the introduction of zero gravity-mode and 200CC; now could you imagine THAT in VR?
Man, the possibilities.
Since Mario Kart is an arcade racer through-and-through, it would be easier for newcomers to grasp than the more simulation-heavy titles. The controls would be pretty basic: gas, brake, hop, drift, and item use. Steering could be done either via a wheel or regular analog stick. Motion controls could also be applied; Mario Kart Wii, 7 and 8 all feature motion-steering, and some people are really good with it. With that said, the formula for a VR Mario Kart experience has basically already been created.
Bascially, Nintendo has already flirted with the idea in Mario Kart 7. It featured the option to play with a first-person view, in addition to using the gyro-controls. That, combined with the 3DS’ 3D screen, basically mimics how it would be in virtual reality. In VR, players have the added freedom of being able to move their head around, thus altering their field of view. In Mario Kart VR, players could swivel their head around to change the camera direction and zap opponents with an item. Imagine drifting around a corner, and you just happen to glance over your shoulder and see another racer about to overtake. You have a shell in your item arsenal, so you launch it at them with pin-point accuracy, and come out of your drift, hit the gas, and blast away. Just thinking about it gives me a buzz of adrenaline!
Mario Kart is already adrenaline-pumping fun with standard controls. VR would completely change the experience.
Although there are a lot of positives that this experience would add, there are a few issues too. One of Mario Kart’s biggest features has always been couch multiplayer. VR is still very much a single player only experience. With that said, it would present a challenge for the developers to try and balance things out. While couch multiplayer wouldn’t be the same if one person has a headset and everyone else doesn’t, online matches wouldn’t be affected too much; so, multiplayer would still exist but it’s just that local matches would no longer be the focus. Another issue that arises with VR is the hazard of motion sickness. The aforementioned racing simulators have some pretty speedy moments, but Mario Kart is a whole other beast.
The tracks in Mario Kart are filled with jumps, hairpin turns, shortcuts galore and many other fantastic features that emphasize its fictional nature. Some folks have already complained about getting motion sickness from different VR titles; something as fast-paced and wild as Mario Kart would no doubt easily trigger that unpleasent reaction. Once again, this would prove to be a challenge for the developers. As the technology improves, the danger of motion sickness will likely decrease, but VR in its current state would probably make something like Mario Kart basically a drug trip. But hey, it’s Mario Kart—it’s worth the risk, right?
When you think about it, Mario Kart would probably be one of the safest games for Nintendo to use in order to introduce its VR tech. Not many of the existing franchises could actually benefit from it or even really use it properly; imagine playing a traditional Mario title in VR, or even Smash Bros.? That probably wouldn’t work very well. Zelda, Metroid and Pokemon are other safe bets, in addition to Mario Kart. All of these games can work in a first-person view, so they suit VR just fine. But my main desire is to definitely see Mario Kart utilize the technology. Being one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, it’s pretty much a guarantee that it would sell.