Here’s everything we know about ‘Mario Kart Tour,’ the huge new game coming to smartphones this year

A promotional image for

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A promotional image for “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.”
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Nintendo

  • Nintendo’s biggest franchise, “Mario Kart,” is finally heading to smartphones later this year.
  • The game is named “Mario Kart Tour.”
  • It was planned for an early 2019 launch, but the game was delayed for a few different reasons.

“Mario Kart” has been a big deal for over 25 years, and now – finally– it’s coming to smartphones.

The game is named “Mario Kart Tour,” and it’s expected to arrive at some point this summer.

Here’s everything we know about Nintendo’s first major “Mario Kart” game for smartphones:


1. It’s not arriving until this summer.

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A screenshot from “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” on the Nintendo Switch.
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Nintendo

Though “Mario Kart Tour” was initially planned for launch before the end of March 2019, the game was delayed into “summer 2019.”

When Nintendo announced the delay earlier this year, it pointed to the game not living up to its quality standards; Nintendo also cited an interest in expanding the game’s post-launch strategy for the delay.

Whatever the reason, it sounds like Nintendo wasn’t satisfied with the state of “Mario Kart Tour” and decided to push it back by at least a few months.


2. “Mario Kart Tour” is a spinoff game, like “Super Mario Run” and “Mario Kart Arcade GP.”

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Nintendo

You can tell from the naming convention that “Mario Kart Tour” is its own thing, separate from the main thread of “Mario Kart” games that have come out on Nintendo consoles exclusively. The latest game in that series – “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” – is the most recent main series entry. “Mario Kart Tour” is a side game, like “Mario Kart Arcade GP.”

That’s not a bad thing, necessarily.

Nintendo hasn’t made a bad “Mario Kart” game. At worst, some entries in the series have felt obligatory rather than essential. That hasn’t been the case in recent years, and there’s no reason to suspect that “Mario Kart Tour” will be anything less than good.

That the game isn’t a numbered entry isn’t the only indication that it’s a spin-off: The fact that it’s for a smartphone, not one of Nintendo’s own consoles, is another big indicator.

Nintendo’s approach to smartphone gaming has been focused on crafting its franchises specifically for the platform, rather than trying to force its console games onto a mobile device. This results in spin-off games with controls and gameplay mechanics that only make sense on smartphones and other touch-based devices.


3. Next to nothing is known about the game itself, and Nintendo hasn’t shown it in action.

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A screenshot from “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,” on the Nintendo Switch.
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Nintendo

Here is the only language Nintendo has used to describe “Mario Kart Tour”:

“The checkered flag has been raised and the finish line is near. A new mobile application is now in development: Mario Kart Tour!”

That’s from a January 2018 tweet.

Outside of that tweet, and the announcement of the game’s delay, there’s been nothing else.

But this is “Mario Kart” we’re talking about here – a pretty straightforward franchise that we have years of experience playing. The smartphone version of it isn’t likely to be a dramatic departure from the many “Mario Kart” games that came before it. It’s possible it will require players to use tilt controls, like most other smartphone-based racing games, and it’s possible it will require a persistent data connection.

What’s certain is it will feature a variety of Nintendo’s most iconic characters racing on Nintendo-themed tracks while throwing items pulled directly from Nintendo’s biggest franchises at each other.


4. “Mario Kart” is a marquee franchise for Nintendo, and it’s likely to come at a premium on smartphones.

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“Super Mario Run” offered a few levels for free, then charged players $10 outright for access to the rest of the game.
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Nintendo

You might think games starring Super Mario or Link would be Nintendo’s most popular, best-selling franchises. As it turns out, the best-selling franchise across the last several Nintendo consoles is the long-running “Mario Kart” series.

Given that – and given how Nintendo handled its first Super Mario smartphone game, “Super Mario Run” – it’s very likely that “Mario Kart Tour” isn’t a free-to-play, ad-supported affair.

Instead, it’s likely to come with a fixed price or fixed prices. Maybe you get a track or two and a racer or two up front, but have to pay for additional tracks and characters. Or maybe you can only play so many matches before it asks for cash. Or maybe Nintendo comes up with some other payment scheme.

Regardless of the details, you should expect to shell out some form of actual money for “Mario Kart Tour.”


5. Nintendo’s goals with its smartphone business are diverse, but “Mario Kart Tour” seems most likely to fit into one category: “Synergy with Dedicated Video Game System Business.”

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Nintendo

Will “Mario Kart Tour” be profitable on its own? Who knows! We don’t even know if it’s going to cost anything.

Instead, it’s likely that “Mario Kart Tour” falls into the third category of Nintendo’s so-called “main goals” for its smartphone business: “Synergy with Dedicated Video Game System Business.” (It also serves the first of the three categories above by default.)

What we do know is there’s a behemoth “Mario Kart” game on the Nintendo Switch console that’s already sold over 15 million copies. It costs $60, and the Switch costs $300. Whether or not Nintendo makes money on “Mario Kart Tour” matters of course, but it matters much more that some of its players are convinced to go buy a Switch console and/or a copy of “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.”