Last week, after many months of rumour and speculation, we were finally treated to the 35th Anniversary Super Mario announcements we’d been waiting for. As well as the expected remasters in the form of Super Mario 3D All-Stars and a Switch port of Super Mario 3D World (+ Bowser’s Fury), there were several other juicy little announcements to moisten the brows of Mario fans.
While there’s plenty to look forward to, for this writer there was one announcement which captured the excitement and promise of classic Nintendo better than anything else shown, and it’s not even a Nintendo-developed project.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a ‘mixed reality’ game that combines real-life camera-equipped RC karts, cardboard circuit features and virtual gameplay elements visible only via your Switch to turn your home environment into a bespoke Mario Kart raceway. We’ve all seen those disappointing remote-controlled Mario karts before, but this is something else entirely. Controlled via your Switch in the style of a regular Mario Kart game, the effects of onscreen items are reflected in the RC karts; throw a virtual banana or shell at an opponent and their kart will temporarily slow or stop.
On the face of it developer Velan Studios has managed to combine RC cars, Mario, and a proper video game into perhaps the single coolest thing many six-year-olds will have ever seen. Our inner child was grinning like a loon at that trailer, a sure sign that Team NL’s offices and households will be hosting yet more plastic-encased electronics before the year is out.
If you’re playing alone, it’ll be you against digital Koopalings, but if you’ve got up to three other friends (each equipped with the required hardware, of course), you’ll be able to engage in four-player Mario Kart races around your living room or any other domestic space of your choosing.
Frankly, it sounds (and looks) amazing. However, we’re also wary that the brilliant trailer promises an awful lot and there are still question marks hovering over Home Circuit and its prerequisites that have us wondering how well the game will work in practice.
Price is a big issue. For £99.99 in the UK, you get your choice of Mario or Luigi’s kart, four cardboard gates to race through, a pair of cardboard arrow signboards and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable (the software itself is download-only).
In all honesty, this year isn’t the best one in which to be launching a product like this. In many places, young people aren’t able to head to each others’ houses as easily as they were in a pre-pandemic world, so multiplayer Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is likely to occur only in homes where two family members own Switches, and again only if the inhabitants can afford at least £200 for a pair of the karts – the price of a Switch Lite, no less.
[the price is]a huge ask at the best of times, but especially in a year that’s really putting the squeeze on the average household budget.
That’s a huge ask at the best of times, but especially in a year that’s really putting the squeeze on the average household budget. The kit requirements remind us of four-way multiplayer back in the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance days. Back then, you typically needed four friends to each have a Game Boy, a copy of the game and the link cables to get a multiplayer match going. Games like Four Swords Adventures on GameCube were brilliant, but only a fraction of the audience were able to assemble the requisite friends, hardware and software to get the full-fat true multiplayer experience.
Similarly, we see a lot of people getting one kart only this Christmas, and we hope that the single-player gameplay is engaging enough to keep your attention until the opportunity arises to play Home Circuit how it’s surely meant to be played. Velan Studios’ blog highlights the Koopalings as digital opponents, the game’s “tight, easily accessible controls for that classic, beloved Mario Kart feel” as well as “items, obstacles, course themes and much more”. The potential here is enormous.
We’ve got a ton of questions. You can customise the track with whatever objects you’ve got lying around the house, but how complex can these circuits get? Can the karts and the game handle inclines? Will there be more karts coming besides Mario and Luigi? Presumably you could set up an elaborate circuit with a bandstand of spectators and docked Switches on TV screens showing the onboard driver’s eye view like a mini Formula 1 race, but could this work sufficiently well outside the house – in a park, for example? Will Twitch streams of virtual Mario Kart races be the next big thing this Holiday season? Underground gambling rings betting on whether Mario and Luigi can escape the cat this lap…
These ideas make our inner six-year-olds giggle in anticipation, but our more seasoned selves are caught up with the practicalities. How noisy is this thing going to be? What’s the battery life like? And, crucially, will it be fun enough to warrant the considerable outlay required when we’ve already got Mario Kart 8 Deluxe sitting on our Switch?
We imagine those are questions many parents will be asking themselves over the coming weeks. As brilliant as Labo was, it’s no doubt clogging up many a wardrobe now as the kids moved on to the next thing and the next. Will Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit be any different?
It’s tough to say right now, although we’ve already placed our pre-orders. It’s arguably easier for us to justify than the average consumer. We need it, you know, for work. Yep, for crucial research purposes. Let us know below if your older, wiser head has prevailed with a wait-and-see approach, or if–like us–you’ve given in to your inner child.
Gavin loves a bit of couch co-op, especially when he gets to delegate roles, bark instructions and give much-appreciated performance feedback at the end. He lives in Spain (the plain-y bit where the rain mainly falls) and his love for Banjo-Kazooie borders on the unhealthy.
I feel like this kinda goes into the same category as labo for me. Looks kinda cool maybe I’ll get it when it goes on sale.
It’s a clever gimmick, but I can’t imagine it being fun for very long. Every “track” will be essentially the same. After playing real Mario Kart, it’s gonna feel so simplistic. No ramps, no drifting, no ant-gravity, no riding down waterfalls, etc etc.
…does it look that good? It looks underwhelming, so I guess it’s as good as it looks to me.
It looks good, just not £100 good. Especially if it doesn’t have a free roam mode.
Depending on how the electronics and motors are designed, the cars may not be equally matched if they don’t have the same charge.
I preordered it instantly and showed the video to my 3 year old son who’s response was “no way”, he’s now asking me to go to the shop to get the Mario racing game on the floor.
I think me and him are going to have a great time with this, I’ve already mapped out some tracks and have an amiibo crowd on standby
It has potential to be a fun little thing but it feels like the track kit needs to be more robust for the price, especially as it seems the gates are needed to create a track. And it needs a cheaper second car option(also opens the door to accessories too) to be viable beyond being a limited release for the 35th.
having a 5 and 7 year old that since seeing video talked non stop about it. seeing how they play with lego hot wheels they will get half fun just building things around the track never mind the game.
Mario Kart 9 would have been a better business investment. That would have had consistent sales while this novelty will peak during the holidays then collect dust on everyone’s basements and on store shelves.
I would love to try it, but I would never pick it up for $100. If it goes on deep discount ($40 or less) like Labo has, which I expect it too, then I might buy it.
It’s like most of the toys that arrive on the back of a game. Over priced for what it is. With Christmas on the way it will be on Santa’s list in some homes, Nintendo will make quite a few quick bucks and with in months it will end up in the back of a cupboard.
It was carry on selling in fewer numbers until the price drops and Nintendo adds more ‘stuff’ to buy as add ons. By Christmas 2021. It will be out of production.
There is no reason why it should have a £99 Price tag, other than thats what Nintendo’s marketing department think the punters will cough up just to say they have one. 😬
Certainly clever and a good idea but £100 for something who’s novelty probably wears off and needs a seemingly wideish, level (uncarpeted) area to work? I would need to know a lot more about how it does in the real world.
What I mostly wonder about is how fast the cars will run, and how big the track is. I remember those slot cars from when I was a kid and they just flew by. The camera on this car is obviously not stabilized, so I’m hoping they’ll run very slow and the game will be more about precise driving and picking up items.
I know you can sort of see how fast they are going in the trailer, but you can’t get the full idea of what it will be like. Luckily Nintendo will be able to update the game and how the car behaves. Hopefully the car itself will be able to be updated just like the Joycons can be. That way Nintendo can fine tune it after they know more about how it works in people’s homes.
@LEGEND_MARIOID That’s why I hope Nintendo has made it so they’ll work outside. Obviously they won’t work in the mud or grass, but they should at least work on asphalt.
@personauser93 MK8’s still doing well enough I can’t imagine they’d want to cut into that with a MK9 that would only do worse unless they launch it with the Switch 2 or whatever.
This might not be MK9, but it can still be enjoyable. Especially with the replayability the customizable tracks add.
This is admittedly very cool because this year is Mario’s 35th anniversary, and this probably isn’t the place for this kind of thing, but I really wish they would do something like this for Diddy Kong Racing. Would give an arm and possibly a finger for a new Diddy Kong Racing entry.
Single player may be fun but Mario kart was made for multiplayer. $100 each just isn’t going to work for us. Why not $60 for a starter kit and $40 for extra karts. I’d jump on that.
This is a very Innovative idea no matter which way anyone slices it. Nintendo always oozes Innovation from their pores. I have no doubt this is going to be a fun game.
@ianl579 If it turns out to be as popular as Ring Fit Adventure, then it won’t go on sale. However, your prediction will probably be correct.
I can look past the price, but the most egregious thing about this release is that it doesn’t include a cartridge. I understand that the software itself is “free” (which I don’t understand as you need an NNID and an actual kart to be able to play the game in the first place). I am not willing to support DIGITAL games tied to PHYSICAL toys. This is not a tablet app for Nintendo to be able to justify such a stupid decision. When the eShop inevitably goes kaput, those karts will be useless as there will be no software to download. And yes, while that may be a long way away, AU$300 is also nothing to sneeze at. Imagine if a game like Mario Paint were to be released today, but with a physical mouse and a download code for the game, or Wii Fit released with a download code for the software.
Because of how cool the concept is, I may give it a look if it plummets in price like Labo has in recent months (maybe if I can pick them up for AU$50 or less each), but I can’t justify supporting this sort of short-term nonsense otherwise. I am a preservationist at heart, and I am not keen on paying for temporary ownership of goods.
Not for me. Haven’t got the space, and I suspect that even if I did it wouldn’t keep me playing for as many hours as MK8D or any of the core series has.
Once recorded do you need the kart or can it be shared with others as the game is free to download?
I think the people who enjoy that sort of thing will find it to be pleasing, seems like a pretty niche thing though.
My question is how much dog and or cat hair are these cars going to pick up and how are they going to handle it. You can vacuum everyday but when you got multiple animals hair is bound to happen. They would have to be able to go on carpet I would assume, not like an old school shag carpet…
Personally, I’d love to see a MK 9 with destructable tracks like the ones from the game Split Second. So along with the items you would have the chance to destroy and change the course of the tracks.
I think that would be the next level for the series.
It looks like more typical AR gimmicky stuff imo. Although, maybe with Nintendo’s hand it could turn out to actually be pretty fun rather than the rubbish that most AR is as of yet imo.
It’s not Mario Kart if you can’t hop or drift.Oh, and having to physically pick up a car that goes off-track will get old real fast.
I legit think this looks so cool. I think it’s cool they are including different CCs, different animations to make the tracks look different , different karts and even costumes for mario and luigi. I agree the price is pretty high, but for rc cars with augmented reality tech id say its reasonable. I’ve already started 3d printing stuff for my track and am mapping it out. Day 1 buy for me though to fulfill my childhood dreams
The potential for tracks just looks extremely limited. The karts look like they need a very flat surface. And how tight is the turning circle? That will be key to using it in smaller rooms. I assume it uses the 4 gates to calibrate the software to the real world, so although they imply you can make any layout I’m guessing you can’t go too far between gates.
It’s an amazing concept and part of me wants to get it, just because. But deep down I don’t believe it will work as well as I hope… and the fun factor will probably wear quickly.
It appears that you drive the kart to map a course, which is then stored in the software. In the video, Lakitu splashes the kart with paint and you then “paint” the course with pink. If that isn’t the case, then there would be no way to create the rainbow course boundaries shown in the video, and no way to create the courses shown in the overhead shot.
I suppose the worst case is that I have a cool RC Mario Kart that I control with the Switch?
And I highly doubt this will work on the vast majority of typical residential carpet types.
It looks friggin’ awesome. But the price is too high for me, and I question the gates being made from cardboard. It’d be interesting to know how well it controls and what its range is – if I can race around my company’s warehouse that’d be amazing. Consider my inner-child’s interest piqued
@Agriculture I expect a lot of outdoor play will occur on driveways and stone flags of properties and homes. Thing is it usually rains a lot in the UK! Ha.
@Agriculture But they’ll need to be connected to a wifi-signal all the time? My guess is it’ll only work within the range of your own router. On top of that, most Switch consoles have a horrendously bad wifi chip, so the range may be very limited.
@BrettAwesome The Switch has the ability to create a local wifi network, which is how local multiplayer in handheld mode works. It’s also possible that the car is controlled via bluetooth and that wifi is only used for the video feed.
For the local wifi option, the Switch has to disconnect from your home router, so that’s the downside to that option. The downside to connecting these cars to your home router is probably too large to be viable. It’s a kids game, and if they have to configure a toy car to connect to a router and add the password to the car it would probably be too much of a hassle.
My guess is that it works just like a Playstation 4 joypad – you connect the car via USB and now the car is automatically synced to the Switch console you plugged it into. The technology used will probably be a local wifi connection for both controlling the car and for sending the video to the Switch. This is just a guess on my part.
@zool a few months? My guess is the novelty wears off in two-three weeks, if that. But yeah, u nailed it….
@Multi hi, it only makes sense to build them on the fly and in turns, if not played in single player. As far a I got it, you have to make one “creating” drive through the gates and make the corners you want to in between. Since the layout of that course will not fit any other surroundings but your apartment, sharing does not make sense. Cheers!
My personal opinion: I LOVE the idea. But I cannot imagine it’s working out. It will get boring after 20 hours in for the most kids, I guess. The freedom in your apartment or in parks etc is limited. I don’t know what they will pull off software-wise. But it has to be a lot to keep children playing.
Edit: what I am looking the most forward to is Alex’ review on this. Please penetrate your friends with this and share it with us, mate 😁
i wonder if this will support Nintendo Switch Online. just imagine two people racing each other with their Mario Karts on the same track in multiple homes.
How big is it to play? Can you play outdoors?We recommend that you play in a space with no steps above 6 tatami mats (approximately 3.5m x 3m or more). It is for indoor use only.
The official website of “Mario Kart Live Home Circuit” is also open today. If you would like to know more details, please wait for the next report.
In single player you only race against the koopalings. You have typical mario kart items however the unique factor is how it impacts the physical cart as well. The racecourse can also be overlayed with digital themes so from a gameplay perspective it looks like a real game. But there is a labo type possibilty for creative people to decorate a track ala ribbon road.
It looks like it would be fun, but the fact that there’s no boxed game and that it costs a whopping ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, I think I’ll pass. It’ll be just like Labo for me – it’s fun to look at, but I wouldn’t enjoy it for a long time.
1. Space to build the track
2. The incredible cost of kits and switch hwrdware (if needed)
This severly limits the amount of people who will pick this up. However I think Nintendo knows this is really just a rich kids toy.
Things like this gets boring same day you buy it, so i guess it’s designed for kids only.
I can see streamers building elaborate tracks, and I’m certain I’d watch. But would this be a good fit for parents and kids? That’s a big maybe, especially if it’s no good on carpets. I know people with large basements, perfect for creating tracks, but they are carpeted.
What happened to regular remote controlled cars? Those + Mario Kart 8 is cheaper and probably better… I still think this is really cool, but I don’t see how it is practical.
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World news – US – Talking Point: Can Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit Possibly Be As Good As It Looks?