Augmented Reality sucks, but maybe Mario fixes it

The number of augmented reality games that actually take off is very small. Even if you leave out ‘games’ and just look at Augmented Reality uses, it’s just not popular. Why? And what’s Mario Kart got to do with it?

Nintendo announced Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, following the Nintendo Labo products from last year or so. Labo was kind of a construction kit of stuff you assembled yourself. It was cool, but a little cerebral, not action-oriented.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a remote controlled car that you drive around with your Nintendo Switch. It’s got a camera above Mario’s head in the driver’s seat, which shows the driver’s eye view on the Switch. The game pastes non-player character racers into the game, into the video feed of your home.

The physical kart responds to boosts in-game and in the real world, stops when hit with an item and can be affected in different ways depending on the race. Players place gates to create a custom course layout in their home, where the only limit is their imagination. Race against Koopalings in Grand Prix, unlock a variety of course customizations and costumes for Mario or Luigi, and play with up to four players in local multiplayer mode.

The car will go faster based on in-game boosts. And you can do local multiplayer. That’s kind of cool.

Look, if I’m super honest, you’re going to get tired of racing the car around the living room. You’re going to get tired of having multiplayer, although that’s going to be better. It’s going to be like 1980s toy commercials: awesome for about the first 20 minutes, and then a let down. Boredom.

But if augmented reality is going to ever work, ever be cool, we have to have experiments like this. There was a time when people went over to each other’s houses to play NES.

Maybe this game lasts an hour, you drink kool-aid, and then run outside for 30 minutes before coming back in and racing some more. In either case, the Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is going to cost $99 when Nintendo gets around to releasing it on October 16th.

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