I was able to have a go at Mario Kart VR during a recent trip to Tokyo. The VR Zone in Shinjuku offers a wide variety of VR games to try and is a place worth visiting if you’re a gamer visiting Japan.
If you plan on visiting, you’ll first have to buy a ticket to enter the building. Mario Kart VR is only available to those who purchase a day ticket, which includes the entry fee and four coupons for different games. One of those coupons enables you to play Mario Kart. The photo below is an example of one of these coupons.
You then get in line and wait 45-60 minutes to play. A long wait, but one that I think is definitely worth it. You can choose from 4 playable characters: Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi. Besides them, Bowser and Wario will also join the game as NPCs. The race features one track that blends different environments from Mario Kart. Switching between the different settings is seamless: you simply pass through a fog wall and find yourself in an entirely new area.
Due to the first-person experience, the experience is exhilarating and you truly feel the speed. When I played I felt the game was probably set to 100cc or 150cc. Difficulty wise, I didn’t find it hard to pick up. In fact, I was able to win my race against the three other players and two NPCs. Time-wise, the race lasted about 3 minutes, though it felt much longer.
As advertised, you can pick up three different items while racing: the banana, the green shell, and the hammer. The items hang in the air from balloons, so you actually have to reach up to grab them. Once you’ve caught one, you can keep your hand over your head to hold onto the item, or simply toss it at an opponent.
The HTC Vive I was using provided an excellent viewing experience. That said, it did feel a bit heavy on my head, which made me worry about how uncomfortable it might get during longer sessions. The sensors that go on your hands worked well (they were actually strapped to our arms), making it easy to use the steering wheel. The controls in general were very responsive, and it never felt tricky to avoid going off the track.
One of the things that made the experience especially memorable was the way the seat moved and rumbled while I raced. Actually using a gas and break pedal and feeling your seat rumble in response was a joy. All in all the experience made me look very forward to the day when many of us will get to enjoy something similar in our own homes.
Mario Kart VR was just one of many amazing and surreal experiences I had during my travels in Japan. If you’re in Tokyo, make sure to visit Shinjuku and the VR Zone. It’s well worth your time and money!
Here is a short clip showcasing how the experience looks. (The gentleman playing is not me by the way!)