Reality check: Mario Kart versus Tokyo Street Karting

This is a little detour from the usual science or sci-fi related games / gaming news we cover. But we’ve been to Tokyo and had a fun gaming related experience we’d liked to share

By Sci-Gaming

Gif credit: DvC via Sci-Gaming

Gif credit: DvC via Sci-Gaming

Video games are often based on real life situations. Games can let you drive trucks, fight alongside the allied forces in World War 2 or be the game changer in a sports match. But these adventures can also be a little different from the real thing. You can go on an outer space adventure to fight aliens, be a wizard in a medieval world full of sword wielding bandits or chase a witch as a bear with a bird in his backpack. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe fits the latter description, because luckily there is no such thing as a homing red shell…

The fantasy

Mario Kart has always been about winning the race while hindering your opponents with various items such as banana peels, green shells and lightning strikes. The latest version of the game does a fine job of presenting you with a combination of old and new game mechanics and circuits. It’s a fun single player game but it has also evolved into a online multiplayer sensation and popular drinking game (and the only time when drinking and driving isn’t illegal). Because of its popularity, there have been several games that copied the genre, like the somewhat more realistic Re-Volt!. Still, these games let you enjoy the harmless fantasy of racing your friends and blowing them over on the way to the finish line. There are no big crashes and you won’t see Mario getting road rash on Toad’s Turnpike after being rolled over by someone using a super star item. It’s just innocent fun for the whole family.

This Mario Kart 64 throwback track features far more dangerous traffic situations than you’ll encounter in Tokyo

This Mario Kart 64 throwback track features far more dangerous traffic situations than you’ll encounter in Tokyo

The reality

So, you are ready for the real deal. Ever since you were a kid you dreamt of strapping a couple of balloons behind a Go-Kart and throwing empty turtle shells at your opponent. You search the web and soon you will be confronted with the cold hard truth. There are no balloons, there’s no throwing items, there isn’t even a soundtrack… Yes ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t even come close to the game itself. Instead you have a Go-Kart fitted with lights and an indicator, public roads, crazy taxi drivers honking at you and no Mario or Luigi in sight. Is this even Mario Kart?

Well no, it’s not. And there are a few reasons why. The biggest reason is the fact that all Nintendo names are protected by the copyright law, including clothing. Companies that provide these tours, are not allowed to use anything from the game. Furthermore, you are using the public roads and therefore you have to respect the law and drive like a normal car. You must follow your guide and know your place on the road. Al these rules must take all of the fun out of the experience, right?

The experience

Are you kidding me?! Yes there is a safety instruction and you have to follow your guide, but the experience of driving on the public roads of Tokyo, flying past the flashing lights and seeing all the major sites and area’s is really something else. At every red light there were pedestrians cheering, people stopping to take a quick picture or children tugging their mom’s arm while pointing at the funny costumed drivers. You are driving a Go-Kart on the public road in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities. Even though you can’t look like the characters in the game, there are more than enough other outfits to choose from. The cars have lights and indicators, but everything else is exactly like a racing kart. The direct response of the steering input, the way the vehicle bounces on the road’s surface, the speed you gather going down the rainbow bridge and crossing the ever busy Shibuya Crossing is a one off experience. There is so much going on that our 3 hour tour was over before we knew it.

The facts

Even though you feel safe driving (not racing) in a big group, always be aware of the other cars, especially the angry taxi drivers. Just don’t be reckless and you’ll be fine. Take the safety instructions serious and everyone can enjoy the ride.

There are several companies that have guided tours though Tokyo and Osaka. We used Street Kart Tokyo Bay, just outside of Shinagawa Station and planned ahead. There are several tours and starting times to choose from. We chose the 3 hour tour and started at 5pm so we could see the sunset and the neon light

filled streets. It will cost you about 8500-18000 Yen depending on the tour you take, but it’s definitely worth it. Oh and don’t forget to get an international driver’s license before you get to Japan, otherwise you are not allowed to drive!