The ultimate way to settle the age-old dispute of who’s best at Mario Kart is about to launch in the UK.
Yes, Mario Kart VR is real and, even better, it’s soon going to be playable in the UK.
Launched in Japan at Bandai Namco’s VR Zone in Shinjuku, Tokyo, last year, Mario Kart VR has finally made its way over to the UK with a launch at London’s Hollywood Bowl on the O2 this August. To avoid the inevitable huge queues that Mario Kart VR will generate on launch, Bandai Namco has stuck up a reservation form for people to book slots from 3 August.
Because Mario Kart VR is intended to be a completely immersive VRexperience – and one that has to be worth the price of admission at a dedicated VR arcade – this isn’t simply sitting in a chair with a HTC Vivestrapped to your head. No, in Mario Kart VR you're sat in a life-size Mario Kart kart replica. You’re given a steering wheel, pedals and a seat that has haptic feedback to give you the rumble of the engine, the impact of being hit by a Red or Green Shell and the feeling of being passed by giants like Bowser and Wario.
If that wasn’t enough, you’ll have two Vive Trackers strapped to your hands so you can actually reach out and grab Shells, Bananas, Bombs and more as they litter the track. Just like in Mario Kart, it’s then your responsibility to hold them aloft as you careen around the track waiting for an opportune moment to strike your opponent with whatever fiendish item you have at your disposal. It’s not yet clear if you can steal items right out of the hands of others, but we can dream.
Also, this isn’t a solo-racing affair. Mario Kart VR offers up four-player multiplayer experiences with high-end graphics. It’s designed to feel like you really are racing through the Mushroom Kingdom on sections of iconic tracks and locations.
Don’t worry if you can’t make your way down to London on 3 August to experience Mario Kart VR, Bandai Namco and Hollywood Bowl plan to expand to other parts of the UK shortly afterwards. Currently, Hollywood Bowl Leeds and Hollywood Bowl Tunbridge Wells are the only two other locations expected to get Mario Kart VR sets as part of the VR Zone but, if it seems to do well, there’s no reason to believe it won’t spread even further.
It’s worth noting that the UK is the only place outside of Japan to get Mario Kart VR so, if nothing else, it’s the ultimate way to end those arguments of who’s best at Mario Kart.
Mario Kart VR UK release date and locations:
Mario Kart VR releases in the UK on 3 August and is only available to play in specific locations throughout the country.
From 3 August you’ll be able to play Mario Kart VR at the VR Zone in Hollywood Bowl, The O2 on Greenwich Peninsula.
Later this year, Mario Kart VR will launch at VR Zones in Hollywood Bowl Tunbridge Wells and Hollywood Bowl Leeds.
Bandai Namco, HTC Vive and Hollywood Bowl have not currently announced any other UK locations for Mario Kart VR.
Mario Kart VR download:
If you’re hoping to download Mario Kart VR to play at home with your own HTC Vive or Oculus Rift setup, you’re going to be sorely disappointed as it appears Bandai Namco has no plans to release it to the public. Currently, the only way to play is at dedicated VR Zones across the UK or in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
One reason Mario Kart VR may not be coming to Steam or the Oculus Store is to do with licensing issues. Mario Kart is, clearly, a Nintendo IP but Mario Kart VR has been developed under licence by Bandai Namco for its arcade purposes. A home release would need to be published by Nintendo and they’re not in the business of VR, yet.