Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit review: Kitchen cruiser

The latest Nintendo Switch accessory brings Mario Kart action to the real world. Our review.

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The Mario Kart franchise is among the most beloved party games ever, and is a staple on nearly every Nintendo device. While the Switch has Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the console-handheld hybrid was yet to have its own original Mario Kart title. That’s finally changed with the release of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, a game featuring AR hardware that innovates on the series formula, allowing players to construct and race on their own tracks in a mixed reality setting right in their own home. 

Promoting creativity

When you pick up Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, you’ll receive a single physical kart for either Mario or Luigi (depending on which box you buy), as well as four cardboard gates, and some directional arrows. It’s super easy to set up, as players will simply need to scan a QR code on their switch display/tv screen using the camera built into the kart. After that, the four gates just need to be placed (in order) and it’s time to race. 

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit asks players to build their own tracks, using the four cardboard gates as markers to indicate the start/finish of a lap. Players can spice things up by using their own at-home items to add extra obstacles to maneuver. Being able to create my own tracks by hand is something that I’ve fantasized about for years, and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit delivers on exactly what that should be.

When creating a track, players are required to drive the course once themselves, remote controlling the RC kart using the Switch. This will determine the full path that the player and opponents must follow in the actual race. It’s impressive how the kart’s camera is able to properly track movement in a real-world space. In most cases, I was able to accurately draw out courses on my first attempt. 

Ready, set, go!

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is played entirely offline, and players will race against an AI crew composed of Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings. It is possible to race with another player, though they’ll need their own physical kart and Nintendo Switch console. The races in Home Circuit are fun and exciting, with little compromise as a result of the mixed reality setting. There’s power-ups, hazards, and even the ability to drift and catch speed boosts. 

That being said, there are some moments where the game is held back by its unique design. For example, the Kart has hit detection on its bumper, which means players can actually take damage and lose coins when running into real-world objects, a great touch. However, the digital AI doesn’t have the same functionality, so they will often be able to freely bypass obstacles that players can’t. On top of that, the depth perception can make it a bit awkward when trying to throw traps or sabotage opponents. 

It also feels a bit silly that you can’t save tracks. Every time you want to race on a new track, you’ll need to run the course yourself to register it in-game. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit would greatly benefit from a feature that lets players save a collection of created races. 

Home Circuit phenom

Nintendo explicitly states that Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is intended to be played indoors and on flat surfaces, which I can backup after spending time with the game myself. When trying to play on a carpeted floor, the kart was still fully controllable, though it was extremely bumpy and hard to make precise movements. If you don’t have a large area in your home that isn’t carpeted, you simply won’t be playing Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit at its best. 

What’s really impressive about Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is how it’s able to make any average at-home setting feel like an actual Mario Kart level. When starting a race, players can pick a theme for the course, with a variety of options seen in previous Mario Kart games. The game then uses augmented reality technology to give your course a themed makeover. I got quite the kick out of turning my kitchen course into a snowy level, with flakes falling heavily as the different gates and markers are covered in a fluffy white coating. Other themes include underwater, jungle, and even a retro Super Mario Bros. theme. 

This weaving together of the digital and real-world aspect of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is also present with the use of power-ups. When running over a banana peel or being exploded by a bob-omb, the physical kart will actually stop on a dime, reflecting everything that's happening in-game.

Going for a joyride

When you’re not racing, players can use explore mode to cruise around freely. This is fun if you want to just sit back and chase around your pet, or drop in on family and friends. There’s a functioning radio feature, with different stations playing a variety of tunes from the history of the Mario Kart franchise. As players complete races and level up, they’ll unlock more radio stations, as well as new outfits and skins for Mario/Luigi and their respective vehicles. 

Something that I noticed pretty quickly when playing Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is the limited wireless range required to maintain a stable connection. Playing from my bedroom, I could barely get down the hall to my kitchen without getting increasingly worse stutters and drops. For a consistently stable connection, you’ll want to remain relatively close to the actual RC kart. 

The kart has a solid battery life, which is always displayed in the upper left-hand corner of the game screen. When low, the kart’s battery can be charged using a USB-C cable, which comes with the kart and gates.

Finish line

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is an entertaining take on the classic franchise. The mixed reality format allows player creativity to shine, as the ceiling for possibility is practically infinite. Nintendo is able to expertly weave staple Mario Kart features and characteristics into an augmented reality setting, making the game stand out from other RC racers. Players may be limited by their own home environment, or the rather short connectivity range of the kart itself. Despite a handful of technical road bumps, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is an exciting and inventive way to play the beloved racer.


This review is based on a physical product provided by the publisher. Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is available now on Nintendo Switch for $99.99 USD.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Pros
  • Building tracks is fun and exciting
  • Excellent blending of Mario Kart elements with real-world factors
  • Large number of customizable themes for every level
Cons
  • Limited connection range for physical kart
  • No way to save created courses
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 19, 2020 9:00 AM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit review: Kitchen cruiser

    • reply
      October 19, 2020 9:21 AM

      Going to be tough not to open mine up until xmas. Glad to hear it's fun, hopefully the kids love it.

    • reply
      October 19, 2020 5:40 PM

      I’m about to fire it up! Hope it’s as much fun as MK8 Delux

    • reply
      October 19, 2020 5:54 PM

      It sounds fun, but I really hope they are working on a real Mario kart game for switch

      • reply
        October 19, 2020 6:26 PM

        I think MK8D is still selling well so....

      • reply
        October 19, 2020 7:17 PM

        Just tried it. It’s a lot of fun, particularly if you have a cat.

        it’s a bit gimmicky but there’s still enough joy and polish that it’ll keep me going for a while

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