Real-Life Mario Karting!

Andrew Lampard
This Could Be Big

Admit it: you’ve wondered what real-life Mario Kart would be like.

OK, I’ll stop projecting. Personally, I take my Mario Kart very seriously and have several lifelong rivalries with friends to prove it. I just wish they all had been with me at SXSW in Austin, TX, this year so that we could have settled the score once and for all with the real-life version.

That’s right, real-life Mario Kart.

And no, this wasn’t just go-karting with Nintendo branding plastered all over the karts. I’m talking Mario Kart essentials in real-life: speed bursts, turtle shells (of sorts) and four-player split screens.

In order to cross-promote Nintendo’s new Mario Kart 8 with a new Pennzoil motor oil, the two companies joined forces to create the most accurate version of the beloved racing game on a real-life track (that wouldn’t result in an injury lawsuit).

Here’s how it worked: each kart was outfitted with an RFID tag reader that registered RFID tags on the track. These tags were item icons: speed bursts, turtle shells, etc. When a kart hit a speed burst icon, it sped up; when it hit a turtle shell, it slowed down. Each race consisted of three-and-a-half laps around the RFID-laced track.

In addition, the karts were outfitted with GoPro cameras that fed each driver’s point-of-view to a jumbo monitor next to the track. These feeds formed a four-player split screen that resembled the video game’s split screen.

The event was popular, to say the least. Lineups this weekend were at least four hours long. And how did it measure up to the game? Drivers I spoke with raved about the experience, with many saying it beat the video game version.

If you missed your chance to race, watch the video above. It’s not quite real-life Mario Karting, but it’s the next best thing.