The living room battles of Mario Karting moved to the real world in Austin, TX, during South by Southwest this year. To promote its new Platinum motor oil, Pennzoil teamed up with Nintendo to create a real-world go-kart inspired by the upcoming Mario Kart 8 for Wii U. OK, so it didn't have the banana peels flying, the shrink rays, and the pushing of other karts off the track (bumping karts gets you thrown off the track), but the dream of the race was there, complete with appearances from Mario and Luigi themselves.
The companies created a track outside the Palmer Events Center in Austin, just off the beaten path from the main SXSW Interactive festivities. Racers lined up in karts outfitted with GoPro cameras to get each racer’s perspective as they navigated the course. Large sticker icons with images representing Pennzoil oil and Mario Kart were placed around the track. The object is for each racer to drive one wheel over the stickers, which are hooked up to RIFD technology. Scanning five of those stickers along the course without driving over one of the red shells (which are really easy to avoid) will give you a zooming power boost that lasts about five seconds.
I played as Bowser, who is assigned the kart at the end of the lineup. Because the karts go just about as slow as Baby Mario in the video game, I was never able to move my ranking up past the other contestants, even after earning the speed boosts. Would I wait in line for hours to experience this incarnation of Mario Kart? Not likely. The Game of Thrones Oculus Rift experience was much more of an immersive entertainment-meets-reality adventure. But if the features Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik imagined for Nintendo and Pennzoil were actually implemented, like projections of shells, it would be one amazing take on a classic video game.
Read on for more pictures of Mario Kart Reimagined, including my Bowser kart inching through the track.