Nintendo has not ventured into the world of virtual reality since the short-lived days of the Virtual Boy. Despite the recent surge in VR development in the gaming industry with Microsoft and Sony both jumping in to experiment with it, Nintendo has shied away from doing so.
No, the Virtual Boy is not being reincarnated and as far as we know, there are no plans to build a VR peripheral to work with the Nintendo Switch. But Nintendo could be ready tot ake one of its top franchises and give it a VR spin. A virtual reality spinoff of the Mario Kart franchise is reportedly in development for arcades by Bandai Namco in Japan. And this isn’t just a small rumor with little to stand on. It’s gotten so far to the point where we have actual video footage of the in-game activity, and it looks fantastic.
This looks really well done and it manages to keep in tune with the spirit of the main Mario Kart franchise gamers have been enjoying in their homes on their Nintendo home consoles and their portable consoles since the early 1990s. It also introduces a brand new weapon to the game, a hammer.
Bandai Namco has previously worked with Nintendo to bring the Mario Kart franchise to arcades, and has even inserted their own characters into the racing game, like Pac-Man. But the arcades are the only place to experience these custom ports of the game, as they have not crossed into the home at this time. But there are a few questions left unanswered about these Mario Kart GP VR machines. For starters, when they will start being installed in arcades in Japan remains unknown. It is also unknown if or when they will travel across the Pacific Ocean. A dying arcade industry doesn’t help inspire much confidence those of us in North America will ever get a chance to play this version of the game.
What could be expected, however, is for this arcade version of the game to be playable at the Nintendo Land attractions in Universal Studios theme parks. The virtual reality alone could be used for a fun amusement ride if done correctly too, but one step at a time.