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Mario Kart Live Home Circuit review: The best Christmas present since the GameBoy

Our Rating :
$87.97 from
£79.99 from
Price when reviewed : £100
Requires Nintendo Switch

Nintendo’s whacky RC Mario Kart is imperfect but oodles of fun


  • Incredibly simple
  • Minimal input lag
  • Limitless racetrack options


  • Expensive
  • Multiplayer requires more Switch consoles

I wish Mario Kart Live Home Circuit had existed when I was young. Nintendo’s latest Mario Kart spin-off is a mix of augmented reality, Scalextric and RC car racing, and on paper at least, it blows any toys we might have had as youngsters clean out of the water. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to strap a camera to a remote-controlled car and pilot it around their kitchen?

Of course, MK Live – as it shall henceforth be known – is incredibly ambitious, and it isn’t quite the perfect product. But I will say this: If I owned a Nintendo Switch as a kid, I would be over the moon to find this absurd, amazing toy under the Christmas tree.

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Mario Kart Live Home Circuit review: What you need to know

  • Requirements: One Nintendo Switch/Nintendo Switch Lite console per player (for multiplayer experiences), a good-sized, well-lit floor space.
  • In the box: One Kart (Mario or Luigi), four cardboard gates, two cardboard directional signs and one USB-A to USB-C charging cable.
  • Price: £100 for Kart pack; game is a separate free download.

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How it works: The core MK Live gameplay experience is pretty similar to any other Mario Kart game you might have played previously. You’ll be whizzing around a circuit racing AI opponents, collecting coins and power-ups in order to slow down the other racers and give yourself an advantage. It’s tried, tested and immensely fun.

The difference is that you’re driving around a circuit you’ve drawn onto a real-world space, like your kitchen floor, using a remote-controlled Kart with a built-in camera. Using this camera, your Switch screen (or TV screen, if you play in docked mode) becomes the cockpit of the Kart and uses augmented reality to overlay the feed from the camera with AI opponents, items and scenery. It’ll even generate obstacles, like wind machines and magnets, to push/pull you off course using clever camera trickery.

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Mario Kart Live Home Circuit review: What do we like?

Ease of use: I’ll say this for Nintendo: it knows its audience. MK Live is incredibly simple to set up. Once you’ve downloaded the game from the Nintendo eShop for free, the software guides you through pairing your Kart with your Nintendo Switch and setting up your circuit.

There’s only one bit of mild DIY: the four cardboard gates – used as markers for your circuit – must be unfolded. Once you’ve placed the gates and drawn up your circuit, however, you’ll almost certainly want to take things a step further, which brings me to my next point.

Creativity: Using the Kart as a drawing tool, you can pretty much create any shape of circuit you fancy so long as it incorporates all four gates, which is in itself a joy. Your only limits are the size of your living space, and the range on the Kart’s Bluetooth receiver. Even in my cosy kitchen, I was able to create a complex circuit with one truly fiendish hairpin.

And once the circuit is ready, Nintendo suggests that you use real-world objects to help mark out the route. My twenty-something-year-old self couldn’t resist the opportunity to build walls out of random objects I could find in my flat.

This is where MK Live really shines: the more intricate the circuit, the more astonishing it will look from the “driver’s seat” camera of the RC Kart. Like a scene from Toy Story, the dumbbells/loo roll/plant pots you use as corner markers look huge and imposing when viewed through your Switch/TV screen.

General performance: For the most part, MK Live works well. The camera isn’t something you’d film your summer holidays on, but it provides a clear picture, and rarely had issues picking up the numbers on the gates (a requirement when setting up your circuit).

The connection between Kart and Switch is also quite stable, with a low latency that ensures the time between you moving the joystick left/right and the Kart’s wheels turning is almost imperceptible. This is hugely important, as a noticeable input delay would completely ruin the experience.

Battery life is passably good, averaging between one hour and a half to two hours of constant driving during my testing. The hidden USB-C port is a nice touch.

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Mario Kart Live Home Circuit review: What could be better?

General performance: Dovetailing the positives in this section are a couple of mild negatives. Chief among these is that the camera does require a significant amount of light, with footage looking quite grainy in the darker corners of my kitchen. In really dark rooms, the camera will struggle to pick out the cardboard gates, although it managed just fine in relatively low light in my experience.

In addition, the augmented reality aspect is by its very nature an imperfect thing. You’ll notice that any computer-generated racers, item boxes and general scenery items are visible through solid real-world objects, which is unavoidable but a little weird.

Lastly, you’ll need to be standing within about six feet of the Kart – with no thick surfaces in the way – for the connection to remain steady. Move further away, or behind a wall, and the video feed will begin to break up. This is a far cry from the advertised 15 feet, much to my disappointment.

Multiplayer: Let’s face it: playing Mario Kart is usually something you do with friends or family. Unfortunately, you’ll need a second/third/fourth Nintendo Switch console, and a second/third/fourth Kart pack, which will obviously cost a bomb. The only multiplayer experience for one Switch/Kart is a turn-based time trial mode, where you pass the Switch to your friends after completing the required laps.

The price: MK Live was never going to be cheap, but £100 is a lot to pay for a single small RC car with a fairly weedy camera attached to it. And there’s no doubt that forking out for multiple Karts is a step too far for most. Given that several of the core components are cardboard, moreover, there’s also the issue of potential breakages to consider – although you can print your own replacements.

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Mario Kart Live Home Circuit review: Verdict

On the whole, though, the drawbacks I’ve listed here are unavoidable obstacles (pun intended) for such an ambitious toy. And when you’re zipping at what feels like breakneck speed around your freshly swept kitchen floor, thumping your opponents with virtual red shells, you’ll probably forget why you had reservations in the first place. I know I did.

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