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Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, the latest installment in Nintendo’s racing franchise, brings together the fun of a remote control car with the versatility of a video game, bridging the two with a clever use of augmented reality.

The big picture: As we've written before, games that merge digital and physical play have tremendous promise, but that pairing has seen more misses than hits.

How it works: Mario Kart Live consists of a downloadable game for the Nintendo Switch, a miniature physical car equipped with a front-facing camera and four cardboard gates for the car to maneuver through.

  • Players set up the gates and then drive the car through them to "paint" the course. Real-world obstacles can be added as well.
  • After that, players race against digital opponents, do a time trial, or even race against up to three other cars (each sold separately).

What they're saying: I reviewed this game along with junior tech correspondent Harvey Turpen Fried. Our almost-8-year-old had lots of praise for the game, which he was able to pick up quickly and maneuver on his own, after a little bit of setup help from me.

  • The best part of the game was being able to see the car he was driving show up on the screen alongside familiar digital competitors and obstacles.

What's hot: Mario Kart does an admirable job of staying true to the game franchise while adding in the fun of driving a physical race car around your house.

  • Setup is easy and, unlike most toys, everything easily fits back in the box when not in use.

What's not: At $99, it's not cheap, and if you want two physical cars to race, you need two Switch consoles and have to buy two kits.

  • Also, you need some space. It’s designed only for indoor use and Nintendo recommends having around 12 feet by 10 feet of space. (Poor Mario would never be able to navigate our cluttered narrow hallways, so for testing purposes, we used my parents’ far less obstructed living room.)
  • Finally, it’s a little hard to know where to look. If you look at the Kart, you miss the fun of AR, but it can be tough to get the full perspective just by looking at the Switch. Working off a TV would have helped, but alas we forgot to bring the docking station to connect the Switch to the TV.

The bottom line: I can easily see us plunking down the money to make Mario a permanent resident in our house. Maybe he can even get us to clean up a bit.

Go deeper: You can see Mario Kart Live in action here.

Go deeper

Dec 23, 2020 - Economy & Business

Used car dealers are suddenly popular

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An often underrated side of the auto industry — used car sales — is the hot new thing for some automakers who sense they are losing lucrative business to online newcomers.

Why it matters: While feasting for years on profits from expensive SUVs and trucks, many automakers have forfeited the lower end of the market at precisely the time many COVID-wary consumers are looking for an affordable alternative to public transportation.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.