March 10 may be just another day for some gamers, but the date has special significance to Nintendo: It’s Mario Day. Playing off of the similar appearance between ‘MAR10’ and Mario, the company takes today to celebrate the mustachioed man that Nintendo has built a veritable gaming empire around by giving a nod to Mario Kart.
This year, Nintendo has partnered with Google to let fans add a dash of Mario Kart into their typical commute. While that sounds like a dangerous combo, Google is simply changing the driver’s icon in Google Maps to a digital Mario motoring along in his staple red kart. He fist pumps as he goes, which may make the typical highway traffic jam feel a little more exciting than it actually is.
Everyone’s favorite plumber (and yes, he’s a plumber again) can be activated by opening Google Maps and hitting the 8-bit question block icon, which prompts a pop up asking if commuters want to activate Mario mode. If one picks “Let’s-a go!”, Mario will join them for the duration of the ride. While Mario Day will only last for 24 hours by definition, the promotion will remain in the Google Maps application for the next week. Google also left a courteous reminder that the company doesn’t encourage users to throw bananas at other motorists, and we have to assume that blue shells are yet another no-go.
This is far from the first time that Google Maps has participated in gaming-inspired map themes, most of which have been Nintendo-related. Google has done everything from rendering every map in 8-bit to placing Link as a Street View icon to celebrate the launch of Twilight Princess HD. Mario’s appearance this week marks the first time Nintendo and Google have implemented a dynamic 3D animation of a character within the map application, which has thankfully seen a bug-free launch.
While Google Maps may be the first time Mario Kart has officially appeared on mobile platforms, it certainly won’t be the last. In February, Nintendo announced Mario Kart Tour, though it didn’t provide concrete details into how the mobile kart racer will work.
The company’s last foray into mobile gaming came with Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, but the monetization features included there led fans to call the title “soulless”. Mario Kart is a much-beloved property for many gamers, so Nintendo will have to walk a fine line between delivering an engaging product and finding a way to profit from the mobile application.
In the meantime, Google Maps and Mario will be here all week in celebration of Mario Kart, with the plumber fist-pumping his way through traffic.