If you are a long time reader of Geeky Hobbies you are probably well aware of the fact that we have looked at quite a few UNO games over the years. In fact we have actually reviewed many of the UNO spinoff games. One thing we really haven’t looked at though are the themed decks. I would say that this is mostly because most themed decks barely differ from the original UNO outside of a minor twist here and there. Because of this I usually don’t pay too much attention to the themed decks. I was intrigued by UNO Mario Kart though.
I was intrigued for a couple reasons. The first was the theme. I have been a big fan of the Mario Kart series ever since the first release on SNES. On the surface the theme doesn’t really feel like it would fit the UNO gameplay all that well. This is because it doesn’t really share anything in common. Looking into the game a little more though, I was intrigued as its twist on the traditional formula was interesting. While the main gameplay doesn’t differ much from the original, UNO Mario Kart’s twist mixes things up enough to keep fans of the franchise interested.
As almost everyone has played UNO at least once, I am not going to get into specifics regarding the normal gameplay. For the most part the main gameplay is the same as it has always been. You try to play cards from your hand that either match the color, number or symbol of the last played card. The goal of the game is to try and get rid of all of your cards before the other players.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for how to play UNO Mario Kart, check out our how to play guide.
On the surface the game doesn’t differ much from the original UNO. Therefore the game shares a lot of the same qualities as the original game. Your feelings towards UNO in general are likely to carry over to UNO Mario Kart. If you have never really cared for UNO, there is nothing about UNO Mario Kart that is going to change your mind. If you generally enjoy UNO though, I see no reason why that wouldn’t apply to UNO Mario Kart as well.
The one unique mechanic in UNO Mario Kart is the addition of Wild Item Box cards. These cards basically try to recreate the power ups that you can acquire in the video game. When you play one of these cards, you will reveal the top card from the draw pile. The item pictured on the card will activate a specific action that will be taken. Most of these require players to draw cards. Some may also allow the player who plays the card to take another turn.
Ultimately I had some mixed feelings about this mechanic.
I generally try to stay away from themed UNOs as they rarely change the main gameplay in any significant way. I give the designer of UNO Mario Kart credit as it adds more to the formula than most themed UNOs. The ability that is applied is totally random. It can actually change the game quite a bit though if the right card comes up at the right time. With these cards in play anything can happen at any time, so your fate can change quite a bit. This keeps the game interesting.
The other thing I liked about the mechanic is that it utilizes the theme a lot more than I was expecting. The implementation of the Mario Kart theme into UNO was going to be somewhat limited. This is because the racing game theme doesn’t really translate well to a card game based around playing matching cards. I think the game actually did about as good of job as you could expect from an UNO based around Mario Kart. The Wild Item Box card actually does a surprisingly good job simulating acquiring items in the video game. The artwork does a really good job with the theme as well.
The main problem that I had with the Wild Item Box cards is that they don’t really change the overall gameplay all that much. They have limited impact due to there only being so many of them in the deck. In fact of the 112 cards in the deck, only eight are Wild Item Box cards. Thus there will be games where only one or two get played. If you are expecting a drastically different experience from UNO Mario Kart, you will likely be at least a little disappointed.
For the most part the game maintains the same easy to pick up and play gameplay of every other UNO game. If you have ever played UNO before, you can pick it up and play it almost immediately. The only real thing that differs is the one new type of card. This might make the game slightly more difficult, but I can’t really see anyone having a significant issue with it. Like every other UNO game, the gameplay gets right to the point as you are just trying to match the color, number or symbol. For those who have never played UNO before, I think the game could be taught within just a couple minutes.
As for the game’s length, I am not entirely sure what to say. This will obviously somewhat depend on whether you use the normal rules or the optional scoring method. Each hand can vary quite a bit as some take only minutes while others take considerably longer. It all depends on how lucky the players get. The new cards can help or hurt with this depending on what card is drawn. They create an interesting tweak to the gameplay as the number of wild cards in the game is significantly lower. This is because you usually don’t get to pick a color when you play one of the Wild Item Box cards. Most hands don’t take too long as long as you avoid situations where no one can get rid of their last card.
As for strategy versus luck, UNO Mario Kart is basically the same as every other UNO game. The cards you play can have an impact on what ultimately happens. Without knowing exactly what the other players are going to do though, the best you can do is to try and use an educated guess to improve your odds. Ultimately the cards you are dealt and what cards the other players play will have a big impact on who wins. In a way the Wild Item Box cards make this worse as what effect goes into play is totally random. Your best option for any given turn is usually pretty obvious. If you have never really cared for UNO’s greater emphasis on luck over strategy, I don’t see the game changing your mind.
This is probably one of the main reasons why a lot of people dislike UNO. While the game has its flaws, I have always enjoyed the game despite them. When you play a game like UNO you aren’t expecting to play a game filled with crucial decisions and strategy. It is a game that you play without having to put too much thought into what you are doing. You can just relax and play the game. It is the type of game that I like to refer to as one where you can turn off your brain while playing. UNO Mario Kart fits this description, which is why I still had fun playing it despite its share of issues.
Finally when talking about the components I had some mixed feelings. On the positive side, as I mentioned earlier I actually think the game does a good job with the theme. The game’s artwork looks quite nice while sticking to the normal UNO formula. I thought the quality of the cards were a little disappointing though. The cards just feel a little thin where they could get creased/curled rather easily.
Ultimately at the end of the day UNO Mario Kart is mostly what I expected it to be. Much of the game is similar to every other UNO game. The only major change is the addition of the Wild Item Box cards. These actually relate to the theme surprisingly well even if they are pretty random. Otherwise the game is quite easy to play and plays relatively quickly. The game has the same reliance on luck as every other UNO game, but it is still enjoyable because it is relaxing to play.
Ultimately my recommendation for the game comes down to your thoughts on UNO in general and the Mario Kart theme. If you don’t really care for UNO or the Mario Kart theme, I don’t see anything about the game that will likely change your mind. Mario Kart fans that want an interesting twist on the UNO formula though should consider picking up UNO Mario Kart as you likely will enjoy it.
UNO Mario Kart
Year: 2020 | Publisher: Mattel | Designer: Nick Hayes | Artist: NA
Genres: Card, Family
Ages: 7+ | Number of Players: 2-10 | Length of Game: 10-30 minutes
Difficulty: Light | Strategy: Light | Luck: High
Components: 112 cards, instructions
- Does a surprisingly good job utilizing the Mario Kart theme to differentiate itself from other themed UNO decks.
- Has that same relaxing gameplay that fans of UNO will enjoy.
- Relies mostly on luck as the strategy is pretty straightforward.
- Ultimately doesn’t differ much from every other UNO game.
Recommendation: For fans of UNO who also like the Mario Kart theme.