There are very few video games that have managed to transcend consoles, eras and generations of fans to become immovable forces in pop culture. And of those, can any challenge Mario Kart?
Mario’s cross-generational presence as a go-kart racer has begotten a number of shared experiences, with Mario Kart often lauded as a global childhood staple. Who hasn’t reveled in the distinct joy of outpacing all of their friends as Princess Peach gracefully celebrates a hard-fought win? It’s an evergreen source of thrills.
Now it’s time to usher in the next generation of go-kart champions with Mario Kart Tour, the franchise’s highly anticipated mobile installment, and the adrenaline-spiking ad “Start Your Engines” will have old and new fans alike racing to pre-register for their own chance at glory.
Creative agency TBWAChiatDay Los Angeles and Google Play translate some of the game world’s most iconic aspects—zany tracks, infamous banana peel obstacles and coins galore—into a playful, appropriately chaotic real-world environment by way of racing smartphones.
When not distracted by the pandemonium, fans might notice a number of special touches that celebrate Mario Kart’s long legacy
In fact (with a little help from the creatives behind it), we’ve tallied 15 Easter eggs or winking references to the game series in the spot.
How many did you spot on your first viewing? You might want to check it out one more time before we spoil it for you with the full list.
Ready? Check out the full list of Easter eggs below.
1. As you might have caught, each phone case is based on a character: Donkey Kong, Peach, Luigi, Yoshi, Toad, Mario or Bowser.
2. In the opening shot, a Taxi logo reads “Lakitu’s NYC Taxi.” Lakitu is Mario Kart’s goggle-wearing, cloud-riding referee of sorts.
3. Also in the opening shot, the street sign says “Rainbow Rd.” If you don’t know what that is, why are you even reading this article?
4. At the :02 mark, we see the coffee shop is called Koopa Cafe, obviously named for the Mario Bros. world’s turtle creatures.
5. The coffee shop door also says “Est. 1992,” a reference to the first Mario Kart game, Super Mario Kart, debuting in 1992.
6. The cafe patron in red is wearing an outfit inspired by Mario.
7. Around :09, in the Japanese apartment, we see a plant whose pot is shaped like a green pipe.
8. At :10, the name of the school is “Peach Preparatory.”
9. At :26, as the phone races away, we see a lamp shaped like Toad in the Japanese apartment.
10. Especially hard to catch is the backpack patch at :42, showing stars and koopa shells.
11. There’s a fire flower sticker on the phone case at :44.
12. A turtle shell sticker can be seen under the bowl that interrupts traffic at :50.
13. At :52, if you squint, you can make out the yellow power star on the cat’s collar.
14. Surely everyone caught the banana peel slip at :54.
15. Finally, at :58, a tip jar of coins explodes, representing the coins always up for grabs in Mario Kart races.
So how did you do?
When updating a beloved property for a new generation, there is this inherent risk of alienating older fans in the process. But TBWAChiatDay L.A.’s approach of peppering classic Easter eggs alongside a scenario that will energize young audiences results here in ad that truly shows why this series has had players hooked since 1992.
Google Play: “Start Your Engines”
Creative Agency: TBWAChiatDay Los Angeles
Executive Creative Director: Erik Vervroegen
Creative Director: Stephen Lum
Creative Director: Liz Cartwright
Art Director: Dan Hales
Copywriter: Stew Tribe
Managing Director: Christian Stein
Account Director: Tony Burman
Account Executive: Sarah Newton
Head of Strategy: Jennifer Costello
Associate Strategy Director: Corianda Dimes
Junior Strategist: Sara Singh
Director of Content Production: Anh-Thu Le
Senior Producer: Aileen Baliat
Senior Producer: Daryl Hagans
Assistant Producer: Joey Iamartino-Lawson
Assistant Producer: Josh Levion
Business Affairs: Jason Delos Santos
Production Company: Golden LA
Director: Saman Kesh
Executive Producer: Matthew Marquis
Orbital Music and Sound
Executive Music Producer: Alfonso Velez
Editor: Robert Lopuski
Producer: Dale Nicholls
VFX: Jake Montgomery (VFX Supervisor / Lead Flame Artist)
VFX Supervisor / Lead CG Andy Boyd
Flame Artist: Brian Hajek
Lead CG Artist: Brian Burke
Lead FX Artist: Zachary DiMaria
Animation Supervisor: Stew Burris
Producer: Ashley Greyson
Production Coordinator: Anna Dood
Executive Producer: Asher Edwards