For the first time, BANDAI NAMCO is bringing to the United States a number of popular VR experiences once only available in Japan and UK-based VR ZONE arcades. Included in the line-up is the much-awaited Mario Kart Arcade GP VR.

VR ZONE Portal Washington D.C. is officially opening up shop today at Union Station near the national mall. Bandai Namco’s ‘Portal’ naming scheme indicates that the venue is smaller than the full-sized VR ZONEs in both Shinjuku and Osaka, Japan.

VR games available to the public include Mario Kart VRArgyle Shift, and Ski Rodeo, and appear to be on a first-come, first-serve basis with no reservations required.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Mario Kart VR though, which pits four players against each other using HTC Vive headsets, Vive Trackers, and motion platform outfitted with a steering wheel, acceleration and brake pedals. Users, playing as Mario, Peach, Luigi, or Toad race around the track grabbing classic items like banana skins and shells while dodging Bowser—essentially what everyone wants from a VR version of Mario Kart.

“BANDAI NAMCO is thrilled to be a part of the innovative, cutting-edge project that is VR ZONE Portal. The launches in Japan and the UK brought great success, and we hope to follow suit in Washington, D.C.,” said Steve Ignarski, National Sales Manager for Bandai Namco Amusement America. “Mario Kart VR is a long-awaited title and we have no doubt it will be well-received in the states, due to its incredible, immersive game-play and outstanding equipment from HTC Vive.”

There’s a catch however. All three VR experiences will be featured for only six months, meaning the VR ZONE Portal in D.C. is a limited time engagement that will close up shop presumably sometime in March 2019. Check out the VR Zone Portal Washington D.C. Facebook page for more info.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • jj

    I want to try it but i hear its a pretty fast and controlled demo, not even a full race. plus i kinda made my own vr kart racer for the vive with some friends :) too bad im busy with work or we’d release it :p

    • hajmola

      I just tried it over my lunch break. It was… a bit underwhelming in my opinion. It’s a full 3-lap race but the laps aren’t that long. Honestly they’re not even that creative, it really felt like a generic kart racer with Mario characters slapped on. No power sliding and you could only get 3 item types: Green shell, banana and hammer.

      It was fun once but I doubt I’m going to go back… especially at $8 per race.

      • jj

        hmm ok well i have my facts wrong then cause i was told 1 lap and its obviously more. too bad though:(

        haha and power sliding is pretty hard to program, let alone in a way thats comfortable for an open seat race car in vr. I have a few solutions but i was very excited to see what they had so it kinda lame they cut that.

      • Lucidfeuer

        Oh so it really is just a prototype. I was surprised Nintendo would even have the balls to invest in that, let alone let Bandaï-Namco develop it, but I guess it’s just a prospect prototype they finally decided to let in the wild to see reactions.

  • jj

    Thats great to hear! i am more excited now and yeah… about the glove hands, nobody will believe of so i wont repeat it but we were doing that as well before MK vr was announced so its just funny how good ideas form.

  • Charles

    Looks like they’re using original Vives, without a Deluxe Audio Strap. Poor decision. I don’t understand why a big company like this couldn’t have payed a few extra hundred dollars to make the experience much better.

    • Tyler Soward

      old school vive strap isn’t bad in small doses which I imagine these would be.

      • Charles

        Sure, in small doses. But the resolution is so much better on the Vive Pro. I see no good reason why they didn’t use them.

        • Tyler Soward

          Can’t argue with that.

        • Alex Anthony Earnest Simmonds

          Nah, the vive overall is outdated

          Get yourself a Samsung Odess+ / Pimax 5K

          • Charles

            Yeah, but the 5K+ won’t be available for purchase for months, and the Odyssey / Odyssey+ has bad controller tracking and bad edge distortion (for those who are sensitive to it)

  • Zachary Scott Dickerson

    BRING IT TO IAAPA in November so people can buy it!

  • Christan

    They should just make a game. Indy devs should be making a cart game for the casual player.

    • liquid Sn4ke

      There’s a couple I’ve seen. Might try out VR KArts soon

  • This is all just prep work and consumer testing for Nintendo’s future VR console, which will probably launch 4 or 5 years from now. A *MUCH* better version of that game will probably be a launch title.

    If the Oculus Quest does well, I have no doubt the Nintendo VR console will be copy it’s inside-out tracking and portable design. That sort of all-in-one is right up their alley. I bet they’ve even pushed back their planned launch date a year, just see how the Quest does. They’re going to show up late to the VR party, but they’ll be bringing all of their stock games with them.