To honor Mario Day this Saturday (Mar.10 — get it?), Google has added a special, cross-promotional surprise to its Maps app: Mario Kart. Starting on Friday, March 9, both iOS and Android users of Google Maps will be able to press a yellow question mark button (familiar to any longtime Mario fans) on the bottom left corner of their screen to enable “Mario Time.” This will supplement the traditional blue guidance line that leads you to your destination with a 3D rendering of everyone’s favorite Italian plumber, cruising along your chosen route.
Google, for its part, asked that people still be safe and not use the app feature as an excuse to “throw bananas or red shells at other drivers in real life.” The update which introduces the feature has already begun rolling out to users on Friday, March 9, and it will remain active for the following week. Google has encouraged fans to screenshot and share their Mario commutes on Twitter with the hashtag #MarioMaps (though of course people should be careful not to dox themselves). Although it feels like a transparent bit of cross-promotional advertising between Google and Nintendo, a Google rep assured TechCrunch that no money changed hands in order to make this happen.
— Trisha Hershberger (@thatgrltrish) March 9, 2018
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) March 9, 2018
Google has a long history of lighthearted joke features like this in its various products, particularly on April Fools Day. Previous Google Maps pranks include an explorable TARDIS from popular BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who or the ability to navigate through street view as the Loch Ness Monster. You can check out our running list of our favorite Google pranks here. Google and Nintendo previously collaborated on a 2012 April Fools Day launch of a supposed 8-bit version of Google Maps that came in a plastic cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Nintendo has made a tentative foray into mobile gaming in the last several years, finding mixed success with games like Super Mario Run, Miitomo, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Now that the seal has been broken, we would not be surprised to see more collaborations between Google and Nintendo in the future, given both companies’ playful sensibilities.