Forget Netflix and Chill. I have a theory: the best pre-snogging activity is a rousing game of Mario Kart.
There ain’t nothing wrong with the classic “want to come over and watch a movie, pretend to yawn and put my arm around you” ploy, but it’s a very passive activity, and sometimes my utter lack of charm needs a little help. Video games, on the other hand, require interaction—they can be flirty, fun, and physical, and I’ve long thought Mario Kart could be the best foreplay video games have to offer (despite what my editor thinks, it’s not Super Smash—but I appreciate the wordplay.)
Now unfortunately, I devised this theory after I had already met my now-wife, so I haven’t been able to thoroughly test it, which means I need you virgins to help me out.
Here’s the thing: everyone grew up playing Mario Kart. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a guy or girl, nerd or jock, gamer or..not a gamer—we all played the crap out of this game, in one of its many forms. Mario Kart is easy to get the hang of, and it’s like riding a bike—you can come back to it after 10 years and let muscle memory kick right in. Challenge someone to a game of Mario Kart, and they’re always down.
So you start racing. Things get a little competitive. One person lightly pushes the other, in that playful “No I’m gonna win!” kind of way. Then the other person leans into you in that way people do when they’re oversteering, even though leaning obviously has no effect on how sharply you turn in the game. Before you know it, you’re making out, clothes are flying off, and you’re “Wahoooo!”-ing right along with Luigi through the finish line.
Every version of Mario Kart has its own little idiosyncrasies that play into this dynamic, too, so no matter what console you have at home, you can make it work—though if you’re lacking in retro consoles, a lot of these were available on the eShop for the Wii, Wii U, and (in one case) the Nintendo Switch as well.
Super Mario Kart may not be the most well-known of the series, but it was the first, and showed off some of the Super Nintendo’s more high-tech capabilities at the time. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the less forgiving games in the series, which makes it less than ideal for our purposes—especially if your soon-to-be-bedroom buddy didn’t actually play this one growing up. I love the Super Nintendo, but this game does not make me want to fuck. It is, however, the most widely available right now, with versions on the Wii Virtual Console (if you got it before the eShop shuttered), Wii U Virtual Console ($7.99), and even the Nintendo Switch Online service ($4/month or $20/year). It’s also on the SNES Classic, if you have one of those retro bad boys lying around.
The Nintendo 64 isn’t remembered super fondly by gamers these days, but at the time, the N64 was the system, and Mario Kart 64 was one of its most popular games. If you grew up in the 90s, this is the Mario Kart you’re probably most familiar with, and every time I break it out when friends are over, it’s a hit. It may not be the best in the series, but it’s arguably the most nostalgic, especially for non-gamers in their 20s and 30s. And while it requires more skill than some recent iterations, there’s still a relatively low barrier to entry. In fact, despite me being a guy who literally plays video games as part of his job, my wife—a non-gamer—still smokes me in Mario Kart 64 quite often. There’s no N64 Classic system yet (come on, Nintendo!), but it is on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console for $10.
Mario Kart Double Dash is the game on this list I have the least experience with, but the few times I’ve played it, I enjoyed its unique approach to an otherwise homogeneous series. Double Dash allows two players to drive in the same kart, with one player steering and another tossing items. So if your beau or belle is not the competitive type, Double Dash allows for truly co-op play, which is a great alternative to the more typical fare in the series. Sadly, it’s only available on the GameCube, with no Virtual Console representation to speak of, so unless you’re a big fan of the system and still have it around—I know you’re out there!—this one may be harder to come by.
Mario Kart Wii is probably the most contentious game on this list. While it’s one of the highest-selling Nintendo games of all time, it’s very much a love-it-or-hate-it game for a lot of people, due in no small part to the absolute chaos of its item system. But like Mario Kart 64, the Wii version is going to tickle the nostalgia bone of a whole lot of people, which is one of the most important factors if you’re trying to loosen up before thumping thighs. The lawless item logic keeps things sufficiently silly, and battle mode also offers room for co-op if competition gets too fierce. Plus, with a couple of Wii Wheels, you introduce even more physicality into the game—all the better for those playful bumps that turn into aggressive cuddling.
Mario Kart 8 is the latest in the series, meaning it’s probably the easiest to come by if you have a relatively modern system like the Wii U or Switch. I think Mario Kart 8 is a blast, and it holds your hand enough that anyone can feel like they’re doing well—an annoyance if you’re truly competitive, but perfect for casual pre-boinking gameplay. That said, my wife doesn’t like this one. She says there’s “too much going on,” like it’s Mario Kart for the ADD generation (OK boomer). But if your pillow pal is familiar with the Switch, it’s a pretty safe go-to that’s readily available.
Okay, let’s say you aren’t a Mario Kart fan. I get it (well, I don’t get it, but I’ll be polite about it just this once). You have an alternative: literally any Mario Party game ever. According to one Reddit poster that will undoubtedly go down in history as a genius, Mario Party makes for a perfect sex game, once you introduce a few extra rules. (e.g.: If you land on a blue space, you take a piece of clothing off. If you win a minigame, you choose the sex act performed for the next one minute.) This is more ideal for established couples than that first-time-will-we-or-won’t-we situation, but its asynchronous nature means you can easily alternate between playing and...well, playing, building tension without interrupting the flow. And like Mario Kart, there are versions for basically every system. So pop in a copy and make sure you’re wearing clean underwear, because it’s about to go down.