Consider this your official reminder that McDonald's is currently offering a most excellent set of Happy Meal toys: Mario Kart has taken over the "golden arches" with a lineup of seven racers in karts and bikes (and a...plastic visor?). It's been a long while since McDonald's has had a set of toys that really caught my eye, but I have fond memories of traveling from store to store, especially on vacations, trying to complete a particularly interesting collection.
And so begins my quest anew.
While traveling across the Hoosier state tonight, I found myself at a McDonald's for some dinner and was reminded that we're more than halfway through July, during which Happy Meals will be including toys from Nintendo's latest venture with the fast food mega chain. Coincidentally, I happened to be wearing my Mario t-shirt from Nintendo World Store in NYC, so I felt a little silly asking the cashier, "Do you have any of the Mario Kart toys?"
She replied that, yes, they had Toad and Bowser. "Great, I'll take both," I said, prompting her to call the manager over to find the right option on her computer to allow the 31-year-old man wearing a bright red Mario shirt to buy two standalone Happy Meal toys.
As she ran my credit card, she looked at my shirt, and then back at me. "You're a Mario fan, huh?" Guilty as charged, ma'am.
For those of you who aren't connoisseurs of restaurant-based toys, this is not the first time that Mario and Ronald McDonald have crossed paths.
There have actually been a few Nintendo collections over the years–just check out this commercial from the promotional toys for Super Mario Bros. 3. from 1989.
I actually remember having a few of these, although I'm not sure if they've survived all this time. Either way, the new Kart figurines are arguably cooler (minus the nostalgia factor) with much higher quality character models thanks to technology being awesome. Still, it's nice to see this time-honored tradition continue.
As I neared my destination, I spied one more set of arches and decided an ice cream cone would be a decent guise for checking the Happy Meal stock of a different McDonald's location.
You see, McDonald's doesn't have set dates during the month during which every store has the same toys. Rather, they use some kind of mystical algorithm to randomly dole out toys to different locations throughout the promotional period. That means that two stores down the street from one another can (and likely will) have different toys on the same day.
Having already thrown my shame to the wind at the first McDonald's, I went all-in at the second. Even though I used the drive-through this time, hoping to avoid more shirt commentary, I ordered my cone and asked which toys they currently had.
"You need to pull up the first window to pay," the lady said, clearly not expecting Happy Meal toy questions.
"No, sorry, I have a question: which Mario Kart toy do you have right now?" I repeated, trying to clearly enunciate my ridiculous request this time.
"Oh, uh...let me check," she replied, bewildered. After a pause: "we have the, um, visor." I replied that I'd take one and watched the screen light up with "Happy Meal Toy Only - $0.90." I wasn't too worried about getting the visor, but I figured I'd take it just the same.
After I paid, they handed me a bag with the toy, but I was at first surprised to see it was actually a figurine (not the visor) and then dismayed to realize it was a repeat: Bowser #2. Swallowing more of my pride, I asked the man if they had any other toys.
"Well, what are you after?" he asked. Before I could reply, he looked down and said, "we have the princess."
"That's fine, thanks," I said, as he traded with me.
As he handed me the cone, completing the transaction, he concluded, "well, there's your cone, and you've got your...toy." I could tell he wanted to say "your princess" but just couldn't bring himself to utter the words.
I'm sure I'll have some more good stories to tell as I continue my quest to collect these figures, so I'll try to post anything noteworthy as updates to this page–or at least put up a few more pictures. If you have any good McDonald's Happy Meal stories, be sure to the post them in the comments section below!