Is Mario Kart the most stressful video game? - study

Following Mario Kart, the games that increased average heart rates the most were FIFA Football, Call of Duty, Dark Souls and Fortnite.

 Mario Karts. (photo credit: FLICKR)
Mario Karts.
(photo credit: FLICKR)

The meme that Mario Kart will ruin your friendships now has some data to back it up.

A recent study conducted by BonusFinder measured the heartbeat of 14 participants to discover which video game is the most stressful.

To do this, the participants, who reported that they log at least 15 hours per week playing video games and that they had a familiarity with the games used in the study, wore heart rate monitors.

The heart rate monitors took a measurement every 10 seconds over the 30-minute period in which the participants played each of the 16 games.

The portfolio of games tested represents a variety of genres, objective types, and play styles. The list of the video games used in the study is as follows:

A member of a game developers team demonstrates a video game called ''Liberate Hong Kong'', that simulates the current anti-government protests, in Hong Kong (credit: REUTERS)A member of a game developers team demonstrates a video game called ''Liberate Hong Kong'', that simulates the current anti-government protests, in Hong Kong (credit: REUTERS)

·       Among Us

·       Animal Crossing

·       Battlefield V

·       Call of Duty (Modern Warfare)

·       Dark Souls III

·       DOOM

·       Fall Guys

·       FIFA 20

·       Fortnite

·       Grand Theft Auto

·       Mario Kart

·       Minecraft

·       Skyrim

·       Street Fighter

·       The Sims

·       UNO!

Based on how much, on average, the participants' heart rates increased from their resting heart rate during play, the game that increased it the most was Mario Kart.

Why is Mario Kart the most stressful game?

Clearly, when people are playing Mario Kart, they’re zoned in. Despite the friendly graphics, it really is a game of vicious skill and brutal savagery. Furthermore, there’s a lot that can happen that you, as a player, are powerless to stop.

When you’ve been leading the whole race in the first-place position and then a blue shell comes in at the last moment to steal the victory away, it’s enough to make anyone erupt. Woe to whoever you’re playing against when this happens, be it artificial intelligence or best friend.

There are so many scenarios like this in Mario Kart that keep you on the edge of your seat for the entirety of every race. The game is nothing short of gripping.

"What the study highlights is quite remarkable, despite all the newcomers with improved graphics and increased spending, the old Nintendo formula is still irresistible to gamers and nothing can replace the jeopardy of a red shell on the last lap of a race.” says the Managing Director at BonusFinder, Fintan Costello.

It’s hence unsurprising that Mario Kart elevates your heart rate so much.

In fact, on average, the heart rate associated with playing Mario Kart was 21 beats per minute (BPM), or 32.81% higher, than the participant group’s average resting heart rate.

This is akin to the cardiovascular exertion of a light walk.

Mario Kart was not alone in getting the participants’ heart rates up. Following Mario Kart, the games that increased average heart rates the most were FIFA Football (by 31.25%), Call of Duty (by 29.69%), Dark Souls (by 28.13%), and Fortnite (by 26.56%).

It is important to note that there are peaks and valleys in the graphing data. Although Mario Kart raised the average heart rate by the most, the highest peak heart rates occurred while the participants were playing Dark Souls III. Dark Souls III achieved heart rates as high as 127 BPM, an increase of 98.44%.

Following Dark Souls III for highest peak heart rates were Fall Guys (95.11%), Mario Kart (73.44%), Street Fighter (71.88%), and FIFA Football (67.19%)

The study seems to suggest by this that although Mario Kart was overall more stressful, Dark Souls had the most stressful moments.

So, clearly, a number of video games are adept at raising heart rates. The study also, however, shows that video games can decrease resting heart rates. While playing Animal Crossing, Skyrim, and The Sims, participants' heart rates were as much as 5% lower.

The study, however, has some obvious limitations.

First, the participant pool was very small. With only 14 participants, it’s unclear if it even gives an accurate impression of what is the most stressful video game experience for seasoned video game players, the demographic supposedly represented in the study.

What of casual gamers? It seems, overall, more participants may have been useful.

Additionally, while many video game genres were represented by the study, one notable genre is missing: horror. It seems rather inappropriate to do a study testing for stress levels associated with video games without including it.

Notable games within the horror category, games such as Resident Evil or Five Nights at Freddy’s, would have been nice to include.

Lastly, while 30 minutes may be enough to get a good sense of heart rate increases for games like Mario Kart, it perhaps wasn’t enough for other games. Skyrim, for instance, likely needs more than half an hour of playtime. In Skyrim, 30 minutes can easily be spent trading with merchants in cities, building a house, or simply lugging gear from one point to another.

Alternatively, it could be spent exploring dungeons full of undead creatures, fighting off magically powered automatons, or battling dragons. Since these time-consuming activities are likely not equivalent in how they would affect one’s heart rate, more time should probably have been dedicated to it and other, similar games.

This study by BonusFinder is fun. For fans of Mario Kart, it’s nice to have all of the emotion and effort put into hours of intense, competitive, amazing play validated. However, this study should be taken for what is: interesting with perhaps some useful insights, but not quite a comprehensive list of the most stressful video games.