For the most part, we've seen rainbows in Nintendo and arcade games that embrace cartoonish characters and settings rather than striving for the most realistic action possible. Just last year, HAL Laboratory and Nintendo collaborated on the release of Kirby & The Rainbow Curse, a platformer addition to the Kirby series designed for the Wii U. We've seen rainbows (or at least bursts of color) in Kirby games before, but in this one your task is to guide the popular little hero along (he's stuck in ball form and thus rolls ahead aimlessly) by drawing rainbow tracks in his path. It's a very different game even for this whimsical franchise, employing a sort of combination between typical Nintendo-style imagery and playable claymation. This review called the game "great" and gave it an 8 out of 10.
We've also seen one of the more popular browser and app games embrace rainbow imagery in a somewhat amusing manner. Robot Unicorn Attack was designed by Adult Swim and was a hit online for some time before the app came out and was described as "the World Of Warcraft of pick-up-and-play games." Featuring an obnoxiously catchy pop song on loop in the background, it consists of a unicorn leaping through a fantasy realm, propelled by the occasional rainbow speed burst to get through an obstacle and earn points. Frankly, it's an absurd game, but in a weird way (thanks in part to the rainbow imagery), it captures a retro spirit in a decidedly modern arcade style.
We've also seen rainbows pop up in more niche gaming genres, such as the online casino industry. It's common there to see all kinds of themes from previous games, popular films, fairy tales and other fictions pop up as background material, and this game makes use of rainbows in their most traditional storytelling form. Called "Rainbow Riches," it cleverly presents a background rainbow as a bridge to a leprechaun's pot of gold. The game itself is an online bingo experience with a few grand prizes (including, fittingly, a trip to Dublin) attached. And naturally, the rainbow and pot of gold are attractive images to players.
Really, it's all a little bit odd. When you think about what's popular in gaming — racing, fighting, conquering levels, or even winning cash prizes in the case of online bingo — rainbows don't seem like the most natural backdrops. Yet, they've always been around to provide a sense of amusement and levity to games in all different genres. And it all started with the Mario Kart franchise which introduced the iconic "Rainbow Road" track all the way back on Super Mario Kart for SNES (a 1992 release). In the years since then, Rainbow Road has featured regularly on subsequent Mario Kart titles and has become a core element of Mario gaming.
And now, you can actually drive on Rainbow Road—well, sort of. This spring, Tesla CEO and general tech visionary Elon Musk continued his never-ending run of unnecessary awesomeness by revealing that he snuck a Rainbow Road simulator into his Tesla Model S autopilot mode. This report shows what it looks like when you hit the autopilot four times in a Model S and suddenly find your display depicting your own car racing along a Rainbow Road that's just about a perfect mimic of the Mario Kart track.
So thank you, Elon Musk, for reminding us all of the rainbow's oddly significant history in gaming—and for bringing the Rainbow Road to life.
Tim Mitchell is a freelance writer from Boston who loves all things gaming-related... and wishes he could afford a Tesla to see the Rainbow Road in person.