Reviews Archive

Kart Racers


It all started with Mario Kart on the SNES, a game whose popularity spawned a big influx of what would later be called "Kart Racers" games which had little to no bearing on reality, an emphasis on multiplayer gaming over the single, and which virtually always contained assortments of crazy power-ups to annoy your friends with. I'd say this genre probably owes a lot to the NES game R C Pro-Am, but these days it's hard to ascertain what ideas came from where, it's just something about the power-ups, invincibility, rockets, oil slicks and floor boosts which seems to tie the games together for me. It's funny, this genre went from being pretty big in the PSOne/N64 era to all but dying out by the arrival of the PS2, leaving only the biggest names like the Mario Kart series the only survivors (as well as the odd release of an ultra cheap and crappy cash-in) So here they are, possibly the height of the short lived genre.

  battle racers Battle Racers
battele racers on snes
  2 Player  
  Stand out versions - SNES  
  I know what you're thinking, looks like F-Zero right? and you'd be spot on, this game is like a really good amalgamation of F-Zero and Super Mario Kart, it has the look, speed and control of F-Zero, but the cartoony racers and power-up system of Mario Kart. The whole thing works excellently too, one second you'll be hitting a jumper to cut a corner and the next you'll be using some zany power-up or boosting across the rough. Import only unfortunately.  
  crash team racing Crash Team Racing
crash team racing on ps1
  4 Player  
  Stand out version - PSOne  
  Playing like an amalgamation of Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing, Crash Bandicoot Racing wowed playstation owners when it arrived. Naughty Dog had proved their talent as programmers yet again delivering great gameplay (including some nice new additions such as landing boosts) and some awe-inspiring graphics.  
  diddy kong racing Diddy Kong Racing
diddy kong racing on n64
  4 Player  
  Stand out version - N64  
  Rare were pretty ambitious with their first take on the karting genre, they included the ability to choose from a variety of different vehicles each with their own handling, and did a terrific job of adding depth and variety to their single player mode, a mode which had been overlooked in the genre previously. Overall I would have to say that the single player of Diddy Kong is probably leagues ahead of most Kart games, but I feel that the multiplayer, whilst great wasn't quite as fun as other games such as Mario Kart 64 or CTR.  
  lego racers on n64 Lego Racers
lego racers on ps1
  2 Player  
  Stand out version - N64  
  The thing that makes Lego Racers stand out amongst the glut of also rans is it's fantastic customising options, I mean who doesn't want to create their own abomination on four wheels to drive around in? I've gone for the N64 version here due to the fact that the PS1 version has some shockingly long load times.  
  looney tunes racing Looney Tunes Racing
looney toons racing
  2 Player  
  Stand out versions - PSOne  
  A first rate, fun to play effort that really retains the feel of the cartoons and plays well to the PS1's hardware strengths too, with some very high quality music and sound effects. It's just a real shame that it's only 2-players though as a 4-player mode would've been fantastic.  
  mario kart 64 Mario Kart 64
mario kart 64 on n64
  4 Player  
  Stand out versions - N64  
  For me this has to be the greatest karting game of all time. Even after all the subsequent releases it's still my favourite Mario Kart game, the multiplayer just seems more balanced, and there's a lot more emphasis on sabotaging you're opponents. I still play this game with my friends even now.  
  muppet race mania Muppet Race Mania
muppet race mania on ps1
  2 Player  
  Stand out versions - PSOne  
  Amazing graphics (just check out those textures) and great gameplay are the order of the day here, with Traveller's Tales doing what they always do and theming every course on one of the movies (the pic to the left is from the Muppet Christmas Carol level). As well as the main game are some nice extra modes including assault course levels, which bring a little originality to the game.  
  snowboard kids Snowboard Kids
snowboard kids on n64
  4 Player  
  Stand out version - N64  
  Sadly under-appreciated, this is another one of my favourite multiplayer kart games, this time with a snowboading theme. The course designs and fun weapons were both excellently realised, and for me led to the game being played 2nd only to Mario Kart 64. On another note though, what the heck was up with the size of the save file?!?!  
  speed freaks Speed Freaks/Speed Punks
speed punks
  4 Players  
  Stand out version - PSOne  
  There was a real drought of quality kart games on the PS1 during the early days, a lot of people wanted their own version of the popular Mario Kart 64 for the PS, and when Speed Freaks arrived those people breathed a sigh of relief. One of the things I always liked about this game was the fact that it didn't try to clone MK, it managed to have a lot of it's own personality and feel.  
  street racer on genesis Street Racer (Mega Drive)
street racer on megadrive
  4 Players  
  Stand out version - Mega Drive  

Street Racer on the Mega Drive is strangely nothing like the other versions, instead of the cramped, twisting tracks of all other games in the series you get more of a long open road style to it, and everything's much faster than usual, In my opinion the cars handle much better too, however the controls really don't work well with the Mega Drive pad and the tracks can be a bit samey compared to the other games in the series, a good effort though, and 4 player is still a lot of fun.

  street racer on snes Street Racer (SNES)
street racer
  4 Player  
  Stand out version - SNES  
  Street Racer was always seen as the poor man's Mario Kart, in some ways this is true, it certainly lacks the ultra polished gameplay and accessibility of MK. However on the other side the graphics are pretty amazing for a SNES game and in my opinion blow SMK out of the water, not only this but on single player you're treated to a full screen display instead of the half screen and a map of MK. Having a four player mode is also a real bonus, more players definitely equals more fun.  
  super mario kart on snes Super Mario Kart
super mario kart
  2 Player  
  Stand out version - SNES  
  What a fantastic release this was back then, a racing game that didn't take itself seriously. Adding power-ups and environmental hazards to the standard racing design really helped to increase the fun and keep the races interesting, creating an addictive gaming experience with tons of multiplayer longevity. When the original is this good, its no wonder the game inspired so many other developers to release similar titles.  
Atari ST
Atari VCS
Commodore 64
Game Boy
Master System
Mega Drive
Neo Geo
PC Engine
ZX Spectrum