Must-Play Kart Racing Games That Aren’t Mario Kart

2022-06-07 07:31:46 By : Ms. Jennifer Xie

Did your favorite make the list?

Mario Kart has been dominating the kart racing genre of video games for decades. But there are a whole lot more kart racers out there that shouldn’t be forgotten. Some are classic favorites, others are underappreciated gems, and one managed to captivate an entire nation. Now buckle your seatbelts, we’re about to take a tour of the best kart racing games that aren’t Mario Kart.

RELATED: The 10 Best Mario Kart Tracks Ranked From Music Park to Rainbow Road

We start this list off with one legendary Nintendo 64 game, Diddy Kong Racing. The game was one of the N64’s bestsellers and remains a fan favorite in the kart racing genre. Diddy Kong Racing features five worlds that each contain four racetracks. Ten playable characters can be selected, and three types of vehicles can be driven: cars, hovercrafts, and airplanes. One of the best things about Diddy Kong Racing is the music. Each track is an earworm that you’ll be humming far after you stop playing, and the game’s vibrant graphics have remained charming all these years later. There are also a variety of game modes to try out, so the gameplay stays fresh.

Sadly, this was the only Diddy Kong Racing Game to have come out. There was originally a sequel planned for the Nintendo GameCube called Donkey Kong Racing, but the project was abandoned after Microsoft purchased the game’s developer, Rare.

Back in the “Golden Era” of kart racing in the late 90s, Crash Team Racing stood at the top alongside Mario Kart 64, and the previously mentioned Diddy Kong Racing. But one distinct advantage CTR has over the competition is the number of playable characters. CTR offers 15 racers compared to Mario Karts eight, and Diddy Kong’s 10. The characters have unique play styles as well, so you can pick a racer that fits your taste. CTR offers much of what you would expect from a kart racer, but everything is done well. If you don’t have the original Crash Team Racing but still want to give it a try, check out the 2019 remaster, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled.

As far as kart racers go, Kirby Air Ride feels very diverse. There are three game modes, Air Ride, Top Ride, and City Trial. Each mode is significantly different from the others. Air Ride features typical behind-the-back races against a few other players. Top Ride races are played from a top-down perspective and focus on tight controls and simple tracks with a high number of laps. Finally, there is City Trial. This mode places players in an expansive open world and tasks them with finding and upgrading vehicles that are hidden around the map. When the game timer is up, players are pitted against each other to see who secured the best kart. The real fun in this mode is the exploration though. Gliding around the City Trial map and discovering the plethora of secrets and random events was definitely the most memorable part of Kirby Air Ride.

ModNation Racers is the go-kart equivalent of Little Big Planet. The game placed a heavy emphasis on user-created content that could be shared online. Players could create their own maps using in-game tools and play on them against friends or strangers. Unique characters and vehicles could also be designed. Unfortunately, Playstation shut down the game’s servers in 2018, so the wealth of user-created content is no longer available.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is one of the best kart racers of all time. Yet it flew under the radar for a lot of people, likely because of the success of Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7. But despite living in that shadow, Racing Transformed was still well-received. There are a ton of Sonic and Sega characters included, as well as unique guests like Wreck-it-Ralph and real-life NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick. The gameplay is a lot of fun, and the graphics are solid. The tracks also go through substantial changes while you race, adding entertaining variety to the game. If you haven’t played Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed it is worth your time and considering it’s available on a huge number of platforms, including mobile, it shouldn’t be hard to procure a copy.

You’ve likely never thought that the world needed a Garfield racing game, but we’ve got one. In fact, there are actually two Garfield Kart games. The first Garfield Kart game was a poorly received failure, but its sequel, Garfield Kart Furious Racing was more successful. The game doesn’t offer anything spectacular, but it’s competent and provides enough entertainment to keep you playing.

While it wasn’t as well-received as Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Team Sonic Racing is still a lot of fun. The game puts players in control of a racing team of three characters and emphasizes using efficient teamwork to win races. The game is visually stunning, and the music is a highlight, as is typical for a Sonic title. The character list is more limited than in Racing Transformed, as only Sonic characters are available. But if you’re a fan of the franchise, you should be satisfied with the racing roster.

The KartRider series began with a free online racing game released in 2004. The game quickly became a huge hit, especially in South Korea, the country the developers were based in. By 2007, the game was so popular that around a quarter of the South Korean population had played KartRider at least once. Fast forward to today, and the series is still going strong. The newest entry, KartRider: Drift, has been in development for years and has gone through multiple rounds of beta testing. If you weren’t lucky enough to get into any of the betas, don’t worry, the game is set to release sometime in 2022 on PC and Consoles. With what we’ve seen from the betas, this will be a worthy addition to the kart racing genre.

If you spent much time in arcades during the 2000s, you may remember seeing a few Nicktoons Racing arcade cabinets. If you liked playing those arcade games, you should be happy to know that Nickelodeon is still releasing racing games to this day. The most recent entry in the series is the 2020s Nickelodeon Kart Racers 2: Grand Prix. The game features a beefy roster of 30 racers from popular Nickelodeon cartoons. Actress JoJo Siwa is playable too! The gameplay is as expected, and the inclusion of online multiplayer is appreciated.

The world went 22 years without a sequel to the Final Fantasy spin-off game, Chocobo Racing, but finally, we have one: Chocobo GP. The game’s lineup is filled with familiar faces from Final Fantasy like Cactuars and Moogles. Chocobo GP controls well, and the tracks are enjoyable to drive through. However, the inclusion of paid season passes and microtransactions weren’t appreciated by customers. But despite this controversy, the game is still fun and worth checking out for fans of Final Fantasy and kart racers.

Kyle Grammatica is a Features Writer for Collider. When he's not writing, you can find him drawing, fishing, or at a baseball game.

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