Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Top Ten Kart Racing Games (Early 2013 Edition)

2012 saw the release of two terrific kart racing games: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and LittleBigPlanet Karting. That got me in the mood to come up with a list of the all-time greatest kart racers through the opinion of yours truly. From Mario, to Sonic, to Sackboy, which characters burn rubber the best?

10) ModNation Racers (PS3)

I was one of the people who after looking past the long load times found a kart racing game that was full of fun and charm. It was United Front Games' ModNation Racers. Customization was the name of the game, with you being able to create your own avatars, karts, and tracks and share them with the online community. And if you didn't have a creative bone in your body, at least you could race freely in the story mode or check out what members of the ModNation community crafted. Combine all that with easy to pick up controls, and you had one respectable racer for Sony's PlayStation 3.

9) LittleBigPlanet Karting (PS3)

When ModNation Racers was unveiled, many wondered why Sony didn't simply tie in Sackboy and the LittleBigPlanet IP to it since creation was that franchise's main claim to fame. Well, United Front Games took the concept of ModNation Racers and fleshed it out even further to allow a supreme amount of cart and track customization. Just looking at a sample of what the LittleBigPlanet Karting community has created will fill you with a wonderful sense of awe. Perhaps it will inspire you to come up with your own compelling and engaging tracks to share with the world! Oh, and the actual racing isn't too shabby either, and even incorporates various gizmos from the platforming LittleBigPlanet games!

8) Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Multi)

Taking some cues from Mario Kart 7, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed allowed karts to transform mid-race into boats as well as planes for when the need presented itself. One moment you'd be peeling around a corner, burning rubber, and then the next you'd be flying off a ramp and shape-shifting into a plane to jet over chasms. Unlike the original Sonic & SEGA kart racer, there was a wider range of franchises being represented, either through roster selections or tracks. From Skies of Arcadia to Shinobi, SEGA fans got a healthy dose of nostalgia. While I still prefer the original to the sequel (for now), All-Stars Racing Transformed is a superb racer all in its own right.

7) Super Mario Kart (SNES)

The seminal kart racing game, every other game on this list has Super Mario Kart to thank for building the foundation and popularity of the kart racing genre. Like Mario Kart 64, the single player component might not last long, but this genre is known to be for multiplayer sessions, perhaps of the all night variety. The Mode 7 graphics delivered in creating the sense of three-dimensional tracks, and the game brought with it features that all Mario Karts after would use. The reasons it isn't higher on the list is because not only is the game limited to two players, but the kart racing genre has since evolved.

6) Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (Multi)

The game that when I reviewed it I said was better than Nintendo's own Mario Kart Wii, Sumo Digital's Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing featured simplistic to pick up and enjoy gameplay, a cast of familiar and not-so-familiar SEGA all-stars, and some of the most entertaining tracks in recent memory. Most importantly to me, and why I did say the game was better than Mario Kart Wii, was that Sonic and SEGA's first kart racing romp together was actually fair. There were no last lap, last second blue shells to screw you out of a win that you deserved. Instead, skill was a very important portion of the gameplay experience with this game. It doesn't hurt that I am a sucker for SEGA either.

5) Mario Kart 64 (N64)

The first big multiplayer game for the Nintendo 64, Mario Kart 64 offered four player karting action and endless nights of entertainment. I recall sleepovers where the Nintendo 64 controllers were passed around like flyers at a PTA meeting. No one wanted to stop, and we ended up playing long into the night and into the wee hours of the morning. Needless to say, my friends and I were all rather cranky in the afternoon, going off a few hours of sleep. Mario Kart 64 brought the series to 3D, showing off fantastic and multi-tiered track designs (including my favorite version of Bowser's Castle to date), fast and frenetic racing fun, and a super-catchy soundtrack. My only two beefs with the game come from it being a bit boring alone, and the computer going into overdrive to simply catch up with you. Other than those minor things, Mario Kart 64 is still great to this day.

4) Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

You might be surprised at my favorite home console Mario Kart game. It's none other than the GameCube's Mario Kart: Double Dash!! This installment of the franchise implemented an innovative and brilliant mechanic, two racers per kart, both of whom could switch driver/item launcher positions on the fly mid-race. What I love about this entry isn't just one thing. I adore the course design and locale choices such as Peach Beach, Sherbet Land, and Mushroom City. I love the character specific items, the cheery soundtrack, and the teamwork necessary to cross the finish line in first place. Double Dash!! might not be as cherished as say,  Super Mario Kart or Mario Kart 64, but it's a title that I certainly enjoy greatly.

3) Crash Team Racing (PS1)

Sony saw Rare's success with their kart racing game, so the PlayStation manufacturer tasked developer Naughty Dog with creating their own kart racer with their-- at the time-- mascot, Crash Bandicoot. The end result was Crash Team Racing, number three on this list. This game offered gameplay for all: single players could compete against the computer and gain trinkets and gems in Adventure Mode, while multiple players (up to four with the Multitap peripheral) could battle it out in highly competitive races. The controls were as tight as one could want with a kart racer, allowing any level of player to get in on the fun. Perhaps the only gripe to be had with Crash Team Racing is the "just there" music and sound.

2) Mario Kart DS (DS)

The top Mario Kart title on our list hits the number two spot on our countdown. It's Mario Kart DS, one of Nintendo first attempts at an online game. While the infrastructure was seemingly something stuck in the nineties, it allowed solo players to race with strangers or friends from across the globe. And who couldn't get enough of all those phallic emblems? Also added to the franchise was an abundance of different karts, entertaining new tracks like Walugi Pinball, Delfino Square, Airship Fortress, Luigi's Mansion, and Tick Tock Clock, as well as the return of classic tracks via the four Retro Cups. Mario Kart DS delivered the most features, fun tracks and gameplay to make it the number two kart racer on this list.

1) Diddy Kong Racing (N64)

The best kart racer on the market, still after more than fifteen years, Diddy Kong Racing was no doubt modeled heavily after Nintendo's own Mario Kart franchise. However, Rare taught the old genre some new tricks by introducing an adventure mode to go along with the entertaining gameplay. By typing in a code (Jointventure) two players could try to stop the almighty Wizpig from taking over Timber's island. Not only was that brought to the fold, but so was the addition of three vehicle types. There were the standard karts, but then there were hovercrafts and planes as well. Diddy Kong Racing was packed to the brim with content, challenge, and most importantly, fun. Just one word of caution: you should avoid the awful Nintendo DS version!


My work here is done. It's time I drive off into the sunset and ignore every speed limit sign on the way. In the meantime, what are your favorite kart racers of all time? Post your faves or any disagreements below.

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