Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Tuesday 10s - Kart Racers

We've sure missed a LOT of Tuesdays since being on hiatus here at SuperPhillip Central. Let's make up for it, if just for one post with a brand-new installment of The Tuesday 10s! In case anyone has forgotten what the deal with The Tuesday 10s is, this is where I list ten relatively unordered things (usually games) within a set category.

This time around, I've got the need--the need for speed! (How topical with Top Gun: Maverick setting the box office ablaze and aglow with its dominance, right?!) On this edition of The Tuesday 10s I'm entering the driver's seat and regaling memories of some of my favorite kart racers of all time, one of my FAVORITE genres in general. From mainstays like Mario Kart to more obscure racing titles, these ten are some of the best to ever take to the track! 

After you've read my picks for top kart racers, let the SPC community know some of your favorites by posting them in the comment section below!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (NSW)

We begin this list of ten of my favorite kart racers with the granddaddy of them all, the Mario Kart series. What better way to begin than with one of the best--if not the best--entry in the series with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe! This entry in the Mario Kart franchise may be a port from the Wii U, but it brought more than enough freshness to the formula to be worthy of its "Deluxe" moniker. First and foremost: all of the DLC tracks from the Wii U game were included in the vanilla game: from Dragon Driftway and Wild Woods, to new takes on familiar tracks like Cheese Land and Ribbon Road. The updated and upgraded Battle Mode brought new arenas to it instead of simply battling on retrofitted tracks from the base game. New accessibility features like steer assist to protect beginning players from easily falling off the track, and auto acceleration meant that anyone could have some fun with this new Mario Kart.

No doubt Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a juggernaut in the kart racing genre, as it continues to move copies five years after launch. Nintendo obviously took notice of fans of the game starving for new content, as the Booster Course Pass brings with it 32 new tracks until next year's end. Speaking of, we should be expecting the second wave soon! 

Mario Kart 7 (3DS)

It's difficult to deliver a list of ten of my favorite kart racers without including at least a few from my favorite series in the genre. It's even more difficult to determine which three to actually include! Mario Kart 7 may not be the greatest entry in the series, but it definitely delivered a lot of delightful fun and hijinks for me as a player. The character roster isn't the best, eschewing Waluigi, Bowser Jr., and Diddy Kong as inclusions, but newcomers like Metal Mario, Wiggler, and Lakitu were fun enough additions all the same. Mario Kart 7 has a great variety of tracks both new and retro--the latter including some of my faves in the franchise, such as Dino Dino Jungle, Airship Fortress, and Waluigi Pinball. The addition of kart customization remains a feature in all Mario Kart games after, and the online of the game still wages on with intense races and hard-hitting hijinks in Battle Mode. It might not be the most beloved Mario Kart for many, but it's quite loved by me!

Mario Kart DS (DS)

As a single-player experience, Mario Kart DS is without question for me the leader of the pack in the long-running (or is it "long-riding"?) franchise. This is due to the addition of Mission Mode, a full-fledged series of challenged-centered missions ranging from coin-collecting to superb boss battles. While Mario Kart DS's follow-up, Mario Kart Wii would incorporate missions into its package, these would be limited-time only affairs. A bit of a bummer. Further, Mario Kart DS brought with it blasts from the past in the form of Retro Cups. Unlike Mario Kart: Super Circuit before it, these weren't limited to just Super Mario Kart. Instead, these 16 retro tracks were picked from all of the previous games in the series. Throw in the franchise's first foray with online via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (of course, the online that was present is no longer in service), and you had one wild handheld ride.

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (Multi)

SEGA and Sumo Digital turned up the action and intensity dial to 11 with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. Launching on virtually every platform under the sun at the time of its release, the game boasted an impressive roster of characters... and for whatever reason Wreck-It-Ralph and Danica Patrick. Regardless, being able to race as oft-forgotten SEGA all-stars like Gillius Thunderhead from Golden Axe and Vyse from Skies of Arcadia was a pure privilege and joy. Those are also the words I'd use to describe the track design, literally transforming between laps to change up the races dynamically in a glorious, action-packed way. That's not all the transformations included in the game: as Sonic and friends would see their vehicles transform as they hit the waves, soared into the sky, and of course, met the pavement. Although the game does suffer more than its fair share of "interesting" bugs and glitches, these don't prevent Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed from zooming across the finish line in style.

Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (Multi)

Of course, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed wouldn't have been what it was without having a sturdy and stellar foundation to build off of. The original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing was that foundation, and it remains an excellent kart racer to this day, even with an arguably superior sequel alongside it now. Taking a wide range of SEGA all-stars and putting them in colorful race courses to speed through was a genius idea, and Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is fantastic in that regard. It's also fantastic in its racing controls, handling, and pure sense of speed. While Transformed would indeed raise the dial of insanity and intensity up to 11, the original Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing is still worth taking a look at, as it's a really remarkable racer.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (Multi)

From one mascot to another, we move on from Sonic to Crash Bandicoot in one of the greatest, most content-rich kart racers around: Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Remaking all of the tracks from the original Crash Team Racing as well as Crash Nitro Kart, introducing several "seasons" featuring brand-new tracks that fit right in quality-wise with the originals, and presenting a multitude of characters, karts, cosmetics, and more to unlock, Crash Bandicoot's original kart-racing outing was definitely given as much tender, loving care as possible. Sure, the high skill ceiling may put off some players, especially if they hop online and get decimated by racers who have mastered the "Blue Fire" technique, but the game can be enjoyed by pretty much everyone.

Diddy Kong Racing (N64)

Speaking of Crash Team Racing, how about we go back a little further in the past to the game that CTR was no doubt inspired by especially with its Adventure Mode? Diddy Kong Racing brought a collect-a-thon angle to its kart racing goodness, offering Gold Balloons to collect in its Adventure Mode, opening doors to new levels and areas, races to win, bosses to beat, and mini-games to win. Diddy Kong Racing was developed and published when Rare was firing on all cylinders, creating banger after banger on the Nintendo 64, and DKR remains one of my favorite kart racing games, period. Even after two decades and some change, the Adventure Mode as a single-player or co-op experience is unmatched in a kart racer, and I hope to goodness we see Diddy in the future take the wheel of a kart once again without having to share the road with Mario and friends.

Kirby Air Ride (GCN)

An untraditional kart racer where you play with an analog stick and one button? Madness! But when the game design guru behind Super Smash Bros. and Kid Icarus: Uprising, Masahiro Sakurai, is at the helm, the team under his leadership somehow made it work and wonderfully so! Featuring three main modes: a standard racer, a top-down racer mode, and the "get ready to lose a good portion of your free time in" City Trial mode, Kirby Air Ride delivered abundant fun to go along with its extensive amounts of charm. The controls may have been simple to learn, but as the cliche goes, they were indeed tough to master. A myriad of unlockables meant that players who were engaged enough with this delightful racer would stick with the game for a long time, and the local multiplayer was absolutely amazing in its entertainment value. Kirby Air Ride is a shining star in the GameCube's lineup.

Chocobo GP (NSW)

The most recent game on this list is from Square Enix, and truthfully, a month ago, I would have been hard-pressed to recommend this game. However, ever since Square dropped the trashy, scummy, and aggressive business practices from Chocobo GP, and have since added multiple improvements to the game as well, I can wholeheartedly recommend this racer. A follow-up to the PlayStation's Chocobo Racing, Chocobo GP might not boast a massive amount of track locales (though most locales feature multiple track arrangements), the game more than makes up for that with its pure unadulterated fun. Its cast of unlockable characters is large, its titular Chocobo GP mode is ingenious, and controlling Chocobo and friends feels wonderful. There is some Mario Kart madness to be found with using the game's version of items (Magicite), but overall, Chocobo GP shows that this bird truly is the word when it comes to complementary racers on Switch to play alongside Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

ModNation Racers: Road Trip (Vita)

ModNation Racers is pretty much on the backburner if not completely dead as a PlayStation franchise. That said, the third and final release in the franchise was the PlayStation Vita launch title, ModNation Racers: Road Trip. Part of the thrill of this game was the racing shenanigans and full-fledged single player mode. However, the main event here was Road Trip and ModNation Racers as a series as a whole's ability to create your own drivers (Mods), karts, and yes, courses. All of this was quite intuitive and easy enough to do with a little practice and patience. While LittleBigPlanet Karting would take the course creation to a whole new level entirely (maybe to a too intimidating level), ModNation Racers: Road Trip offered a more simplistic, accessible approach that anyone could pick up, design, and play around with. The base game is enjoyable, the content creation is enviable, it's just too bad that there wasn't any online play to make this ModNation Racers installment even better than it was already.

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