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[TOP 10] Mario Kart clones: The best alternatives on retro consoles

Published by Samuel L. | Thursday, May 04, 2023, 12:00 PM

When we are talking about family-friendly racing games, it's undeniable, we immediately think about one of the games from Nintendo's popular series: Mario Kart! Whether it's on the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 or GameCube, it's guaranteed fun [or fights]. However, due to the popularity of the franchise, these games are more and more difficult to find and often rather expensive... It may therefore be wise to take a look at other racing games of the same style (a mix between "karting" and "combat") to try at your next friends party. Some are less known and others less expensive, but I assure you that they are as good or even better than Nintendo's pioneering series. Let me show you my picks for a top 10 of fun and refreshing Mario Kart clones!

One of the most popular gaming franchises

It's not surprising that Nintendo develops a new opus with each console release; Mario Kart is undoubtedly one of the most popular and profitable franchises of the company with over 165 million copies sold to date. For some enthusiasts, it's no longer a simple game, but a style of game that defines others! Even 20-30 years after their respective releases, Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, and Mario Kart: Double Dash have an impressive fan base. Now, it's not uncommon to be still able to participate in amateur tournaments on these three games during various events.

Because of this skyrocketing popularity, several studios have tried over time to produce their own "Mario Kart" style racing game to take advantage of this growing market. Did any of these games manage to compete with their rivals from the 90s and 2000s? Start your karts, it's time to hit the track!

The 10 best games to replace Mario Kart

10 - Mega Man: Battle & Chase

Released in 1997/1998 on PS1 in the Japanese and European markets, Mega Man: Battle & Chase offers a racing universe with various characters from the popular platform game franchise. Unfortunately, it didn't pass the test for a North American release, but it's accessible on PS2 under the Mega Man X Collection compilation. The game has only three modes ("grand prix", "time trial" and "versus") and the multiplayer mode only allows you to compete against another player.

9 - Konami Krazy Racers

Very similar to the Mario Kart series on Super Nintendo, Konami Krazy Racers features characters and concepts from various Konami franchises like Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Castlevania, and Metal Gear. Released in 2001, the game received good reviews in general and even slipped to #10 best GBA games in Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine. Several modes are included, such as "versus" mode, where it's possible to challenge an opponent with a "link cable".

8 - S.C.A.R.S.

Produced by the same studios as Street Racer (Vivid Image and Ubi Soft) and released in 1998, S.C.A.R.S. (Super Computer Animal Racing Simulator) turns out to be a great alternative to Mario Kart on N64 and PS1. This game can quickly become difficult, overwhelming and addictive; you have therefore been warned! Up to 4 players can compete on a split screen on both consoles.

7 - Looney Tunes: Space Race

Released in 2000 on Dreamcast, Looney Tunes: Space Race offers characters who have rocked our childhood on TV like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Taz. Probably the best "karting" game on Dreamcast, it was also released on PS2 a little later with some new features. It was originally supposed to be released on N64, but the project was abandoned… Up to 4 players can compete on a split screen on both consoles.

6 - Kirby Air Ride

I know, I know …Kirby Air Ride isn't really a "karting" game, but it's a racing game that offers a truly Mario Kart-like experience. I therefore have no choice but to include it in this top 10! Plus, it's a really fun game for the whole family as Nintendo knows how to do. Surprisingly, this is the only GameCube game where Kirby is the main character. It's possible to play up to 4 on a console or up to 16 if you have the means (4 TVs, 4 consoles, 4 games and 4 “broadband adapters”).

5 - Toy Story Racer

For the nostalgic people from this world, you will find your favorite characters (Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Rex, …) from the first movie of the animated series in Toy Story Racer on PS1 and GBC. Released in 2001, the PlayStation version is much more complete and interesting with more tracks and a total of 13 game modes available! However, only 2 gamers can compete on multiplayer modes…

4 - Pac-Man World Rally

A rather fun game released in 2006 on PS2, GameCube and PSP, we find in Pac-Man World Rally characters from the 80s franchise and several other arcade games from Namco. The GameCube version offers the possibility of playing it up to 4, unlike the PS2 one where we can only be 2 playing on a split screen. In addition to the 4 racing modes, 5 battle modes are available with different goals. You won't be disappointed!

3 - Crash Nitro Kart

Second "karting" game for the popular Crash Bandicoot franchise, Crash Nitro Kart is satisfying, offers a good “challenge” and above all an interesting story mode. Like Mario Kart, the different ways to gain a "boost" and drifting techniques will be important to master! Up to 4 players can compete on the GameCube, PS2 and XBOX consoles. The game offers a good number of interesting “racing” and “battle” modes, which allows you to play it for longer.

2 - Diddy Kong Racing

In the kart racing category, Diddy Kong Racing comes first on Nintendo 64 in my opinion. You can find most of the iconic characters from the RARE studio, such as Diddy Kong, Conker and Banjo. Often undervalued compared to its Mario Kart 64 counterpart, the controls, vehicle types, traps and story mode make it much more interesting. Like most Nintendo 64 games, it can be played up to 4 on a split screen. A sequel titled Donkey Kong Racing was planned for the GameCube, but was unfortunately canceled after Microsoft bought RARE.

1 - Crash Team Racing

In this list, we cannot talk about Crash Nitro Kart without its precursor, Crash Team Racing, which was released in 1999 on PS1 and developed by Naughty Dog studio... If there was a game that could compete with the Mario Kart franchise at the time, it was this game! These many modes, characters and way of playing make it unique and considerably increase its lifespan. It's possible to play up to 4 on a split screen with the use of a "multitap" accessory for the PS1. The quality of the graphics, the soundtracks and the controls make it, in my opinion, the number ONE of Mario Kart clones for retro console!

Some extra bonus games

For this top 10, I had to put aside many games that still deserve to be considered! For example, there is LEGO Racers on Nintendo 64 and LEGO Racers 2 on PS2 which are not bad at all for LEGO fans. For the younger ones, Mickey's Speedway USA on N64 turns out to be a very fun game. I've never heard of Speed Punks on PS1 before writing this article; it might be worth a shot … Still on PS1, Chocobo Racing feature a few characters from the famous Final Fantasy franchise, and despite being inferior to several featured games, it remains quite original. Although similar to Kirby Air Ride, Sonic Riders on PS2 and GameCube is a good choice for a feeling of speed! Next, Wacky Races: Starring Dastardly and Muttley on PS2 looks intriguing, but sadly only available in PAL version for our European cousins. Crash Tag Team Racing, available on all platforms at the time, deserve to be mentioned as well. Finally, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on PS3, XBOX 360 and Wii U is really well done and captivating, but isn't retro enough in my opinion to make it into the top 10 …

Last word

Whether it's with Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing or Crash Team Racer, the most important thing is to have fun with your friends; never forget it! Also remember that putting your skills into practice before a party or tournaments with friends isn't cheating [wink]!

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