Throwback Friday: Mario Kart Clones


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Back in 1992, Super Mario Kart was released unto the world, and changed the way we thought about racing games. Almost single handedly creating the “Kart Racing” genre, Super Mario Kart was the first racing game of its type – incorporating colourful characters and locales from an already successful gaming series and offensive weapons that could be used to take out opponent characters whilst driving. The game sold eight million copies worldwide, and became one of the best selling SNES games ever. However, it also spawned a hellish amount of games that copied the formula to the letter to try and match the success of the game. These will hereafter be referred to as “Mario Kart Clones”.

The majority of these came about at the advent of 3D gaming, most notably with the N64 and Sony PlayStation. Now, most of the clones did an absolutely awful job of mimicking the formula, and were clearly attempting to cash in on the success of the genre. This isn’t helped by the fact that most of them were licensed games trying to tie in with a particular popular character or movie. If you’ve ever played the catastrophes that are Muppets Racing, Mickey’s Speedway USA or Bomberman Racing then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Look no further for the videogame equivalent of a “cash-cow”. Even Mario’s biggest rival attempted to cash in on the action, with everyone’s favourite Blue Hedgehog starring in no-one’s favourite racing game: the awful Sonic Drift on the Game Gear. Copying a formula and expecting a license to carry a product does not make for a good game.

There were, however, a few diamonds in the rough that did an excellent job of keeping Karting going into different realms and franchises, and some arguably did a better job than the original Mario Kart.

Crash Team Racing – Playstation, 1999

My personal favourite Mario Kart clone. God-like developers Naughty Dog threw their world-renowned orange bandicoot into a kart and sent him hurtling around 20-odd weird and wonderful tracks with all of his friends and enemies. The one player story mode was immensely long and very challenging, and included one-on-one “boss fights”. There were unlockable characters, and each one actually felt different. My personal favourite element of the game though was the powerslide. I spent hours and hours perfecting my route around each map, making sure I could powerslide whenever possible. I quickly gained all of the gold medals on the time trials and beat all of my friends during the tremendous multiplayer levels. I’ve only ever been beaten at CTR once – by my girlfriend…and I..well, you know…kinda took it easy on her I guess…

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Diddy Kong Racing – Nintendo 64, 1997

An absolute stonker of a Kart Racing game, DKR did everything perfectly, with the exception that it didn’t have Dixie Kong in it, something I’ve only really been able to forgive with the advent of DKR for the DS. Back in the days when Rare could do no wrong, Diddy Kong and pals were thrown into Go-Karts to rid their island of the evil Wizpig, a massive…well…pig thing, really. To this day it stands as one of the most challenging of the Kart racing games. The last race against Wizpig requires some real steady hands. And that’s not all. Bored of racing around in Karts? Fine, why not try a hovercraft? Still not good enough for you? Right, get in a plane. That’s right, the first Kart racing game to incorporate flight, and have it available from the very beginning. Coupled with a host of loveable characters and brilliantly designed levels, DKR was not to be missed.

Foto+Diddy+Kong+Racing

Speed Freaks – Sony Playstation, 1999

Relatively unknown, and shamefully so, Speed Freaks for the PS1 boasted one of the toughest single player modes of any Kart racer I’ve played. The game was utterly excellent – very very fast, and demanded a high level of attention if you wanted to get everything right. The slightest slip up could cause you to drift to the back of the pack, and then you’d have a very tough time getting out in front again. It wasn’t unforgiving as such, it was just very very challenging, and in a genre dominated by kid-friendly games, it was nice to see one that tested the older generation too.

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So there’s my three favourite Mario Kart clones. Anyone else have any Kart-related experiences they’d like to share? Answers on a postcard…

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    • Andy Marsh
    • July 18th, 2009

    I used to love CTR on the PS1. Used to get some friends round, break out the multi-tap and play all night 🙂

    • purplesteve
    • July 24th, 2009

    HUGE mario kart fan but I used to love Crash as well. Used to play it on deathmatch mode with my cousin, spent many an hour trying to rush for the best wepaons with him.

    My girlfriend has a game for the GBA called Konami Crazy Racers (I think?) and it a a bit of a MArio clone, never really played it but she likes it.

    • James Richards
    • July 24th, 2009

    Konami Krazy Racers for the GBA is actually pretty sweet – if only because it’s got Ninja from MGS in it :p

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