2) Diddy Kong Racing
Nintendo and Rare had this wonderful rivalry during the N64 days — Nintendo would make Mario 64, and Rare would set to work making their own bigger, vastly better-looking 3D platformer (Banjo-Kazooie). The same thing happened on kart racing front, with Rare absolutely blowing Mario Kart 64 away with their Diddy Kong Racing.
Diddy Kong Racing looked amazing, allowed you to tackle most tracks with cars, planes or hovercrafts and included a fantastic adventure mode, complete with a free-roaming hub world and epic boss races. In some ways the Mario Kart series is still struggling to catch up to what Rare did with Diddy Kong Racing back in 1997.
1) Super Mario Kart
Come on now, what else could I pick for the number one spot?
The original Super Mario Kart is an incredibly entertaining game that still holds up today, but to truly get a sense of how amazing the title is, you have to look at what most other racing games were doing in the early-90s. Back then most racing games were still straightforward arcade experiences like Out Run. Simple games where you meandered down endless winding roads, dodging other cars while trying to come in under the time limit. Mario Kart’s tightly designed tracks, and racers with actual personalities and AI were a revelation. Even if you removed the game’s turtle-shell shooting tomfoolery, Mario Kart still would have been the best racer on the market back in 1992.
Wait for it, waaait for it. Phew — okay, I was afraid Chuck E. Cheese’s Kart Racing might fire off a blue shell and sneak into the lead, but we’re safe. I think.
Did I miss any favorite obscure kart racers? Did I totally screw up the ordering of my Mario Karts? By all means, hit the comments and give me an earful.