By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
#5 – LittleBigPlanet Karting (PlayStation 3, Vita)
Much like the LittleBigPlanet platform games, the vast–but still user-friendly–customization options coupled with the charm of the world, the characters, and that narrator are the stars of the show in LBP Karting. And much like the platform games, even if you aren’t ambitious enough to tinker with making your own tracks, you’ll still find a solid game in its own right, with the developers’ pre-made courses giving you more than enough solid kart action in a range of visually interesting stages to keep you busy for a long time.
#4 – Speed Punks (PlayStation)
By far the most obscure title on this list, you’d be forgiven for skipping this title if you saw it on store shelves in 2000. Not only had you already moved on to Dreamcast and/or were gearing up for the PS2, but the characters and art are the stuff of bad 90s video game cliche, full of sass and ‘tude. Unfortunately, you also missed out on a gem of a kart racer, and one of two (spoiler!) for the platform that gave PlayStation owners one less reason to be jealous of their Mario Kart 64-owning friends.
#3 – Konami Krazy Racers (Game Boy Advance)
Typically, to be a kart racing game that doesn’t star Mario and co., your only chance of standing out is by being on a platform that doesn’t have a competing Mario Kart game. However, Konami was up to this challenge, taking characters from its legendary stable of franchises–Castlevania, Gradius, even Metal Gear Solid–and attacking GBA’s Mario Kart Super Circuit head-on. In the opinion of many, they not only produced a game that could ride on the same track as its direct MK peer, but even managed to surpass it. Blasphemy? Not if you’ve played it.
#2 –Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PS3, X360, WiiU, PC, Vita, 3DS)
While this game’s predecessor, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, was a respectable title in its own right, the sequel improves on it in just about every way. With an impressive roster of about 30 characters (the number varies depending on the version), culled from throughout Sega’s rich history, this game lays on the fan service pretty damn thick. Fortunately, there’s actually a fantastic game underneath the shameless Sega worship, and this is arguably the deepest and most complex kart racing game ever made. It took a lot of years and a few misfires on the Game Gear, but Sega finally pulled off the seemingly impossible: they released a mascot kart racing game that lives up to their legacy as Nintendo’s only true rival.
#1 – Crash Team Racing (PlayStation)
Any kart racing game that wants to succeed would be smart to borrow from Mario Kart. CTR definitely does that, while not bothering to do as much to set itself apart from MK as the other games on this list. So why does it still get the top spot? Because it’s not always about originality–sometimes its just about what game is the most fun, and CTR takes that title all the way to the finish line. Not only does it flatter MK with imitation in all the right ways, it was also noteworthy for just how gorgeous of a game it was, featuring some of the fastest, crispest, most vibrant visuals out of any PlayStation game ever released. That it was able to do all that and have a 4-player splitscreen mode–something few PS1 games did–without the system seeming to even break a sweat just sweetens an already delicious pot. A fitting send-off to the Naughty Dog (aka the only good) era of Crash games.