Top Five (Non-Mario) Kart Racing Games of All Time

By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief

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#5 – LittleBigPlanet Karting (PlayStation 3, Vita)

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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.

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#4 – Speed Punks (PlayStation)

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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.

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#3 – Konami Krazy Racers (Game Boy Advance)

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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.

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#2 –Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (PS3, X360, WiiU, PC, Vita, 3DS)

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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.

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#1 – Crash Team Racing (PlayStation)

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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.

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12 thoughts on “Top Five (Non-Mario) Kart Racing Games of All Time

  1. I know you’ve already received comments about Diddy Kong Racing, so I won’t mention it. I will say that I loved Konami Krazy Racers and Sonic & Sega All-Stars. The latter had one of my favorite characters, Goemon, as a character, which immediately makes this opinion biased. It was also a great launch GBA game that did kart racing just as well as Super Circuit on the system. Sonic’s racing outing was great too, and I attribute its greatness to its transforming tracks. I wish Mario Kart did something more like that. I did enjoy the 1 long lap tracks in more recent Mario Kart games.

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  2. Surprisingly (all the more as I never owned a PSOne), I can even remember Speed Punks under its European title Speed Freaks. I didn’t know there was a Crash Team Racing though, I only knew its successor Crash Tag Team Racing from the GameCube. Pretty decent title too, with a bit of Diddy Kong Racing in it…
    If one likes to be very strict, Sonic Transformed is hardly a KART racing game either, so the inclusion of Snowboard Kids (and its better, almost unknown successor) isn’t so far-fetched. It’s a great list nevertheless, and it convinced me that I should finally get Konami Krazy Racers on my WiiU.
    One more game I’d suggest is Rare’s Mickey’s Speedway USA on the N64 . It’s nowhere as original as Diddy Kong Racing but its core gameplay is by far the tightest on the system, speed and graphics wonderful.

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    1. I understand that some kart racing games stretch the limits of the genre, but when a game takes place ENTIRELY on snowboards, it’s clearly a snowboard game.

      Also, that’s as in-depth of a response as he deserved for the needlessly negative tone of his comment. I’m totally fine with people disagreeing with me, but it can be done without calling my list “trash.” I tend to shut off the productive discourse part of my brain when comments begin that way.

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  3. Great list! I’ve played four games of the list and all are mostly great. Crash Team Racing is a classic and still fun to play, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was one of my favorites games on PS3 (wish I could play something similar in PS4) and Speed Punks (Speed Freaks in Europe) was incredible fun to play on multiplayer on my friend’s PS (didn’t have my own). I’ve mixed feelings with LittleBigPlanet Karting, didn’t feel gameplay tight enough for this kind of games.

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    1. I was never very impressed with it. I found the mechanics clunky and the courses underwhelming (and those characters! Never Rare’s strong point). The flying was the best part – they should’ve just focused on that and polished that up, and they could’ve had something special. Instead it just feels like an unfinished kart racer, unfinished flight racing game, and unfinished water racing game mashed together in one disjointed package.

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      1. I can see why Snowboard Kids might be considered a kart racer, it has a lot of similar mechanics. But it still isn’t actually a kart racer! I love Sonic’s final foray into kart racing, played it to death on Steam. It’s almost as good as Sonic R… 😉

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