Originally conceived in the late 80s, the kart racing formula gained its popularity with Super Mario Kart, released for Super Nintendo in 1992. The game set the standard for this racing subgenre with captivating characters, a decent amount of tracks, and power-ups that hilariously mess up your opponents. That was more than enough to make Nintendo’s IP an instant classic that would change the gaming industry.
Today, the kart racer fever seems to be making a triumphal return with so many new titles coming out every year, even massive companies like Disney are diving into the genre. With Disney Speedstorm early access available this week, we decided to rank some of the best kart racing games of all time.
10. F1 Race Stars (2012)
Who would have thought that Formula One could give us such a good kart racer? After so many realistic simulators, Codemasters finally put some fun into the series with F1 Race Stars.
The game transformed the most popular F1 pilots into cartoon versions of themselves and brought creative maps with sneaky shortcutsto the table, mixed with smooth controls and fast-paced action. It’s possible the only downside to this game was the absence of drifting, which is a very common skill in any arcade racing game.
9. KartRider: Drift (2023)
KartRider is the racing series from the Crazy Arcade franchise by NEXON. This year, their newest kart racer was released, totally free-to-play and focused on online modes.
With appealing characters and great graphics, the game is the perfect opportunity for die-hard kart racer fans to prove their skills by competing against players from different platforms. KartRider: Drift is a live service game, so it’s constantly updated with battle passes and new maps. In all honesty, though, this is a title that already has a large number of unique maps in it, so racing never feels repetitive.
8. Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3: Slime Speedway (2022)
Kart Racers is Nickelodeon’s attempt at cashing in on the arcade racing genre by luring players in with nostalgic cartoon characters like SpongeBob, Arnold, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Their third game had a modest release after all of the mediocre reviews surrounding the previous additions, but for those who played it, it was surprisingly enjoyable.
Nickelodeon Kart Racers 3: Slime Speedway is probably one of the simplest kart racers on this list and that’s actually what makes it shine. The controls are easy, matches are quick, and the power-ups arefun to use. Customizing your karts is also very satisfying with plenty of styles available for each character. Besides the classic kart racing modes, the game also featured multiplayer and online modes.
7. ModNation Racers (2010)
Released for PlayStation 3 and PSP over 12 years ago, ModNation Racers captivated a large community of fans in a short period of time due to its incredible customization system.
Literally, anything could be created from scratch – your character, your kart, whole tracks, and even your own soundtrack. Players could upload their creations online for other players to download them. Even without the creativity it allowed its players to have, ModNation Racers was already great on its own with fantastic gameplay and solid graphics for the time it came out. Unfortunately, its servers were shut down in 2018.
6. Cars 3: Driven to Win (2017)
Cars is far from being anyone’s favorite Disney or Pixar franchise, but if you really enjoy a kart racer, this might be a hidden gem for you. Developed by Avalanche Software, Cars 3: Driven to Win was released in 2017with the same title as the film, and probably everyone – me included – thought it would be just another terrible game promoting a movie, but it surprised players by actually being well made.
The game goes full kart racer in its Battle Race mode, letting players attach power-ups to their cars, like homing missiles, used to sabotage opponents. Impressive tricks like driving backward or staying only on two wheels fill up the boost bar, which makes being a show-off actually beneficial here. With the many cars to choose from and how exciting the races are, Cars 3 is a game worth playing even for those who haven’t seen the movies.
5. Team Sonic Racing (2019)
Of course, SEGA wouldn’t leave their blue hedgehog out of the kart racer genre – and they shouldn’t. Team Sonic Racing is not Sonic’s first racing game, but it’s certainly one of the best out there.
Besides the speedy action in some of the most iconic Sonic maps, the team mechanic is what makes this titlestand out from the rest. Every race, you’ll have the support of two other racers controlled by the CPU who will help out in many ways, from lending their power-ups to creating a slipstream that will boost your speed if you drive behind them. The trio has to win the race together, making the team dynamic essential if you’re aiming for a spot on the podium. Team Sonic Racing also features customization for all 15 playable character’s vehicles.
4. Blur (2010)
Last decade while many racing games would copy either Need for Speed or Mario Kart, Blur came out with an interesting idea: why not both? The game was developed by Bizarre Creations before they were shut down by Activision in 2011.
Blur managed to pull off having a realistic look and locations based on real-world cities, while still being fun with its quirky power-ups. From attachable mines toforce fields that can be activated to throw off opponents, Blur went full-kart racer with its combat system. Its classic neon interface and exciting soundtrack also contributed to the game remaining in fans’ best racing memories.
3. Disney Speedstorm (2023)
Disney Speedstorm is Disney’s latest contribution to the arcade racing genre. Currently available for purchase in early access, the game is expected to go free-to-play by the beginning of 2024. It hasn’t been out for as long as the other games on this list, but it’s already good enough to compete with the greats.
This game has got everything it takes to make a memorable kart racer, such as an iconic lineup of characters and a nostalgic soundtrack that manages to hype up the races even more. Disney Speedstorm already made a solid start and proved that Gameloft still nails racing games. Given the power of Disney, this is a title that can truly live on, especially since it’s going to get regular updates featuring new characters and race tracks.
2. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (2019)
Fans went crazy when a remake of Crash Team Racing was announced at The Game Awards in 2018. The classic game, which was originally developed by Naughty Dog, became an instant hit among PlayStation 1 players when it was released in 1999 due to its addictive gameplay and well-designed maps.
Beenox is the developer behind what we can call a perfect remake. The studio managed to bring back everything that made the first game so popular, from its visuals to easy-to-pick-up mechanics and also kept it true to previous Crash Bandicoot games by making it challenging to fully complete the game. Crash Team Racing also comes with an online mode and several cosmetics for its large gallery of racers.
1. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)
After the Super Mario Kart release in the early 90s, many other games were added to the series, keeping it fresh for over 30 years. For this ranking, we’ve picked only one game to represent the franchise as a whole, and it could be none other than Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Mixing everything that worked in the past 8 titlesplus optimized graphics made this title the best-selling game on Switch and the 6th of all time. There are also 48 tracks available and the possibility of expanding to 96 with the Booster Course Pass DLC. The 43 playable characters and infinite customization options for all of the karts also add to the game’s replayability. After all these years, Mario Kart remains the best kart racer experience bar none.