There used to be more than one karting game to choose from. Older readers may need to describe this time to youngsters, but people of a certain vintage (basically, you need to have enough years on the clock to remember the nineties) will recall this rivalry well.
Nintendo’s Mario Kart franchise took an early lead, kicking off the trend in 1992 with Super Mario Kart for the SNES. Six home-console games, three portable titles and four arcade games have followed in the Mario Kart series, with each one refining the art of throwing banana peels to hitherto undreamt of levels of excellence.
Sega’s iconic speedster Sonic joined the kart race in 1995 with Sonic Drift for the Game Gear. Its follow-ups spanned numerous guises and devices, including such curious entries as 1997’s Sonic R for Sega Saturn, which did away with the karts (in favour of running) and became Sonic’s first all-3D outing.
A new challenger entered in 1999, with Crash Team Racing becoming a favourite on the PS1, before spawning a couple of sequels (2003’s Crash Nitro Kart and 2005’s Tag Team Racing) that spread Mr Bandicoot’s car-based adventures onto loads of other consoles.
That 2005 release for Tag Team Racing proved to be the last Crash racing title before a lengthy gap, which brings us up to summer 2019. And prior to 2019’s new Sonic racing release, the most recent Sonic racing game was 2012’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.
Another occasional challenger for the karting crown is Konami’s racing series, which began with Konami Krazy Racers in 2001, but that franchise has been out of action since 2011. Also, 2013’s LittleBigPlanet Karting ended up being a one-off. And let’s not forget Diddy Kong Racing, which most recently popped up with a DS game in 2007.
In recent years, while a lot of its competitor franchises have lain dormant, Nintendo’s form has kept getting better, with 2017’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe earning itself a strong position at the top of the kart-racing podium. It has been, put simply, the best karting game on the market for quite some time.
After a period of plain sailing, though, that top spot is now being challenged. Team Sonic Racing came out in May 2019 and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fuelled is coming in June. And if you’re wondering what the difference is between these three games, read on for our kart-komparison…
The reigning champ is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
What is it? The best-selling game on its console, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive incarnation of Nintendo’s iconic racing franchise.
Initial release: 29 May 2014
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Number of tracks: 48
Number of racers: 42
Number of items: 20
Extra features: Battle Mode, Anti-Gravity sections
Fun fact: You can choose to have automatic acceleration.
The first new challenger in ages was Team Sonic Racing
What is it? A racing game built around teamwork, which rewards players for working together in groups of three.
Initial release: 21 May 2019
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Number of tracks: 21
Number of racers: 15
Number of gadgets: 14
Extra features: Story-driven Adventure Mode
Fun fact: There are 135 ways to customise karts.
Coming up fast is Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fuelled
What is it? A modern remake that will mash together two classic games, 1999’s Crash Team Racing and 2003’s Crash Nitro Kart.
Initial release: 21 June 2019
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
The exact number of tracks, racers and items haven’t been confirmed yet, but an educated guess suggests around 34 tracks. We got to that estimate by adding up the number of tracks on Crash Team Racing and Crash Nitro Kart, which are the two classic games that this new one is remaking.
Extra features: Unlike the original games, it’ll have online play.
Fun fact: Like the N-Sane trilogy, it’ll be a nostalgic experience for long-time Crash fans.
Final thoughts: who will get that podium spot?
As it stands, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe still has the most to offer on paper. Unless Crash Team Racing has a lot of tricks up its sleeve that haven’t been revealed yet, the latest entry in the Mario Kart franchise will still top the leaderboard for most tracks, racers and gadgets once this summer is over.
It’s not all about the numbers, though. When we reviewed Team Sonic Racing, we found that – although it didn’t have all the bells and whistles of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – it did provide a fun experience for players, with the core conceit of emphasising teamwork serving to separate Sonic’s latest racer from the pack. It may not be the biggest or best kart racer, but it has at least carved out its own niche. That could well help it find a loyal audience.
When Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fuelled hits shop shelves, it may well find itself in a similar position. It may not have as many variations to offer as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and its gameplay might not be revolutionary enough to topple the kart racing status quo, but by digging into nostalgia and providing something pleasing for Crash Bandicoot’s legions of fans, it could well become a hit game on its own terms.
When all’s said and done, then, it might not matter which game has the most stuff crammed into it. If each one them has its own unique quirks and loveable features, they should all be able to succeed. Everyone will just have to work out which one is their own favourite, since we all have different tastes. Maybe it’s not about podiums. Maybe it’s just about personal preference.