Old School Cool: Mickey’s Speedway USA

The "other" Rare N64 game is a curious part of a considerable legacy.

Old School Cool is our new original video series releasing every Tuesday afternoon on the Den of Geek Facebook page. Each week, we break out the SNES, SEGA, PS2 or another classic console as we take you on a nostalgia trip into the world of classic video games and accessories.

Old School Cool: Mickey’s Speedway USA

Developer Rare’s N64 lineup is considered to be one of the greatest runs a single studio has ever enjoyed. In just five years, Rare produced 11 games that range from “cult classic” (such as Blast Corps and Jet Force Gemini) to “cultural touchstone” (Goldeneye 007 and Banjo-Kazooie). Yes, from Killer Instinct Gold to Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Rare’s contributions to the N64 remind everyone why Microsoft spent $375 million to acquire the privilege of Rare’s services.

There is, however, one title that stands out from Rare’s N64 pack all these years later.

We’d love to tell you that Mickey’s Speedway USA jumps out at those who browse a list of games developed by Rare because everyone has fond memories of playing it, but the truth is that the attention it draws is by virtue of its status as the black sheep of Rare’s N64 days.

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Released in the year 2000 after Mario Kart 64 and Rare’s own Diddy Kong Racing, Mickey’s Speedway USA arrived near the dying days of the N64 console at a time when many gamers had played enough kart racers to last a lifetime.

To be honest, Mickey’s Speedway USA doesn’t quite measure up to the likes of Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Kart 64, or Crash Team Racing. Its courses are not nearly as inventive (many are just basic recreations of US locations), its power-ups are a little slim, its A.I. is perpetually stuck in first, and its roster is a bit thin. Despite being the winner of the prestigious Nintendo Power Award for Best Video Game based on a Cartoon, it’s release was not met with the kind of acclaim a Rare title generated in those days.

Yet, the game exhibits just how great Rare was in these days in its own strange way. We’re guessing that the story behind this title involves the precious Disney license and demands for a relatively quick turnaround. Under those constraints, Rare still managed to produce an engagingly charming and more than functional kart racing title that’s only notable flaws are tied into the fact that it didn’t surpass what came before it.

Mickey’s Speedway USA is filled with unlockables, hidden cheats, game modes, and more than enough personality to go around. It’s proof that at their prime, Rare could churn out a game in a matter of weeks that was still more fun to play than the average title of its era.