The problem with counting down the very best kart racing games is that the gems are hidden in a sea of mediocrity. There are some terrible kart racers, some great kart racers, and a ton of meh.
After the success of Mario Kart on the SNES, everyone and their mother had a kart racing game. The Muppets had one (which just missed being on this list), and so did several other franchises/characters like South Park, Woody Woodpecker, Bomberman, Toy Story, Chocobo, Chuck E Cheese, Digimon, Lego, Star Wars, Sonic, Shrek, MySims, Mickey, Mole, Cartoon Network, Nicktoons, and even M&Ms!
Finding the best out of all these games was tough, but if you’re looking for a kart racer that isn’t Mario Kart, I recommend the following ten.
10.) Mega Man Battle and Chase
The first two entries on this list might be different for you. I picked them based on being decent kart racing games based on a game or franchise that I enjoy. If you like Toy Story or Cartoon Network more, you might want to pick those up.
Mega Man Battle and Chase was never released in North America. Sony denied it because there were already too many kart racing games… imagine that! It was released in Japan and Europe and is unlockable on the PS2 Mega Man X Collection.
It’s a pretty standard kart racing game except that each character has specific attacks and is also able to acquire the kart parts/weapons of defeated rivals. Still fun for any Mega Man fan.
9.) Wacky Races Starring Dastardly and Muttley
Before I continue, I just want to say that the NES version of Wacky Races is one of my favorite NES games ever made.
I also loved the cartoon, which is why Wacky Races for the PS2 makes this list. The game features nearly all characters from the show and a lot of the show’s atmosphere. There’s an announcer, weapons, crazy tracks, and just a ton of fun.
This game beats out Battle and Chase, because it just is a better kart racing game. The controls are tighter there are vehicle types, battle mode, boss fights, solo adventure, co-op, and a ton more. It’s a great game alone, but even better with friends.
8.) Looney Tunes: Space Race
If you want a sense of speed with your kart racer, then Looney Tunes: Space Race is the game for you… Mainly because you race on rockets.
In this Looney Tunes: racer you can play as Bugs, Daffy, Wile, Sylvester, Elmer, Yosemite, Marvin, or Porky… but I’m pissed you don’t get to play as my favorite member of the Looney Tunes, Taz!
It’s a game with tight controls, great voice acting, and just tons of fun.
7.) Street Racer
Street Racer for the SNES is very similar to Mario Kart on the SNES. Both took advantage of the Mode 7 graphics engine of the SNES, but Street Racer did it better.
Don’t get me wrong, Mario Kart SNES is the superior game overall but for smooth Mode 7 graphics and a sense of speed, Street Racer wins.
Besides that it’s just a fun kart racing game with various cups to compete in, zany characters, weapons, tracks, and “Rumble” and “Soccer” modes that will eat up your day.
6.) Whacky Wheels
Whacky Wheels is as close to a Mario Kart clone as you can get. The creators say they were “inspired” by Mario Kart on the SNES and wanted to bring a similar experience to home computers.
By “similar experience” they meant almost exact clone. The game plays just like the SNES Mario Kart, but instead you play as a zoo animal.
It’s not a bad clone, in fact it’s a fantastic one with fun racing and a battle mode.
5.) Konami Krazy Racers
It’s tough to find a great kart racing game on a handheld. It’s even tougher finding one that isn’t Mario Kart. Luckily, Konami Krazy Racers is a FANTASTIC kart racer for the Gameboy Advance.
The game is very similar to Mario Kart on the SNES but better graphically, musically, and gameplay-wise. Plus it’s for a handheld!
You control one of several Konami characters like Gray Fox, Vic Viper, Goemon, Takosuke, Dracula, and more through interesting tracks and with fun weapons.
4.) Kirby Air Ride
I’ve been back and forth constantly debating if Kirby Air Ride for the Gamecube is a kart racing game. You are on a star rather than a kart, and the star is self-propelled. Nevertheless, I think it counts.
Kirby Air Ride has three modes. The first is Air Ride and is your basic racing game with weapons and powerups. The second is Top Ride and it’s similar to Air Ride but with a top-down view and simple tracks.
The game’s best mode is City Trial. In this mode you drive around a city collecting powerups that can increase your vehicles speed, defense, jump, and much more. In the city you can find different vehicles, create legendary vehicles, and deal with random events. At the end of a certain amount of time, you compete with your friends with your powered up vehicles.
3.) Jak X: Combat Racing
Jak X is another game I wasn’t sure was a kart racer or not. Wikipedia describes it as vehicular combat, similar to Twisted Metal but there’s definitely a racing element to this game… so it counts.
The game takes place after the third game. A series of characters from the games are tricked into a racing tournament by accidentally drinking poison from Krew. The only way they can get an antidote is by winning the race.
The best part of this game is the gameplay. Vehicles have been a big part of the Jak series especially in the second and third game. In Jak X the tight vehicle controls, and customization make this game a ton of fun.
2.) Diddy Kong Racing
In a world of Mario Kart clones, Diddy Kong Racing is the favorite of a lot of people… it’s just not my favorite.
Many people love Diddy Kong Racing for all the variety it offers. Diddy Kong Racing has a bunch of different ways to play. First off you can race either a plane, kart, or hovercraft with the last being the worst. Not to mention exhibition races, battle, and a BELOVED adventure mode with fun challenges and boss fights.
People praise the game for many reasons I can’t get into here, but it is a fantastic game.
1.) Crash Team Racing
Everything Diddy Kong Racing did, Crash Team Racing did better. While Crash Team Racing doesn’t have hovercrafts and planes, it focused on fun/tight kart gameplay.
In Crash Team Racing there’s an adventure mode, arcade mode, vs mode, and battle mode. The adventure mode was the standout option with gems, tokens, and keys you need to collect by completing various objectives and by beating bosses… yes this game has bosses too such as Ripper Roo and Papu Papu.
This game is the best kart racing game of all time. The levels are all unique and dynamic, the characters are different, and the items/weapons are fun. My biggest complaint about Diddy Kong Racing is the items, so Crash Team Racing fixes that with various offensive and defensive items that you can SUPAH-CHARGE by collecting 10 wumpa fruit.