The lights are on
I’ve always had a thing for racing games. Being born in Detroit, it was threaded into my DNA. My dad was a bit of a gearhead, pointing out Corvettes and other nice cars to us as kids. I remember sitting in the passenger side of his car, not yet able to see over the dashboard, screaming “Faster! Faster!” I could never see where we were going, but I could feel the car kick and speed up and my head push against the car seat. I’m not sure if he ever really did speed up, but he was pretty good at pretending like he did.
I was introduced to my first battle racing game at a young age. No, it wasn’t Mario Kart; it was Crash Team Racing. I had already been totally enthralled by Crash Bandicoot, but there was something about combat racing that really satisfied me. Maybe it was the sound of someone hitting a TNT crate and listening to them scream as it counted down to detonation, or the satisfying explosion of an opponent. Whatever it was, I was hooked—and I still am.
6. Super Mario Kart
Generally, everyone loves Mario Kart. Even I, who was deprived of Nintendo games as a kid, was able to play Mario Kart at friends’ houses. Mario Kart has stretched itself across decades and still reigns as a popular kart racing game, if not the most popular. The simplicity of Mario Kart coupled with the vast amount of entertainment it offered kept me coming back.
Blur was my first experience with something of its kind. It was like Forza and Crash Team Racing got together and shot out a kid. Like CTR, you can collect power-ups and special weapons and use them against opponents. I enjoy the use of realistic racing combined with combat racing, sort of what Split/Second did. Cartoony kart racing is fun and all, but sometimes I want to feel like I’m in a scene from The Fast and the Furious.
4. Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing
Being a longtime fan of Sonic, I was intrigued by the collaboration with battle racing. When I rented the game, I knew I had to buy it. The tracks are mesmerizing, drawing from the universes of Samba de Amigo, Jet Set Radio, Billy Hatcher, and more. Sure, there aren’t a ton of tracks to choose from once you hit the 24 mark, but there’s still enough to keep you busy for a while. Instead of pumping out new DLC, they released the solid Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed which adds boating and flight to the mix.
3. Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour
This is probably a game not many people are aware of. I played this around the same time as Crash Team Racing, and at that young age I was pretty enthralled by Disney World. This game has you race on courses in the different parks, like Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, etc. Just some of the race tracks included are The Haunted Mansion (my favorite, since it was my favorite ride), Thunder Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, and Rock N’ Roller Coaster. For being a Disney World-themed racing game, it’s a thrilling battle racer on par with CTR.
2. Crash Team Racing
As the original kart-racing game for me, CTR reawakens fond memories. The sound of the TNT countdown and Coco’s (the character I usually race) wail as she hits a nitro crate is something I can never forget. For those who don’t know about this game, it’s available on the PlayStation Network and worth every penny. I have spent countless hours of my life burning through CTR, and as a lifelong Crash Bandicoot fan, it’s pretty high up there on my list.
I was recently introduced to Split/Second this year by my boyfriend. I had been a little turned off by how realistic Forza had become, so I was wary about trying it out. The minute I wrecked my first opponent, there was no turning back. In Split/Second, you can choose from three game types under the Season mode which include Race, Elimination, and Survival. The final fourth race has increased difficulty and promises a rage quit or two. Each beaten chapter unlocks new cars and maps. During the race, blue symbols pop up indicating when to press the button and watch something explode. Hopefully in the midst of your explosion, you wreck a car or two (or three). If you get an orange symbol, pressing the corresponding button changes the track, which means something big is going to go down. Sometimes a bridge collapses, and other times an entire stretch of road explodes. I can’t get enough.
After years of racing, at home, in arcades and at friends’ houses, it took a single battle-racing experience with a game to have it climb to my number one spot. That’s got to count for something. As I age and video games change, I hope battle-racing stays alive and continues to impact the lives of fans from all generations like it has impacted mine.