Mario Kart 64 vs Diddy Kong Racing: Who wins the race?

The Nintendo 64’s library is peppered with classics, including two standout kart racers in Mario
Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing. Powered by their own merits, each title exhibited strong,
unique features that gave the system a powerful one-two punch in a young genre. More
importantly, each game is responsible for tons of memories, flying tempers, and late comebacks
amongst friends. Whether you were hosting a childhood sleepover, having a few coworkers over
for drinks after a long week, or just kicking back and playing either game on your own, you could
always find refuge in Mario Kart 64’s Block Fort or Diddy Kong Racing’s challenging single-
player mode. However, while there is no debating the fact that both games are incredible, only
one can reign supreme. Let’s revisit the age-old clash between these two goliath titles. Ready,
set, go!

Gameplay

One of the most important aspects of any kart racing game is how it plays. All sorts of nuts and
bolts go into crafting strong racing gameplay, a category in which Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong
Racing share exemplary status.

Good gameplay begins with control: you need a strong sense of speed, reliable steering and
drifting, and tight mechanics. When all these factors come together, the player can artfully and
smoothly navigate winding tracks and erratic enemy drivers. Throw in items and other bells and
whistles, and the games will shine to a whole new degree.

It is beyond the basics of kart racing where Diddy Kong Racing sets itself apart. It has three
different vehicles – karts, hovercraft, and planes – all of which are tons of fun to use. It features
more strategic items than the chaotic roulette in Mario Kart 64: you can stack items to boost
your power-ups, so you’re constantly facing a choice between burning an item right away or
waiting a bit to get something stronger. Finally, aspects such as shorter tracks and the absence
of fate-defining items like Mario Kart 64’s Lightning Bolts leave no room for error. Diddy Kong
Racing is deeper mechanically and has more variety in its racing. It comes away with the win on
moment-to-moment gameplay.

Single-player

Sometimes, you just want to kick back, relax, and make some computer-generated racers eat
your dust. In the case of Mario Kart 64, you cannot do much more than that – the game’s single-
player amounts to some Time Trial challenges and grabbing Gold on enough Grands Prix to
unlock Mirror Mode. It’s a good time, but it’s far from expansive.

Diddy Kong Racing, meanwhile, is on its own level – in fact, it’s got arguably the best single-
player campaign of any kart racer in existence, even more than twenty years after its initial
release. Progression through the single-player requires special balloons, which are earned
through challenging races, strategic silver coin challenges, boss races, and much more. The
deeper, purely skill-based gameplay is enough on its own to propel Diddy Kong Racing past
Mario Kart 64 in the single-player arena. Combine that with loads of content and personality,
and we are in the exalted presence of the definitive single-player kart racer.

Multiplayer

Diddy Kong Racing takes the cake in single-player offerings. That is tough to argue. But what
about multiplayer, the real bread and butter of the genre for most of its fans? Here, Mario Kart
64 begins to narrow the gap between the two games.

Mario Kart 64 is renowned for its multiplayer. The game has everything you could want in a
multiplayer kart racer, including a host of fantastic battle maps and tracks which Diddy Kong
Racing can’t quite match – there’s nothing quite like sending your friend over the edge of
Rainbow Road with a well-placed green shell. Additionally, while Diddy Kong Racing’s
mechanical depth strengthens its overall gameplay, accessibility is a major benefit for
multiplayer in Mario Kart 64. It is a lot easier to pick up and play, which means anyone who
wants to join in can simply grab a controller and have an excellent time. Plus, flattening your
friends after shrinking them with lightning is just plain satisfying.

Any mention of Mario Kart 64’s multiplayer is incomplete without a bit of praise toward its
friendship-shattering battle mode. As far as a comparison with Diddy Kong Racing, the
conversation begins and ends with a balloon battle on Block Fort. Mario Kart 64 wins this round.

Tracks

Ultimately, even though Diddy Kong Racing has a few more tracks overall, Mario Kart 64 comes
away with a narrow advantage due to its more diverse locales and a handful of iconic, thrilling
courses. It is not quite fair to say “quality over quantity” here, since Diddy Kong Racing still has
excellent track design by its own right, but Mario Kart 64 wins this one by making more out of
less.

Diddy Kong Racing features twenty smaller tracks, with each set of four adhering to a specific
theme, such as a medieval village or a winter wonderland. Conversely, Mario Kart 64 pulls out
all the stops with extravagant, expansive tracks that are an absolute joy to play.

Each game’s track design caters to its respective strengths. The shorter tracks in Diddy Kong
Racing demand skill and strategy: you have got sparse time to correct mistakes, and you need
to plan your routes carefully, especially in silver coin races. Mario Kart 64, meanwhile, builds
large, exciting courses prone to tense item volleys and legendary come-from-behind victories.
Struggling to stay on Rainbow Road, dodging traffic in Toad’s Turnpike, picking a route in Yoshi
Valley, watching for falling rocks in Choco Mountain, and plenty more adventurous situations
make Mario Kart 64 a winner in track design.

Graphics and sounds

Both Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing are overflowing with vivid retro charm. The sights
and sounds of each game make for a wonderful, nostalgic overload of a simpler time in video
games. Each game utilizes vibrant colors and upbeat, striking jams that will rest in your head for
hours on end. Here, variety wins the day: Mario Kart 64’s diverse array of tracks makes for more
memorable scenery and more distinct music, even though Diddy Kong Racing is still excellent
by its own right.

Overall Winner: Mario Kart 64

The race between Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing predictably comes to a photo finish.
Two developers at the top of their game, Nintendo and Rare showcased new heights for kartracing that, along with Crash Team Racing on PlayStation, marked a golden age for the genre. However, only one of these iconic kart racers can take first. Ultimately, Mario Kart 64 wins off its addictive multiplayer mode and fantastic set of winding, colorful courses, but Diddy Kong Racing is still a wonderful title, especially for those who prefer single-player gaming. At the end of the day, the real winner is anyone who has had the opportunity to experience both of these amazing games.


Guest Bio

Ana Sz. Bio: It all started in my friend Sophie´s house playing Super Mario Bros., NES was basically my first love. I’m a fan of retro games, especially RPGs and Platforms. This passion got me to create Myemulator.online where I write reviews for all the games I use to play with.

You can find Ana at MyEmulator.online or on Instagram.

Posted November 13th, 2020

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