It’s true, until this year (2021) I had never really played Super Mario Kart. I can remember watching other kids playing it at the Super Nintendo kiosks in Sears or Walmart, but I never got a turn. I didn’t personally own an SNES until 2001, and to be honest playing Super Mario Kart wasn’t a top priority back then. When I started hunting for video games in my adulthood Super Mario Kart didn’t cross my path as much as you might think. It did pop up from time to time in retail stores, for a retail price, but I always held out hope that I would run across it at a thrift store or flea market for much cheaper. I figured what fun is hunting a game if it’s trapped behind glass at a retail price?
Many seemingly ubiquitous games such as A Link to the Past and Super Mario 64 all gave me the slip when it came to tracking them down in the wild. Of course I want to add them to my collection but it was rare to see a copy of them sitting in a flea market booth or on a thrift store shelf at a reasonable price. Well, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and just get things done, and that’s why I chose to buy Super Mario Kart off ebay. To be more accurate I placed an on a whim bid for a Super Famicom version of Super Mario Kart and ended up winning it for a fraction of the price of a US version of the game. I honestly didn’t think I would win so I placed the minimum bid and let it go, only to be informed a few hours later that I had won the auction. When it arrived I was pretty excited to give it a try, as I honestly didn’t know what to expect. As I said previously I’ve seen Super Mario Kart being played and I do own, and have played, many of the other games in the series, but not THE Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, or in this case Super Famicom.
When it comes to playing import games on my North American Super Nintendo I have two ways to approach it. First I can use my Super 8 which offers no restrictions on cartridge regions whatsoever, but it’s not something everyone will have laying around. My second choice is to take a cheap game like Madden 95 and just swap the ROM boards. This allows the Super Famicom game to be played inside the North American console without any modifications while also giving the finger to a Madden game. After a quick Google search I found there really isn’t much different about the Super Famicom version, short of the Japanese text and some things Nintendo of America decided needed to be censored in the US version. I just used the clean memory code on the title screen and away I went. How do I like Super Mario Kart? Well that’s a story for another day.
Since I spent most of 2020 with my N64 I decided 2021 would be the year I spent a little more time with my SNES. I initially embarked on an attempt to figure out where I had left off in Breath of Fire some 16 years ago, which ended up with me using the Game Genie to set earned EXP to max and grinding for levels without any real resolution to the original goal. After I gave the Donkey Kong Country series and Super Mario World + All Stars a fairly good run I realized I wanted a racing game. Which SNES racing classic would I choose? Would it be Super Mario Kart, F-Zero, Rock n Roll Racing, Stunt Racer FX, Top Gear 2, Super Chase HQ or maybe even Lamborghini American Challenge? Nope, it was Road Riot 4WD, and it was a mistake.
I had acquired this game almost 10 years ago in my SNES Jr. Score. I vaguely remember trying this game out after purchasing the lot, just to see if it worked, but I don’t remember actually sitting down and giving it a thorough playing. Or maybe my brain has repressed that memory. With my brain expecting something more akin to the aforementioned SNES race game classics, I was not in any way prepared for whatever the heck Road Riot 4WD is. Firstly the screen is always split, as if I had selected two player mode. I did not. Secondly the game lags so much I don’t see how this even passed quality control testing.
Road Riot 4WD was originally an arcade racing game developed by Atari in 1991, and later ported to the SNES. Players are tasked with controlling a weaponized dune buggy and competing against three other dune buggies, who are also weaponized, in various races from around the world. The game starts out with a very basic test track that, even with this game being a lagfest, is almost impossible to lose on. After that you will have the choice of picking from eleven additional tracks in order to win the championship. These locations include: Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Baja Mexico, California, Iowa, Las Vegas, New Jersey, Ohio, Saudi Arabia and the Swiss Alps.
Races last three laps, with the exception of the beginning test race. Each track has a different layout and is filled to the brim with things to throw you off the pace, which can vary from your basic bumps, jumps and potholes to the many off-track hazards such as cows, boulders, trees, spectators and even pickup trucks parked half way onto the track itself. If it wasn’t already bad enough this game is severely laggy, the competition can shoot what look like paintballs at you that will slow you down and mess you up even further.
Now I know there are many SNES games that are far from perfect, but when it comes to Road Riot 4WD it takes me a little bit to adjust to the lag, and on some tracks I can not adjust at all, even on Rookie mode. For me this game isn’t very fun, although I guess it’s not a total waste, it’s just not as smooth as other SNES racing game can be. If the game wasn’t as laggy as it is maybe this could have been a great battle racer, but as it stands I really don’t know how this game ever made it to store shelves in this state.