5 of the Best Retro Racing Games on the Nintendo 64
Racing has long been a staple of video games, and the Nintendo 64’s game library is no exception. If you had a Nintendo 64 when you were growing up, you probably have some fond memories of these five classics.
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Mario Kart 64
No list of N64 classics can be complete without Mario Kart 64. As the iconic franchise’s first foray into truly 3D racing, Mario Kart 64 was a delightful experience for many a 90s kid — myself included. While the graphics are dated nowadays, you don’t have to strap on the nostalgia goggles to see how courses like Banshee Boardwalk, Toad’s Turnpike, and Rainbow Road use a mix of catchy tunes, fun gimmicks, and creative graphic design to craft a memorable experience.
Diddy Kong Racing
Back in the golden days of Rare’s best games, we were blessed with Diddy Kong Racing. This wasn’t just Mario Kart 64 with more monkeys — Diddy Kong Racing gave you an adventure mode with a world to explore, alongside fast-paced and colorful multiplayer racing. In addition to regular karts, the game even lets you race with planes and hovercrafts. With so many missions to complete, maps to explore, and bosses to battle, Diddy Kong Racing whittled away so many lazy Saturday afternoons from our childhoods. The main menu theme remains stuck in my head to this very day — not that I’m complaining, that is!
While critics may have complained about F-Zero X’s graphics back in the day, these graphics weren’t the result of laziness or bad taste. The low-poly design allowed the N64 to focus on running the game at a smooth 60 FPS, even with 20 or more hovercars on screen — which is quite a feat for a game released in 1998. That impressive framerate allowed for lightning-fast gameplay that still holds up today, but maybe that’s just because I’m a sucker for retro games. Although F-Zero X’s controls and gameplay have a definite learning curve, mastering it feels as satisfying as landing a solid Falcon Punch.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer
In the immortal words of young Anakin Skywalker, “Now THIS is podracing!” Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels, they made podracing look like a helluva of a blast. This game captures that excitement in its own quaint, 1999 way. Race across different planets, customize your pod at Watto’s part shop, and laugh maniacally as your computer-controlled opponents crash into one another and explode.
Wave Racer 64
Yeah, I know it’s not about cars, but I can’t finish this list without mentioning Wave Racer 64. This delightfully summery, jet-ski racing game challenged you to pull off tricks, traverse choppy waters, and of course, compete against your fellow racers — whether they’re AIs or your buddy on the couch next to you.
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It’s hard to believe it’s been over 20 years since the Nintendo 64 hit store shelves. Which N64 racing games did you love? Sound off in the comments below!
Kimiko Kidd is a native Daytonian. She graduated from Wright State University with degrees in environmental science and sociology. She loves her trusty old Honda Civic, but dreams of owning a 1974 Ford Falcon XB with a custom paint job and a vintage Kawasaki Z1000. In her free time, Kimiko can be found watercolor-painting, baking muffins, collecting rocks, playing old-school Nintendo games, writing her novel, sewing stuffed animals, and cosplaying as her favorite Mad Max characters. See more articles by Kimiko.