Diddy Kong Racing was Better than Mario Kart 64
One of the things I often hear when I mention the Nintendo 64 is “Oh man! I LOVED Mario Kart!” Don’t get me wrong, I too very much loved Mario Kart 64, but it was not the best kart style racer on the N64. No, there was another game that took that crown and that game was called Diddy Kong Racing. This is not a statement I take lightly and I realize that it may hit some of you directly in the nostalgia, so I offer a breakdown of my opinion.
Let’s start with strategy. Mario Kart 64 featured characters you knew and loved already. Rare had a different plan. They used DKR to introduce you to characters you were going to see again on the N64. That way, when you picked up Banjo-Kazooie or Conker’s Bad Fur Day, you could immediately be like, “Holy profanity laced cartoon squirrels! That’s the dude from that one racing game that was better than Mario Kart!” It was a genius move and it worked. On top of that, you got plenty of characters you knew from Donkey Kong Country so there was still an attachment factor. Circle takes the square, circle being Diddy Kong Racing.
Graphically, this was not even close. Now, I am a big proponent of the idea that graphics do not make a game good but I do not discount their importance. Mario Kart 64 was designed with 2D sprites that were somehow made to appear to be 3D. I’m fairly certain witchcraft was involved. All of the characters in DKR were true 3D, accept no substitutions. Beyond that, I found DKR to be brighter, more colorful and overall just more pleasant to look at. Another point for DKR.
Viva variety. In Mario Kart 64, you could drive the kart. Or the kart. Or the kart. DKR gave you the choice of 3 very differently performing vehicles, a kart, hovercraft, or airplane. There was nothing wrong with simply having the karts, but adding in the strategy of having to choose the right vehicle for your style of game play gave DKR another edge. Advantage DKR.
Why am I playing this? Mario Kart 64 had as much story to it as Florida has snow. It was fun, but I wasn’t ever really working towards anything. I was simply trying to prove my vehicular supremacy while dishing out as much damage as possible to my foes. DKR had a story to it, however goofy. You see, Timber the Tiger’s parents left him in charge of their home island. He and his friends were just having a regular racing hootenanny, when the evil WizPig (half pig, half wizard) shows up and gets all up in their business as the kids say. He takes the island’s 4 guardians, turns them into henchmen as well as turning the island’s best racer into a frog. With no princess in sight to kiss the poor lad, Timber recruits 8 friends to defeat Wizpig via racing for some reason. You have to win races to collect magic balloons to open up more races until eventually you meet up with Mr Magic Bacon himself. Once you beat him, he goes wee wee wee all the way home and you chase him there, so that you can beat him once more, thus stuffing the proverbial apple in his mouth. Can I get away with one more pig pun? At the very very end, you see a small scene where the pig is flying (AHEM) his spaceship and you can hear his maniacal laugh. Did you see all of that I just wrote? That is a story, boys and girls. Point to DKR.
In the interest of there not being a shutout, I will concede that there are parts of Mario Kart 64 that are better than DKR. I thought the multiplayer was better in Mario Kart 64. Come on, driving around, shooting each other with shells, popping balloons; what is more fun than that? It was like a less creepy Twisted Metal. DKR had some fun multiplayer modes as well but this point goes to Mario Kart 64. Also the weapon systems were better in Mario Kart because they were familiar. I loved using a red shell because I had seen red shells since I was 6. I love having a mushroom doing my boosting instead of just simply a “boost.” Nice use of a weapon upgrade system in DKR but it was too easy to mess up your upgrade. Point Mario Kart 64. Additionally, I will give the musical edge to Mario Kart 64. Not a lot of developers have ever done a better job at putting original music into games than Nintendo has and this was no exception. 3 unanswered points for Mario Kart 64.
All of that starts to make the contest interesting until you consider the whole “more with less” factor I am a big fan of. DKR did more with less. For Rare, this was a time BEFORE Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong 64, Banjo-Kazooie, & Conker’s Bad Fur Day. They had not yet finished establishing themselves as the N64 development powerhouse they would become known as. Originally this game was going to be an RTS, then a new RC Pro Am game before Nintendo gave/forced Diddy Kong on them. Rare took all of that chaos and all of that uncertainty and cranked out, in my opinion, a kart racer that was better than Mario Kart 64, that should have lived on, and that deserved a much better fate than a simple port to the DS. A kart racer, that at the time was the fastest selling game ever without the name of Mario and without the eventual stellar reputation Rare would earn. The final and biggest point belongs to DKR.
At the end of the day, whether you are a Diddy Kong Racing fan or a Mario Kart 64 fan, we all won. We had 2 tremendous racing games that provided us with hours and hours of fun. For me, Diddy Kong Racing just made those hours and hours a little more fun than Mario Kart 64 did. Join me back here in 2 weeks, when I write an article no bigger than a womp rat.