7 Reasons Diddy Kong Racing Runs Circles Around Mario Kart 64
Only one racing game can finish first.
Let’s face facts: when it comes to vintage Nintendo racing games, it’s time to see things from a clearer perspective. You may have fond memories of endless hours playing Mario Kart 64 with your pals on the weekends, but that doesn’t necessarily attest to a better quality series.
Yikes, sorry Luigi.
While you can’t fight the popularity and longevity of Mario Kart 64, you can definitely fight the features—and that’s where Diddy Kong Racing drives circles around the Mushroom Kingdom crowd. Here’s seven ways Diddy Kong is far superior to Mario Kart.
An Actual Story
Rather than assuming our favorite video game characters would randomly rendezvous to race around death-defying regions of the world—you know, for the laughs—Diddy Kong Racing offers a bit more than Mario Kart 64. It offers a story mode, narrating the tale of how Diddy received a help message from his friend Timber, asking for help defeating the dastardly villain Wiz Pig through races.
Remember parents: never leave your children in charge of your family island while you go on vacation, or else an evil pig might take over in your absence.
Thus, Diddy called on his friends Banjo and Conker to help Timber out. Don’t forget that this was also Banjo’s first video game appearance—even before his own series was released. New faces were another perk of the game.
Boss Battle Races
These weren’t your average CPU opponents—mostly because they were 8 times larger. Combined with the coin collecting challenges, these races were enough to make you throw your controller in rage.
And sure, racing a human friend is fun, but sometimes there’s just an uncanny desire to race a massive Triceratops, Walrus, Dragon, Octopus, or Pig, which isn’t a luxury of playing Mario Kart 64.
The heart wants what it wants.
An Overworld Lobby
This gave the racing game another breath of freedom alongside the story mode—allowing players to feel less confined than just to the racing courses themselves.
This was a highly praised feature of other Rare games as well, such as Donkey Kong 64, though the Diddy Kong Racing world was less extensive.
This is Nintendo we’re talking about, so very few things were handed out without a challenge. That said, it’s surprising that Mario Kart 64 was an all-characters-included game while Diddy Kong Racing made you go the extra mile for a few.
Not to mention, that extra mile was well worth it.
T.T., the time trail referee , may have been a tad challenging to unlock (for having to beat his time trial record on every course), but he also had the best stats of any racer.
This, in particular, is where Diddy Kong Racing was way ahead of the Mario Kart-series. Anything other than a kart-based vehicle wasn’t available until Mario Kart 7, let alone Mario Kart 64.
In the race for vehicle innovation, Diddy lapped Mario a few times before getting to the finish line.
Course Challenges and Hidden Items
Exploration yielded some heavy rewards in Diddy Kong Racing, and if you were lucky enough to wander into the middle of nowhere and find Wish Keys, that meant the opportunity to unlock battle stages.
As for unlockable stages in Mario Kart 64, well… there weren’t any.
Epic Music From David Wise
Wise is pure magic. Donkey Kong Country followers are well aware of this. Even when Wise left his position as Rare’s composer in 2009, he still went on to create genius work for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in 2014.
His funky jungle vibes are ever-present in the dynamic Diddy Kong Racing soundtrack, and the main theme is still a wildly popular composition in the “DK” music following as a whole.
And sure, many of Kenta Nagata’s compositions for Mario Kart 64 are also abundant with character, but they mostly draw upon the games that are aggregated within Mario Kart—some of which even include Donkey Kong.
Diddy Kong Racing music wins on originality and consistency.