Diddy Kong Racing vs. Mario Kart 64

Author: Efrain Silva

Well, well, well….we finally ask the question : Which of the two will it be? If you’ve been waiting to hear the answer from our perspective, for awhile now, then here it is : Opinions vary. But let me explain…..

First off, in my opinion, Mario Kart 64 is the better game ; it’s at least the one I really fell in love with as a kid gamer. I did play Diddy Kong racing, as well, but never really felt that same magic spark I felt when I played Mario Kart 64. Mario Kart was what I played first, I guess, and it likely just stuck with me. 

Many other retro gamers like me do share this feeling, and they will never part ways with Mario Kart 64, especially when recalling those glorious moments of racing against their very best childhood friends in places like Bowser’s Castle or even Peach’s Kingdom. There’s just no feeling like a good memory, and if you were ever down and out about something, this game would always cheer you right back up and get you ‘thinking positive’. Was it the rush of endorphins you would get every time you jumped across the platform in your kart, smashed an opponent with a turtle shell weapon, dodged an attack, or all of the above? I would say it was surely the latter option of these, and I rest my case….it was, and is, one rising star of a game. 

It’s no wonder it got so many sequels. I think they’re still making sequels to it, even. What are we on now? Mario Kart 19? Who knows?

Anyways, this was the first Nintendo 64 major racing game to come out, and it had all the characters you already knew from before, like Donkey Kong, Mario, Bowser, Luigi, Princess Peach and some others. Each race driver had his or her own catch phrase, as well, which you would hear every time you’d select them. With Mario, of course, you’d hear something like, “Let’s go!” or “Here we go!” in the Mario Kart titles. Plus, the Choco Mountain, the Kalamari train desert, and other amazing race sceneries were really what set this first game apart, and that initial ‘sense of wonder’ just wasn’t the same in Diddy Kong Racing, but it was still there, to a degree.

And to add on this, Mario Kart 64 also tops Diddy Kong Racing in terms of originality ; I mean, Diddy Kong Racing’s ‘Adventure Mode’ let you make progress by collecting certain items and unlocking certain new levels….just like in Super Mario 64, perhaps? Hmmmm….

At least with Mario Kart 64, though some of its elements were taken from the Mario Kart Super Nintendo prequel game that came before it (known as Super Mario Kart), Mario Kart 64 was original in its animations, style, racing arenas and so many other little key details. It was truly the first 3D mario racing game of its kind, or the first 3D Nintendo racing game, if you want to get more technical. It is original in that sense.

Notice something interesting about both games, and this next fact you can take it any way you like. It’s not necessarily good or bad, just different, and different players think differently on it. It’s this : Did you notice that Mario Kart 64 kicks off with the very sound of revving engines, but on the other hand, Diddy Kong Racing starts off with sounds of children laughing? Interesting, right? Perhaps both titles were going for a different approach or ‘player’s feel’, if you will, and that is why I am not at all bashing Diddy Kong Racing….I just prefer Mario Kart 64. 

As such, Mario Kart 64 also invokes more of an adult player - friendly vibe as well. It always did. I remember that, many times when I played it, I’d play with some adult friends who my dad would have over. 

I was only about 12 years old at the time. My adult friends had no trouble playing the game and thought it was addictingly fun, even in their grownup age. This should tell you something…..not that they were immature or childish (but believe me, sometimes they, in fact, were), but that the game is playable by all ages. It doesn’t give off a “kiddy feel” like Diddy Kong Racing does, with all respect to Diddy Kong Racing. I’ve always liked the Diddy Kong character, especially for what he’s able to do in games like Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64, but in this game, it just seems he’s not the right fit for the role…….

Others, however, as I stated earlier, do prefer Diddy Kong Racing over Mario Kart 64. And that’s perfectly acceptable. When you know what you like, and you’re comfortable in that, then that’s what really matters. It could be a tomato, a potato, or even a banana, but what it is to you is what it is to you. That’s my point. 

Now, some prefer Diddy Kong Racing, first of all, for the aforementioned story - mode like setting it offers. It's Adventure Mode lets the game play out more like a role - playing quest than just a race set at many different stages. Plus, it features some of the less - known characters that truly deserved more exposure back in the day, such as Timber, Conker, and Banjo, for instance. Some of these characters, by the way, are no longer on Nintendo’s consoles ; Banjo and Kazooie, as the perfect example, went back to Rare, who created them. Rare split from Nintendo a few years ago --- just a side note. 

Diddy Kong Racing also featured boss battle races. This concept is insanely cool. I will be honest. It all adds to the ‘story mode’ side of things….. 

But many miss these characters. So they pick up Diddy Kong Racing and relive their days. Either way, both games are good, old fashioned fun. Take your pick, or just pick both!