Mario Kart takes Nintendo’s famous first-party characters, such as Donkey Kong and the titular Mario, and puts them in go-karts equipped with weaponized turtle shells. Players race said characters around physically impossible tracks, jostling for victory and cheating with that f**king blue shell when they’re not good enough to win clean. Each installment is a compulsive, competitive racing game with the added spice of collectible powerups, implausible environments, and a wholesome aesthetic. It is considered a crucial system seller for every Nintendo console.
Over the years, Mario Kart has become a staple in the gaming world – it’s difficult to find anyone who hasn’t had a go at one of the games at some point. This is all the more remarkable given that it’s very much a Nintendo property, and we all know what that means – no PC port. Devastating.
Even while many of us will have taken it for a spin at a friend’s house, it’s tragic that we’re not able to do so at home. Or can’t we? Well, no. We can’t. But we can come close. I’ve found some excellent automobile alternatives you can play on PC.
For PC gamers looking for games similar to Mario Kart, there are several exciting options that offer fun and competitive racing experiences. These games often combine fast-paced gameplay, unique power-ups, and colorful tracks to provide an enjoyable and entertaining racing adventure.
One popular game like Mario Kart for PC is “Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.” Developed by SEGA, this kart racing game features characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog series and various other SEGA franchises. Players can race on land, sea, and air, with vehicles transforming mid-race to adapt to different terrains, adding an extra layer of excitement to the gameplay.
IS MARIO KART ON PC?
Sadly, Mario Kart isn’t on PC. You see, Nintendo is Nintendo, and its first-party IPs stay on its first-party platforms, with precious few exceptions. So unless you’ve got a Switch or one of Nintendo’s older consoles, you will not be playing Mario Kart any time soon – but that’s where I’m here to help. Keep reading if you want to know the best PC alternatives.
We’re leaving this one here as a little footnote because it isn’t technically out yet. KartRider: Drift is the successor to Crazyracing KartRider, a free-to-play online multiplayer combat racer that became a sensation in its native South Korea after its release in 2004. Inspired by Mario Kart, with go-kart cars, powerups, wacky tracks, and a cartoony aesthetic, KartRider has supposedly been played by one in four of all South Koreans. Drift was announced at Microsoft’s X019 show, with its release due sometime this year.
TEAM SONIC RACING
Mario might not appear on PC, but his Olympian mate Sonic certainly does. Team Sonic Racing is all about the characters you know and love from the Sega universe, pitting them against each other, similarly to Mario Kart.
Frankly, if you’re looking for the closest equivalent we have on PC, look no further. This is an arcade racing game with powerups, a family-friendly cartoon aesthetic, with a roster of iconic faces you already know and love. Except for Metal Sonic – no one likes Metal Sonic. Sonic is an excellent alternative if you can’t play with Mario. I wonder why he needs a car, though – I thought he was already pretty quick.
F1 RACE STARS
Released in 2012, this is aging. Frankly, a bizarre experiment in which real Formula One stars, officially licensed, are interpreted in stylized bobblehead form and plopped into a very Mario Kart combat racing game.
And it’s brilliant. Made by Codemasters, an expert developer of ‘proper’ racing games, it’s a robust racing experience with the added equalizer of powerups that’s also family-friendly and adorable to look at.
If you fondly remember the ’90s combat racer Rollcage, went to a lot of Pendulum or Prodigy gigs back in the day, or are just a bit of an edgelord whose problem with Mario Kart is it’s ‘for kids, then look no further. The Grip is a hardcore combat racer that trades blue shells for homing missiles and machine guns and describes itself unironically as ‘high octane. It features cars and Wipeout-style antigrav racers that can shoot each other while driving upside down or on walls and ceilings, and it has just got a surprise VR mode if you’d like to test your stomach strength.
With an intense dubstep soundtrack and fast-paced, challenging tracks, Grip is one of the more demanding entries on this list – just the thing for the Mario Kart fan who’s all grown up.
If Grip seems a bit grim and combative for you, Trailblazers might hit the spot. A somewhat more colorful sci-fi arcade racer described by the devs as “F-Zero meets Splatoon,” Trailblazers has a clever gimmick: you paint the track in your team’s color as you drive, and all team members get a speed boost when going over their paint. So as you jostle for the lead, you’re also competing to set down the best racing line for others to follow. Antigrav Chevrolet-inspired lowriders and bright sci-fi scenery are the icings on a saccharine-sweet visual cake –
You may be after something a little different if nothing tickles your fancy. Wreckfest is a terrific antidote to the recent trend in ‘proper’ racing sims towards driving clean. Essentially, it’s a demolition derby game, though it also features more traditional track racing modes if you’d like to try something more boring.
Featuring soft-body damage modeling and sophisticated driving dynamics, Wreckfest can match thoroughbred sims on car handling yet outpaces all of them when it comes to fun. You can even race camper vans and lawnmowers.
Rocket League is for those who enjoyed Mario Kart for the competition – those who enjoyed crushing their opponents, even your kid cousin who cried after falling off Rainbow Road for the tenth time. Weakling. If that’s what you miss about Mario Kart, this might be your game.
Rocket League isn’t about racing; it’s about football (or soccer, to you Americans). You’re driving these cars not to lap anyone but to steer a ball into your opponent’s goal on the other side of a massive, high-tech stadium. In the sense that you’re outmaneuvering other cars in an arena, it does bear a passing resemblance to Mario Kart’s battle mode, so there’s that.
This is us dipping our toe in the water of ‘proper’ racing games, one for those Mario Kart fans who crave its competitive racing aspects but could do without the powerups and cartoon characters. Grid strikes a nice balance between high-contact street racing and purist track racing, so you get a bit of both arcade racer and racing ‘sim’ – the two competing sensibilities of the racing genre. If you’re familiar with Race Driver: Grid, this 2019 reboot is its slick younger brother.
The big gimmick for Grid is its Nemesis System. The more aggressively you play against the AI drivers – bumping their cars, for example – the more aggressive they get in return. This at least gives you the feeling that you’re playing against your mates in Mario Kart. I can almost hear them telling me to sod off now.
BURNOUT PARADISE REMASTERED
The original 2008 Burnout Paradise went for an MOT. It came out with some new graphics while retaining its core appeal: fun, ferocious, freeform racing, with an emphasis on stunts and wanton destruction, in a beautiful sun-kissed setting.
Where games like Grid at least nod to realism, Burnout Paradise tells you to drive in the fastest and most downright stupid ways possible, throw caution and seatbelts to the wind, and go wherever and do whatever you want. It’s a lawless domain, much like Mario Kart.
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