The N64 is home to great racing games, but deciding the greatest ones is a divisive topic. Nevertheless, we’ve had a go at choosing the 5 best N64 racing games below. Let us know if you agree with our choices in the comment section.
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5. Star Wars Episode 1: Racer
N64 year of release: 1999
The Phantom Menace is not everybody’s cup of tea when it comes to the Star Wars franchise (I loved it, personally), but the racing games that were borne out of the newly introduced podracing were most certainly a hit.
This one for the N64 was particularly great. Podracers are made up of two giant engines that float above the ground, are held together by an energy field, and are guided by the pilot who sits in the cockpit behind them.
As you could imagine, they are notoriously difficult to ride, and can reach exceptionally high speeds. Star Wars Episode 1 : Racer does a fantastic job of conveying their cumbersome nature and high speeds. You really do feel like you’re speeding around the track at 500 km/h when the environment whizzes past you in the blink of an eye.
The controls are smooth, the Star Wars music is awesome as always, and the gameplay is addicting. All in all, this is easily one of the best N64 racing games around.
4. Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA
Developer: Atari Games
N64 year of release: 1998
Rush 2 is a solid racing experience that improves on its predecessor, San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing. In total there are 20 unique cars, 10 racing tracks, and a number of game modes that add to the versatility of the game.
In Rush 2, there is more racing and less exploration than the original, and that helps the game in a lot of ways. The tracks are designed better and are more cohesive, allowing experience to really be a major factor in improving your race times. Many tracks do still have secret routes, though, so there are plenty of off-route diversions to be had for those that are that way inclined.
The game includes a stunt track, too. So if you can’t quite get your fill of stunts during the many opportunities found throughout the tracks, there is a designated track designed for practising all the best moves.
Graphically, the game is great for its time, and the smooth controls make for a realistic driving experience. Of all the Rush games for this console, this is the one that challenges as one of the best N64 racing games ever made.
3. Wave Race 64
Developer: Nintendo EAD
N64 year of release: 1996
As jet-ski racing games go, you can’t get much better than Wave Race 64. This game has it all, fun courses, realistic movement physics, and a charming aesthetic.
Wave Race 64 has some incredible water physics that still stands up well today. When you consider the era of its release, the effects were truly mind blowing at the time. It’s not just the water that carries this game graphically, though, the whole package is good. The textures of the racers, the background settings, and the skies all add up to make this one of the best looking games for the Nintendo 64.
In terms of gameplay, there are multiple modes to choose from, and each of them is great in its own right. Like Rush 2, Wave Race 64 has a stunt mode where you can test out your skills on the water. There is also a Championship, Time Trial, and 2-player mode.
If you’re looking for the best N64 racing games, I can’t recommend this one enough.
2. Mario Kart 64
Developer: Nintendo EAD
N64 year of release: 1996
There’s not really much I can say about Mario Kart 64 that hasn’t been said already. Simply put, it is one of the best racing games of all time and, in my opinion, is the best of all the Mario Kart entries to the series.
It has some of the best music in the series and has solid graphics, music, AI, and controls. What really makes the game though are the courses. It has some of the best tracks going. Rainbow Road stands out as a particular favorite for me, but it’s not for everyone.
Everyone looking for the best N64 racing games will no doubt have already played Mario Kart 64, so let’s move onto the final game.
1. Diddy Kong Racing
N64 year of release: 1997
It’s not uncommon to hear audible groans whenever Diddy Kong Racing is mentioned. It is notoriously difficult. There’s no getting away from that fact, either, it is hard. It took a while for me to warm up to the game because of this, but when I returned to it for a second go, I truly fell in love with it, and honestly consider it to be the best N64 game around.
Diddy Kong Racing is equal parts great atmosphere, great gameplay, and great music. With a bit of practice, the slightly awkward controls become manageable and the difficulty becomes fair.
One of the best aspects of the game is the introduction of the plane and hovercraft, which felt truly unique compared to other games in the genre and made racing some of the tracks a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Overall, Diddy Kong Racing perhaps wasn’t as successful as it could have been, and for me it is most definitely one of the best N64 racing games ever made.
Get in Touch
Whittling down the best N64 racing games to only 5 titles was very challenging, and I’m sure that there are some games missed here that will turn a few heads. In that instance, I challenge you to do the same. Let me know your favorite racing games for the N64 in the comment section below!
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If you want to check out some more racing games for the Nintendo 64, check out the great YouTube video below by Second Opinion Games.