One-legged seagull, Nintendo, Sumo Digital
Racing is one of the purest forms of competition and, as such, it naturally translates quite well into video games. And, while some games aim for realism and require a deep understanding of the game mechanics for players to succeed, others try to simplify things, which is great for playing with friends.
You don’t want to get everyone together to play a game where tens or even hundreds of hours of experience are needed to have a good time. That doesn’t mean there can’t be any mechanical difficulties, but the controls should be easy enough to understand that new players can at least finish the race.
Besides having simple controls, games like this usually have a chaotic side. Objects, winding tracks, and intimidating dangers make racing more lively and can help balance the playing field between experienced and novice players.
Being able to play with friends was our main goal here, so all of the games on this list will support some form of local or online multiplayer. We will also mention if each game supports cross-play in case your friends are separated between different consoles.
So having said that, let’s start the race.
The one you already know: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)
What about Mario Kart? It is practically the mascot of this genre, has sold millions of copies, and its chaotic formula easy to play is often used as a model for other games. The last, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ($ 59.99), is certainly the most refined game in the series, with a balance of fun but not frustrating objects, beautiful courses and a unique anti-gravity mechanism. If you own a Switch, you probably already own Mario Kart 8 Deluxe; if you don’t, it’s one of the best games you can buy on the console.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe supports 12-player online gaming and local 4-player split-screen multiplayer.
The one you already know
Quick Team Action: Team Sonic Racing (Switch / PC / PS4 / Xbox One)
If there is one part of the Sonic franchise that has managed to stay consistent over the past decade, it is the racing games from Sumo Digital. The two previous entries, Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing and Sonic and All-Stars Racing transformed, are also two great games worth choosing (if you are on PC), but those of 2019 Team Sonic Racing is the easiest to get hold of.
As the name suggests, Team Sonic Racing presents a unique team mechanism where you run alongside two other players to defeat the other teams. You share items, speed up each other, and load a super-boost counter that all three team members use at the same time. It introduces a surprising amount of cooperative strategy into a genre that generally lacks it (but you can play in a more traditional versus a more traditional fashion if that doesn’t seem appealing). Add decent campaign mode and fantastic music, and you will have a great time here.
Team Sonic Racing supports 12-player online gaming and 4-player split-screen multiplayer (teams can only have up to 3 players, which is a bit annoying) and is available on Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Cross play is not supported.
Classic reinvented: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (Switch / PS4 / Xbox One)
It’s always great to see a classic game highlighted by a modern remake – and that’s exactly what the developer Beenox did with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. Comprising 40 tracks, 56 playable characters, campaign mode and customizable baskets, Nitro-Fueled is probably the most content-rich game here – and it always receives content updates.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled has more advanced mechanics than most of the games on this list, but it still manages to be appreciated, even if you can’t understand how drift works. The game is also magnificent, with first-rate environments and animations.
On-Foot Chaos: Speedrunners (Switch / PC / PS4 / Xbox One)
Speedrunners changes things a lot compared to the rest of this list – it’s a sidecroller and offers running. Either way, Speedrunners still has the same frantic chaos that makes the rest of the games here so enjoyable.
Play as a wacky cast of characters who run, slide, climb and fight through minimalist stages full of dangers. The commands are simple to understand, but beware, an error can easily send you out of the screen for elimination. It’s a great moment and it will surely lead to a lot of tense moments.
Not a simulator: F1 Race Stars (PC / iOS)
Developer Codemasters is responsible for some of the best racing sims of all time with games like DiRT Rally 2.0 and F1 2019. But he quickly threw that experience out the window to F1 Race Stars because this game is not a simulator at all. You run on winding tracks with loops and ramps, use objects to fight your enemies and race in the go-kart equivalent of an F1 car.
It’s nice by the books for this genre, but that doesn’t change the fact that you will have a good time here.
Indie Darlings: Super Indie Karts (PC)
As you may have guessed from the title, Super Indie Karts ($ 14.99) offers a varied distribution of characters from various independent games such as Freedom planet, Mutant Mudds, and Guacamelee. The gameplay is inspired by older kart drivers like Mario Kart 64 and the visuals support it.
Even with this focus on what happened before, Super Indie Karts still manages to modernize things with tighter controls and stylistic visuals. The game was originally launched in 2014 and is actually still under development in Steam’s Early Access program. However, a 1.0 launch is planned for later this year, so if you don’t like buying Early Access games, you won’t have to wait too long, but expect prices to rise when it reaches 1.0.
Super Indie Karts supports 4-player split-screen multiplayer.
Back to town: Burnout Paradise Remastered (Switch / PC / PS4 / Xbox One)
Burnout Paradise was already a very good racing game, but the 2018 remaster helped bring the game to modern systems while improving the visuals. For those who have never played the original, Burnout Paradise takes place in the big open world city of Paradise. You complete missions and accelerate throughout the city to progress in the campaign and unlock cars.
And, while there are many other games that could fit that description perfectly, the Burnout gameplay is what seals the deal here. While the visuals may be comparatively more realistic in Burnout than in the other games here, the gameplay is not – the races are chaotic and destructive, which, of course, makes them more fun.
Burnout Paradise Remastered is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One (with a Switch release coming June 19, 2020) and supports 8-player online multiplayer. There is a form of local play in the game, but all you do is take turns completing missions – not super fun. Cross play is not supported.
Coming soon: KartRider: Drift (PC / Xbox One)
Although you can buy the rest of the games here right now, KartRider: Drift has not yet been published. This is a follow-up to Crazyracing Kartrider from 2004, which was a free online kart racer and was closed in 2007. But the developers, Nexon, are back with KartRider: Drift which, like its predecessor, will be free and online only, except this time with modern graphics and generally improved gameplay.
For now, KartRider: Drift is confirmed for a 2020 version and will be released on PC and Xbox One (with crossplay support in between). Because it’s free, there will undoubtedly be some form of in-game purchasing (probably cosmetics), so it’s something to keep in mind. Split screen multiplayer has also been confirmed.
Overall, KartRider: Drift seems to be doing quite well, and since it will be free, there will be no reason not to try it once it becomes available.