When people think about fun spinoff racing games, the first title that comes to mind is most likely a member of the Mario Kart series. There was, however, another quirky universe that spat out a playable, fun, racer-based spinoff. That game is Crash Nitro Kart (2003). Nitro Kart is actually the second of three Crash- related racers, but it’s the only one that I played and is therefore the most worthy subject of this article.
The “Crash” in the title is not a reference to the state of the Karts (although it very well could be), but rather to Crash Bandicoot, lead protagonist of his own series. While much less popular than Mario, Crash has starred in a slew of games released between 1996 and 2010 at the hands of a number of developers (originally Naughty Dog). The story for this one is that Crash (and a number of his miscellaneous friends and foes) has been abducted by a powerful alien ruler in order to take part in a series of races. If they don’t, he will blow up the earth. He REALLY wants to see some races.
Gameplay follows the basic Mario Kart standard- every racer/kart has its own unique attributes that will give it some sort of advantage, players can run over item boxes in order to gain single-use abilities that either boost them or hinder other racers in some way, and the races take place on courses based on locations from previous games.
While it may be run-of-the-mill, Nitro Kart is refreshing. The items (such as a tornado that chases down enemies or a homing rocket that the attacking player can control the path of) are clever and new compared to the well worn Mario objects. There are also the usual extra time challenge and area/flag capture modes as well as an additional one devoted to pulling off cool stunts and ramping off of things, an activity which I can always condone.
If you feel like playing a racing game but have run Mario Kart into the ground, pick this one up- it’s just as playable, and the characters are eccentric and really grow on you over time.