SuperTuxKart is a kart racing game featuring mascots of open-source software.
SuperTuxKart is a kart racing game featuring mascots of open-source software.

A kart racing game, also known as cart racing game or go-kart racing game, is a subgenre of racing video games. Kart racing games have simplified driving mechanics while including unusual racetrack designs, obstacles, and vehicular combat. Though the genre has its roots in the 1980s, Super Mario Kart (1992) popularized the genre, with the Mario Kart series still being considered the foremost kart racing franchise.

Mechanics and traits

Kart racing games are known to have simplified driving mechanics while adding obstacles, unusual racetrack designs and various action elements. Kart racers are also known to cast fictional characters, particularly from media franchises as the drivers of vehicles with unusual designs, often reflecting the distinct trait or personality of the character driving it.[1] Kart racing games are a more arcade-like experience than other racing games and usually offer over-the-top gameplay in which player characters can shoot projectiles against one another, collect power-ups to gain advantage, or perform special techniques to gain a speed boost.[1][2] Typically, in such games, vehicles move more like go-karts and scooters, lacking anything along the lines of a gear stick and clutch pedal.[3][4]

Kart racing games are distinct from and not to be confused with kart simulators, which is a subgenre of racing simulator games that simulates actual kart racing without over-the-top gameplay elements.


The concept of kart racing games may have been inspired by Hanna-Barbera's 1968 animated television series Wacky Races, which focuses on its characters racing on unusual and over-the-top vehicles. Power Drift featured go-kart racing in 1988[5] and Wacky Races has its own game in 1991, but Super Mario Kart (1992) is cited to have popularized the kart racing genre, being the first kart racing game to implement combat elements within races.[6] The game was also slower than other racing games of the time due to hardware limitations, prompting its developers to use a go-kart theme. Since then, over 50 kart racing games have been released, featuring characters ranging from Nicktoons to South Park.[7], as well as Wacky Races itself.

The Mario Kart series is often considered as the pioneer of kart racing series, and is the most successful in the genre, topping other popular games such as Diddy Kong Racing.[8][9] Though the genre seems to have been the most popular among developers during the 1990s,[10] Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017), Mario Kart DS (2005), and Mario Kart Wii (2008) became three of the best-selling kart racing games.[11] A popular kart racing mobile game is GKART or QQ Speed (2010), which was heavily inspired by Mario Kart and is among the highest-grossing mobile games.[12]


  1. ^ a b Gregory, Jason (2009-06-09). Game Engine Architecture. CRC Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-1439879184. Retrieved 2014-11-27.
  2. ^ Adedeji, Shola (2012-06-14). "The Kart Racing Genre". Gamelitist. Archived from the original on 2014-12-11. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  3. ^ Schwab, Brian (2009). AI Game Engine Programming. Cengage Learning. p. 192. ISBN 978-1584506287. Retrieved 2014-11-27.
  4. ^ Rogers, Scott (2014-04-11). Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design. John Wiley & Sons. p. 502. ISBN 978-1118877210. Retrieved 2014-11-27.
  5. ^ Kalata, Kurt (2012-08-26). "Power Drift". Hardcoregaming101.
  6. ^ Masser, Jeff (2012). "A Brief History Of Kart Racing Games". Modojo. Retrieved 2014-11-27.
  7. ^ Ryan, Jeff (2011-08-04). Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America. Penguin. ISBN 978-1101517635. Retrieved 2014-11-27.
  8. ^ Birch, Nathan (2014-05-29). "The 10 Best Kart Racing Games Of All Time". Uproxx. Retrieved 2014-11-27. I could just take the easy route and make this an all Mario Kart list, but I like a challenge, so this top 10 also includes pretenders to Mario’s go-karting throne.
  9. ^ Carmichael, Stephanie (2014-05-29). "Review: Mario Kart 8 Turns the Kart-Racing World Upside Down". The Mary Sue. Retrieved 2014-11-27. Mario Kart is the king of the kart racer ... it’s held that throne for a long, long time, ...
  10. ^ Alexander, Jem (2017-11-16). "3DClouds - Reinvigorating the kart racing genre". Develop-Online.
  11. ^ Tach, Dave (2014-05-15). "Mario Kart 8 will likely be the worst-selling game in franchise history, here's why". Polygon.
  12. ^ Nakamura, Yuji; Amano, Takashi (23 May 2019). "Mario Kart Tour Shows Promise of Mobile Hit for Nintendo". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on 2019-05-23. Retrieved 30 January 2021.