Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled vs. Mario Kart 8

Can a remake of a beloved toon racer dethrone the king of karts?

Cover of Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled nintendo game

Gaming is an incredibly diverse community; there are numerous genres of games to choose from, and each developer can try their hand at any type of game they please. However, like all forms of entertainment, some creators seem to do much better than others in a certain area. Disney does superhero movies the best with Marvel, Stephen King is the pinnacle of horror novel writing, and in the video game industry, there is one name in kart racing; MarioKart. For the past eight iterations, Nintendo has taken everyone else to school when it comes to making a solid kart racer, and the most recent one (MarioKart 8) just might be the best kart racer ever to grace our screens.

However, there has been some study challengers in the past. Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo64 was well received at the time and a fan favorite to this day. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed released a few years ago to high praise as well, but even they could not dethrone Mario and friends. But what about the orange “mascot” of the sony consoles, Crash Bandicoot? Crash had his own trio of racing games at the turn of the century on the Playstation and Playstation 2, but they have not been heard from since, until this summer. In June, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled was released, and some people think that it just might be a good enough kart racer to challenge Mario. After playing both, I have decided to compare the two; let’s begin!

Banjo Kazooi races on a dirt track

The Racing

Obviously, the most important thing in any Kart racing game is the racing itself; how it plays, how it handles, and how easy it is to pick up. The problem for Crash and his friends here is, Nintendo has used the better part of two decades to refine the MarioKart series across multiple consoles, and they have it down to a science; they’ve become the gold standard. With that lofty recognition, it always makes it difficult for newcomers to join in the fray. That being said, Nintendo is also at a slight disadvantage here. While each MarioKart is good in its own right, they also run into the problem of being too similar to one another. Sure new tracks, new characters and new karts always help, but the core gameplay and racing are more or less the same with every iteration. It is here where Crash Team Racing could swoop in for some points.

If the baseline for Kart racing is MarioKart, we’ll start there. MarioKart has a very simple racing system that is very easy to learn. You choose a character, choose a cart (and customize it), and choose a track. The racing is also very easy to pick up. Players learn very quickly how to race properly and how to get ahead of someone else.

On top of that, there are items players can pick up and use to their advantage, or to other players disadvantage. This is the formula for most kart racers (including Crash), but it is the racing that is truly magnificent. After only a few short racers, players get a perfect feel for how they are supposed to race, and what they need to do to win. It is so fluid and smooth that it is hard to imagine any new kart racer being better than MarioKart here.

MarioKart 8 title screen with mario driving and princess peach behind

Unfortunately for Crash Team Racing, it just is not better than MarioKart. While the racing of Crash Team Racing is good in its own right, it is tough to beat the gold standard. When playing for the first time, I found myself always trying to race like I was playing MarioKart, not like Crash wanted me to race. After kicking that habit, I started to learn the ins and outs of the game, and it was surprisingly intuitive. But, it took me a good bit of time to get to that point. The game has a learning curve that might not be so forgiving to newer gamers. It is best described as feeling flat. I found myself driving along, but not doing any better, and that feeling took too long to get over. That flatness, this steep learning curve is the lone fault of the racing in Crash Team Racing.

The Story

In any racing game, it is really hard to have some form of story or narrative to drive the game forward. The only series that has a history of solid stories in racing games would be Need For Speed. Besides that, most racing games either have a barebones story or do not even have one at all, and that includes very successful racers like Gran Turismo and Forza. Kart Racers are not much different. The reason for this is, the core gameplay is racing. If the player gets too distracted from the racing, then the game as a whole most likely suffers. However, some story can be a good thing. It creates a way for the player to unlock new things and drives the game forward in a more meaningful way (as opposed to just unlocking new things through winning). It is here where Crash Team Racing has a leg up.

The Crash Team racers drive past a dinosaur

While Crash Team Racing does not have a story in the obvious or traditional sense, they do have a background narrative structure that surrounds the game. In the game, there is a “hub world” where the player can practice driving, and see all the areas they can enter. In order to progress through the game, the player needs to obtain trophies through winning, and use those trophies to challenge bosses. These boss races are a pleasant change of pace for the game because it offers something interesting other than racing. Crash Team Racing gets the victory in this aspect here, simply because MarioKart does not have a story. MarioKart could do well with a story, but it lacks a certain playability without one. Crash Team Racing gets the points here.

The Looks

Graphics, and how a game looks to the player, is one of the hottest contested issues in gaming. Some players need to have the smoothest and best visual experience imaginable, while to others it just is not that important. In racing games, a good visual experience is very important. The objects on the screen are always moving, and it has to be appealing to the play to avoid dull gameplay. Obviously, this is more important in simulation racers like Gran Turismo and Forza, but a solid visual experience is necessary for Kart racing nonetheless. Here, we may have a tie between the two games.

Crash Team Racing deserves some heavy praise for how the game performs graphically. The game runs smooth, the scenes and backgrounds are colorful and full of life, and the game just looks magnificent overall. Moreover, graphics are only half the story. To most people, how your car looks is just as important as to how your car races. In Crash Team Racing, there is a very large amount of customization options for players to choose from, and you’re seemingly unlocking something after every single race. This keeps the game from getting stale, and in my opinion, is a fantastic upside for the game.

MarioKart Deluxe 8 vs Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled game covers

MarioKart is in a similar boat in this fashion. While MarioKart does not have the same amount of customization options that Crash Team Racing has, they do have enough to suffice for the average player. Pair that with a plethora of interesting tracks and locations to choose from, and you have yourself more than enough o look at while you are playing the game. Neither of the two games struggled to run on my Nintendo Switch, and both of them were a joy to play and look at. In this category, there is no true winner.

The Results

Each of Crash Team Racing and MarioKart took a category for themselves, and they also tied in the last category. By these metrics, the games should come out to a tie, correct? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. While Crash Team Racing did include some very innovative things in the game, the racing just has too much of a learning curve to be the most enjoyable. And because we are comparing racing games, the game that has the worse racing experience is the lesser games. MarioKart takes the gold once again, although I cannot say I am truly surprised.

None of this is to say that Crash Team Racing is a bad game. By all means, Crash Team Racing pulls off something that most kart racers cannot; being at least moderately comparable to MarioKart. Crash Team Racing succeeds because it draws from the weaknesses of MarioKart. There is a background narrative that drives the game forward, there are a plethora of customization options, and there is a surprising amount of content overall. If Crash Team Racing could fine-tune its racing gameplay just a bit more, maybe it could even be in the same level as MarioKart. But until that learning curve is beat, then Mario and the gang remains the King of Karts.

Written by Connor Cable

I am an avid entertainment consumer, always trying to stay on top of the latest and greatest across movies, television and video games. I also love to make short films on occasion, as well as take photographs. My (other) day job is as a writer for a local news station.


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  1. Sorry, but… No. What a weak conclusion. And the learning curve is presented as a weak point in CTR as it is (to me) the best one. CTR is great for both new and old players. It takes time to master all the game mechanics and the contents help getting better. So yeah, it’s a struggle, but I admire CTR for offering that challenge. Players these days are used to play easy games, with a very little leaning curve. MK is quite easy once you know the tracks. Does that make it better than CTR ? I don’t think so. Anyway, I think both games are awesome but they definitely target different type of players. I’m tired of those pointless comparison, because they will never be impartial.

  2. I’m sorry but this is thee most biased, paid Mario Kart review to trash CTR on the whole. CTR is skills based and involves actual learning of the game whilst Mario kart is easy and involves no talent at all. The only reason Mario Kart still does well is because of the easy game mechanics required such as boosting capabilities, items given. CTR reigns supreme and has shook Mario kart

  3. I agree with the other comments posted here. To say that CTR has too much of a learning curve is like saying video games shouldn’t require any challenge or learning. That is the purpose of lots of video games, especially racing games. They want you to improve your skills, learn new tricks and become a better racer. CTR may be challenging, but they teach you the tricks you need (both by telling you outright at times and by letting you experiment). It’s also more of an accomplishment when you finally master the tricks and techniques because of the work you put into it. You can’t beat that satisfying 1st place win after you drifted and boosted your way through half of the track. To me, it sounds like you didn’t really spend much time playing CTR and your intro shows that you already think that Mario Kart is incomparable to anything else (which old Crash and CTR did shake things up at the time, so this statement isn’t even true in my opinion). Mario Kart is a classic and set the tone for everyone else, sure, but to say that it has been and always will be number one is outright wrong. I’d argue that CTR gave it a run for its money and has pushed Mario Kart to move forward and vice versa. They both offer different aspects of kart racing, so our gaming universe is not complete without both in existence.

  4. Just because you aren’t good at it from the get go doesn’t mean its a bad game. CTR is an amazing game that teaches you how to become a better racer with extra features such as the CTR challenge, ring rally, and relic races. They will show the shortcuts and help you become a better gamer. It challenges you, whereas Mario Kart does not. Mario Kart is for parties but for individual racing, CTR it is.

  5. Should have gone into more detail about the pros and cons of each game… CTR is a much better single player experience. MK is better multiplayer because online is cleaner and it’s easier to learn. CTR has so much more content. I’ve had MK 8 for years and clocked about 60 hours in the game over that time. CTR I’ve only had for a few months and I’m at 200 hours already. There is SO much more to do in CTR and a lot more challenges to overcome. The learning curve *is* the fun part. Trying to beat the AI, which is much tougher and less “cheesy” than the one in MK, plus you have all the modes such as relics and ghost trials which are extremely difficult.

    MK is a game you buy for play with friends only. CTR is a game you buy for the single player experience with a side of co-op every now and then.

  6. There is no winner here. They are targeting their own audiences. I play a lot more of multiplayer than a single player. My MK8 are fully unlocked and CTR is still on the way.

    These are my personal findings;
    For coop; MK is better,
    1) If you play cup/trophy race, whoever wins when you are coop with in MK will end up with a permanent trophy on that round. Not in CTR; player-1 has to win.
    2) Customizations; CTR more towards the driving style and all karts, tyres, drivers are just cosmetics. MK actually changes the kart’s attributes with all different parts. I tend to use same kart in CTR until i feel bored, so i just buy new karts from pitstop using the wumpa.
    3) Best to keep in mind while playing local multiplayer, for CTR, only player-1 will collect wumpa, however playing online you will collevt extra wumpas. In adventure mode, CTR has no multiplayer.
    4) For story, i found both games to be flat.
    5) Single player, i like CTR best. The challenge and hard AIs are phenomenal. You are using little differences of specifications of kart, but the AI seems to habe unlimited ammo of drops, and their kart however you screw them over managed to chase you. Sometimes to a level of not logical. You will feel more fulfilled by defeating a hard-to-beat (and cheater) character most of the times in game. And gamers normally has a lot of grit.
    6) Skill needed for both – same. Both are simple enough, it is not skills that require you to win, its the familiarity of tracks and a lot of luck getting in race items. Just that MK putting in the kart specifications into equation.

    In a nutshell, I play both still. When big parties, office rests, barbecue, and etc; MK seems to have an edge, everyone plays MK. At home, I play CTR with my wife and battle friends & family online (this will get you more wumpas), and due to the fact karts are more on the same level that gives u more fun challenging people; its a kart race, not Gran Turismo (which i have a steering wheel, gears and proper cockpit installed).

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