Racing games make up a hefty amount of titles on the gaming market. From kart racers to realistic simulations, there is a racing game for just about anyone. I mean, there are a lot. Who doesn’t love hanging out with a couple of friends and taking to the track to see who can cross the finish line first?
The history of racing games goes way back to the 1970s. In the Golden Age of the arcade, gamers first saw the release of Gran Trak 10 by Atari in 1974. Upon its release, racing games began to flourish with the following release of classic gems such as Pole Position (1982), Excitebike (1984), and F-Zero (1990). However, it would not be until 1992, when the original Super Mario Kart was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that kart racing really took off. It featured tons of tracks and characters to choose from, as well as an array of fun weapons to limit the competition. Initially viewed to be nothing more than Nintendo trying to spread their mascot to all genres, the game redefined how racing games were meant to be played and created the kart racing sub-genre.
However, in the long history of racing video games, there have been more than a few failed launches. We couldn’t fit them all in one list if we tried, but for now, let’s look at what could be considered the 20 worst titles. And if you are a fan of bad games, or looking for games to check off of your must buy list, check out our list of 15 ABSOLUTELY Terrible Hockey Games here.
20 Kirby Air Ride
Alright, I might get a lot of hate for saying that Kirby’s Air Ride is a bad game, but I will be the first to say it: City Trial is a fun game mode. That being said, it is difficult to defend the quality of a full retail release on just one game mode. Does anyone remember the rest of Kirby’s Air Ride outside of the City Trial mode anyways?
The gameplay is relatively responsive, however, there are a lot of different types of vehicles to manage, each with its own control scheme. There is not much in the way of characters, simply different colored Kirbys to choose from. While there is a variety of modes to choose from, none offer much in the way of a long-term enjoyment, only momentary pleasure. While the game does have some redeeming values, it could have been a lot more of a hit with a few changes.
19 Pac-Man World Rally
Pac-Man is a character that has been featured in more games than most people can count. From his original debut back in 1980, he is now featured across all types of genres. He has even made an appearance in both Street Fighter X Tekken and Super Smash Bros. For Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.
Pac-Man Rally was released in 2006 for the PlayStation 2, and most other reviewers would agree, this game has little in the way of individuality. What it does to try to do to make itself unique, ends up failing in the end. Many claim this game to be nothing more than a Mario Kart clone, as the weapons make look different but are exact duplicates of the weapons from the Super Mario racing franchise. There is a cool invincibility feature if you collect enough fruit, but this makes the game feel more like a traditional game than a fun racing game that stands out.
18 Sonic Riders
Sonic Riders is just one of those games that has no idea what it wants to be. Released in 2006 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube, the game has the blue hedgehog riding on hoverboards of some kind. It is very similar in style to the SSX series, however many of the tracks, power-ups, and other in race features make the game feel more like a traditional kart racer.
Beyond not knowing what it wants to be, the controls are wildly inconsistent, with the player more often than not zooming through the track not knowing how to control speed. In other racing titles, it is simple, you press a single button, and you go. In the case of this game, it feels as though just going forward is a hassle. And let’s just say, that this game did not get better when they moved it to the Xbox 360 Kinect.
17 Crash Tag Team Racing
The original Crash Team Racing for the PlayStation was a prime example that you did not have to be named 'Mario' to make a successful kart racing game. The series would continue for awhile before the dreaded Crash Tag Team Racing was released. On paper, having a racing game which let you fuse other cars together on the track would be fun. Unfortunately, it is just another bland feature in an overly saturated franchise. Not to mention, that the developers decided to add a hub world which leaves players jumping around dull, dangerless areas doing chores for the other racers instead of, you know, racing.
16 Nicktoons Racing
Growing up in the late 90s, there was nothing quite like seeing a new video game released that features all of your favorite cartoon characters. Especially one where they all have to race against one another. Nicktoons Racing was released in 1999 at the height of Nickelodeon's cartoon success, and while a good amount of nostalgia still kept this game alive in the hearts of some, looking back, this game is downright trash.
The graphics appear as though they were made in a single afternoon. If you are lucky enough to get one of the three power-ups that appear on each track, you will find that none of the items in the game are terribly unique. Almost every item is the same. Oh, and get used to hearing your character's catchphrase over and over. And over, and over, and over.
15 LittleBigPlanet Karting
The LittleBigPlanet series was a trilogy of games that prided themselves on user-generated content. It added a level of design, previously only available to developers. The series became known for its sort of “garage garbage” visual style, with players being able to customize the Sackboy character with various looks and designs. With this kind of user-driven customization formula, it only made sense for the series to get a kart racing spin-off game.
However, it would seem that the formula did not translate as well as the developer expected, as LittleBigPlanet Karting was a completely bland game. The basis for user developed content in a racing game caused LittleBigPlanet Karting to be nothing more than a sloppy mess of features and gameplay that was just not fun for the player. With oversimplified races, a distinct lack of items to use, and all of the resources funneled towards character creation, this game was a sure misfire.
I’ve written about Jak X on this website before, but I figure talking about this game bears repeating. Released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, Jak X is a combat racing title that barely falls under the title of kart racing title. The original Jak and Daxter trilogy showed off just what developer Naughty Dog could do following the success of the Crash Bandicoot series. Cars and other vehicles were always a good portion of the Jak and Daxter gameplay. However, Jak-X does not capitalize on what made cars fun for the trilogy.
With race tracks that seem to be nothing more than reskins of each other, there is nothing that separates Jak-X from other racing spin-offs. The power-ups are generic, the characters serve no purpose in the story other than to offer other racers on the track, and sure, you could argue that the machine gun cars are a cool twist, but they are not customizable enough for the player to really care.
Released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles, Powerdrome is a remastered version of a 1988 PC title. A futuristic racing title with a similar style to F-Zero, the remake saw the elimination of much of the customization in replacement for more graphical updates and gameplay refining.
While the gameplay is refined, unfortunately, it remains quite dull. The graphics have indeed been updated with a fresh coat of paint, but the gameplay was nothing to write home about. Gameplay-wise, Powerdrome, is far too basic. What players had to complain about is the lack of originality in the game’s style. While all of the visuals are pleasing to the eye, they can't capture your attention for all that long. Above all this, the difficult of the game does not actually come from any challenge, but rather how the AI will get more boosts than the player, making it a truly unfair experience.
12 M&M Kart Racing
My oh my, when it comes to gaming, it would take a lot to get a lower quality game than this. M&M Kart Racing is one of those games you know is going to be bad before you pick it up. The game was released for the Nintendo WIi in 2007, and it has the graphical quality of a cheaply made PlayStation 2 game. As you might expect, the game has the player controlling one of the various commercial M&M mascots. Why are they racing? I would like to tell you, but I do not think there is an answer.
The title features a couple of racetracks that are more of a homogenous glitch than actual levels designed by developers. There is not much to praise about the game's visuals. The karts seem to move without so much as a tire turning — this game will drive itself right over to the Gamestop bargain bin.
11 PocketBike Racer
You know, video games can be considered a lot of different things: a form of immersion, an escape from reality, or in many cases a form of art. That is why —when a company uses the video game medium as a form of advertisement— gamers are quick to show off just how bad these “advergames” really are. In 2006, Burger King had Blitz Games develop a trio of advergames titled Pocketbike Racers, Sneak King, and Big Bumpin’. The games feature a minuscule amount of content, with players controlling various Burger King mascots across a couple of generic tracks. Though the game was sold for only $3.99 at Burger King venues, it does not make up for how craptacular the titles were in the end. PocketBike Racer is good for a couple of laughs until you realize there is nothing in the way of replay value.
10 South Park Rally
Before the release of South Park: The Stick of Truth, many game developers were not sure how to take the four Colorado boys to a virtual world. There was the dreaded FPS South Park for the Nintendo 64, but that may not even have been as bad as South Park Rally. Released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, the game does not look half bad when you first boot it up. There are a fair amount of characters to choose from, each with their own distinct look. Once you start the racing, however, you will see that this game does not have anything in the way of charm or style. The items that you pick up along the road are simply boxes with no design. The music is cute, but highly repetitive, and is sure to drive any player mad after a while. We hope that Matt Stone and Trey Parker do not acknowledge this game.
9 Inspector Gadget Racing
Of all of the franchises you could feasibly attach a kart racer to, none are more out of left field than the cartoon Inspector Gadget. Inspector Gadget Racing was released in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance. While I am normally up for giving any game a chance at first, I cannot recommend making it past this titles' loading screen.
For starters, the game is slow, which is, of course, not something you want from a racing game. Gas is limited, forcing the player to pick up gas orbs along the way, hindering their experience. The cars handle as though they are always sliding on ice, leaving the player with absolutely no control. This game just goes to show that you can’t simply add the word racing to the end of a game’s title and expect it to magically become good.
8 Looney Tunes Racing
The original PlayStation saw a lot of different racing titles. Sadly, Looney Tunes Racing is one of the more mediocre titles. The game features a cast of iconic cartoon characters but fails in terms of both gameplay and atmosphere. The music, while true to the classic cartoon’s style, is repetitive and does not take long to get annoying. There are plenty of items to make it a true kart racer, but nothing that allows the game to stand out. But what may be this game's greatest downfall is how simple the tracks are. As the player, you want to be faced with tight turns and tricky shortcuts. But this game replaces that will simple rounded tracks that are straight-up boring, with no real thought put into them.
7 Digimon Racing
In the days of Pokémon and Yugioh, Digimon tried hard to differentiate itself inside the pocket monster genre. As a result, Digimon Racing was released in 2004 for the Game Boy Advanced. No one would have ever thought that they would see Agumon pulling drifts across the track.While it was designed to broaden the Digimon brand, like many other kart racing games do, it was not the push that the franchise needed.
The game lets you choose from a wide range of Digimon to race with. The big feature of this title is the ability to digivolve throughout the racing. While it is a cool feature, that helps the game's pacing (allowing for comebacks), it does not make this a better game. The game's race tracks are bland and pixelated, and the tracks are simply different colors from one another.
6 Toy Story Racer
Another game on our lists of Mario Kart clones, Toy Story Racer does not do much to differentiate itself, with the exception of inducing motion sickness. Players will wonder why the developers decided that having the camera shake and sway throughout the entire race was a good idea.
Races in this game take much longer than they should. We understand that we are talking about toy cars here, but that does not mean that the game needs to move at a toy’s pace; it is kart racing, you are allowed to use your imagination. In fact, much of this game seems grounded, as most races are uneventful, and the tracks that they take place on are colorful and interesting to look at, but they offer nothing in the way of challenge.
5 Ridge Racer (PSVita)
The Ridge Racer series is a pervasive racing franchise. It has spread across platforms both stationary and handheld. However, not every game in the franchise is considered a gem. The worst of these games has to be Ridge Racer for the PlayStation Vita.
The game was released in 2011, and at first glance, you may question what makes this game so bad. Is it the graphics? No, they are pretty solid. Is it the gameplay? Not really, the Vita holds up in the field of handling the car while it is on the road.
What puts this game down in the dumps of the racing genre is its lack of, well, any content. There are only a handful of cars to choose from. There isn't even much diversity in the way of tracks or songs, and if you want more, guess what, you are going to have to pay for DLC.
4 Spirit of Speed: 1937
Released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, Spirit of Speed: 1937 tried to show off the history of traditional racing. However, the game makes the player feel as though the game they are playing was actually created in 1937. The HUD is pretty good in this game, featuring some of the technical features, such as: how well your car is run, gas, and other need little tidbits. However, the HUD is actually more interesting than the game itself, as the races are more than boring. The game handles just fine, but races are more or less just straight lines that leave the player forgetting that they are actually playing a game. You are better off just buying a wooden box car toy and running it down a ramp than playing this game.
3 Big Rigs Over The Road Racing
When you look up “games known for their negative reviews,” Big Rigs Over The Road Racing often earns itself a spot on the list. Looking at a few YouTube parody videos makes it painfully clear how bad this game really is. This game doesn't have an ounce of polish. There game. Big Rigs Over The Road Racing was released in 2003 for Microsoft Windows, and it is infamous for the levels of glitchiness and poor quality that surrounds it. The game leaves the player with the ability to cut through just about any obstacle that comes within their path, and there is zero challenge overall. Players are not stopped by dirt, mountains, buildings, or any other pieces of scenery, making this one the worst of them all.
2 Sonic R
You had to have guessed that the infamous Sonic R would make its way onto this list. Released on the Sega Saturn in 1997, Sonic R can barely be defined as a racing game, so much as it is a cluster of confusion and failure.
In traditional Sonic The Hedgehog fashion, Sonic R features plenty of rings to collect, quick turns, and bumpers to send you flying. The problem with all this is that it does not work in a racing game when you are trying to control your vehicle and you are constantly being toss around by mechanics in the game. This is the least of the problems with Sonic R, as the game comes with glitchy graphics, questionable character design, and music that, to put it lightly, does not work with the overall feel of the game.
1 Action Girlz Racing
Most of the cheap, quickly made "Mario Kart ripoffs" have a theme layered on top. A lot of the games on this list feature some of the most recognizable characters in modern media. Action Girlz Racing, released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and later the Nintendo Wii, not only has no real theme other than “Girls,” but it is flat out unplayable, uncontrollable, and overly offensive game.
The game features eight playable characters, half of which you must unlock. Each of these racers represents a different type of stereotyped girl, from the pretty girl to the nerdy engineer. To make matters worse, most of the race tracks do not make much sense. Action Girlz Racing was made to empower young girls, but it does nothing more than perpetuate stereotypes.