I can quite comfortably say that outside of Mario Kart, Crash Team Racing is the best-made arcade racer on the market today.
It does pretty much everything right. The courses are well designed, the balance of play is superb, the variation in customisation opens up some unique possibilities. All told, it’s a damn good video game.
And for those who’ve never owned a Nintendo system of any type or never really enjoyed the glory of Mario Kart, this is the closest that you’re ever going to get.
It even has things which Mario Kart doesn’t. More specifically, an adventure mode with a storyline.
Usually with Mario Kart you have a series of cups in 50, 100, 150 and 200 CC that you compete in and complete, aiming to hold the Gold Trophy at the end. It’s a simple formula but one that has stood the test of time and certainly shouldn’t go away in the future.
But Nintendo have been more open in adding campaigns to unlikely games so now is surely the time for Mario Kart. I mean, come on, Super Mario Maker 2 got an Adventure Mode before Mario Kart, how does that even happen?
Where CTR gets it right is making it all seem relevant to the over-arching universe. The aim is to get a one on one Kart race with a destructive alien force known as Nitros Oxide.
His nefarious aims are to become the fastest racer in the galaxy, and when he proves that, he’ll turn the planet into a parking lot. Frankly, I can’t imagine a worse nightmare.
It’s the structure of it all that really makes it fit, though. You’ll have to prove yourself against other races on a variety of courses, before challenging bosses familiar to those who love Crash Bandicoot games.
Each boss does something different and has their own crafty intentions to keep them ahead in a race, like dropping TNT boxes on your head, or disorienting potions.
They’ll give you a spiel about how you won’t be able to beat Nitros and that they’re better than you and will be left in their dust. It certainly inspired me to keep getting better and retrying after every failure.
And it also really helps that the world map environment is semi open and can be navigated using your car to select the courses you want to traipse around.
You can play the old fashioned way, going through the original campaign, but there’s also the Nitro-Fueled mode with many more customisables and tougher challenges.
Each course also has different ways for you to prove yourself, like collecting purple crystals in a certain amount of time or gathering three relics while also completing a race.
I think the most impressive thing Beenox have achieved with this Adventure Mode in the Nitro-Fueled remake is prove that, actually, CTR was ahead of its time.
Beenox have maintained everything from the original – allowing you to unlock the boss characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but they’ve also let you gain stickers to put on your Kart, change the scale of the body as well as the tires to help individually prepare for each race.
The progression system seems familiar now, of course, but back in 1999 it was more scarce. And honestly, no other Kart racer has really tried or bettered it since.
Which is surprising considering how much of a death grip Nintendo have had on this sector with Mario Kart over the years. They still haven’t really attempted something like this and honestly, after seeing just how good Nitro-Fueled is, it’s really surprising.
But I think CTR: Nitro-Fueled has not only whet the appetite of fans, it’s now almost made it a necessity for Nintendo to consider it for the future. Just imagine travelling around an open world Mushroom Kingdom and eventually ending up in Bowser’s Castle?
Perhaps being too scared to turn a corner in Luigi’s Mansion or trundling across Mario’s Golf Course as he strives to remain under par.
Who knows when Mario Kart 9 will show up. We may not even get another on Switch considering we already got Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – even though that is technically the Wii U’s baby. That said, it’s been 5 years since it launched.
We do have Mario Kart Tour coming on mobiles later this year which is an entirely seperate proposition, but with Mario Kart 8 being the best-selling in the franchises’ history, it’s not a question of ‘if’ we’ll get 9, it’s ‘when’.
While we might be waiting a very long time for the next numbered instalment in Nintendo’s phenomenal franchise, but one thing’s for sure, anything less than an Adventure Mode would feel like an opportunity missed.
In the meantime, while we wait patiently for whatever comes next from the red hatted plumber and his eccentric pals, CTR Nitro-Fueled is an essential purchase.
Beenox have absolutely outdone themselves, creating a zany, entertaining atmosphere for a franchise that is going through an exciting transformation and renaissance.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is out now on Switch, Xbox One, PC, and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by the publisher
Tested on Switch