LEGO 2K Drive builds Mario Kart and Forza Horizon together in 2023’s biggest surprise hit

Despite multiple concerted efforts, no one has really been able to find the magic formula of Mario Kart and replicate it outside of Nintendo platforms.

Crash Team Racing. Sonic & All Star Racing Transformed. ModNation Racers. Garfield Kart. Everyone has genuinely tried, and while most are serviceable, enjoyable enough alone, none of them quite compare.

Which brings us to LEGO 2K Drive. A game that not only tries to walk that line but iterate upon it by merging elements of Forza Horizon and also trying something of its very own.

And while LEGO 2K Drive still doesn’t quite bottle that same quality Mario and his pals have refined over years of releases, this is undoubtedly the closest alternative you can find on a platform that doesn’t have the big N stamp over it.

The LEGO brand was made for this. It’s the perfect vehicle for a wacky, over-the-top racer which encourages destruction, high speed and humor. That’s immediately apparent in the story’s opening cutscene where Parker Carr presents the action with Vicky Wheeler and you watch a showdown between Shadow Z and Clutch Racington.

But this isn’t just a silly, go-lucky racer as the handling is solid. The drifting works wonderfully, there’s a decent amount of track variety to zoom around, power-ups all offer something new and different, and there’s additional layers which seperate this from anything else out there between the garage customisation and unique mini games.

There’s also the possibility of creating loadouts and establishing perks for your fleet, seperating it out into street, off-road, your own driver and water. Yes, you can ride cruisers around as well.

In the world of Bricklandia, multiple areas will gradually open up across the course of the game’s story, each filled with unique challenges, head-to-head battles with rivals, and quirky mini games that see you rescue dolphins or make the highest jumps you possibly can.

This is where the game starts to feel a bit more like Forza Horizon as you just cruise around, gradually stumbling upon checkpoint gates to kick off missions and can drive up to people to interact with in the world. It’s a toned down version of Microsoft’s brilliant racer, admittedly, with each area having its limitations, but combining it with a Mario Kart esque format just gels magnificently. Frankly, I couldn’t help but be a little excited for the possibilities Nintendo could pull out for future iterations for plumber and family.

But the feeling of the car naturally switching up between the different styles so you can cross country over various surfaces keeps everything fast paced and flowing, with rarely a slowdown in the world or an obstacle you can’t find someway around.

And it’s all presented in such a wonderfully LEGO way with bricks for clouds, trees that shatter into tiny blocks as you fly past them and a surprisingly vivid, lively energy to each environment that keeps it distinct and delightful to drive around.

Look, I’m as much of a fan of LEGO Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and DC Super Heroes as much as the next person, but this is actually the best use of the LEGO license we’ve seen in a very long time. Because the potential is massive, in terms of licensing, in terms of gameplay, and in terms of substance.

This has serious franchise potential, they could include characters from the LEGO Movie, and even bring in characters from the licensed sets. Heck, if the right agreements are reached, we could get DLC for Friends, for Sonic the Hedgehog, Transformers, Scooby Doo. The list is endless.

It can all be anchored through Unkie’s Emporium, the game’s shop which lets you spend in-game currency to acquire all sorts of vehicles and characters. You can, of course, spend actual cash to get your money quicker, but money can also be earned by performing tricks in races, in the over world and of course by winning. There’s even money lying about which can be collected. Rather convenient, I’d say.

The drivers themselves are merely cosmetic skins, but vehicles, on the other hand, have different categorisations. You can get different weighted vehicles for the different sub sections, from very light to very heavy, and this influences stats such as vehicle health, speed, acceleration potential and the ability to drift.

And ahead of the Game’s Drive Pass kicking in, as I was working my way through the story, there was already a wild range of vehicles in here, from bereavement wagons to muscle cars. Even a giant-sized chicken wagon.

So, yes, this game really does have a sense of humor and it leans into it very hard. Much to LEGO 2K Drive’s credit, because the writing is pretty great and the world around you just feels like it’s been ripped right out of the films. The design is just masterful.

But while tone is solid and potential is vast enough to compete with a juggernaut like Mario Kart, it’s the basics LEGO 2K Drive doesn’t manage to quite get right. The tracks themselves are fast-paced and frantic, but some feel like direct rips of each other with a different weather condition or a mirroring, and others are just downright brutal.

Balance is the issue here, with some surfaces slowing you down way too much and the racers being slightly too reactive to your mishaps and faults. I can’t count the amount of times I went from 1 or 2 all the way back down to 8 in seconds because I landed on the wrong surface or I spent a little too long riding around a corner.

And sure, Mario Kart has these same issues, but usually when you hit 150CC or higher where the challenge is meant to be tougher. Not on the lowest entry points for cups or on general missions in LEGO 2K Drive.

From the very beginning, it’s a struggle to keep ahead of the pack. Everyone is on your tail aggressively and the conditions aren’t always favourable. I do also find that it’s often a bit of a race to get the best powerup. Where in Mario Kart you don’t know what you’re going to get out of a Question Mark box and it’s usually determined by your position in the race at the time, in LEGO 2K Drive powerups are split into categories and the good ones often get gobbled up before you can get to them.

Rockets and machine guns are usually categorised into shooting type powerups, whereas others are a bit more defensive with a sticky web that makes it difficult for you to see and a ghost powerup which turns you into an ethereal form so you can sail through the competition. There’s even a Back to the Future esque powerup which sends you through a portal so you can climb up the racing ranks.

But positions change so frequently in LEGO 2K Drive, it’s difficult to build up momentum at times and while it creates the feeling of constantly being on your toes, it gets a bit frustrating over time, particularly when you’re just missing out on story races by a sole position.

Still, the feel of racing is brilliant and the options available to you are vast and significant to ensure longevity and that you’ll be playing the game for weeks to come. Between the regular Drive Pass, the constant flow of missions, the amount of unlockables and the ability to craft, spray paint, and eventually share cars. There’s no other game quite doing these things all together in one package, which makes LEGO 2K Drive pretty special.

It’s out on every platform, it’s offering cross-play out of the gate which ensures the multiplayer element won’t die anytime soon, plus you’ve got local multiplayer, so you can just drive around together from the comfort of your own home.

The game is sharp and silky smooth, I didn’t encounter any game-breaking glitches or offensive issues that ruined my enjoyment – which is a surprising novelty in this day and age – and then there’s the unique missions which are both hit and miss but really mix up the flow of play.

A word on those, actually. Because these perhaps best show off the charm of the game, between moving weeds with a tractor, defending generators from waves of enemies you have to take out in your car, and even a take on Squid Game’s Red Light, Green Light where you have to stop your car when TUBE is staring at you and drive when it isn’t.

They’re often throwaway missions to gain you XP and money, but equally they are both the best and worst parts of the game because they can equally frustrate and excite in equal measure. But they also show the creativity that’s on offer here and try to do something different with a familiar formula to keep LEGO 2K Drive fresh.

It succeeds. This game was a genuine surprise for me. It’s launching in a tough window, sandwiched by some of the biggest games we’ve seen in this or any other generation, but it offers heart, spirit, quality, enjoyable content, and a promise of a major franchise for years to come.

It’s not the next Mario Kart and on the surface that might seem like a failure for the game, but mechanically, it is the closest anyone has ever got. And better still, it takes things to the next level with an open environment full of activities, a garage that lets you create cars of your wildest dreams – think Create a Wrestler in the WWE games but for karts – Drive Passes full of content being spread out over the next year, on top of an entertaining, familiar and well-written environment with fun mini game activites that really excercise the creativity and imagination of the development team.

Combined, it all just works and offers this year’s best surprise package. LEGO 2K Drive is simply fantastic.


LEGO 2K Drive takes the best bits of Mario Kart and Forza Horizon then fuses them together in a distinct, everything is awesome kinda way. Whether you’re looking for a fun party game you can play with your mates across formats, an exciting creative tool to exercise your imagination or something to keep you busy for weeks and months ahead, this surprise package is an absolute delight. Slight balance and terrain issues aside, the potential for this is massive and might just be the best ever use of the LEGO license in a video game to date. 


+ So much variety and potential for your creativity
+ Crossplay opens the game up to everyone and anyone
+ Quality LEGO humor is prevalent throughout in aesthetics and writing
+ Huge amount of content at launch with tons more mapped out for the year ahead
+ The closest anyone has got to matching Mario Kart’s racing with Forza Horizon’s cool cruising


– Racer balancing can be frustrating at times
– Some courses and terrains are a bit repetitive and unforgiving

LEGO 2K Drive is now playable three days early and launches officially on May 19th on PC, PlayStation, Switch and Xbox

Code Kindly Provided by 2K for review purposes

Played on Xbox Series X

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