A type of racing video game where drivers also attack each other with Power-Up weapons they can pick up on the tracks. Often those tracks will be littered with obstacles. The racing roster is typically from established properties, such as a spinoff or Licensed Game.
As a consequence of these gameplay additions, driving isn't just about making tight turns and flooring it on the straight-ways, but also avoiding obstacles and weapons, while lining up against enemy racers to use one's own weapons. This results often in quite chaotic races. In short, expect Wacky Racing to be the norm.
The most common aesthetic is light and cute. It's rarely outright a Sugar Bowl, but regardless this look can make the games look easier than they actually are. Some games break with the trend and go for more realistic styles, or even dark and gritty.
The majority of these games use existing franchises, usually video games that started in other genres. Occasionally one will be made with original properties. For existing properties, most characters can be part of the racing roster (often in a Massive Multiplayer Crossover), whether protagonists or antagonists (this genre is the reason the trope Go-Karting with Bowser is named so). If the source material doesn't have many characters, then Original Generation characters may be included.
Distinctive aspects of these games include:
- A roster of colorful characters, especially if the game is based on an established property.
- Racers may vary in abilities such as speed and steering. The main character may be the Jack-of-All-Stats.
- Racing in mostly done with go-karts, but other vehicles are quite common. The vehicles may even be thememobiles to fit their drivers.
- A Power-Up system where racers run over items that give players a random weapon that can be used a limited number of times (usually one), and the items refresh either every lap or after several seconds. In some games lower placement means the better power ups are more likely to appear. Common weapons include:
- Temporary speed boosting power ups.
- Projectile missiles.
- A Homing Projectile.
- A special homing missile that seeks out specific targets, usually the racer in first place, and often will take out other racers on the way to its target. These are much harder to dodge than the standard homing missiles.
- Land mine style weapons. Racers that hit them will get their cars blown up (though the consequence is usually lost time as their vehicles respawn).
- Slippery traps. Racers that hit them will spin out and lose time (games usually have either the land mines or slippery traps, as the effect is the same).
- An Invincibility Power-Up, either temporary or takes limited hits.
- A mass attack weapon that hits every other racer.
- An Interface Screw (will work best on real players, but AI opponents may also act accordingly).
- A powerup that steals powerups from other players.
- Character specific weapons.
- Tracks may be full of other items, such as speed boosting ramps.
- Racers can grab collectible items. When enough are acquired, they can activate abilities, boost powerups, and/or increase a car's base speed.
- Tracks tend to be a lot more colorful and whimsical than typical racing games. The feel of them is closer to amusement park rides.
- A selection of modes typical of other racing games, including:
- A main racing mode, where the player competes against the AI and/or other players under normal conditions. A "grand prix" mode, where the player races opponents on a certain set of tracks, is commonly used for singleplayer, but some games go further and offer a story mode which encompasses the entirety of the game.
- A Time Trial mode, where the player tries to complete a certain track as fast as possible, usually without power-ups. Most games featuring this mode include a staff ghost to race against, which is oftentimes difficult to beat.
- A versus/battle mode, where racers are put in arenas to outright attack each other with their weapons. So instead of wacky racing, it's a wacky demolition derby.
- Action Girlz Racing is an original work. The all girl cast includes Amber, a blonde Fashion Model who wears a pink evening dress and tiara when racing, and Latisha, a Sassy Black Woman with shades and an afro who was a taxi driver before she was a racer. The game only has four tracks (such as a national park level and a beachside city), but they each have day and night variations.
- Angry Birds Go! is based on Angry Birds. The cast includes Red, The Blues, Yellow, Bomb, Matilda, Stella, King Pig, Corporal Pig, and Foreman Pig.
- Atari Karts for the Atari Jaguar. Most notable for not drawing from Atari's rich archive of game properties — aside from Bentley Bear from Crystal Castles, the characters were a freak show assortment of random characters, including aliens and skeletons. To add insult to injury, the only offensive attack is a "reverse controls" attack, which has little effect on the near-perfect AI opponents.
- Banjo Pilot is based on Banjo-Kazooie. The main vehicles are planes. The starting roster includes Banjo, Kazooie, Mumbo Jumbo, and Jinjo (the rest are unlockable). Power ups include seeds as the projectiles, a ufo as the homing missile, and sneakers as the speed booster.
- Blur is an original work. It splices elements of this genre into a realistic racing setting with standard cars, such as sports cars and hummers, and normal people as the racers. Power ups are not random but set and visible before picking them up, and each power is a colored block with a symbol. These include green pointers as the speed booster, a white hexagon as the invincibility, and an orange explosion as the land mine. Racers can hold up to three power ups.
- Cartoon Network Racing features various Cartoon Network properties: Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, I Am Weasel and Courage the Cowardly Dog.
- Cartoon Network Speedway is based on Cartoon Network properties. The racers are from Courage the Cowardly Dog, Cow and Chicken, Ed, Edd n Eddy, Johnny Bravo, and Sheep in the Big City. The tracks are also based on settings from the shows.
- Chocobo Racing is based on the Chocobo's Dungeon series. The cast includes Chocobo who races on rocket roller skates, Mog who rides a scooter, White Mage on a flying carpet, and Black Mage on a cloud. Power ups are based on spells from the Final Fantasy games, such as Haste for the speed booster, Fire for the projectile, Fira for the homing missile, Reflect for invincibility, and Ultima for the mass attack.
- Cocoto Kart Racer, based on the Cocoto series. The cast includes Cocoto, a heroic red devilish imp, Neuro, a blue imp with Nerd Glasses, and Shiny, a pink pixie girl who wears a jungle Fur Bikini.
- Crash Team Racing, based on Crash Bandicoot. Crash and his friends and enemies all race to save their planet from Nitros Oxide, an alien who claims to be the fastest in the galaxy. If they don't manage to prove him wrong, he'll enslave everyone and reduce the planet to a giant concrete parking lot. Power ups include homing missiles, shields and tiki masks for invincibility, TNT crates for land mines, turbo canisters for speed, and a blue energy ball for the special seeker missile. The weapons upgrade if a racer grabs enough wumpa fruit on the track (such as the TNT crates becoming Nitro crates, which explode upon contact instead of taking a few seconds).
- Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is a remake/Updated Re-release of the former game, with new HD graphics, karts and other new content added.
- Crash Nitro Kart adds a few extra modes (such as color based modes where each racer has a fixed color), weapons, and characters, including Spyro the Dragon as an unlockable racer (Though only in the Gameboy Advance version).
- Crash Tag Team Racing gives players the ability to combine their cars in the middle of the race, where one person drives while the other operates a weapon to attack other racers.
- Diddy Kong Racing is partly based on Donkey Kong, but more based Rare's properties, as Diddy is the only character from the Donkey Kong games (others appear in Mario Kart), while the rest of the cast includes Conker, Banjo, and some original characters.
- Digimon Racing is based on Digimon, where the racers are the eponymous creatures instead of the "Digi-destined" human characters. The weapons are based on the Digimon's own attacks.
- Dream Works Super Star Kartz uses characters from DreamWorks Animation properties. This includes How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Shrek. All the tracks are based on settings in those films.
- F 1 Race Stars sets itself apart by applying the actual Formula One license, drivers and teams (along with a couple of fictional ones) to one of these games.
- Garfield Kart is based on the Garfield comics. Racers include Garfield, Jon Arbuckle, Odie, Nermal, Arlene, Liz, and Pooky. The powerup boxes look like cat treat packages, though the weapons are the standard variety.
- Hello Kitty Kruisers, based on Hello Kitty. Tracks specifically require karts, planes, or motorboats The latter two have tracks that are respectively very deep or filled with water. A set of tracks even has the same look as the "Rainbow Road" tracks from Mario Kart.
- Kirby Air Ride is based on the Kirby series, featuring many of its characters like Kirby, Meta Knight, and Whispy Woods. Instead go-karts, this game uses Air Ride machines, a lot of which are capable of flight although some do have wheels. The game features a standard racing mode in Air Ride, an overhead mode in Top Ride, and an all range competition mode in City Trial.
- Konami Krazy Racers is based on Konami properties, such as Dracula from Castlevania, Vic Viper from Gradius, Goemon from Ganbare Goemon, Gray Fox (in ninja form) from Metal Gear Solid, and even Power Pro-kun from Live Powerful Pro Baseball. The mobile sequel includes Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2.
- LEGO Racers, based on LEGO. Some characters and tracks are from LEGO Adventurers, LEGO Castle, LEGO Pirates, and LEGO Space.
- Little Big Planet Karting is based on LittleBigPlanet, and like those games a lot of emphasis is on letting players make their own content for the game. In terms of existing content, the racers are the same Sackboy characters from the games, and weapons include heat seeking missiles, grenades, and an EMP for mass attacks.
- Looney Tunes Racing uses Looney Tunes characters. Instead of random weapon pickups, the racers collect tokens to power up their weapons. They can also run over triggers that set off traps to racers behind them.
- M And Ms Kart Racing uses the characters from the M&Ms candies ads. The game uses boats as well as karts, and speed boosting pickups. Weapons are not present in this game.
- Madagascar Kartz has the cast of Madagascar as well as Shrek and B.O.B. as guest racers. It uses tracks and power ups typical of the genre.
- The Mario Kart series is the Trope Codifier and Genre Popularizer. The games use racers, power ups, tracks, and obstacles based on the Super Mario Bros. games.
- Super Mario Kart is the Trope Maker. The roster includes Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad Bowser, Yoshi, a koopa trooper, and Donkey Kong Jr. Power ups include mushrooms for the speed power ups, different colored koopa shells as the projectiles, bananas as the slippery trap, starmen as the invincibility item, and lightning bolts for the mass attack. Lakitu both starts the races (by holding up starter lights) and is the Bottomless Pit Rescue Service for the racers.
- Mario Kart 64 switches up the roster (Donkey Kong Jr. is switched with his dad, for one), and introduces elements like longer tracks, 4-player capability, triple power ups for certain items, and the blue shell as the special homing missile.
- Mario Kart: Super Circuit is the first game of the series on a handheld system. It introduces tracks from older games being included as bonus levels.
- Mario Kart: Double Dash!! introduces character rosters larger than the standard 8. It also is the only game to use the double racing system, where you choose two characters, and you can swap anytime with who drives and who uses the power up, which effectively doubles how many power ups players can use.
- Mario Kart DS introduces online multiplayer to the series.
- Mario Kart Wii brings us Kart Games On Motorcycles!
- Mario Kart 7 adds even more vehicles, such as submersibles and hang gliders.
- Mario Kart 8 introduces Downloadable Content of racers from other franchises, such as the Villager and Isabelle from Animal Crossing and Link from The Legend of Zelda. The Wii U version does not did not include a battle mode, but the Nintendo Switch port has it.
- Mickey's Speedway USA uses characters from the Classic Disney Shorts. Instead of the typical whimsical areas in the genre, tracks in the game are closer to standard racing tracks, themed to various cities. Weapons include a spray can bubble as a shield, a baseball as the projectile, RC cars and airplanes as the homing missiles, and spilled paint as the slippery trap.
- ModNation Racers is an original game that focuses on letting players create tracks, cars and drivers. Players can unlock some creator accessories by collecting tokens in the game. Weapons can be upgraded by three levels, so the sonic boom mass attack ranges from just several feet in front of the player to all cars between the player and first place.
- Motor Toon Grand Prix is an original game series from Polyphony Digital, the creators of Gran Turismo. The second game employs a unique power-up system where you can pick up coins along the track; by pressing a button, you can spend a coin on a power-up roulette to collect an item. Professional and Expert difficulties disable power-ups so that victory is based on skill alone. A few realistic elements were incorporated into the physics such as slipstream and working suspensions. The art direction was handled by Susumu Matsushita.
- Muppet Race Mania is based on The Muppets. Tracks were based on the movies up to when the game was made, as well as based on other Henson shows, such as Fraggle Rock. Weapons include penguins as land mines, Camilla the chicken as a short range homing missile, and fish as projectiles.
- MySims includes a racing game. There is extensive vehicle and Character Customization. Powerups include watermelons for homing missiles, pumpkin launchers for slippery traps, soccer balls for projectiles, tree seeds that turn into full grown trees and act as obstacles, and a tornado that creates an interface screw for opponents.
- Myth Makers Super Kart GP is based on the Myth Makers series. The characters include Trixie a redhead girl training to be an Easter Bunny, Nick a young Santa Claus, Belle a Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost. Powerups are limited to a speed booster, a projectile, and a land mine.
- NASCAR Kart Racing is based on NASCAR. The racers include Real Life NASCAR drivers. 8 tracks are original to the game, while 4 are lifted from real NASCAR tracks (with a few tweaks). Powerups include homing missiles, a yellow flag for a mass attack, and uses in-game ads on opponents as an interface screw. Racers can choose teammates who will help each other during the race.
- Nickelodeon Kart Racers is based on various Nickelodeon shows such as Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012).
- Nicktoons Racing and its sequels are based on Nicktoons shows, with characters from shows such as Danny Phantom, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats, Spongebob Squarepants, and The Wild Thornberrys. Tracks are based on areas in the shows, such as the Reptar arena from Rugrats, and Bikini Bottom from Spongebob.
- Pac-Man World Rally is based on Pac-Man, while including characters and tracks from other Bandai Namco Entertainment games (Dig Dug, Katamari Damacy, Mr. Driller, and Mappy). In addition to the standard powerups, racers can collect pellets until they gain a temporary Super Mode where their cars can eat other cars in front of them.
- Rayman Kart is based on Rayman and Raving Rabbids. Powerups include speed boosters, boxing gloves for projectiles, nukes for the special seeker missile, fairy blessing for invincibility (save for nukes), and tornadoes for the mass attack.
- The Sega Superstars series includes both Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing and Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed. Both have characters from many Sega properties. Powerups include a horn for short range mass attacks, Sonic's shoes for speed boosts, shooting stars or a rainbow for an interface screw, homing missiles, an energy shield for invincibility, and land mines. Trasformed introduces vehicles that change between karts, boats, and planes after passing through the appropriate gate.
- Shrek Smash N Crash Racing is based on the Shrek films. Characters have special attack and personal vehicles. Fiona rides the onion carriage, Puss in Boots rides a bull, Gingerbread Man rides a cupcake horse, and Donkey rides his wife the dragon (who got shrunk by a spell).
- Smurfs Racer is a kart racer based off of The Smurfs for the Playstation and PC. Each smurf has their own vehicle. You race around the village and other locations from the cartoon.
- Snowboard Kids and its sequels Snowboard Kids 2, Snowboard Kids Plus, and SBK: Snowboard Kids, are a take on this concept, though with a cast of original characters and, of course, snowboarding instead of go-karts. Performing snowboarding tricks earns money, which is then spent on weapons and other goodies as the snowboarders pass by shops, though everything costs the same amount and what you get is randomly chosen. With the exception of SBK, while the first courses are on snowy mountain slopes, they get increasingly strange and follow Video Game Settings instead (and aren't even necessarily cold), from Wutai to Jungle Japes to Shifting Sand Land.
- Sonic Drift and its sequel are based on Sonic the Hedgehog. Players collect rings until they activate character powers. Powerups are color coded: red for speed boosts, blue for invincibility, and black for mines. Powerups were used immediately when gained in the first game, while in the sequel they could be used any time.
- Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart is a freeware fan game twist of the above, though it plays much more closer to Mario Kart than Sonic Drift and designed explicitly for multiplayer.
- South Park Rally is based on South Park. The tracks include the town streets, the school, a volcano, the woods, and Big Gay Al's house. Powerups include Chocolate Salty Balls or cheesy poofs as the projectiles, explosive cows for land mines, spooky vision or herpes for interface screws, Mr. Hanky for invincibility, and explosive diarrhea as the land mine.
- Star Wars Super Bombad Racing has characters and settings mostly from the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Characters ride mini versions of vehicles from the films (such as Amidala riding her personal cruiser and Sebulba in a pod racer). A couple areas are from the original trilogy, such as the Hoth asteroid field, and races from the movies can be unlocked, such as Darth Vader (riding a mini TIE fighter) and Boba Fett.
- Super Indie Karts has both original characters and characters from independent games. Powerups are represented by food: melons for projectiles, ice cream is the slippery trap, pineapples are the land mines, and coconuts are the homing missiles.
- Super Tux Kart has a cast of open source program mascots. The game is even named for Tux, the mascot for Linux. Other characters include the bull for GNU, Suzanne the chimp for Blender, Wilber for GIMP, and Puffy for Open BSD.
- Team Sonic Racing is yet another Sonic the Hedgehog racing game and a Spiritual Successor to the above-mentioned All-Stars Racing games.
- Wacky Races is a series of games based on Wacky Races, with all the colorful characters and their colorful cars. The game includes racing gameplay options for standard kart racing or more advanced controls. The powerups are typical for the genre, but picking them up is different. Before each race players choose three that they will use, and during the race players activate them by collecting items.
- Wacky Wheels is an early mascot racing game for PC. It also featured original characters.
- Walt Disney World Quest Magical Racing Tour has tracks based on rides in the Walt Disney World Resort and a cast of mostly original characters (established characters include Chip 'n Dale in their Rescue Rangers outfits and Jiminy Cricket). The tracks are based on rides such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Tomorrowland Speedway.
- Video Game Yu Gi Oh 5 Ds Wheelie Breakers is essentially the Duel Runners concept introduced in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's taken to actual races. The racetracks are more grounded than usual for this trope, but the card-battling system is stripped down and reappropriated as a kart racer's item system.
Works which feature this genre in part
- One of the fictional games in Wreck-It Ralph is the kart game "Sugar Rush" (which is the title of the movie in Japan), where every track, kart, character, and obstacle is food themed. This is Vanellope's home game in the film.
- Electronic Gaming Monthly did an April Fools' Day story about a kart racer based on the Lord of the Rings movies called "Lord of the Rings: Mordor GP". They even did a mockup picture◊ of Gandalf on a kart based on his firework wagon in the first film.
- Mortal Kombat: Armageddon is a straight Mortal Kombat game that includes a kart racing mini game, "Motor Kombat". It has 10 characters in the game with their own vehicles. Sub Zero has a snowmobile, Jax has a tank, Raiden has a jet car, and Bo'Rai Cho rides a barrel shaped car. The game doesn't have power ups, but does have special abilities for each character.