The game was released in South Korea in 2004 and has been running ever since. The game has a surprisingly large competitive scene, with televised tournaments broadcast in both South Korea and China (where the game was localized as PopKart). The game was also localized for North America, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, and Russia, but all of these versions didn't last very long before being dropped.
Several mobile versions were also released, as KartRider Rush, KartRider Dash, and KartRider Rush+
Nonetheless, the game has remained relatively popular globally, and in 2019, an Updated Re-release called KartRider: Drift was announced, serving all regions worldwide as well as having cross-platform play with the Xbox One.
The game's courses are broken up into several themes, each of which contain dozens of tracks to race on. The game also features several modes of play, but the two most popular game modes are
- Speed: A skill-based mode based around drifting to build up a meter that gives the player boost items. Any of the game's tracks can be played in Speed mode, but dozens of tracks are also exclusive to the mode and are much more difficult than normal.
- Item: The traditional Mascot Racer game mode where players collect items to attack each other and defend themselves as they try to cross the finish line first.
KartRider contains examples of:
- Abandoned Mine / Lethal Lava Land: Zerostone Mine.
- Alien Among Us: Taki, Erini, and Dr. Revaski. Taki and Erini came to Earth because their lives on Northeu were boring. Dr. Revaski is Taki's father and came to drag him back to Northeu. Only Revaski bothers to disguise himself, but it's implied he only does it so Taki won't recognize him.
- Amusement Park: Themepark theme.
- Anti-Frustration Features: The R key allows the player to immediately reset their position on the track, helpful if you find yourself planted face-first in a wall.
- Banana Peel: One of the items available in Item mode.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: Northeu themed tracks take place in space, but none of the characters have any trouble breathing or staying on the ground.
- Big Boo's Haunt: Cemetery/Graveyard theme.
- Big Fancy Castle / Macro Zone: Louis Alma's Castle.
- Breakout Character: Brodi. Originally just the theme character for the Mystpole Factory, he was apparently so popular that he had an entire theme named after him (Made by Brodi) and was one of the three playable characters in Drift's beta alongside Dao and Bazzi.
- Build Like an Egyptian / Shifting Sand Land: Desert theme, aside from the one track that's based on de_dust.
- Character Class System: Surprisingly averted. Your choice of character is entirely cosmetic, all of your stats come from your kart.
- Character Customization: The original game had paints to customize the color of your character's costume. Drift adds alternate costumes instead.
- Color-Coded Characters: Each character has a "default" color that the game depicts them as being. Dao is blue, Diz is yellow, Bazzi and Lodumani are red, Uni and Ethi/Brill/Melvin are green, Kephi/Chunk is purple, Marid is pink, and Mos is orange.
- Crossover: The original game had Transformers and Counter-Strike themed tracks and characters. Drift adds Pink Bean and Lucid as playable characters.
- Cute Witch: Tiera.
- Deflector Shields: The Shield and Angel Armor items. Shields block one attack against the user, while Angel Armor blocks all attacks for a short time for the user's team.
- Eternal Engine: Mystpole Factory and Made by Brodi themes, as well as parts of Northeu.
- Fantastic Nature Reserve: Jurassic theme.
- First Town: Boomhill Village.
- Friendly Fireproof: Played straight with most items that specifically target other players: You can't target allies with Missiles, the 1st Place Missile and UFO fail to work if an ally is in first place, and the Water Wisp targets the first opponent higher than you in the rankings, and fails if there are only allies ahead of you. Averted for any items that drop something onto the track, like Banana Peels, Water Bombs, or Barricades, which affect all players equally.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Barricade item drops three walls in front of the player in first. If you are the player in first, the barricades are dropped in front of you.
- Interface Screw: The Skull, Jiang-shi, and Dr. R items. The Skull reverses the player's steering, the Jiang-shi reverses their pedals, and Dr. R does both.
- Level in Reverse: Some tracks have a Reverse version, where the players race through the track backwards. The tracks have added geometry to make racing backwards possible or more difficult (usually both).
- The Lost Woods: Sign of Fantariny theme
- Palmtree Panic: Pirate and Beach themes.
- Pirate: Lodumani was the game's original pirate, having been brought over from Crazy Arcade. A later update added the Pirate course theme and the characters Mobi and Tutu along with it. Mobi is of the roguish scoundrel variety, while Lodumani and Tutu are marauding brutes.
- Shock and Awe: The Thundercloud item, which strikes all opponents ahead of the user with a bolt of lightning that stalls them.
- Skyscraper City: Moonhill City.
- Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Ice theme, though the ice isn't slippery here.
- Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Getting targeted by a Water Wisp or Missile alerts the player with the sound of buzzing or a whoosh, respectively.
- Space Zone: Planet Northeu.
- Super-Persistent Missile: Missile items will unerringly hit their target, but they can be stopped with a Shield.
- Temple of Doom: Golden Adventure Or-ette.
- Toy Time: Nemo theme, where everything looks like it's made of LEGO.
- Under the Sea: Abyss theme.
- Wackyland: Fairyland Pretion.