By Joshua Madden
Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series in which readers and writers alike will submit a wide variety of video games that they believe should be recognized as some of the greatest of all time.
As a kid, I remember lying awake in bed and hearing the sounds of Mario Kart 64 in my head – I had played it so much during the day that I could still hear the noise of the races as I began to drift off to sleep. Eventually, I realized that the noise was not in my head and that, in fact, my dad was downstairs playing the game by himself.
Such is the power of Mario Kart 64 that adults and kids alike can enjoy shooting red and green shells at family members who desperately want to cross the finish line as the winner. I can think of few other games as fun. The fact that my dad would actually sit up by himself at night to play more says a lot about a game that was supposed to be for kids.
For those of you who had childhoods where you spent time outside than inside, allow me to explain the concept.
Mario Kart 64 features characters from the Super Mario franchise such as Mario, Luigi and Bowser, racing against one another while shooting at each other with items picked up over the course of the race.
These items included Koopa Shells (basically turtle shells) that could home in opponents like heat-seeking missiles, ghosts that could steal items, banana peels that could be left for opponents to slip on and the all-powerful lightning bolt that could be used at the opportune moment to knock other players off hills and set them way back in the rankings.
Many times my dad and I enjoyed the sweet feeling of knocking someone off of a hill with a lightning bolt. It’s a feeling that most racing games simply don’t capture.
Known almost as much for its multiplayer battle mode in which the racing element of the game is dropped completely, Mario Kart 64 became known as a party game and is still played by a great number of people gathered with their friends, despite having been first released in 1996.
One of the first major games for the Nintendo 64, a console that many members of my generation remember fondly, if not as the outright best system of all time. Mario Kart 64 was one of the first games to take advantage of 3D racing. It built on its predecessor, Super Mario Kart, which was originally released on the Super Nintendo. The changes were so extreme that, despite their similarities, it is hard to even argue that the two really belong in the same franchise.
While later entries in the series have been terrific, there is little doubt that Mario Kart 64 is the best one released so far. The franchise, however, is long from dead and it is likely that some later generation will also have fond memories of lying awake at night with the sounds of the latest Mario Kart game in their heads.
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