Good Game Design – Diddy Kong Racing: Perfecting The Kart Racer

Good Game Design – Diddy Kong Racing: Perfecting The Kart Racer

I loved Mario Kart as a kid, I think it was
the first video game I actually remember getting for Christmas, hey look at that, I was pretty
cute! And I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve
pumped into Battle Mode with friends, but there was another kart racer on the N64 that
I never gave a proper chance when I was younger, and now I realize what a shame that was because
this game blows Mario Kart out of the water in basically every conceivable aspect. Diddy Kong Racing is the perfect example of
Rareware in its heyday. They took a stellar concept from another Nintendo
hit and cranked it up to 11 in terms of creativity, challenge and sheer content. Oh and, you know, in addition to making countless
other classics at the same time. Not only does Diddy’s first spin-off title
have a ton of charm, feature other Rare characters and have some of the best music on the system
*ahhh*, but it also innovated in 5 main areas to bring this relatively static genre into
new territory. The first of which being the most foundational
– having an overworld. It’s clear from the start that Rare didn’t
want to just make a racing game – they wanted to build an adventure around kart racing. There’s a full on story here with a villain
and heroes trying to stop him, so it only made sense that instead of picking which track
you’d like to play from a list on the menu, they designed a fully fledged hubworld to
navigate. Simply having an open field to test out your
driving abilities is cool enough, similar to Mario 64’s castle exterior, but there’s
a lot more going on here than just entering levels. To unlock new tracks you have to gather balloons
from winning races, but you can also find hidden ones around the various locals – it
wants you to explore. I love how the music changes as you enter
new biomes too that’s a great touch. There’s different characters to interact
with like TT the clock for time trials and Taj the genie who is…definitely something. He’ll even want to race you himself on occasion,
and this is a great way to test out the 2nd thing Diddy Kong included to set it apart
– multiple vehicles. You don’t just drive cars in this game,
you also pilot hovercrafts and airplanes and they all control vastly different from each
other. Karts can drift easily but slow down if they
get caught in hazards, while hovercrafts, though a little slower, can ride on water
and have exceptional turning, but if you’d rather take to the air, planes are super versatile
and can even perform tricks, but if you hit a wall it takes more time to recover. Each have their own benefits depending on
the situation, and you can try out different ones to completely change how you progress
through levels, it makes for some great replayability. Mario Kart did add gliding and underwater
sections later in the series, but they’re always in short bursts and don’t really
change the gameplay all that much – Diddy Kong gave you tons of options over 20 years
ago! I also like how there’s more depth in terms
of boosting here – it’s more than pressing A on the starting line; if you let go of the
gas right before you enter a zipper, you’ll get an extra blast of speed than if you had
held it down normally. This seems a little overpowered at first,
but becomes necessary in some of the later challenges. Furthermore, they completely revamped how
items work by adding synergies with each other. At first glance it might seem like Diddy Kong
Racing has less to offer in terms of the different types of items you can use, but you quickly
realize that they can stack on top of each other to increase their power – so a quick
missile operates much like a green shell, but if you collect 2 in a row it becomes a
homing shot, and if you get 3 it gives you 10 missiles to launch at a foe. The same is true of all the different item
colors, increasing your boosts, longer lasting protective barriers, or even more unforgiving
traps to lay. While Mario Kart may have a bit more variety
in this department, I think they designed it this way on purpose because there’s way
more strategy and planning around which items you collect – instead of being random you
know what you’re going to get every time here, and the fact that grabbing a different
colored balloon lowers your item back down to the first tier means you have to be careful
about which route you’ll take as it can change your effectiveness on the battlefield. This is especially important in the 4th addition
Diddy Kong brought to the table – boss fights. That’s right, there’s so much more going
on than grand prix style races, after completing 4 of them you’ll go head to head against
various bosses that have some…really interesting voices. Well done! Now I challenge you to a race! Hey no judgement. I like that each race is totally different
– you’ll go up a winding mountain, down icy slopes and even around an island avoiding
frickin’ bubbles – this guy SUCKS! These baddies are FAR from pushovers, and
you even have to face them again in a much harder rematch to proceed. It took a lot of effort and restraint to not
break my controller, but I finally bested them to unlock the final fight against Wizpig
– and this guy is no joke, you basically have to hit every single boost perfectly to even
stand a chance at beating him. There’s no items, no margin for error, just
all out skill to win here. But when you do come out victorious, you realize
the 5th thing that makes Diddy Kong Racing unique is what Rareware does best – tons of
secrets and bonus content. So beating Wizpig is far from the real ending,
here’s all of the stuff jam packed into your adventure to face him a 2nd time. First off you need to win 4 trophy races,
but to get those you’ll have to beat the boss of each area, then complete the silver
coin challenges which require you to collect 8 coins during a race AND still come in first
place, then beat the boss again, and now you can try for the trophy cup, taking on all
the area’s tracks in a tournament. Doing this 4 times lets you blast off in a
lighthouse that was secretly a rocketship the whole time to unlock the final bonus WORLD
with the hardest races yet, bringing our total track count to 20. Beating the silver coin challenges in these
levels WOULD unlock the final Wizpig fight except that there’s one more catch: you
need to find the hidden keys in each world to open their challenge rooms! I don’t know how they did it, but they turned
a racing game into a collectathon – Rare, you maniacs. These are some of the neatest tasks too: you’ll
go from gathering and hatching eggs, to an all out battle royale, and even a banana treasure
hunt. It’s insanely creative and a nice break
from the heart-pounding action. So then you can face Wizpig again, but oh
you thought that was the end? HAH! Child’s Play! Now you got Adventure 2 baby,
with reversed courses and harder AI. And this is all without mentioning the unlockable
characters, ghost races and cheat codes to personalize your experience. This is ludacris, I can’t believe they packed
this much stuff onto a cartridge, and on a limited time crunch no less, to get it out
for the holidays in 1997. At the end of the day, if there’s one thing
Mario Kart does better it’s multiplayer content. You can input a code to play adventure mode
in co-op, but duking it out on block fort definitely is the top of the line. That being said, even Mario Kart itself has
deviated from that style of gameplay in its more recent titles and it just hasn’t been
the same since. Is Diddy Kong Racing rough around the edges,
sure. The overworld is clever but it is a little
bare bones and the N64 could only have so much power back in the day, it doesn’t have
the best framerate – but this is all the more reason why it would be incredible if we saw
a sequel. Just imagine what Nintendo could be capable
of on the Switch. Now obviously the chances of this are pretty
slim, Rare doesn’t make games for Ninty anymore, and even if they did, the team that
was there in the 90’s have moved on to greener pastures. Our best bet would be to see a new studio
take on the franchise, but I would hope it’s one that understands Rare’s commitment to
charm, and piles in secrets and goodies galore, all wrapped up in a satisfying challenge. Retro Studios has done a phenomenal job with
the Country series, I think I could get behind…wait a minute. Hmmm…one can dream. As I said, I missed out on this game as a
kid, but I didn’t realize it’s actually the 8th best selling game on the N64! If you played it, what was your favorite memory
from the game? And if they ever did make another Diddy Kong
Racing-style adventure, what would you like to see in it? Let me know in the comments below and let’s
talk about it. Thanks for watching another episode of Good
Game Design, I’ll see you guys next time. Stay frosty my friends. Hey guys, so I just wanted to be candid with
you real quick about the future of Donkey Kong Month. This is our 6th year covering DK content,
and if I’m being honest, I’ve sort of covered everything I want to talk about with
the series. I think that all we have left is spin-off
titles until we get another new Donkey Kong game or something. So for the sake of still keeping it alive
because I know people love DK Month, this is gonna be the only video for it this
year. That being said, I am planning on streaming
DKC2 speedruns over on Twitch for the rest of the month, and if there’s other Donkey Kong
topics you’d like to see me talk about in a video, let me know and maybe we’ll cover it in
the future. I hope you understand, and I also hope to see
you at a future stream, follow me at and I’ll see you there. This month’s patreon shoutout goes to FreezingTheMind
because he’s just so kind it’ll blow your mind!

100 Replies to “Good Game Design – Diddy Kong Racing: Perfecting The Kart Racer”

  1. That game beat my trash. I couldn’t make any progress, but I loved t still. This blew my mind. My favorite thing about it is the music, though.

  2. Damn. I loved this game as a kid, I still love it. Makes me sad that we never got a sequel.. Rare actually was working on a sequel on the gamecube, but after the Microsoft buyout it got canned..

  3. Welp… Banjo & Kazooie are in Smash.
    If that can happen, surely Microsoft can have Nintendo rerelease specific Rare-made games like Diddy Kong Racing and Star Fox Adventures. =P

  4. I was 4 playing this game on the n64 my very part of the game was racing the triceraptops and other bosses

  5. Adventure 2 with silver balloons! I remember whopping wiz pigs ass that second time, which was easier than the first time, and seeing we unlocked adventure 2 I was officially blown away. Soooo much game, and now a days everybody wanna talk….na, now a days they don't even finish games before they release them for you to buy. Fuck you America.

  6. My brother and I had beaten wizpig and we thought it was done…then at a friends house like 5 yrs later, he had a copy of DKR that he got from a garage sale that was COMPLETE. We never knew there was a space world. so we went back and finished our own…ill never forget that

  7. I have very, very fond memories of playing DK Racing at my grandparents house. I would only want to play Ice Pyramid, and only as Pipsy. But I was pretty damn good at that mode.

  8. Haha yeah my roommate in college had no idea he never finished the game and thought for sure I was making up this Future Funland you fly to when the lighthouse turns into a rocket until I showed him. I was surprised this game never became a series, it really is better than Mario Kart.

  9. I don't really like saying Diddy Kong Racing was/is "better" than Mario Kart. I think DKR was a bit ahead of its time. I remember when I rented the cartridge, I didn't like the game that much for much the same reasons you're calling it better than MK. As a kid, I thought it was too complicated, so I was more attached to the simplicity of MK. 
    If DKR was released nowadays, I would probably appreciate it more, as an alternative to MK. I think both games could have their place in the world – MK being more simplistic, DKR being the "higher league". Also I didn't have any attachment to the roster besides Diddy, so that was another bummer to little-me.

  10. You forgot to mention that there’s even two unlockable characters to top off the secrets.
    I love this game, and the snow village is my favorite course design

  11. One of my favourite games from my childhood, I've put so many countless hours into it.. this, banjo and mario 64 were easily my 3 most played n64 games. I played through the adventure countless times, beat it in coop with my friends, played the battle minigames for hours and 10 years after I originally got it was when I was finally able to unlock T.T. as a playable character. I love this game so much! So many fond memories, I may just go boot up my n64 and give it a spin now

  12. My mom bought me this game and an n64 at a GameStop for like $40 in 2002 when I was like 6 and it was the only game I needed for months. But then I got banjo and Mario 64 And I was occupied for months until I was blessed with a GameCube?

  13. Diddy kong racing is better than mk64 but the rest of the mario karts after double dash are so much better

  14. I LOVED the final boss race in space. And the multiplayer map, Fire Mountain I believe it was called

  15. My suggestion: make a game titled "Superkart All-stars" that has both characters and design concepts from Diddy Kong Racing and Crash Team Racing put together, with the customizable karts like lego racers various track designs from X-treme G and F-Zero.

  16. I remember this one level so vividly. I was like 5 when my brother and I played this and we were stuck on one of the coin races. It was one of the ones where you're in the village with the stone/cobblestone streets and drawbridges and stuff. like we never beat that level, and some 14 years later I still remember it so well. Overall, this is my second favorite kart racer ever behind MKW. It had charm, fun tracks, cool battle modes and stuff. It was great. I was scared to death of the elephant for some reason too, like couldn't look at the screen if he showed up. but this game is fantastic nonetheless

  17. You should make a video on why Perfect Dark 64 is objectively the best N64 game and one of the best games ever probably…

  18. I ♡ Diddy Kong Racing
    It's so cute, and it was one of the few games that featured Conker before he was an alcoholic dumpster fire ♡

  19. I was lucky enough to play this when it came out. No one else seemed to know about it; it was amazing though!

  20. Diddy Kong Racing was FAR better than Mario Kart 64. It was an almost perfect game in so many different ways: Music, race tracks, vehicle choices, vehicle design, steering, level design, character design, skill vs luck balance, difficulty, menu design, open world, story telling, exploring secrets…
    Having this gem, I rare-ly (lol) played Mario Kart 64.

  21. This is one of the games that I really wanted but missed as a kid. I'd love to see a sequel or remake on the Switch… ?


  23. I like that Diddy Kong Racing has so many unique features but I feel like a lot of them are half baked and worst of all the game handles like absolute garbage. I played it a TON yet still never managed to perfect turning and drifting especially with the God damn hover craft. If this game handled as well as Mario Kart then it'd be a contender, as it is I think it'd just a shadow of Mario Kart in some ways

  24. I don't know if it's my favorite memory from the game, but definitely the most memorable one: The very last and final race against Wizpig in adventure 2. At least for my child self back then, that race was freaking hard and i don't know how many times i had to retry to finally win.

  25. I used to bet the dessert the whole afternoon with my best friend, after a heavy packed day at highschool, really good machtes!

  26. Man i wish mario kart had story mode, unlockable skins, level system and etc. Like in Splatoon 2. Going to shops to buy karts wheels and outfits. Wouldnt it be great?

  27. To be honest, my wife and I have been playing CTR and the CTR remaster. I tried playing Diddy Kong racing again, after loving it as a child, and it just felt like pure shit. After playing CTR, there’s really no room for anything else. I loved this game as a kid, but I just can’t enjoy it now. The battle modes especially set me off, and the clunky controls destroyed the coin challenges. What used to be such a great game for me became just a sad comparison to CTR.

  28. Man, playing Icicle mountain with my brothers was some of the most fun I’ve ever had with a game. That and beating Wizpig for the first time. Felt so accomplished.

  29. Back when Rare was a good company and pumped out some of the best gems in video game history…What a shell of its former self it became.

  30. Such a shame Microsoft own Rare and basically its IP now (Nintendo sold their share to them a while back now :c) Unless the big Microsoft can relax their grip on it (hey they allowed Banjo on Smash, would love to get a Rare Replay or at least a re-release of the banjo games which they put on xbox360/xbone on switch) I don't think we'd be getting anything unless Microsoft sells their share and Nintendo gets it back, and even then you will have to convince all the Old Rare staff to come together, pretty much why Playtonic Games was formed and made Yooka-Laylee

  31. I played it and honestly couldn't beat wizpig I tried so many times, now that's a challenge.It made me more mad knowing there was still another extra area that can be unlocked after wizpig. This game honestly knocks Mario kart out the waters when it came to content

  32. It's hard to explain how hard and easy at same time this game is. Depends of what you want to do. Just finish it 'til first Wizipig? Fun and easy. Collect everyhting, unlock everything (hello TT): Hard and amazing. Maybe nostalgia is tricking me, but the best kart game I have ever played.

  33. I picked that up as a kid and poured many hours into it. My fondest memories are of the coop adventure mode, which I loved playing with friends. And to this day, I still haven‘t unlocked TT. Those time trials are really tough. But my favourite thing about this game was that they spun off Banjo into his own game.
    If they would make a sequel (which I always hoped to see back in N64 Days) they could include maybe some more non-race focused stuff, like for example shoot 'em up minigames or something like that. Plus, obviously new tracks, racers and vehicles.

  34. Diddy King is one of the worst games I’ve ever played, it truly sucks

    Let me clarify, the controls and “action” truly suck

  35. Diddy Kong Racing is one of my favorite games of all time and I come back to it every few years. My fondest memory of it would have to be spending hours playing on the battle pyramid with my siblings. Or when I finally found the key in the dragon domain because that took me forever.

  36. I played through this entire game in adventure and unlocked adventure 2 but it would not let me play it. I checked everywhere in the game to see if i had missed a balloon but could not find it. To this day I still haven't been able to figure out why I can't play adventure 2 even though it was clearly unlocked and on the menu screen.

  37. Do Star Fox Adventures!
    One of my favorite games for the GameCube. Highly underrated, and disliked for the wrong reasons. The fact that Rare turned a popular on-rails shooter into a Zelda-like adventure was insane. The graphics. The lack of constant loading screens. The exploration. The different locales that were honestly some of the coolest areas to explore. The combat system was solid. The characters were memorable. Loved it.

  38. Do Star Fox Adventures!
    One of my favorite games for the GameCube. Highly underrated, and disliked for the wrong reasons. The fact that Rare turned a popular on-rails shooter into a Zelda-like adventure was insane. The graphics. The lack of constant loading screens. The exploration. The different locales that were honestly some of the coolest areas to explore. The combat system was solid. The characters were memorable. Loved it.

  39. This game is so strange to me. Whenever I think about it or see gameplay I just feel… sad and anxious. I played it on the DS when I was little and enjoyed it but there was a lot of negative stuff going on too so I guess I just associate the game with those memories. This game and a couple others I genuinely find difficult to think about without feeling really bad, which sucks cus I'd like to go back and try them out again

  40. Yeah, I remember sinking more hours into Diddy Kong Racing than Mario Kart 64. There was always something fun about exploring the overworld and stuff. Also…the bosses were a bane of my childhood.

    Mario Kart is still one of my favorite racing series, but even the Sonic racing games felt more enjoyable. Team Sonic Racing wasn't nearly as good as Transformed, but it was still a fun game with killer music.

  41. I remember exploring the hub world non-stop, changing vehicles so many times. I'd like to see more characters, a new mode and maybe another type of vehicle. Maybe a sumbarine? idk

  42. Something more amazing is that the DS version supports local 8 player multiplayer with only the usage of one game cartridge. My cousins and i played up to 6 players and had access to all levels/characters (and the races included npcs as well)

  43. I found Diddy Kong Racing 64 to be one of the hardest racing games I've ever played!!!

    Don't ask why its just to hard for me!!!!

  44. I played the shit out of this game when I was a kid. It was so good.
    Yeah nowadays the overworld is a bit bare bones and whatnot, but back when it came out…it made me actually like Kart racers. I never cared for Mario Kart on the SNES or the N64, but this game made me go back and play those games. I also got into the Twisted Metal franchise because of Diddy Kong racing, as I thought Twisted Metal at the time was just a weird car racer and since it I THOUGHT it was a car racer I passed it up. I stopped judging car games by their cover because of Diddy Kong Racing.

  45. My dad assumed correctly that I would misjudge this game and probably never play it so he bought it for me and when he gave it to me he told me a friend had lent him the game and I only had a week to play it. So a week later I hesitantly went up to my dad to return it, sad that I was not close to beating it. He told me his friend didnt want it back anymore and it wasnt till years later that he told me the truth.

    Dope game and I still have it for the n64 and is my daughters favorite game. Funny how a console I got when I was 6 would also be the same console that introduces my children to gaming.

  46. I've had this game my whole life and didn't know there were extra characters, this video blew my mind. Im going home after work and playing this again. And I did get the trophy races and stuff when I was little but boy did I forget about alot of these features

  47. Funny enough, this game isn't the only racing game to use the strategy of "stacking powers".
    In 1999, a PC game called Lego Racers was released and literally used the stacking powers strat.
    From the colors, to the abilities, etc….
    It wasn't too bad of a game either!
    It is pretty disappointing to see that not many other racing games use this unique style of power-ups…. 🙁

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