KartRider: Drift review (2023)

Essentially, KartRider: Drift is a Mario Kart clone that can offer quite a bit of fun, especially being free-to-play. But, the customization options seem a bit uninspired and there aren’t many things about the game to keep you coming back for more after playing for a few hours.

(Moving forward, my reviews will be a bit shorter in an attempt to be a bit more productive with my writing. I’ll be reverting back to the 1-10 scale as well since I feel I can rate a specific game or movie more accurately.)

It’s good to see a game incredibly similar to the Mario Kart series, like KartRider: Drift, be playable on anything that isn’t a Nintendo console since, obviously, Mario Kart is a Nintendo exclusive. Because of this, ever since I saw gameplay footage of KartRider: Drift, I was immediately interested. It also helps it’s a free-to-play game. Since its release, I’ve put a few hours into it and I can say it’s a fun time for what it is. For it being inspired by the juggernaut of the genre that is Mario Kart, I say it does it pretty well and, from a gameplay perspective, I don’t have many complaints. The problems I have with it go far beyond how the game plays and feels. For the sake of this review, I’ll be comparing it with the Mario Kart series since I think it makes the most sense considering the nature of both of these games. There are other games with similar mechanics, such as Crash Team Racing and even Diddy Kong Racing, but we all know Mario Kart reigns supreme and is the pillar of this genre.

The racing mechanics and controls feel amazingly fluid and easy to learn. Honestly, the only real difference I can think of is the drifting mechanic. It’s far more sensitive in comparison to Mario Kart, since that one is much more user friendly and isn’t as punishing if you hold it for too long. When it comes to everything else, such as the items mode and the tracks you play on, it all seems very familiar and there’s nothing about these modes that make the game really stand out. There is one mode, however, that introduces something unique to the genre, which is the speed mode, and I’ve found myself playing this mode more than anything. Rather than relying on items to win you the race, the speed mode is all about how you start the race and how you can use the boosts and drifting mechanics to your advantage. Once you have a solid lead, unless you make an error, the chances of losing are pretty low. As someone who is very competitive, I appreciate this since there’s a skill gap involved and you’re forced to learn how to be the fastest driver possible. So, in this aspect, I can say it blends casual gameplay with slightly competitive features a bit better than Mario Kart. This isn’t to say Mario Kart can’t be competitive, of course, and I still think Mario Kart is a far superior game for many other reasons. However, as mentioned, KartRider: Drift could really have something here with the speed mode. If there was some sort of ranked mode, I can see myself playing it more and more since there would actually be an incentive to play and it would all feel a bit more rewarding.

By far, the biggest gripe I have, at least up until now, is the lack of content in the game. I think I’ve played five of the same tracks over and over. Growing up playing Mario Kart, being burnt out on the same tracks was never an issue since there were so many different tracks to play. The same can be said about the number of characters to choose from. Granted, KartRider: Drift doesn’t have the luxury of playing as some of the most familiar and popular characters in gaming history, including Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Peach, Donkey Kong, and even Link with added content. I mean, we’re talking about 38 different characters to play as, and each of them feel a bit different and have the charm and personality to differentiate them from the rest. Unfortunately, KartRider: Drift doesn’t have this. Speaking of DLC, to this day, Mario Kart 8 (Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is a rerelease of the same game on the Nintendo Switch, which came out in 2017), which released in 2014 on the Wii U, is still getting updates with new tracks every couple of months. If I’m not mistaken, I think the last piece of DLC came out not long ago, but this goes to show how much replay value a game could have with extra content and support every so often. There are now 48 tracks to play, which is an insane amount of content. Sure, there are customization options in KartRider: Drift, such as choosing a different character and how they look, what kind of kart you want to use and changing certain things about it as well, but some of it does feel a bit lazy and uninspired.

This isn’t to say KartRider: Drift won’t do any of this. On the contrary, developer Nexon may have plans to incorporate a ton of content as the game goes on, and I personally think the game would be all the better for it. As it stands, it’s a fun, entertaining kart racer. But, there’s a ton of room for improvement. Give me a ranked mode where I have something to play for. Most importantly, I want more tracks to play on and an expanded customization feature and I can see myself being invested much more than I am right now. Then again, as it stands, with it being free-to-play, there is some enjoyment to be had and will definitely scratch that Mario Kart itch if you don’t have a Nintendo console.

Score: 7/10

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