Many kart racing games have come and gone in their time and, while in our household Mario Kart 8 is our go to game, none for me personally comes close to beating my love for Crash Team Racing. Our PlayStation was a cherished piece of kit when we were younger and Crash Bandicoot was almost always on the agenda for us, but it seems strange now that his greatest legacy was the kart racing swan song of Naughty Dog’s time with the franchise. The tracks are all memorable and well designed, each inspired by locations and themes present in the preceding trilogy. I’ve recently had the joy of picking this title up again, so let’s discuss now which are the best tracks found in this most excellent game.
Best #1 – Sewer Speedway
Truthfully it’s somewhat difficult to narrow down which are the best tracks in this game, there are so many I feel are worth mentioning here, but alas we must narrow it down somehow. Sewer Speedway remains one of my favourites for the hang ten jumps you can make off the half pipe. We could feel like we were soaring into the air long before hang gliders became the norm and plane transformations were restricted to Diddy Kong and pals. I must have almost sacrificed many races here because I simply wanted the highest jump I could get off the pipe’s edges, trying to get that exhilarating boost off the landing which would propel my kart on toward the next jump. This all culminates into a full sewer pipe towards the end inside which we could reach such great speeds inside by hugging the walls as high as one could. Those rolling barrels are all but forgotten with the speed you can fly by them at. Yet Sewer Speedway houses one of the harder to spot shortcuts in the entire game. Reaching that maximum jump height (with a little help with some power sliding) at the beginning of the half pipe, we could reach an entire hidden section above the normal route, which felt like discovering a completely separate track in the middle of the race. This portion was mandatory also for anyone hoping to achieve a Platinum Relic in Story Mode so it certainly required a lot of practice to master. All in all Sewer Speedway is a fantastic course that manages to be playful yet demanding at the same time, and therefore one of the best the game has to offer.
Best #2 – Polar Pass
Simply put, I just love Polar Pass. Inspired by those Polar Bear riding stages from Crash Bandicoot 2, you’ve got seals trying to trip you up, dangerous icy platforms over freezing cold waters, ice sheets to slide over and that really massive terrifying Polar Bear that chased Crash before finally frozen solid in big block of ice. But it’s the track itself that shines here. After sliding through that cross-section at the beginning we come to several icy blocks that, with the assistance of boost pads, we must traverse across before entering the cave ahead. It’s this section here, you can boost round it without barely touching the ground, culminating in one of the most satisfying corners in kart racing history. I reckon it’s partly the suspense of the icy waters below that keeps it feeling exciting every time but mostly because it’s a fast section with plenty of boost jumps that feels great to perform on each lap. Then there’s that wall just after the cave. Sure we could go round it like we presume was intended for all racers, but its way more fun to go over it instead. Indeed such a simple shortcut but it turns out so darn effective. All those other silly racers are making one of the tightest corners in the game, and everybody else in the know just flies straight over that wall no sweat. It’s a moment that certainly separates the beginners from the experts but again it’s that feeling of soaring over the wall here that feels particularly satisfying. We are the gods of kart racing and not even steel walls can stop us. This is one of those tracks I remember every time I pick up a new kart racing game, and every time I drive round a corner that I find exhilarating. I suppose this was the first kart racing track I ever fell in love with, and that is why it is truly one of the best in the game.
Coming up next, the worst tracks in Crash Team Racing, which seemed a little easier to decide upon than these two.