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Placing a familiar Nintendo personality behind the wheel of a sputtering kart powered by a 50, 100, or 150 cc engine, the game lets players race up to four of Nintendo's lovable characters on a variety of well-designed tracks. Because karts lack the power and speed of race cars, drivers must focus on collecting power-ups and non-lethal weapons rather than negotiating hairpin turns on two wheels. Grabbing and using on-track items is the heart of the game's fun: a strategically placed banana peel sends the unlucky victim into a spin, nailing an opponent with a turtle shell launches their vehicle skyward and a rocket provides a quick boost to near-breakneck speeds, if only for a moment. The multiplayer mode provides enormously chaotic fun for up to four players--flip it on at a party and watch the guests congregate around the screen. --Eric Twelker
Mario Kart 64 races eight familiar faces, including Mario, Bowser and Yoshi, on four progressively tougher four-track circuits. Wide curves and gentle banks mark the Mushroom Cup tracks. Your commute gets notably tougher on the Flower Cup, though. You'll have to dodge semis rumbling on Toad's Turnpike and bounding boulders on fog-bound Choco Mountain. Star Cup tracks range from the icy surfaces of Sherbet Land to the lava lakes of Bowser's Castle. The true test of karting competence, though, comes on the four tracks in Special Cup. Zip through the dark caves and green hillsides of Donkey Kong's Jungle Parkway, cling to the sheer cliffs of Yoshi Valley and hustle over haunted Banshee Boardwalk before tackling the longest track in the game: neon-lit Rainbow Road.
Mario Kart 64 offers two camera angles and three engine sizes: 50cc, 100cc and 150cc. You can gain even more speed by mastering the power slide technique or grabbing Super Star power-ups. Each kart has distinctive handling, acceleration and top speed capabilities. Light karts like Princess's smoothly steer through tight corners, but run the constant risk of getting flattened by heavy karts like Donkey Kong's. Shells that you fire at rival racers, bananas that make them skid out and lightning bolts that make 'em small and very slow are just a few of the game's unique power-ups.