Crash Team Racing (CTR) used to be the designated holiday party game. I thought about the game recently because of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy announcement, which led me to buying its racing counterpart on a whim at the PlayStation Store. Thinking about CTR brings nothing but warm memories of racing against my family and crushing them in the process.
This was my first and favorite kart racer. I never owned a Nintendo console to experience Mario Kart and its popularity. I felt left out of the “racing scene” until my cousin brought CTR to Christmas of ’99, Naughty Dog’s answer to Mario Kart. I finally had this chance to experience the magic everyone else felt from a kart racer. After the family dinner, we ran upstairs to gush over that plastic case. This was damn well one of the most exciting things my 7-year-old self experienced. We played one race and from that point on, it became the game we played during family functions.
Now just because I played with my family doesn’t mean I let people off easy. Whether it was a race or the battle arena, you can guarantee I was trying to beat everybody. I had the game on lock! From Dingo Canyon to Cortex’s Castle, I memorized every track and their secrets. I knew where the ramps were. I knew where the Wumpa fruits were. I knew where I had to attack to perfectly knock people off the ledge of Hot Air Skyway and stun their play for 3 seconds (and believe me, those seconds were PIVOTAL). I was practically a Crash Team Racing Master.
I played Mario Kart 64 eventually and other ensemble racing games like Chocobo Racing, but nothing could match CTR’s fast-paced and aggressive style. Based on its previous platformer game, the weapons and power-ups in CTR aren’t friendly and wholesome. In Mario Kart, you have red and green shells for weapons. In CTR, you attack players with missiles, rolling bombs, and TNT. In Mario Kart, a smiling star grants your player invincibility. In CTR, a menacing tiki mask called Uka-Uka surrounds your character to knock around the competition. There was something exhilarating about being extra vicious, especially against relatives.
Aside from beating the competition, I am thankful for this game uniting the family. My sister, my cousin, and I played this game for hours into the night. Sometimes our parents would visit the room and join for a game or two, albeit they had no cognizance of direction and the objective of the game. We cycled through every character, every track, every level of story mode, and none of us got tired of playing the game together. The CTR madness stopped years later when my cousin went to college, followed by my sister, then me. It has been years since I’ve played the Cup, but I will always associate this game to wonderful and meaningful times with my family.
Although now that I have the game back in my possession, this next holiday could get a really interesting…