Diddy Kong Racing: The Quintessential Christmas Game

When it comes it kart racers on the Nintendo 64, the game that most people immediately think of is Mario Kart 64. Diddy Kong Racing is a game that is usually forgotten in most discussions, but I maintain that it is the best kart racer on the N64. Diddy Kong Racing has the clear advantage over Mario Kart 64 in many aspects, such as the superior graphics, the single player adventure mode in the style of a platformer, and a much more balanced power-up system (with no blue shell equivalent). For me, Diddy Kong Racing has always been a personal favorite on the system, but even more than that, it is a game I immediately associate with Christmas.

Diddy Kong Racing isn’t a Christmas game per se, but it does feature a lot of Christmas themed imagery and music on a particular set of tracks. Like most games with themed worlds, Diddy Kong Racing has a snow world, called Snowflake Mountain. Snowflake Mountain consists of four tracks, and instead of simply being a snow themed area, there is also a big Christmas vibe. Most of the trees featured on these tracks have colored lights on them, the starting line posts are candy canes, and the music has a distinct Christmas sound to it. Even some of the more generic wintery imagery evokes Christmas because the surrounding elements are very Christmas-like.

Now you may be thinking, how does a little Christmas scenery on a handful of tracks make Diddy Kong Racing the “Quintessential Christmas Game” as stated in the title? Well to be honest, the other half of why I always associate this game with Christmas is a bit more personal. I got a Nintendo 64 in summer 1998 (at just under 9 years old), but the only game I had was Super Mario 64. Now, around Christmas time my two brothers and I, having a shiny new console, loaded our Christmas lists with N64 games. Some we put by name, like Goldeneye, but in most cases we left it up to our relatives to find any games they thought we might like.

That Christmas, between the three of us we received six Nintendo 64 games, and among them was Diddy Kong Racing. With most of the games we recieved being single player focused and all three of us wanting to play, the first game we booted up on Christmas morning was Diddy Kong Racing. We had a blast playing this game that morning, but it really got special when we reached Snowflake Mountain. The three of us were sitting on the living room floor in our pajamas surrounded by empty boxes and torn wrapping paper, and the smell of the Christmas breakfast our mother was cooking had begun to permeate the rest of the house. These things, in conjunction with the Christmas sounding music and imagery of Snowflake Mountain, just ingrained Diddy Kong Racing in my mind as a core Christmas memory.

group_dkr_02_595

So yes, I freely admit that Diddy Kong Racing‘s connection to Christmas is highly personal, but that’s just one of the great things about video games. Instead of simply being an outdated kart racer on a nearly two decade old console, Diddy Kong Racing is an essential piece of my childhood Christmas memories. I’m sure everyone has got their own games that have become more symbols of certain times or events than mere games, and mine is Diddy Kong Racing, and my brothers and I play it every Christmas.