10 Best SNES Racing Games: A 16-Bit Rewind

The Super Nintendo is a very special console for me. It’s the console I grew up on — the one that started my love affair with video games and ignited a passion that still burns strong to this day. 

While most people’s minds shoot to adventure titles like Super Mario World and A Link to the Past as the system’s greatest hits, the best SNES racing games are also well-worth your time. Not only did the system introduce the world to several racing game franchises, but it refined common racing mechanics and practically invented a few subgenres of its own!

Today, we’ll be discussing 10 of these game-changing titles, giving you a birds-eye view of the most iconic racing games from the 90s-era console. Sound like a plan? Put the pedal to the metal, and let’s zoom straight into the list!

10 Best SNES Racing Games

Starting at #10, let’s work our way down to the best of the best SNES racing games.

10. Battle Cars

Battle Cars - #10 Best SNES Racing Games
  • Genre: Racing // Vehicular Combat
  • Developer: Malibu Interactive
  • Release Year: 1993

Imagine an entire game comprised of post-apocalyptic Mad-Max-style offensive vehicles. Now you can envision Battle Cars.

From the get-go, Namco and Malibu Interactive’s aggressive rubber burner allows you to play as three different vehicles, each with its own stats and all upgradeable. Select your vehicle, then take it to the track and pit it out against your opponents. Use the game’s three different weapons types — missiles, grenades, and discs — to attack your enemies and win the match, victorious!

Battle Cars has nine different levels with two tracks in each location: one sprint and one circuit. The game also features Boss characters (with their own special vehicles) that the player has to beat to progress to the next location. On the visual front, the game doesn’t win any awards, but the graphics hold up enough to be respectable, and the vehicles control pretty smoothly overall.

It doesn’t quite have the challenge, longevity, or diversity of the proceeding games on this list, but Battle Cars is still one of the best SNES racing games.

9. F1 Pole Position 2

F1 Pole Position 2
  • Genre: Racing
  • Developer: Human Entertainment
  • Release Year: 1993

In my research for this piece, I discovered a lot (and I mean a lot) of Formula One racing games for the Super Nintendo and other consoles from the time. And I’ve gotta say, it was tough to pick a winner from them all.

While Formula One racing won’t be for everyone, Pole Position 2 provides the best serving of F1 simulation on the retro Nintendo platform. For how lighthearted and arcade-like Super Mario Kart is, F1 PP2 sits at the other end of the spectrum. It provides a myriad of ways to tinker and customize your vehicle, lets you pick from a who’s who of former F1 stars with accurate representations of their cars, and lets you recreate the 1993 Formula One season.

Because it opts for simulation, F1 Pole Position 2 (and subsequent games in the series) may prove to be inaccessible for some due to their rigid controls and steep difficulty curve. That said, F1 PP2 is probably the easiest onboarding point for the games overall, and we highly recommend it above the rest.

Editor’s Note: F1 Pole Position 2 was only available in Japan and the EU. Although rare, you may still be able to find copies on eBay.

8. Street Racer

Street Racer
  • Genre: Kart Racing
  • Developer: Vivid Image
  • Release Year: 1994

Inevitable accusations will come powersliding at any kart race, pointing fingers that it’s just copying the Mario Kart games. While these accusations are accurate to a degree (in that it’s a racing game where everyone is in a go-kart), oftentimes, these lookalike games have an element of their own identity beyond the similarities they share with Mario and his fellow racers. This is evident in the title, Street Racer.

Developed by the folks over at Vivid Image, Street Racer is a racing game that emphasizes “wackiness” and not taking itself too seriously. I think this was a good design stance to take, as it’s instantly distinguishable from the Italian plumber’s outing behind the wheel.

Street Racer features a roster of identifiable characters, each with their own signature power-up and unique stats. No matter which character you select, all drivers can punch competitors on either side of them, and there’s also a KO meter that leaves you vulnerable if depleted. There are also various mode types, including a single-player campaign, multiplayer Rumble (playing like a sumo wrestling match, but with karts), and multiplayer Soccer, a game type akin to Rocket League.

Overall, Street Racer is a solid title with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek.

7. Biker Mice From Mars

Biker Mice From Mars
  • Genre: Racing
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Year: 1994

Next on our list of best SNES racing games? Biker Mice From Mars.

I may be showing my age, but I still remember the glory days of weekend cartoons growing up in the early to mid-1990s. Biker Mice From Mars was one of these alumni cartoons, along with the likes of Spider-Man, X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Gargoyles. While many of these animated series and franchises had their own games in numerous forms, Biker Mice From Mars was the only one that ventured into the racing genre thanks to its natural influences.

BMFM lets you take on the role of six of the show’s characters and differs from most racers in that it offers an isometric perspective for the camera (rather than being directly behind the racer). After players complete their first lap, they receive a stock of three missiles to use, similar to how other racers reward players with limited turbos or speed boosts. Players also earn money during races, which they can then use on bike upgrades after the match.

Graphically, the game has a lot of charm. The character sprites pop with the color and vividness of their TV animation counterparts, and each character has their personal vehicle from the show modeled in great detail. Even if you’re not as ancient as myself, you can still find abundant joy in this game.

6. Gekitotsu Dangan Jidousha Kessen: Battle Mobile

Gekitotsu Dangan Jidousha Kessen Battle Mobile
  • Genre: Vehicular Combat
  • Developer: System Sacom
  • Release Year: 1993

Now, this is something a little bit different from its contemporaries. Not a traditional racing game by any stretch, this Japanese-exclusive title (which technically means it was on the Super Famicom and not the Super Nintendo) is more similar to the vehicle scrolling shooter, Spyhunter.

Released in 1993 and confined to the shores of Japan, Gekitotsu Dangan Jidousha Kessen: Battle Mobile is set in the Spring of 2029 and follows a widower who seeks to reign vengeance down upon the gang of bandits who caused the car crash which killed his wife. His method for revenge? Using his souped-up sports car as a means of exacting this fury (at least that’s what I’m inferring from the opening cinematic that has no speech and/or text).

You progress through the levels, taking out enemies and avoiding their gunfire and environmental hazards, eventually taking out the end-of-level boss. Sharing elements from other scrolling shooters like Galaga rather than more conventional racing titles, you can perform various maneuvers to defeat and dodge threats and acquire power-ups that give invulnerability and refill health.

The game isn’t mindblowing on the visual front, but the soundtrack is brilliant, and the gameplay is where it truly shines. Anyone searching for a different kind of racer will surely like what they find here. It’s just finding this rare SNES game that may prove difficult.

5. Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament

Micro Machines 2 Turbo Tournament - #5 Best SNES Racing Games
  • Genre: Racing
  • Developer: Supersonic Software // Merit Studios 
  • Release Year: 1996

Next on our list of best SNES racing games is Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament.

While the original game is perfectly fine, Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament improves upon the original in almost every department while keeping true to the series’s essence and soul. It even maintains the novelty of driving around tiny cars on a pool table!

MM2:TT controls reasonably well and retains its top-down perspective from the original. But the real fun comes packaged in its unique and inventive track design. Screeching your tiny tires around garden plant pots, dodging inkblot “oil slicks,” and avoiding the bumpers of pinball tables is quintessential Micro Machines gameplay.

And it didn’t just add in a few new courses, either. Micro Machines 2 also includes all-new Super League races and a Time Trial mode, as well as varying vehicles like boats, dump trucks, and helicopters, each of which has its own handling, grip, and acceleration. Its multiplayer option also comes with a Team and Knockout mode to add another take on PvP.

MM2 is one of the best SNES racing games, bar none, with tons of content that tests players to their limit. Unfortunately, it was only available in the EU, meaning North American players will need a PAL Super Nintendo or emulator to play!

4. Rock N’ Roll Racing

Rock N' Roll Racing
  • Genre: Racing
  • Developer: Silicon & Synapse
  • Release Year: 1993

Rock N’ Roll Racing went under the radar for the most part, probably because it wasn’t under the banner of an existing IP. Still, the game is a fantastic isometric racer that is brimming with character and attitude.

Developed by Silicon & Synapse (who we all now know as Blizzard Entertainment), Rock N’ Roll Racing derives its name from its license music and aesthetic choices stemming from this design pillar. The game swaggers its attitude around by emphasizing aggressive driving and vehicular combat. Featuring three levels of difficulty (aptly named Rookie, Veteran, and Warrior, respectively), you’re encouraged to make lives as miserable as possible for your opponents by continually trying to blow them up.

Rather than being a strategic affair, RNRR lives up to its name by having a quick turnaround to keep the carnage flowing. You’ll more than likely explode multiple times in a race; the idea is combust the least. This destruction certainly gives the game an edge in multiplayer, where there are few better things to see than your best friend’s car erupting into an inferno for the umpteenth time.

RNRR isn’t the most dynamic, but it sure is fun. Anyone wanting to try a more up-to-date version can find this gem as part of the Blizzard Arcade Collection (along with many other classic gems).

3. Top Gear

Top Gear
  • Genre: Racing
  • Developer: Gremlin Graphics
  • Release Year: 1992

Regarded as one of the best Super Nintendo racing games among critics and fans alike, Top Gear (no relation to the UK-based TV show) is one of the games to own for “standard” racing fans who want pure, unadulterated pedal-to-the-metalness. 

Developed by Gremlin Graphics and released in 1992, Top Gear doesn’t get too fancy, which I think is a big part of its appeal. You can select between different control schemes, opt for manual transmission, and select your own vehicle. But for the most part, it’s you, the car, and the course. Your own skill is the only thing allowing you to nab the top spot in each of the races, which take place in diverse countries and environments.

Top Gear’s strategy comes in the form of its fuel and nitro mechanic, requiring players to choose when to check-in at the available pit stops to refuel (running out of fuel will end your race) and the three uses of nitro it gives you to fire off at your choosing. Not making the most of your limited speed boosts could mean the difference between standing atop the podium and collecting a participation trophy.

Top Gear can provide hours of fun for all racing fans, and best of all, it has a belting soundtrack that heightens the adrenaline of the races.

2. F-Zero

  • Genre: Racing
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Year: 1993

Rounding out our top two best SNES racing games is F-Zero.

F-Zero is one of my favorite franchises, and it saddens me to my very core that the series (more than likely) won’t see any more entries, at least not in the foreseeable future. My own pining aside, its debut on the Super Nintendo was futuristic racing at its finest.

The game gives you different vehicles to choose from, each with its own statistics (but obviously, everyone should choose the Blue Falcon, piloted by the one the only Captain Douglas J. Falcon). The core gameplay is standard fare; you compete in the F-Zero Grand Prix, choosing between different Leagues of various difficulties and looking to take each competition’s top spot.

F-Zero thrives on its visceral speed and high stakes. After the first lap, NPC racing bots spawn on the course looking to throw off your lines, requiring lightning reactions and acute execution to maneuver around. You also have to keep an eye on your energy, which essentially acts as your health.

The sides of every track are lined with electrical pads that damage your vehicle, and veering outside of the track from a jump will end your race instantly. If you lose all your health, it’s race over. Lose all of your lives, and your Grand Prix run will come to a screeching halt.

All this fantastic and high-octane action was set to one of the best original soundtracks that you can find on a SNES video game, and F-Zero should be part of every Super Nintendo collection.

1. Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart - #1 Best SNES Racing Games
  • Genre: Kart Racing
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Release Year: 1992

As one of the best-selling games on the entire console (and the first appearance of Mario’s iconic kart-based racer), the top spot on this list of best SNES racing games could only go to Super Mario Kart.

Rather than explain the game’s in-depth mechanics (everyone already knows how Mario Kart works), let’s talk about why this particular iteration is so legendary.  

SMK has all the building blocks of an excellent video game. In addition to its fun and exciting controls, the game “layers” its features, pacing players by simultaneously rewarding them and enticing them to keep playing. It achieves this by putting extra features (like 150cc difficulty and the Star Cup) behind challenging criteria that provide players with something to aim towards (not to mention new unlockable rewards). Such is the masterful design of many first-party Nintendo titles, particularly in this era.

Marry this fun, action-packed gameplay and carrot-on-a-stick reward scheme with well-designed tracks, inventive power-ups, racers with different statistics, a coin speed mechanic, and addictive multiplayer modes — and it’s blatantly obvious why the spin-off series has spawned so many sequels that are still going strong today.