Obligatory author's note: This is part of a series in which GabuEx and I highlight games that are fairly unknown but nonetheless awesome. Previous editions can be found here:9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. They are both informative and entertaining, at least Gabu's are.
In the late Nineties, the video game industry was hit by a frightening trend. Inspired by the success of Mario Kart 64, game companies decided that the game they really needed to create, was a kart racer. Of course, anyone you ask now will tell you that this was stupid because Mario Kart 64 was the only kart racer you really needed to own. It fulfills the major purpose of kart racers, namely, attracting the ladies. Ladies love the Mario Kart. If you ever go to a party featuring both an N64 and ladies, make sure you bring Mario Kart along, because, as Benjamin Franklin once quipped, "the ladies flock to the man with Mario Kart".
But let me return to my main point here, which is that there were way too many kart racers in the late nineties. Mickey Mouse had one, Diddy Kong had one, Lego had one, I wouldn't be suprised to learn that Ernest P. Worrel had one (Ernest hits the Road). Every franchise needed to be sure they put their characters into those dopey little cars with unbelievably cheap items that they would always use to knock me out of first place at the last second and make me play the entire level over again!
Ahem…another genre that was a bit shall we say, overproduced, was the Snowboarding genre. Of course, the late nineties were the time when snowboarding and other extreme sports were adopted by the mainstream and therefore used as a vehicle to market various crap as "extreme".
So, bearing that unnecessarily long exposition in mind, it should come as a surprise to learn that two of the most colorful and entertaining multiplayer games for the N64 are a hybrid of kart racer and snowboarding game (I mean, it's probably not that big of a surprise, since I told you what the game is right in the title). Let's take a moment to discuss what makes Snowboard Kids and its superior sequel (aptly titled Snowboard Kids 2) so much fun.
The biggest asset of the snowboarding genre as a whole is the sense of speed; you're going down a mountain and the only way to slow down is to fall flat on your face (or other bodily region). A common mistake of early 3D snowboarding games was to place too much emphasis on the tricks, which were often awkward and hard to perform which led to the game feeling slow. The tricks in Snowboard Kids are easy to perform and are integrated right into the gameplay. Landing tricks gives you money to get a random obnoxious kart racing weapon when you go through the item box. This weapon is used to (in the spirit of good fun of course) decimate your opponent and cause them to swear loudly at their cartoony snowboarding kid. Another cool feature of the game is that there are two slots to hold items, red ones are shot at the competition while the blue ones assist you (boost, invisibility, other stuff, etc)
The chairlift takes you from lap to lap, which leads to some pretty intense moments trying to beat somebody into the gate.
Snowboard Kids break the common misconception that snowboarding can only be done on, you know, snow. As with all kart racers, level variety is a must and the snowboard kids series features a bright summer village, a desert, underwater, and outer space (because why not). There's honestly not a whole lot else to say about it aside from it being a lot of fun. The levels are varied, the AI is generally fair, and the voice samples are not very irritating. There's even interesting things to unlock in single player.
I imagine this is a lot harder than it looks.
As a recent college grad, I constantly noticed the enduring popularity of the N64. It's the system people are most likely to have at their house/dorm and it's the system that has the most multiplayer games that people know how to play. If you can supply a fun multiplayer game that people haven't played to death, you could be the hit of the party (assumming you go to the lamest parties on campus, which I did). Snowboard Kids 2 features a four player mode making it the superior multiplayer choice (the first game is only 2 player). The snowboarding aspect makes the game feel fast and helps differentiate it from Mario Kart but it maintains more than enough of the colorful and intuitive kart racing design to make it fun either playing on your own, and of course, with the ladies.
P.S. There was a re-release of the first Snowboard Kids for the Nintendo DS, which I bring up for no reason other than to point out it's existance, because I don't know nor do I plan to find out anything about it.