Quick FactsKarbox

  • Platform: Nintendo Gamecube
  • Suggested Platform: Nintendo Gamecube
  • Developer: HAL Laboratory
  • Genre: Racing
  • Release Date: 10/13/03 (NA)
  • Why Play It?: So much to do, and so much more than just a “racing game”. Also very fun with a few friends.
  • Why Skip It?: If you really just can’t wrap your head around racing, it really is a great game.

Kirby Air Ride is definitely an underrated gem on the Gamecube. I spent so many hours screwing around in City Trial mode, and honestly, if the game was just City Trial, it might still be on this list anyway. There is so much to do for such a simple, pick up and play game, and I still play a round of City Trial every now and again. Anyway, allow me to talk about the game in full.

Kirby Air Ride is very simple to understand in terms of controls. Your star (which is your vehicle) will drive forward automatically, you only need to turn it with the Control Stick and you use the A button for everything else. When you press the A button, your star stops hovering above the ground and begins to slide on the ground and build up a boost. If you release it when you’ve built up enough boost, you’ll get a burst of speed. You can also turn quicker while sliding, allowing to you take tight corners and boost out of them.

Air Ride is your basic racing mode.

If you quickly tap the Control Stick left and right, you can do a quick spin to attack other racers or enemies on the field. Seeing as it is a Kirby game, you can also eat enemies and use their powers against your opponents. If you hit a jump, you can glide for a while. There are 18 different stars (as well as the ability to play as King Dedede and Meta Knight) and each have different stats and are better at certain things. Oftentimes, you’ll need to pick the right star for the job. Interestingly, Kirby Air Ride was the first Gamecube game to offer LAN play, and local split-screen is (of course) an option. There are three different gamemodes allowing for a variety of gameplay:

Air Ride: This is the default gamemode, and probably what most people expected when they picked up Kirby Air Ride. There are 9 different tracks you can race on, and it’s just a basic race to the finish. The courses are all varied and some are more difficult and technical than others. You can change many different settings like laps or even give each Kirby an HP bar that way if they get knocked out, they lose. There are 120 objectives  to unlock in a grid-like fashion (like Super Smash Bros. Brawl) for each gamemode, and as you complete objectives, you’ll unlock different stars to race on, different colored Kirbys, sound test music and more.

Top Ride:

Top Ride’s top-down gameplay, small course, and plentiful powerups make for a hectic race.

This seems more like a mini-game , but it’s got 7 courses of its own as well as 120 objectives. In this mode, the entire course is seen from an overhead view, and there are only two stars to choose from. Both stars are identical in stats and only differ in how they control, so it’s only a matter of preference. The races are fast and furious with many powers and all sorts of stuff going on.

City Trial: Now this is the standout hit in Kirby Air Ride, if you ask me. In City Trial mode, you return to the view of Air Ride mode and are given a huge city to free roam around in for 5-7 minutes. After your time is up, you and the other Kirby’s will face off in a randomly selected challenge. It can be a single lap from a race, a drag race, a battle Colosseum, a gliding challenge and much more. Every Kirby is given an identical, but low powered star, and as you roam around, you may find a different star that you want. You can then hop off yours, and hop on the new star. Or, if you’re lucky, you can find the 3 pieces of the Legendary Machines hidden randomly and destroy your competition with those. While you roam the city, you’ll find boxes containing power-ups that improve the quality of your star. Turn radius, top speed, acceleration, glide ability, weight, offense, defense, and HP can all be altered (for the better or for the worse, you can always find power downs as well). This means you can build a pretty mean machine after a while of roaming around the city. Sometimes while you’re roaming around, you’ll get a hint about the challenge that will take place after your time in the city. This gives you time to build the appropriate star and find the star that will suit you well.

City Trial is the crown jewel of Kirby Air Ride.

If the prompt says something about gliding, you may want to grab plenty of Glide Ups and find a winged star. Battling? Go for offense, defense, and HP. A race? Go for speed! There is so much fun unpredictability in this mode. While you’re in the city, there are a number of crazy random events that can occur making for a fun time. Definitely play a few rounds of this mode and see what I mean. There are also 120 objectives for you to complete here as well.

Kirby Air Ride wasn’t exactly a stand out hit, but, like a lot of games on my Best Games Ever list, it garnered attention as a cult classic. With its simple controls and plethora of things to do, there’s no reason not to try Kirby Air Ride.