Even back in the early ’90s, Mario Kart was one of the hottest games you could get to scratch that crazy kart-racing itch. Super Mario Kart became an instant success after it debuted in 1992 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. So, naturally, other game developers tried to replicate it on other platforms.
Emora Kart, launched in 1994, is the closest we got on Macintosh.
Later distributed with a 2002 copy of MacLife magazine in Japan, Emora Kart looked pretty fun — even in black and white — and it’s obvious where it got its inspiration. You can play this retro racer now in your browser (or download an original copy for free).
Emora Kart brought the Mario Kart feel to Macintosh
Emora Kart must have been a pretty rare game, with little mention of it on the internet before a copy of it was recently discovered by former Apple evangelist Matt Sephton. But thanks to this incredible find — and Sephton’s subsequent experimentation — we can find out what the game had to offer.
Named after its lead character, a “somewhat dinosaur-like creature called Emora,” who later featured in other games from the same developer, this version 1.0 release of the game came on a CD-ROM. It starts by taking players around a short tutorial course that helps them become familiar with the racing game’s controls. (Unlike Nintendo’s original smash hit, which shipped with tight gamepad controls, this Macintosh clone used a mouse.)
“Finishing first on this course will unlock four further courses that are substantially bigger and more challenging,” Sephton wrote. “Finishing first on all courses unlocks a special course.”
Coins scattered around each track are collected as you drive over them, like in Mario Kart, and there are obstacles that cause your kart to spin if you hit them. There are six characters to choose from, and six tracks — including the special course that must be unlocked — that vary in terms of complexity.
So close, yet so far
Unlike the original Mario Kart, which offered multiple tournament options at different engine sizes, Emora Kart’s speed was determined by the performance of the Macintosh it ran on. But its biggest downside was that it was controlled using a mouse.
“Your character automatically accelerates and you use the mouse to influence its direction,” Sephton wrote. “If the mouse pointer is too far away then it will have no effect, so it’s better if you trail the mouse pointer in front of the character at a short distance — a bit like a carrot on a stick – which gives the feeling that you’re almost pulling them around the track.”
Emora Kart must have been somewhat successful because it was followed up with a sequel called Emora Buggy in 1996. This one was a little more advanced, shifting the camera to behind your vehicle — more like Nintendo’s offering — and adding support for a second player.
Try out Emora Kart for yourself
Interested in giving Emora Kart a spin? You can play it on almost anything in your web browser using the Internet Archive, but Sephton warns that this version of the game runs very slowly. Alternatively, you can download an original copy of the game to play on a real Macintosh, or in an emulator.