NASCAR Arcade Rush Adds a Little Silliness to the Sport

At the start of the Phoenix Raceway track in NASCAR Arcade Rush, the game’s announcer told me to watch out for UFO activity in the area. The six-year-old boy that is my gamer’s brain bristled with anticipation that my car might get tractor-beamed around the track or that I might have to avoid laser blasts as I took a turn. As the race started, I could see a large UFO hovering and glowing faintly in the background. Over the course of the race it taunted me as I completed laps.

NASCAR Arcade Rush follows a UFO track with one based on bronze statues of greek gods, and another with a synthwave aesthetic. If that sounds like a far cry from a standard NASCAR game, you’re absolutely right. 

As the “arcade” in its name implies, NASCAR Arcade Rush is not intended to be a realistic racing game, but rather a cartoonish racer with exaggerated reimaginings of real NASCAR raceways and cars. Daytona International Speedway, for example, is full of turns that bank sharply, and littered with speed boosts necessary to stay ahead of the competition. Kansas Speedway features a synthwave-inspired, cyberpunk aesthetic full of glowing neon. There is an undeniable influence from Nintendo’s premier racing title, Mario Kart 8, in the architecture of Arcade Rush’s handful of raceways. And while homing koopa shells are not present, what is here is a balance between the over-the-top silliness of Mario Kart and an experience that race fans will recognize. 

Certain NASCAR aspects are intact, such as the option to pit and the need to take sharp turns from the inside lane. While driving, players need to manage a boost meter that can be completely refilled by pitting at the start of a lap or partially refilled by running over yellow boost pads. There are also blue and pink boost pads that will give your car an extra burst of speed as long as your tires are touching them. Ultimately, winning or losing comes down to knowing the tracks well enough to hit most of the boost pads most of the time and precious little else in terms of strategy. 

In addition, NASCAR Arcade Rush features an experience point system that unlocks a selection of cosmetic upgrades for your driver, your car, and various emotes for online play.  If you want to drive in NASCAR with a pretty princess, unicorn helmet on your head, this game is ready to oblige. You can also deck out your car to look like it was ripped right out of Tron with glowing lights and hover wheels. 

At its core, this is a competent racer with plenty of love that shines through in its design and aesthetic. There’s no confusion here about whether this game wants to be a realistic racer or a NASCAR-inspired spectacle racer that appeals to kids and adults alike—it’s the latter. 

NASCAR Arcade Rush is available now on consoles and PC.