You Are Mine: Mine Carts in Games

I’m not sure what exactly inspired me to write this article, but driving through the beautiful mountains of Wyoming has certainly helped. Every once in awhile, I’ll spot an old tunnel carved out of the side of a mountain and wonder where that tunnel might lead. Many of these tunnels have railroad attached to them, but these passages are no longer in use. I’ve never seen a train go through them. Naturally, I was reminded of several games that had mines or mine cart sections in them, so I sat down and came up with the Top Ten instances of Mine Carts in video games. Enjoy!

10. Hugo
(TV Phone-In Game 1990-1995)

Phone games before there were phone games.

Remember that one time when you could play video games on your TV from your corded phone? My first experience seeing a “TV phone-in game” was when Nickelodeon did their Nick or Treat Halloween game shows during Halloween of 1995. Lucky contestants who were able to get through would have the opportunity to navigate an eery neighborhood on their home television by the touch of a dial in order to win prizes. Very rarely did I see anyone win.

Hugo was doing this type of gameplay years before Nickelodeon ever gave it a shot. In Hugo, you control a 220-year-old Troll who adventures through a mine cart maze before searching onward in a quest for treasure. Callers would use buttons on their phone to decide whether the character would move up, down, left, or right and try to steer the creature out of any oncoming danger.

This game, which originated in Denmark, became so popular that it eventually appeared in over 40 countries, and it even got ported to several modern gaming systems after its TV run was through.

9. Temple Run 2
(Android/iOS 2013)

“Danger” is my last name. Well, part of it.

Following the success of the original game from 2011, Temple Run 2 expands on the “endless running” genre by adding sharper turns, zip-lines, waterfalls, and mine carts. Touch controls are again utilized as Guy Dangerous (which sounds more like a warning to teenage girls) flees from a giant monkey named Cuchank in his pursuit for coins of many colors. The only thing stopping him are pits, flames, buzzsaws, and dead ends!

Since there’s technically no end to this game, it can be easy to get addicted when trying to see just how much further you can get compared to your last attempt. Or, in my case, you can get really bored with the repetitive gameplay when you realize that the only thing that coins can get you are access to more characters. In any case, this is the perfect game for Swiper. Swiper, start swiping!

8. African Mines in Ducktales
(NES/Wii U 1989/2013)

“Curse me kilts! One false move, and I’m a roast duck!

Looking for the Giant Diamond of the Inner-Earth, Scrooge McDuck explores the massive depths of the African Mines to add to his riches. In order to obtain it, though, he must overcome the terrible controls of the mine cart section! I died so many times just to a mistimed button push, and that frustration is only heightened in the original game when it’s unclear where you can jump. The 2013 Remaster was slightly more forgiving, but I still had similar issues mostly stemming from the fact that Scrooge doesn’t retain his momentum while he’s in the cart and you have to use your directionals buttons to make sure he jumps to safety. Either way, I muddled through and faced off against the Terra Firmie King in the Great Games, and lo, I collected my Giant Diamond! Bless me bagpipes!

7. Magitek Factory in Final Fantasy 6
(Super Nintendo 1994)

I’m gone.
Pretty sure this screenshot is from the GBA version – much more clean!

You’ve been snooping around the Magitek Factory and learned the truth about Magicite. What’s that laugh? Oh no! Kefka’s coming! Cid, the lead researcher at the facility, decides that your only chance at escaping is by conveniently hopping into this nearby mine cart that leads directly outside. But, wait! This is a Super Nintendo game so first we need to go all Mode 7 up in here!

Retrospectively, the Mode 7 graphics during this escape sequence have not aged well, and it’s more like you’re looking at a pile of mud being infinitely flung at your face. But, at the time, the hype was real! Actual 3D(ish) graphics of us traveling down a track at high speeds! Final Fantasy 6 used this effect several times during the game, and I applaud the folks at Squaresoft for taking this leap to expand on the worlds in their games. Certainly, the sequel to this game wouldn’t have been as all out if we didn’t see the strides they made in its predecessor. Just beware of stray Magna Roaders.

6. The Great Cave Offensive in Kirby Super Star
(SNES 1996)

The best offensive is a good defensive.

Kirby’s his name and collecting treasure is his game! In this Kirby Super Star sub-game, Kirby mistakingly falls down a hole but suddenly decides to channel his inner Wario when he realizes that the cave is filled with all sorts of valuable goodies.

One interesting fact about the collectibles found here is that many of them contain references to other franchises. For example, the Whip is from Indiana Jones, the Gold Coins are from the Goemon series, and the Screw Ball (Screw Attack) is from Metroid.

The Great Cave Offensive is also used as a stage in Super Smash Bros for Wii U in which players can take advantage of the mine carts that are strewn about the area.

5. Wario’s Gold Mine in Mario Kart 8
(Wii U 2014)

Mine, mine, mine!

One of my favorite tracks in Mario Kart 8, Wario’s Gold Mine takes players on a journey through the depths as Shy Guys cheer you on from the sideline. It seems like Wario’s mining operation is paying off, too, as carts of gold can be seen making their way down the tracks, and they even become obstacles if you get too close. I especially love the shortcut in this level that’s over a jump to the far left which takes you to a cave with a bunch of speed boosts.

I hope those Shy Guys are getting compensated for their work. No doubt, they’re working for Wario. Maybe in the next Wario Game, we will see a Shy Guy strike complete with a dramatic recreation of “Seize the Day.”

4. The Coal Mines in Super Mario RPG
(SNES 1996)

Mole money, mole problems.

The mine cart minigame of Moleville Mountain is required at first in order to rescue two mole children who have become trapped in the Coal Mines. However, once the serious business is out of the way, Mario is free to return again and again (at the price of 10 coins) to travel the track as much as he pleases.

I used this part of the game as an excuse to collect some fast cash when I was running low on funds. Additionally, your team is rewarded if you’re able to beat your record each time you play it. Good thing there are a healthy supply of Mario Kart-esque speed boost mushrooms lying all over the track!

3. Ellmac fight in La Mulana
(Various 2006)

Not to be confused with Olmec from Legends of the Hidden Temple.

Guardian of the Temple of the Sun, the giant lizard-like creature, Ellmac, chases down our hero Lemeza Kosugi (who is definitely not Indiana Jones or inspired by Indiana Jones at all…) as he tries to escape via mine cart in a lava-filled cavern.

Back when I was doing Let’s Plays, this fight, while incredibly frustrating, ended up being one of my favorite moments in the game (which I still have yet to finish). I enjoyed having to really pay attention to the boss’s attack pattern while also needing extraordinary spacial awareness as a I controlled my character on the track. Over time, I experimented with different weapons, subweapons, and movements in order to take down the beast. Eventually, I went back to my trusty close-range knife and was so surprised to see Ellmac taken down so quickly.

If you have a minute or 40, check out my video where you can see in real time how I fought this guy!

2. High Tide Ride in
Donkey Kong Country Returns: Tropical Freeze
(Wii U 2014)

Mine cart levels have been a thing in Donkey Kong Country games ever since the original in 1994. The very first mine cart stage was called “Mine Cart Carnage” (which was also the inspiration for the title of my YouTube video in the last entry) and it was exactly the kind of high-energy platforming that we needed back in the early 90’s to set itself apart from Super Mario World. In fact, I remember this level used an extensive part of Nintendo’s advertising in order to draw people in to their newest franchise.

Twenty years later, enter Donkey Kong Country Returns: Tropical Freeze, a sequel to the 2010 Wii game, which adds a whole new dimension to its mine cart levels. While the 2010 game did have its own share of mine carting, I found the controls to be somewhat inconsistent and the levels were far too long for my taste. In Tropical Freeze, our Kong companions are thrown into the dangers of High Tide Ride, a daring journey that starts on the beaches of Donkey Kong Island and ends in a network of underwater caves. Easily, the best part of this level is when the player is faced with a series of parallel tracks that our character must jump between in order to avoid a variety of obstacles. I especially love how the camera is manipulated in so many ways to change how we are seeing the perspective of the stage.

If this is where the DKCR franchise is headed in terms of their mine cart levels, I can’t wait to see what future installments have in store!

Honorable Mentions:

(Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis 1995)

Shoutout to SNES drunk for bringing this one to my attention!

The Selenitic Age in Myst
(Mac OS 1993)

Handcar Havoc in Mario Party
(N64 1998)

Rickety Coaster in
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
(Wii 2011)

1. Rail Chase
(Arcade 1991)

Look out! Behind us!

I know I’ve already mentioned Indiana Jones several times in this article, but this game is the end-all closest that we will ever get to feeling like we are actually inside that mine cart scene in Temple of Doom. I have no doubt that this game was inspired directly by that film and it even has themes of rescuing people of Indian descent.

What sets this game apart from any other arcade experience is the fact that the seat came with its own set of hydraulics that would move to and fro along with the action. Pretty advanced technology for 1991! I first played this game at a local skating rink when I was in elementary school, and it completely blew my mind. There is not a second of down time as you are constantly blasting away at the obstacles in front of you. Meanwhile, the top of the screen tracks how far away you are from a trio of Jason Voorhees worshippers. If they get close, Fat Albert shouts “Hey, hey, hey!” followed by a huge warning that flashes on the screen: “Look out! Behind us!” Suddenly, the camera turns around, and the trio is directly behind you equipped with a shield and a giant hammer aimed at your face. Anxiety rides high knowing that no matter what you do, you can’t possibly outrun these guys and eventually you will have to face them.

Since the 90’s, I have yet to see this game back in arcades. A sequel arcade game was released in 1994. As far as I know, there is no other way to play it. If you happen to find it, give it a shot. And bring a friend. It is one of the best multiplayer experiences to date!

Thanks so much for taking time to read my article! Can you think of any instances of mine carts in some of your favorite games? Let me know in the comments! Also, be sure to subscribe to this blog via e-mail to have content delivered directly to your inbox!

Published by erichagmann

Arranger / Pianist / Vocalist / Educator / Gamer

9 thoughts on “You Are Mine: Mine Carts in Games

  1. I love this list! I think I would have put the rickety coaster from skyward sword actually on the list, but I can’t argue with your choices! Well done. It makes me happy every time I see these in my inbox (marked high priority, of course!)

    Liked by 1 person

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