There are three ways to race: airplane, car, and hovercraft. Each track requires a different vehicle. Tracks can only be accessed through the acquisition of golden balloons by winning races or completing tasks. Once each race in an area is completed, a bonus challenge will be accessed, such as racing a triceratops. To access each world and its tracks, you must drive, fly, or sail to the desired area.
There were at least nine playable characters in the Nintendo 64 version, and unlockable characters could also be unlocked via Password entry.
Rare characters could not be transferred to the DS port, Diddy Kong Racing DS, because Microsoft had bought rights to Rare before the game was made.
The characters Banjo the Bear and Conker the Squirrel both made their debut in this video game. Banjo would become the star of the family friendly Nintendo 64 adventures Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, both published by Nintendo. Meanwhile, Conker would appear in the Game Boy Color game Conker's Pocket Tales, and subsequently in the mature rated Conker's Bad Fur Day. Diddy Kong Racing would later be remade for the Nintendo DS under the name Diddy Kong Racing DS.
Diddy Kong Racing is one of the most popular N64 games not available on the Virtual Console, mostly due to issues with Rare, which now is owned by Microsoft. It is because of this that Banjo and Conker were replaced by Tiny and Dixie in the remake. However, because Nintendo holds exclusive rights to the Donkey Kong franchise, the game could be released if the Rare characters were removed. Though because of the costs to adjust the game, a release still is unlikely.