Do you like racing video games? I sure do. Half of my PS3 collection is comprised of racers that I've been gradually working my way through over the past year. By far, the oddest of these games are the offroad ATV racers, Nail'd and Mad Riders. Holy cow, look at this! Someone actually made a pretty awesome video showcasing the differences in each of these zany titles.
As you can clearly see from that small sample, this is a genre you're either going to love or hate, and despite their various frustrations, I still really enjoyed each game on its own merits. That being said, let's get down to a quick comparison, shall we?
The most obvious difference between the two is the visual style. Mad Riders trades the faded, gritty look of Nail'd for a much brighter atmosphere that fully embraces the absurdity of its "Xtreme" offroad attitude. Each of these options is gorgeous in its own right and conveys the over-the-top arcade mood perfectly well. The venues in Nail'd have kind of a world tour vibe going on while Mad Riders is mostly just a tropical island, so you'll get more visual variety in the prequel. The biggest issue with Mad Riders' visuals is probably how cluttered the screen gets with so many "recharge available" and "shortcut" notifications right in the middle of the dang path, however, it does get rid of the atrocious motion blur, water spray, and greyed-out boost effect that detract so much from the first game, so that's a huge plus.
The whole concept of Nail'd revolves around launching yourself into the stratosphere and navigating between deadly rocks and essential boost rings on your way back to terra firma. Badass, right? This works well since the courses were specifically designed to keep all racers in the air for extended amounts of time. The terrain also twists and turns wildly, sometimes driving you up walls into a mid-air hairpin turn. So long, realism! Track layout is not nearly as exciting in the sequel. Some of the mega jumps are mandatory, but most are relatively small gaps, and since staying in the air to pull stunts costs more time than you can make up in boost, it's just better to force your ride to the ground during a jump or just avoid the optional leaps altogether. Without all the requisite crazy jumps built into every course, Mad Riders' career mode becomes an absolute breeze. The game is disappointing in this regard, because it has a plethora of courses to choose from, but the quantity doesn't hold a candle to the quality of the sick nasty offroad roller coaster that Techland had previously developed. Although these tracks are of higher quality, they definitely get repetitive during the original career because it's too darn long, plus you'll usually be committing to three races in a single event.
Mad Riders is leaps and bounds above Nail'd in the garage. Nail'd lets you race as a guy or a girl in a bunch of boring outfits you can't see because of the insane motion blur. You can trick out your ATV or bike, but it doesn't affect your vehicle's stats, and you only get to see the back of the vehicle, so it's just wasted customization. I wish Techland had opted to represent the female riders in the follow up as well, but I can't be too angry with them since they gave us a mummy, a ninja, and a freaking hip-hop gorilla (complete with gold chain) in exchange. The pointless bikes were also replaced by buggies that can't perform any aerial tricks but instead charge boost over time. This ability was standard in the first game, but making it vehicle specific gives better distinction to the two classes.
So, which of these games do I like better? Each has it's own set of pros and cons, which makes it about an even 50/50 split. Given their level of polish, or lack thereof, I couldn't give either one much more than a 5/10 (average/take it or leave it) from a design standpoint, but they're both a blast if you like unrealistic, supersonic, arcade-style racing.