Before joining us on Part 3 of our Level Up! journey through Walt Disney World and Disney video games, make sure you read the previous installments first. Part 1 explains why Disney hosted us at the parks and began our trip at the Magic Kingdom to learn about Disney Dreamlight Valley. And Part 2 explores our time at the Animal Kingdom’s Pandora – The World of Avatar learning about the video game Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

A replica Guardians of the Galaxy Nova Corp ship with EPCOT's Spaceship Earth behind it split with a poster of characters racing in Disney SpeedStorm
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EPCOT and Disney Speedstorm

Disney Speedstorm is the Mouse House’s free-to-play answer to Mario Kart. The arcade-style game lets players race as beloved characters through Disney and Pixar movie levels. It’s also the closest any Disney game comes to recreating the feeling you get on a Disney ride.

After spending the first part of our second day at Animal Kingdom, our group reconvened at EPCOT. We were there to play some Disney Speedstorm against the surreal backdrop of Spaceship Earth. That’s also where we learned Inside Out 2‘s Joy and Anxiety are joining as racers.

Speedstorm is the fast-paced companion to the more fanciful Disney Dreamlight Valley. Those two games might seem like opposites, but in their own way they each capture the same experience of physically being in a Disney park. Speedstorm not only lets you play both as and against your favorite characters, it takes you through levels that re-create beloved Disney locales. I raced through Beast’s Enchanted Castle a day after eating at Beauty and the Beast‘s Magic Kingdom restaurant.

The combination of immersive levels, characters you know and love, and fast-paced action is why playing Speedstorm also felt like the virtual equivalent of going on a ride like Frozen Ever After or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Those two super fun EPCOT attractions are set in their respective movie worlds and are equally parts thrilling and enchanting. That’s Speedstorm at its best.

We also, for reasons both aesthetic and thematic, played Speedstorm in the GM Lounge above EPCOT’s Test Track ride. That’s the game’s closest, most obvious one-to-one real-world attraction. But every thrill ride at Walt Disney World is a companion to the game. That includes highlights like Tron Lightcycle Run, Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, and the absolutely amazing Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. It’s so good I’m still riding it in my sleep after going on it three times while awake. Not just because I’m a huge Guardians of the Galaxy fan, either. If you’ve been on Cosmic Rewind you know exactly why. (If you haven’t, I am sorry, but I’m also jealous you still get to do it for the first time. Besides, you’re going to be jealous of our view from the GM Lounge.)

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Obviously you can’t get the same kind of physical sensation an amusement park ride provides while sitting in a chair playing a video game. There are pretty clear limits to how much you can reproduce a physical experience digitally. But with its characters, themed tracks, and gameplay, Disney Speedstorm is clearly inspired by the fun and excitement you get on a Disney ride. Races are short but exciting, just like an actual ride. And with both you’ll want to jump right into the next one. The fun of the game isn’t about fully re-creating the sensation of going on a Disney ride. The fun is trying to remind yourself of the feeling you get from a Disney attraction while at home. That’s a feeling worth chasing down.

Plus, Speedstorm does have two big advantage over its real-life inspirations. For one the line to play it at home is definitely a lot shorter than lines at Disney. And second, you don’t have to play in muggy Orlando heat.

Nerdist (Our group’s two youngest members were much better at SpeedStorm than I, one of its oldest.)

After three parks, three games, way too much food, and even more rides, I thought I finally had a firm grasp on exactly what I was doing at Level Up! It wasn’t until our final day and stop that I truly learned why Disney parks are the best promotion for Disney games. To go from a Padawan to a Master on that subject I had to visit the galaxy far, far away.

Finish our Level Up! journey through Walt Disney World and Disney video games with Part 4: Hollywood Studios’ Galaxy’s Edge and the upcoming Star Wars Outlaws open-world game.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. He got his #1 song choice (“September”) on Cosmic Rewind his very first ride. You can follow him on  Twitter and  Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.