The Racing Games That Time Forgot
As videogames become ever more sophisticated, complex experiences, the popularity of some older genres has waned. Yet from Gran Turismo to Mario Kart the simple appeal of the racing game has endured. It's not hard to see why, because the excitement of the race is just as thrilling today as it has always been. So for our latest instalment in the Games That Time Forgot, we're taking a look at some lesser known games in the racing genre. How many do you remember?
Developed in Japan by Namco and published Stateside by Atari, this arcade classic was one of the earliest racing games on the market. A straightforward Formula 1 racer without many bells or whistles, it was essentially an ancestor of the licensed F1 games, which are still being released to this day. The 1982 coin-op was later converted to Atari's home consoles and early home computers. It was also one of the earliest games to see a cartoon spin-off.
Released for the original Playstation at the end of 2000, this EA-published game saw players get to drive a number of James Bond's souped-up cars, and take part in a number of missions. All the vehicles featured all the requisite gadgets and weapons, and even featured an appearance from John Cleese reprising his role of R from the Pierce Brosnan era movies. It was a great idea in theory, but unfortunately the end result was more George Lazenby than Sean Connery.
One of the Racing game's most popular sub-genres over the years has been the futuristic racer. The undisputed classics of the future-racer are the F-Zero and Wipeout games, but there have also been a fair few lesser sung gems and they deserved representation on this list. Extreme G was based around 'plasma-cycles', which bared a non inconsiderable resemblance to the cycles from Tron. Born on the N64, the game spawned two sequels including the ace XG3 (Extreme G 3) which was released for GameCube and PS2 in 2001.
The top-down Micro Machines racing game series were stone-cold classics. Codemaster's games featured the diddy cars on tracks that made use of the sense of scale to make everyday objects into dangerous hazards. Think a racing game version of The Borrowers. Having arguably perfected the formula with the awesome Micro Machines V3 for the PSOne, they followed up with this somewhat strange spin-off. Replacing the tiny cars with equally tiny...people? Things? Aliens? Whatever the hell they were supposed to be, it wasn't quite the same and it never quite took off the same way the Micro Machines games did.
Ever since Mario Kart first zoomed onto the scene, it seems everyone under the sun has tried to emulate the winning formula. From Bomberman to The Muppets, from Pacman to Shrek, it seems every videogame or screen franchise has had a crack. Despite the mangy marsupial and his cohorts lacking the charm of our favourite plumber, as Mario Kart clones go, this was one of the best. Released for the original Playstation in 1999, this was also notable at the last Crash Bandicoot game made by future Uncharted developers Naughty Dog.
OK, if we're honest. racing wasn't exactly the biggest appeal of this game series. Originally appearing on Playstation, Saturn, PC and N64 back in 1995-96, the game featured various modes. Stock Car Racing offered straightforward first across the line racing, while Wrecking Racing awarded extra points for destroying opponent's cars. Best of all however was the titular Destruction Derby mode, where players must try and become the last car standing in a free-for-all destructorama. Developers Reflections would later go on to find success with the Driver series.
It's only natural that the blue blur would follow his closest rival into the racing field. After all, Sonic is arguably more naturally suited to the genre than the tubby platformer. The first stab was Sonic Drift, the poorly received Game Gear racer, which opted to put the fastest hog on two legs behind the wheel of a car. This later Sega Saturn effort was distinguished by being that rare thing- a racing game on foot. This allowed the gameplay to involve jumping and more of an emphasis on exploration than your average racer. Sonic has gone on to appear in several more racing games right up until the most recent Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed, but Sonic R stands out as one of the more unusual.
Uniracers ( also known as Unirally in the UK and Australia) was an unusual sidescrolling racer for the SNES. Putting an emphasis on stunts and jumps, it was an early game from DMA Design, the Scottish developers who would become Rockstar North. Shortly after release they were successfully sued by Pixar, who claimed the Unicycle design infringed on their copyright. Nintendo were ordered to stop production on the game, meaning the premature end of Unirally's run.
The Excite series is best know for the classic Excitebike and it's sequels, but Ninty revived it in a very different form for the Nintendo Wii. Following Excite Truck early in the consoles' lifespan, Excitebots was the last entry in the series to date. As the title suggests, players race not standard vehicles but tricked-out robots. As well as racing, there is a heavy focus on tricks, stunts and weapons. Excite Truck might not have made much of an impact on release, but it was a smash hit in comparison to this sequel. In fact Excitebots was such a damp squib that Nintendo of Europe didn't even bother to release it in the region.
For most of the 90's, the Road Rash series was kind of a big deal. Based around illegal motorcycle races, gamers had to not only contend with competitors but also avoid the police. The game was distinguished from most racers of the time by the ability to attack fellow racers, as gamers are equipped with various weapons. A long way from the red shells of Mario Kart, this focussed on much more believable weapons like crowbars and clubs. The game is most associated with the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis but also appeared on other platforms such as Playstation and the ill-fated 3DO. Road Rash was last sighted in 2003, with the Gameboy Advance conversion of Road Rash : Jail Break.
How many do you remember? Tell us about your fave Racing game experiences!