With Gran Turismo 5 having gone gold and the prospect that it will be with us shortly, I’ve taken the opportunity to look at my some of my all-time favourite driving games since I was old enough to hold a virtual steering wheel.
I couldn’t exclude Forza from my list of favourite racing games. For me this currently holds the crown in the Simulation racer stakes. It took a look at GT and said, what can be done to improve the experience. It introduced a far more streamlined progression through the different race series, providing cars that were useful, rather than punishing the player forcing them to repeat the same races over and over again. As the series has moved on, so has the list of features and it’s no longer just a driving game, it’s a Mecca for any car fan.
Geoff Crammond’s Stunt Car Racer
It there was ever a game crying out for an XBLA or PSN conversion, this is it. Released back in 1989, this Atari ST and Amiga racer saw you piloting a big engined buggy around narrow and undulating rollercoaster like tracks, negotiating huge jumps and banked turns. It even allowed multiplayer via a null modem connection on the ST. Easy to get in to, but tricky to master – a classic with no modern day equivalent.
Super Mario Kart
Mario Kart has seen a number of releases since its debut on the SNES in 1992 and although the DS version came close, the original is still the best. The blend of sublime handling and interesting circuit designs, coupled with the fun split screen battle mode, makes Mario Kart on the SNES still feel fresh to play even today.
Gran Turismo 2
This might seem like an odd choice, why not the first game or GT4? The original GT game, although great at the time, definitely had its limitations. Car and track selections were tiny by comparison to GT2 – it was this sequel where the game became the gearhead’s wet dream. Since then the series has become somewhat stagnant, never really feeling much more than a graphical upgrade, still suffering with the same AI issues and stilted game progression. With GT5 in production for so long, it has to be good for PolyPhony Digital’s sake.
Zombies may be the in-vogue gaming feature at the moment, but before then we had Carmageddon. A carnage based racing game where the idea was to score points by crippling your opponents or running over green blooded zombies. However, this wasn’t the original premise – it was a change forced on the publisher as the censors looked down on running over humans. The game was patched and released with the zombies instead. Months of wrangling later and the decision was overturned – crimson was back in. Not that it mattered, everyone who owned the game had obtained a patch from elsewhere long before that.
When I first saw this in the arcade I was in awe, and very short of 50 pence pieces. The hydraulic arcade cabinet was something else, and the music, oh the music; there are few tunes in games that you remember, but Magical Sound Shower will stay with me forever.
Ridge Racer V
When I first obtained my Japanese PlayStation 2, there weren’t that many games available to purchase. While Ridge Racer V might not have been technically perfect, having more jaggies than a bow saw, it still played fantastically and had a huge share of PS2 tray time. It wouldn’t have been a proper PlayStation launch without a Ridge Racer game.
SEGA Rally Championship
This game was the reason to own a SEGA Saturn. A port of the fantastic arcade title, SEGA Rally Championship played almost identically to the original, despite the lack of analogue sticks. I have two working SEGA Saturn consoles and when these get an airing, this game is the first to hit the laser. Such a pity the Dreamcast version of the sequel was so meh.
There are far too many great driving games to list and talk about, Need For Speed, Test Drive, Chequered Flag, Pole Position, Spy Hunter, Driver, Burnout Paradise, Metropolis Street Racer, Project Gotham Racing, Turbo Esprit and I haven’t even considered the two-wheel racers.
I’m sure I’ve missed loads of classics and that you have your favourites too, these though are mine.