Video Carnage 36 — The Checkered Flag

Checkered Flag

My Video Carnage reviews have all wrapped up, and I’ve done the circuit from console to console, all the way from the lowly Odyssey to the Xbox.  I’ve stopped in with some computers along the way to check out the driving there,and all told, I reviewed 99 games for 33 systems.  Now it’s time to take a look through my reviews at the highlights, and pick out my top sixteen racing games from these reviews.  I’ll count them down from the sixteenth to the top spot.

But first, the Hall of Shame.  These are some of the worst racing games I’ve ever played.  No one should ever have to suffer through these contemptible blights upon the history of gaming.  Counted down to absolute worst, they are:

3. Water Ski (Atari 7800)

Water Ski 07

While this isn’t strictly a racing or a driving game, I did review it.  And damn, is it foul.  The out-of-tune screeching music.  The garish graphics.  The clumsy backward controls.  I fucking hated playing this game.  I do see how others might possibly enjoy it, but for me, playing this was like skidding down a metal staircase on my shins.

2. Safari Race (Sega SG-1000)

Safari Race 11

With controls that are obviously broken, a soundtrack that is literally two bars of music repeated forever, and graphics that are pitiful for the hardware and the era, everything about this game stands out as bad, bad, bad.  The premise is even worse.  I couldn’t force myself to make it past the first stage.

1. Hyperchase Auto Race (Vectrex)

Hyper Chase 16

With almost nothing but flaws and brokenness going for it, this here is still the worst racing game I have ever played.  The Vectrex’s inability to render curves brings up an interesting feature of the game.  When the road tilts off in one direction, your car will magically follow some crazy reverse inertia path that causes it to swing even further by itself in that direction, not straight ahead and opposite to the changed direction of the road.  It’s like the developers of this game were from another alien universe with different laws of physics.  And you can get farther in the game longer if you don’t bother with steering because attempting to steer sends your ugly looking car crashing to the sides of the road almost instantly.  There is no fun in this game, only frustration and oblique triangle death.

And now, on with the great games.

First Prize cup

16. GP World (Sega SG-1000)

GP World 07

This one is a surprisingly great and complete racing game from Sega’s early days, and a thrilling and masterfully programmed 8-bit racer.  It has a wicked challenge to it that makes you want to keep coming back to it, and the graphics are very well done for the SG-1000 hardware.  Only the limited sound capabilities of that system keep me from scoring this one higher.

15. Bump ‘n’ Jump (Intellivision)

Bump 'n' Jump 04

A classic from the early days of the arcade.  This was also titled “Burnin’ Rubber” in some places.  I like the Intellivision version the best, even though I’ve played the original arcade version in MAME.  This one has everything a great racing game should have and more.  It has strategy too, and you need to know what the other racers around you are up to while you dodge them and maneuver your way through the course.

14. Pitstop 2 (Commodore 64)

Pitstop II 07

Notable for being the first racing game to enable splitscreen 2-player gameplay, “Pitstop 2” is also kick-ass fast-pace fun three decades after it came out.  There is some strategy involved in this one too, as you need to make pitstops to change tires and refuel every now and then.  You have to make sure your tires don’t blow out, and that you don’t run out of fuel, but you can’t spend all your time in the pits or your opponent will get far ahead of you.

13. F1 Triple Battle (TurboGrafx-16)

F1 Triple Battle 44

The best PC Engine game that sadly never made it out of Japan, F1 Triple Battle is an extremely well-made racing simulator that took splitscreen to the next level.  Aside from that, the controls and gameplay are amazing and full-featured, and they make this game well worth tracking down despite the limited number of courses to race.  The graphics and sounds really push the hardware to its full potential, and the beauty of the game adds to its fun.

12. Mario Andretti Racing (Sega Genesis)

Mario Andretti Racing 16

With great visuals, great gameplay and outstanding sound, this is one of the best racing games I’ve ever played.  It has many features that games didn’t have until the 32 bit era, right here on your Sega Genesis.  Mr. Andretti himself was on-hand to make sure that the opponent AI was realistic, so this one is definitely a challenge.  You can also choose to race with Indy cars, stock cars, and sprint cars, so there is some variety in the driving too.

11. Enduro (Atari 2600)

Enduro 13

Screenshots can’t do this game justice.  This is one of the best games that ever came out for Atari’s original console, and it makes the 2600 do things nobody had ever seen before.  The graphics are amazing when you consider how the 2600 works and had to be programmed.  Even the sound is nice and almost realistic, which is something rarely said for an Atari game.  But this isn’t just an outstanding technical achievement.  “Enduro” is a solidly fun and addictive racing game.  The controls take skill to master, but once you do, you will find it rewarding to pass car after car, and see the sky change from morning to day to evening and night.  This was about as full an experience as you could have on the 2600, and it’s still great to play it today.

10. Sega Touring Car Championship (Sega Saturn)

Sega Touring Car Championship 21

The customizability is where it’s at with this one.  You can tune your car’s performance any way you like in this racing simulation until it handles the way you want it to.  It also supports the analog controller and arcade racer steering wheel as well as the standard Saturn controller.  The graphics aren’t as impressive as what the console could output, but the gameplay is terrific, and I give this one a spin regularly.  Plus there are a few hidden tracks that keep things a little more interesting too.

09. Virtua Racing Deluxe (Sega 32X)

Virtua Racing Deluxe 16

A fine port of the arcade hit, this one was made to show off the potential of the doomed 32X.  Not only does it serve as a window into the very beginnings of polygon-rendered racing games, it’s also sweet fun to play.  Though the graphics might seem dated, the handling of the vehicles is balanced as it should be, and this is a blast from the past that still holds up in so many important ways today.

08. BC Racers (Sega CD)

BC Racers 04

This game has a caveman cartoon theme and a touch of combat Á  la “Road Rash” thrown in for good measure.  Throw in the scaling and rotation capabilities of the Sega CD, and you have yourself a fine racing game that’s all kinds of fun to come back to again and again.  This one is rather unique in that you race as teams, with one driving and one in the sidecar operating the weapon.  It’s a blast to play and to watch, and it’s a challenge to get through it all too.  Just make sure you get the Sega CD version of this game, because the 32X version is a disappointment.

07. Looney Tunes: Space Race (Dreamcast)

Looney Tunes Space Race 08

How could you not have a great time racing as and against Looney Tunes characters?  Especially when the game looks this damn good.  This game is like playing a Looney Tunes cartoon, and it packs in laughs and thrills along with solid kart racing.  The animation is top-notch and the voice acting is amazing.  There are all kinds of goodies and special things to unlock and see, so this one will have you coming back for more.

06. F-Zero (Super Nintendo)

F-Zero 21

A masterpiece and a launch title on the Super Nintendo, “F-Zero” means racing for many who grew up in the 90s.  The Super FX chip inside each cartridge boosts the console’s power and enables it to give you a superb racing game that’s blazingly fast, challenging and addictive.  The sights and sounds are all top notch, of course.  What else would you expect from a first-party Nintendo game?

05. Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing (Dreamcast)

Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing 04

This one is a great looking and even better playing motorcycle racer that’s based on a Japanese Dreamcast launch title.  It’s been perfected and the only drawback I can think of is that it doesn’t support the Jump Pack.  Other than that, this game really excels at everything.  The responsiveness and feel of the controls are wonderful and help to immerse you in the game’s world.  There are lots of beautiful courses to unlock and race through, and the “chase” camera scenes at the end of each race are still the best ones I’ve ever seen anywhere.

04. Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 (Dreamcast)

Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 10

Another Dreamcast game, this one looks better than many PlayStation 2 games, which just goes to show that the Dreamcast could do more with less in the right hands.  It’s a breathtaking game to look at and still looks amazing nearly a decade and a half later.  It also has some of the best music out of any racing game I’ve heard.  The handling of the cars is a little stiff at first until you win enough races to buy upgrades.  That’s all the more reason to keep coming back to the excitement it offers.

03. Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)

Mario Kart 64 15

Yet another masterpiece from Nintendo, and another well-known and beloved classic.  The original on the Super Nintendo spawned a whole genre and a series of sequels, and it’s not hard to see why.  The N64 version is a favourite of many, and still drives sales of used Nintendo 64 consoles just to play it and its splitscreen multiplayer game.  Elements from this game have entered popular culture, and it’s probably the most-played and best-known game on this list.  I love it too.

02. Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)

Project Gotham Racing 2 17

Simply fantastic.  Actually the third game in a series from the developer, “Project Gotham Racing 2” does everything right, and nothing wrong that I can think of.  It looks beautiful and doesn’t fall prey to the camera lens gimmicks that besmirched other Xbox racing games.  The ingame music is great, and since it came out on the original Xbox, you can add your own music from ripped CDs.  The gameplay is some of the best and most fun racing I’ve ever had, and I play this one regularly.

01. Road Rash 64 (Nintendo 64)

Road Rash 64 10

My favourite racing game of all time, and one of my favourite video games ever.  If you’ve read my full review of it then you know why I say that.  I consider it to be the ultimate racing game, and it’s all about the handling and the gameplay.  It’s perfect.  Only the graphics can be criticized for looking kind of bad, but the sheer joy and laughter I’ve experienced while playing this game make up for any concern that might have risen over iffy texturing.  I’ve played “Road Rash 64” hundreds of times and it never ceases to draw me in and entertain me.

Pixelated car

I really enjoyed playing and reviewing these 99 games for Video Carnage.  I hope you enjoyed reading the reviews too, and I hope I was able to let you know about some great games along the way.  I found out about some excellent racers this way too, and I also found out about plenty to avoid.  I’ve also decided to keep reviewing racing games.  It won’t be in the same console-by-console format, and it won’t be in batches of 3 or four at a time.  I’ll just review them whenever.  So watch for “Son of Video Carnage” in the future.