History of Racing Games

History of Racing Games

Hello everyone and welcome to let s test drive!
This epsidoe I’ll be taking you for a retrospective look at the history of racing video games,
from the first racing games in the early 70s all the way through to the late 80s, in this
two part series. So sit back, relax as we go through some of the most iconic titles
that graced the racing genre. In 1973, Atari’s Space Race was a space-themed
arcade game where players controlled spaceships that raced against opposing ships while avoiding
comets and meteors. It was a competitive two-player game controlled using a two-way joystick,
and was presented in black and white graphics. The same year, Taito released a similar space-themed
racing game Astro Race, which used an early four-way joystick. The following year, Taito released Speed Race,
an early driving racing game designed by Tomohiro Nishikado who later went on to make the classic
Space Invaders. The game’s most important innovation was its introduction of scrolling
graphics, specifically overhead vertical scrolling with the course width becoming wider or narrower
as the player raced against rival cars. It also featured an early racing wheel controller
interface with an accelerator, gear shift, speedometer and tachometer. It could be played
in either single-player or alternating two-player, where each player attempted to beat the other’s
score. The game was re-branded as Wheels by Midway
Games for release in the United States and was influential on later racing games. That same year, Atari released another early
car driving game in the arcades, Gran Trak 10, which presented an overhead single-screen
view of the track in low resolution white on black graphics. The aim of the game was
to race against a timer while accumulating points; and when the timer reached zero the
player could compare his score to a small chart on the machine for a play rating. Now
while gran trak 10 had you racing against the clock, and was limited to a single player
mode, Electra released a 4 player overhead view racing game the same year called Pace
Car Pro which was the first racing game in history to incorporate color graphics. In 1976, Taito released Crashing Race, a simultaneous
two-player competitive car racing game where each player tries to crash as many computer-controlled
cars as possible to score points. Sega’s Road Race, introduced a three-dimensional,
third-person roadside scene, displaying a constantly changing forward-scrolling S-shaped
road. The player had to try and avoid other cars and avoid going off the road while also
racing against a clock. That same year, Sega released Moto-Cross,
an early black-and-white racing game, that also used an early three-dimensional, third-person
perspective. In August 76 the game was rebranded as Man
T.T, which Sega later rebranded again as Fonz, as a tie-in for the popular sitcom Happy Days.
The game displayed a constantly changing forward-scrolling road and the player’s bike in a third-person
perspective where the aim was to steer the vehicle across the road racing against the
clock while avoiding any on-coming motorcycles. The game also introduced the use of haptic
feedback, which caused the motorcycle handlebars to vibrate during a collision with another
vehicle. In October 1976, Atari released Night Driver
which is considered one of the earliest first-person racing video games. Due to limitations of
arcade technology at the time though, it used a printed plastic insert laid under the screen
to represent the car, and like Gran Trek 10, the player raced against a clock rather than
onscreen opponents. In 1977, Micronetics released Night Racer,
a first-person car racing game similar to Night Driver, while Sega released Twin Course
T.T., an early simultaneous competitive two-player motorbike racing game. Road Champion, released by Taito in 1978,
was another overhead-view racing game where players had to race ahead of opposing cars
while avoiding collisions and cross the finish line first to become the winner. In 1979, Sega’s Head On was a racing game
that played like a maze chase game and is thus considered a precursor to the 1980 hit
Pac-Man. Monaco GP, released by Sega in 1979, improved
upon previous overhead-view racing games with a vertically scrolling view and color graphics.
Another notable video game from the 1970s was The Driver , a racing-action game released
by Kasco in 1979 that used 16 mm film to project full motion video on screen, though its gameplay
had limited interaction, requiring the player to match their steering wheel, gas pedal and
brakes with movements shown on screen. In 1980, Namco’s overhead-view driving game
Rally-X was the first game to feature background music, and allowed scrolling in both vertical
and horizontal directions. It also featured an early example of a radar, to show the rally
car’s location on the map. Turbo, released by Sega in 1981, was the first
racing game to feature a third-person perspective, rear view format. The most influential racing game was released
in 1982: Pole Position, developed by Namco and published by Atari in North America. It
was the first game to be based on a real racing circuit; Japans Fuji Speeday, and the first
to feature a qualifying lap, where the player needed to complete a time trial before they
could compete in Grand Prix races. While not the first third-person racing game as it was
predated by Turbo, Pole Position established the conventions of the genre and its success
inspired numerous imitators. According to IGN, it was “the first racing game based on
a real-world racing circuit” and that its success, as “the highest-grossing arcade game
in North America in 1983, cemented the genre in place for decades to come and inspired
a horde of other racing games”. Pole Position II was released in 1983 and
featured improvements, such as giving the player the choice of different race courses
as well as more colourful landscapes. TX-1, developed by Tatsumi in 1983 was licensed
to Namco, who in turn licensed it to Atari in America, is considered the successor to
Pole Position II. TX-1, placed a greater emphasis on realism, including forcing players to brake
or downshift during corners to avoid the risk of losing control. It was also the first car
driving game to use force feedback technology, which caused the steering wheel to vibrate.
the game also featured a unique three-screen arcade display for a more three-dimensional
perspective of the track. It also introduced nonlinear gameplay by allowing players to
choose which path to drive through after each checkpoint, eventually leading to one of eight
possible final destinations. Change Lanes, released by Taito in 1983, was
a third-person racer where the player’s car had fuel that reduced while driving. The player
had to pick up fuel cells to refuel at each checkpoint, while avoiding crashing into cars
and obstacles as it would reduce the players fuel. If the fuel ran out, the game would
end! An early attempt at creating a home driving
simulator was Tomy’s Turnin’ Turbo Dashboard, also released in 1983. It was the first ever
home video game-like device to feature a racing wheel controller. In 1984, several early racing laserdisc video
games were released, including Sega’s GP World and Taito’s Laser Grand Prix which featured
live-action footage. Universal’s Top Gear featured 3D animated
race car driving, and Taito’s Cosmos Circuit, featured animated futuristic racing. Taito
also released Kick Start, a fully third-person motorbike racing game, and Buggy Challenge,
an early dirt track racing game featuring a buggy. Other early dirt racing games from
that year were :Nintendo’s Excitebike and SNK’s motocross game Jumping Cross, both played
from a side-scrolling view. SNK also released Mad Crasher, an early futuristic
racing game, where the player drove a futuristic motorbike along diagonal-scrolling futuristic
roads suspended in mid-air, while leaping across gaps, shooting other cars, and getting
bonuses and power-ups. Another racing game that involved shooting
that year was Nichibutsu’s Seicross, where the player raced a motorcycle-like craft. Other notable arcade releases that year included
Konami’s Road Fighter, a vertical-scrolling racer, and Irem’s The Battle-Road, an early
open-ended vehicle combat racing game that featured branching paths and up to 32 possible
routes. Another unique take on the genre that year
was Plazma Line, a first-person space racing game that is considered the first computer
game with 3D polygon graphics. The objective of the game was to race through outer space
in a first-person view while avoiding obstacles along the way. It also featured an automap
radar to keep track of the player’s position. Racing games in general tended to drift toward
the arcade side of reality, mainly due to hardware limitations, especially in the 1980s
and 1990s. It’s, however, untrue to say that there were no games considered simulations
in their time. In 1984, Geoff Crammond, who later developed the Grandprix series (Known
collectively as GPX to its fanbase), produced what is considered the first attempt at a
racing simulator on a home system called REVS, released for the BBC Microcomputer. The game
offered an unofficial recreation of British Formula 3. The hardware capabilities limited
the depth of the simulation and initially restricted it to one track, but it offered
a semi-realistic driving experience with more detail than most other racing games at the
time. In 1985, Sega released Hang-On, a popular
Grand Prix style rear-view motorbike racer, considered the first full-body-experience
video game, and was regarded as the first motorbike simulator for its realism at the
time, in both the handling and player’s motorbike and the artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled
motorcyclists. It used force feedback technology and was also one of the first arcade games
to use 16-bit graphics and Sega’s “Super Scaler” technology that allowed pseudo-3D sprite-scaling
at high frame rates. In 1986, Durell released Turbo Esprit, which
had an official Lotus license, and featured working indicator lights for the car. Also in 1986, Sega produced Out Run, one of
the most graphically impressive games of its time. It used two Motorola 68000 CPUs for
its 2D sprite-based driving engine, and it became an instant classic that spawned many
sequels. It was notable for giving the player the non-linear choice of which route to take
through the game and the choice of soundtrack to listen to while driving, represented as
radio stations. The game also featured up to five multiple endings depending on the
route taken, and each one was an ending sequence rather than a simple “Congratulations” as
was common in game endings at the time. That same year, Konami’s WEC Le Mans attempted
to accurately simulate the 24 Hours of Le Mans competition with realistic handling,
a day-night cycle, and the use of force feedback to simulate road vibration In 1987, Namco produced Final Lap, the unofficial
sequel to Pole Position II. Final Lap was the first arcade game that allowed multiple
machines to be linked, allowing for multiplayer races, with up to eight players in total.
It was also arguably the first racing game to implement “rubber banding” to ensure that
less talented players were never too far behind the leader. In the same year Square released Rad Racer,
one of the first stereoscopic 3Dgames, while Atari produced RoadBlasters, a driving game
that also involved shooting. Test Drive by Accolade was another popular
title and the first in the long running series that spanned over 25 years. In the game the
player could choose from one five supercars and drive along a winding cliffside road while
avoiding traffic and outrunning police speed traps. In 1988, Taito released Chase H.Q., a unique
racing game where the player drove a police car in pursuit of criminals. Chase HQ
‘s gameplay, which involved ramming the enemy car while avoiding oncoming traffic has been
cited as a precursor to the gameplay of later titles such as Driver and Burnout. CBS Sony released Paris-Dakar Rally Special,
an imaginative racing game with platformer and action-adventure elements, featuring Dakar
Rally cars that could fire bullets. The driver was able to exit the car and explore areas
in both a top down view and a classic sidescrolling platform view. That same year, Namco released an early 3D
racing game in the arcades, Winning Run. In 1989, Atari released Hard Drivin’, another
arcade driving game that used 3D polygonal graphics. It also featured force feedback
where the wheel would fight the player during aggressive turns, and a crash replay camera
view. That same year, the now defunct Papyrus Design
Group produced their first attempt at a racing simulator, the critically acclaimed Indianapolis
500: The Simulation. Designed by David Kaemmer and Omar Khudari. The game is generally regarded
as the first true auto racing simulation on a personal computer. Accurately replicating
the 1989 Indianapolis 500 grid, it offered advanced 3D graphics for its time, setup options,
car failures and handling. Unlike most other racing games at the time, Indianapolis 500
attempted to simulate realistic physics and telemetry, including its portrayal of the
relationship between the four contact patches and the pavement, as well as the loss of grip
when making a high-speed turn, forcing the player to adopt a proper racing line and believable
throttle-to-brake interaction. It also featured a garage facility to allow players to modify
their vehicle, including making adjustments to their tires, shocks and wings. The damage
modelling, while not accurate by today’s standards, was capable of producing some spectacular
and entertaining pile-ups. Super Monaco GP was released by Sega later
that year, and followed ports to multiple video games consoles and home computers in
the early 1990s. It was the sequal to Segas popular 1979 arcade game, Monaco GP. That there was a rundown of the history of
racing video games from the 70s and 80s, let me know what some of YOUR favourite racing
games were during this era in the comments bellow, be sure to stick around for part 2
that will take us through the 1990s to the present, and finally if you enjoyed this video,
be sure to hit the like button, and I ll see you all again next time.

60 Replies to “History of Racing Games”

  1. Great job Rob!! Brings back memories. I'm old enough to remember some of the 70's arcade racers tho' I wasn't old enough to play them. Revs on the BBC Model B was my first racing sim back in the mid-80's and I loved anything by Geoff Crammond. I was a big F1 fan in the 80's/90's and played Microprose Grand Prix on the Amiga to death (with a joystick!!) in the early 90's at Uni.. Looking forward to Part 2. Suggestion for a future vid: Geoff Crammond Special 🙂

  2. Wow dude, just wow! You kicked some big "gaming history" channels ass quite nicely here! The amount of research and footage is truly amazing, subbed without a doubt and waiting for more great content, specially the rise of the modern racing sims! I can still remember my mind blown as a child the first time i played Hang On, my body weight almost wasnt enough to bank the bike to the sides, lol but that impression never left my mind and is a big reason why im a racing simmer today, my first Tommy Racing and when my dad bought Super Monaco GP which we spent days in front of the TV contributed too. Cheers dude, cheers!

  3. You should now to a 90's racing games, I cant remember many of them but if you make a video….I will surely remember them when I see them. Great Video you have made! Keep it up. You should get more likes and views for your videos

  4. The first racing arcade game I remember (and not mentioned in this video) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-1_(arcade_game)

    There's a video on YT showing the gameplay and also how the mechanical bits worked behind the screen.

  5. I remember Out Run being in so called "lunaparks" here in Belgium when I was a kid. Hell yes those graphics at the time rocked! I think it was also the first time I saw elevation difference i such games. It was so addictive. 🙂

  6. Wow, I actually played some of them when I was a kid. You made me feel old. 😀
    Looking forward to the 90's part. Great stuff.

  7. OMG i had one of them Tomy turbo dashboards lol!!!!I think it was white though, i didnt play it much as it sucked batteries for fun!!!!!

  8. You forgot to mention the most important earliest 3D arcade car racing games, that is to say "Nürburgring" of 1975 by Rainer Foerst, and the first true 3D modelled vector game "Speed Freak" of 1979 by Vectorbeam (which used this technique even before Atari made "Battle Zone").

  9. Nice Video!!! The best on this subject there is on youtube ! I would love to see part 2. I hope you'll find time to finish it someday.

  10. Great video. all of these games on this list were before my time, the earliest racing game I played was SEGA Daytona, which would probably make an appearance in part 2

  11. OutRun and Hang-On were what I grew up playing in Arcades and on my SEGA Master System.  You forgot to mention "Enduro Racer".

  12. Seg-ga not See-ga. Toe-mee, not Tommy. Also, it's OK to take a breath once in a while. It sounds like your entire video is one long sentence.

  13. Great vid, love the thourough examination of the genre… But oh my god that horribly repetative royalty free crap in the background will haunt my gaming nightmares!

  14. This is great material. I had to stop watching because i'm autistic. The repetitive music that is in the background for you is in the foreground for me. In the future, it would be great for autistics if you could have music leading into the talking part, but no music at all while you talk. All good wishes.

  15. Speed Race (around 1977) was quite something. There was a digital score board for the best five on the left hand side of the machine. I always find it hard not to crash while driving on gravel (momentarily and real slippery)

  16. Great work dude. Really enjoyed it. I love outrun, chase hq (I just replayed yesterday) and daytona usa for the classics. I think this games still be enjoyable even in the next 20 years!

  17. Very interesting little doc! I would edit it to mention a few important ones:

    * the various mechanical racing games from the late 50s through the late 60s

    * Sprint 8 by Atari!!! Very early color game (1976!), for 8(!) players. You can’t leave this out!

    * Pitstop II from Epyx, which came out in 1984 was the first(?) split screen competitive racing game

    * I didn’t see Spy Hunter mentioned – while not racing per se, it was a HUGE driving game hit

    Also, the docu is confused about what the first 3-D or first person racing game was. At one point it says Night Driver, then Turbo, but I think Fonz should get the honor – unless you count the mechanical Grand Prix by Sega from 1969, check it out!


  18. It's funny how some of these racing games like "hang on" and "pole position" have road signs with Marlboro ads. 8:56 This would never happen by today's standards.

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