(R.C. Pro-Am on the NES was my first racing game.)
I’m a fan of the racing genre. I always have been, since playing RC Pro-Am on my NES as a kid. Through the years we’ve seen some developers go for realism (i.e. the Gran Turismo games) while others aim for goofy fun (ala Mario Kart). And both of these approaches have their audience and are excellent at what they do.
I’d like to discuss some of the qualities I personally love in racers and give a few examples of each. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like realistic racing games (so if you like those you may be disappointed). I like games with solid controls (or at least withing the confines of the game) and that are interesting (futuristic themes, colorful, etc).
(The Wipeout series is a favorite of mine. I’m still not very good at them, however.)
To start with, I have an affinity for break-neck speed and obstacle avoidance in racers (though simple tracks are fun too I suppose). I like racers that toss a bunch of stuff at you (obstacles, road decisions, etc) and, if you die (which you probably will), put you right back in the action. This goes back to my long-time love for Outrun – which gets progressively more difficult based on which route you pick and towards the end of the race.
Wipeout (a futuristic hover-racing franchise) is another great example of this high-speed genre. If you’re curious, see this article I wrote about the Wipeout games.
(Above is Flashout and the much-better Redout.)
There’s Flashout on mobile devices and the Ouya (it’s mediocre I’ll admit, but I still have fun with it). Speaking of futuristic racers, there’s also the recent and excellent RedOut – which is very fast and very difficult Wipeout clone with a focus on racing over combat.
And there’s also the classic indie game, Race the Sun (above) – a great puzzle/racing game where your flying craft is solar-powered and you have to see how far you can make it as the sun sets.
(Jet Moto (series) and Star Wars Episode 1 Racer are other favorites of mine.)
Speed’s great, but I also like fun, colorful cart racers like Super Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing. These games often have a combat aspect to them – like tossing items (i.e. green shells) or leaving traps behind (i.e. fake power-up items). Super Indie Karts is a more-recent (and excellent) throw-back to the SNES Super Mario Kart and it’s a lot of fun (including levels and racers from popular indie games).
There’s also Crash Team Racing and Crash Nitro Kart on PS1/PS2 and they’re great too.
And if you’re into the obscure stuff, there’s Motor Toon Racing on PS1 (I like this one because the car leans and twists as you drive). There are also games with a more-modern twist on the Mario Kart formula – like Blur (a non-kart-racer which mixes real-world-looking settings with neon overlays and futuristic weapons).
(Burnout Paradise just lets you drive around goofing-off until you’re ready to get serious.)
I like racing games that just let me drive around. Sometimes I start up Burnout Paradise and just drive up and down the city blocks (the game rewards you if you find hidden side-paths anyways).
(Tokyo Xtreme Racer and Midnight Club games are great for fun night driving.)
Sometimes I drive around on Tokyo Xtreme Racer and just cruise the night-time Japan highways. There’s also Midnight Club – which is great on multiple platforms. Unlike real-world driving, this is actually relaxing. A lot of the off-road racing games are like this too. If you don’t care about winning, you can have some fun driving around in the woods or in the snow. Speaking of that..
I like snow and ice. I don’t know why, but it’s just fun to slide around in the wintry element with games like car-racing WRC. But, besides racing cars, I also like snowboarding games like Amped, the SSX games, or even the old Cool Boarders games.
(I love Snowboard Kids and Amped – above)
There’s also the Snowboard Kids games on the N64 I’m never really sure what I’m supposed to do in these games so sometimes I race and sometimes I try tricks. They’re not stressful because I generally don’t care if I’m not winning.
There’s also the WRC Powerslide game (above) – which are top-down racers set on various tracks (some of them with snow).
As much as I do like snow, I like water as a driving surface as well. And there are cool games like RipTide and HydroThunder that really appeal to me. There’s also the very-relaxing Wave Racer on the N64 (most people are familiar with it).
(HydroThunder is available for Dreamcast/PS1/etc and Riptide GP is there for PS4 and Mobile)
I guess the reason I like these is the same with the snow racers. For the appeal of those those, the friction is all changed around. In these, there’s that and the addition of the surface of the water changing as well (causing your jet ski to jump so you can do tricks).
(Above is Burnout 3 from the PS2)
Sometimes I like to destroy things in a fiery blaze. For that, there’s old-school games like Carmageddon (where you get points for running over people), Grand Theft Auto, the Burnout series, the Flatout series, and more-recently, Ridge Racer Unbounded.
(Above is Ridge Racer Unbounded for PC and the PS3)
These are the sort of games where mayhem is encouraged and even rewarded. Games like Wipeout let you blast your enemies with weapons and that’s cool. Games like these, let you use your car as a physical weapon and run up on your enemies Mad-Max style. That is very satisfying.
I hope you share some of my love for these racing games (and maybe can pick up a few you’ve learned about here). Let me know in the comments what kind of racing games you like and what qualities you appreciate from them.