Speed Race/Wheels (the name depended on where you lived) is one of the very first racing game titles. It introduced scrolling graphics, increasing difficulty levels and two-player alternating game modes. That doesn’t sound that impressive now but in 1973, it was huge.
Released back in 1974, Gran Trak 10 looks hilarious and as basic as racing games can get, but back then this arcade game was revolutionary.
You basically controlled a dot on the screen and had to try and drive around the track, from a top-down view, in an attempt to beat the clock. It featured pedals, a steering wheel and a gearstick, amazingly.
Moving on a few more years and the arcade racing game concept had progressed into one of the earliest first-person perspectives. 1976’s Night Driver still stuck to black and white graphics, but it took things to new levels at the time in terms of gameplay – with a four-speed gearbox – and was hugely popular.
Another racing title from 1976, F-1 brought the worlds of motorsport and arcade gaming together. It featured a circular track recorded on film and projected onto the game screen, with a single car being driven around trying to avoid other vehicles.
Fast-forwarding to 1979 and Monaco GP from Sega, featuring high-speed action, numerous opponents, varying track widths and a day to night cycle. It was so popular a number of spin-offs and sequels were released over the years. The aim was simply to try and beat the clock and that was good enough for people at the time.
The game was developed by Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani. So, naturally, it was a huge hit when it arrived in arcades in 1982. Racing games continued to move forward and Pole Position was proof of this, with bright colours, background details and a real-life F1 track, the Fuji Speedway.
You even had to complete a qualifying lap to make it onto the grid, where you then raced against AI cars. It had a pseudo-3D, third-person, rear perspective view of the car and was seen as a revolutionary racing title at the time.
Pitstop II followed on from the original game, released one year earlier. A key strategic element of this 1984 title was the pitstop. It also featured two-player splitscreen, six international tracks and a range of lap-counts and difficulty levels. It really did take things further in the racing game world.
Revs may be from 1984 but it’s seen as one of the first racing sims of all time. The Formula 3 game included aero tuning and loads of brilliantly-named opponents like ‘Miles Behind’ and ‘Willy Swerve’. Brilliant!
What other racing games from this arcade era do you know of? Have played any of these? Let us know in the comments.