Why did Ridge Racer fall off?

In 1993, Namco released Ridge Racer, an arcade title that was also a launch title for the original PlayStation. It featured revolutionary polygonal graphics, that which rivaled arcade machines at the time, and the monumental success of this title led to numerous sequels. There was a long period of time where an entry in the franchise would symbolize the launch of a new console, and as a result, the franchise saw steady growth, until at some random point, the series, ironically, fell off.

           What happened? Why did this series which at one point sold over 5 million copies, and was considered one of the most influential racing game franchises ever made, just disappear?

Why did Ridge Racer Fall Off?

Back on the original, this was a game based on the popular trend of ‘togue’ racing, Ridge Racer prioritized drifting through fast, winding roads, while driving hot sports cars, and it remained a staple throughout the franchise’s history. Overtime, the original formula would be used as a platform to incorporate new features, such as multiplayer, car customization, and even a story mode that wasn’t terrible! But beyond the features that were added, the main reason this franchise was so coveted was it’s simple to learn but difficult to master gameplay. Hit the gas to drive, hit the brakes to slow down, press a direction on the ‘d-pad’ to steer. Simple enough for beginners, but once you take into consideration the drifting portion of the franchise, you’ll begin to understand the depth this game has. It prioritizes track memorization over anything, and where and when to initiate the drift.

The best example of this gameplay at work, in my opinion, is the best game in the franchise, Ridge Racer R4. Back in 1999, this game launched with an interesting approach to a career mode:

After you watch that intro, you have to pick a team to join. Each team has its own history, team manager, and difficulty. Once you pick a team, you pick a manufacturer to represent, each with their own stats. After this, you race, and while you don’t need to get first in each race to inevitably win, the more races you win, the more money can be spent on getting better cars. It’s a remarkably simple approach that takes inspiration from actual racing and actual team management. You can’t win them all, but you’re going to want to get close in order to be competitive near the end.

On top of that, the difficulty in R4 was given a twist, where not only would you want to choose a higher difficulty because you want a more intense experience, but because the more difficult teams actually need your help. I’m not going to spoil what happens in any of the teams, but the highest difficulty team has my favorite story in a racing game ever. Period.

As time went on, the success of Ridge Racer on home consoles began to falter. However, the franchise saw the launch of numerous handhelds, such as the DS, 3DS, Vita, and we saw arguably one of the best games in the franchise launch on the PSP. However, I believe that the downfall of Ridge Racer came from Namco itself, with the release of this disaster:

Why did Ridge Racer turn into Burnout? Or better yet, why did it turn into Flatout but with dubstep? Why? Everyone was scratching their heads, asking why Namco greenlit this title to begin with. Note, I don’t think this game is terrible. It’s got fun handling with satisfying drift physics, and I love the track creator. However, I do believe this game should have been its own series by Namco, and not a Ridge Racer. I believe this decision is what killed Ridge Racer because we haven’t seen a single mainline entry in the franchise since then.

So here’s the question: What would a new Ridge Racer look like?

Well, for starters, keep it Ridge Racer. We don’t want dubstep, destruction, and cheesy monologues. Bring back the story mode with the multiple outcomes. Bring back the easy to pick up, yet difficult to master handling. Bring back all the fictional car companies, with parts based on old Namco properties. Bring back the dance and EDM music, but maybe have a deal with Monstercat, or Hospital Records along side an original composer from the previous titles. But above all else, and this is going to sound weird, but I cannot stress this enough:

Do not make it look realistic.

Instead, give it a high-res PsOne look, much like Drift Stage, or HotShots Racing, where it actually looks like an old PlayStation game, while focusing on the framerate.

This is Drift Stage. It's basically a Ridge-Racer successor that never saw the light of day.

60 fps, 1080p, full HDR support. And, on top of that, Slightly Mad Studios is a studio you can work with to make this game a reality and bring back Ridge Racer.

And this is HotShot Racing, the closest we'll ever get to a new Ridge Racer. This hasnt been cancelled...yet.

I hope someone hears this because Ridge Racer was a revolutionary game series that needs to be in the spotlight at least one last time…


Myrmeko (#CTSquad)

Wow. Didn’t know Ridge Racer Unbounded existed, but it looks so much fun.
Having a lack of Burnout games, this fills the gap quite nicely.
I know it’s not a regular Ridge Racer, but i don’t care. It just looks TOO GOOD. Like i’m getting NFS MW 2012 vibes from it, and that’s one of my favourite NFS games.

Personally i was never a fan of Ridge Racer. And i guess people just moved out of the arcade racer phase.
OutRun didn’t get any sequel in years.
The market for those games it just too narrow.

I’d like another Ridge Racer, but just like Unbounded, not like the original ones. Or just another game in that style from Namco. Unbounded 2, a standalone series.
The graphics were amazing, the physics are problably as responsive as NFS MW 2012, the damage models are very good and the minimalist UI looks amazing.

06/04/2020 - 07:14 |
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I think another reason why Ridge Racer was forgotten is because nowadays everybody wants realisic simulators like Assetto Corsa and GT Sport, therefore a new Ridge Racer would likely only appeal to a very niche audience, which isn’t exactly ideal from a marketing standpoint. It’s a shame, though; i remember playing the PSP games back in the day, and they were awesome! It’s also a shame Drift Stage got cancelled (from what i’ve heard, the coder tried to run away with the code, and the artist got stuck in a legal limbo), because i was really looking forward to it…

06/04/2020 - 09:53 |
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Regular Bloke

Ridge racer was a masterpiece. Spent many hours on type 4 back then. Soundtrack was amazing, aesthetic was clean and minimalistic. The rpg like gameplay of rr type 4 is really cool. I do hope that arcade racer is making a comback. Now the market is really over saturated with simcade and sims, the current big budget arcade racer is….meh, its not terrible but it doesnt have the same feeling. I really miss games like outrun, ridge racer, tokyo xtreme racer, hell i enjoyed gti club supermini. And with hotshot racing, cancelation seems unlikely. The game is basically finished, just needs some tweaking. And im looking foward to the comeback of arcade racers.

06/04/2020 - 11:14 |
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hm even if ridge racer appeals to a smaller audience it still wouldnt be a bad businness move to make a “real” sequel i think. that game wouldnt be anywhere as expensive to make as a gran turismo or forza, would it?

06/08/2020 - 11:09 |
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