The retro racing games that sit strongest in our memories

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However you feel about the state of modern racing games, chances are there are plenty of games from history that you fondly remember putting in countless laps on back in the day.

So forget F1 23 and ignore iRacing for a moment – here are the four racing games from long, long ago that RaceFans writers remember the fondest.

Crammond’s classic

I still have my boxed copy of Geoff Crammond’s Formula One Grand Prix, the size of a small cereal packet with four floppy discs and a manual rattling around inside. When I popped the first disc in my Amiga A500 Plus, after a minute or two of clicking and whirring you were greeted by a MIDI rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain. What better introduction could a child of the eighties want from an F1 game?

The first Grand Prix game broke ground for simracing
Most racing games I’d played until that point had been sprite based, with flat images giving an unconvincing representation of driving. F1 GP, with its 3D cars, was a revelation.

It goes without saying they were staggeringly basic renderings by modern standards. The game also lacked an F1 licence, so the first few minutes were spent faithfully copying the correct team and driver names from the 1991 season poster on my wall, replacing McPherson with McLaren and Carlos Sanchez with Ayrton Senna.

That done, I spent hours losing myself in a recreation of F1 which was the most faithful you could experience at the time. I learned the track layouts and discovered the joy of jumping on the throttle as early as I could after braking as late as I dared.

It was clear a tremendous amount of thought had gone into creating a game which was both satisfying for experienced players but also gave novices everything they needed to learn how to play it. Many of the driver aids we expect to find in modern games, including braking, steering and racing line assistance, could each be toggled in-game with a single keypress.

It was also a remarkably open game for its time, permitting you to move back and forward throughout the field to check on the progress of your computer-controlled rivals.

Later editions followed which brought leaps forward in graphics and adapted to F1’s ever-changing rules. There is much to commend GP2 and its successors, but the original represented such leap forward in racing game technology it will always have a special place in my affections.

Keith Collantine

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The original off-road icon

Growing up I wasn’t allowed a video console, which at the time was very annoying, but with age realised was probably the right call for someone like me who gets easily caught up with such concepts.

We were however allowed to play on the family PC in my dad’s old study. That PC had three games. Encarta 95, Doom and Colin McRae.

Colin McRae Rally brought stage rallying to consoles
Don’t ask me about the year because I have no idea, but I loved that game. I would assume it was either the 1998 or ‘2.0’ edition. At the time my dad had specifically bought a second-hand steering wheel to really get the full experience. In the game, you would play with a blue and yellow Subaru Impreza or a red and white Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV. I’m sure there were others but they are the two that stuck out for me.

Although the rallies themselves were named the same as the real events, I’m pretty sure all of the stages were fictional but I didn’t care. My particular favourite was racing in the snow or rain because the graphics would change accordingly. I remember I was blown away by the various camera positions too. My favourite was either from inside the car overlooking the bonnet or a wide shot, so you could see faint tyre marks. Looking at YouTube videos now, graphics have moved on considerably.

There was also McRae’s co-driver, Nicky Grist, telling you where to go with an arrow on the screen pointing the right direction. He would occasionally congratulate you for good work. I’m not sure who he was congratulating because I was terrible at the game and didn’t have the attention span to improve.

I did however spend some of the time pretending I was going to work or to the supermarket and practised my parallel parking, which I’m not sure was the intention of the game.

To this day, I am still terrible at most video games I try out. But I am excellent at parallel parking.

Claire Cottingham

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Defying gravity

Racing games grounded in reality shaped my love of car culture and motorsports. I wouldn’t have become an avid fan of the JGTC/Super GT without playing Gran Turismo. The McLaren F1 wouldn’t have become my dream supercar without Need for Speed. Officially licensed games and simulations helped me follow and engage with Formula 1, NASCAR, and others when I couldn’t watch it on TV all the time.

I’ll be honest, however: Growing up, I had the most fun playing futuristic racing games. In the golden age of this subgenre from the 1990s to the early 2000s, these games were a captivating blend of science fiction and fantasy. From F-Zero, to Rollcage, Extreme G, Jet Moto, and countless other one-off games and franchises – it was always fascinating to me to see how each game would depict the future of motorsport. It helped that many of them were genuinely enjoyable to play, of course.

wipEout was a gEm of the ninEties
But of all these series, Wipeout – the futuristic racing series developed by Psygnosis (later, Sony Studio Liverpool) was the one that I loved the most.

At their very best, Wipeout games blended bleeding-edge visual fidelity with an unmatched sensation of speed, paired with complex anti-gravity physics engines which were challenging enough to learn, even harder to master – especially in the more advanced speed classes – but oh, so satisfying once tamed. The circuits of the future were challenging and spectacular, as were the spaceship-styled hovercraft capable of exceeding the sound barrier in some of the later instalments. Only the monolithic Mario Kart franchise has so seamlessly woven traditional racing with weapons-based combat over multiple installments.

Every game in the series, even the weaker ones, can consistently boast memorable, pulse-pounding EDM soundtracks composed either in-house from the likes of Tim Wright, or from some of the world’s most prolific acts in the genre. And buried within each game’s manual, writers Damon Fairclough and Robert Foxx would flesh out the lore behind each game – the constructors, the people, and more. It would always depict a future of motorsport that was often brutal, grim, and cynical – and yet, in some ways, hopeful and aspirational.

Wipeout HD for the PlayStation 3 was easily the most complete game of the franchise with the addition of accessible online multiplayer, taking elements from the portable-only Wipeout Pure and Wipeout Pulse and bringing them to a wider audience in a polished package. In the view of those who grew up with the original PlayStation trilogy, Wipeout 2097 and Wip3out (particularly the European-exclusive Wip3out Special Edition) represented the peak of the series, games which were groundbreaking in their time and remain memorable today.

But while the original Wipeout from 1995 was substantially limited and bare-bones compared to what would come after it, it was the one I am most fond of emotionally from the first time I played it at seven years old. Picking it up and playing it nearly 30 years on from its release is always gratifying, and it never takes long to rediscover the fine art of carving through the corners and jumps of each circuit.

Years after, Studio Liverpool has shuttered and this golden age of future racers has been extinguished, and the world of Wipeout has become speculative fiction rather than a prediction of the future, it is no less a formative influence on my life as a whole.

RJ O’Connell

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“You’re right there, Murray”

There have been over 70 officially licensed Formula 1 racing games in history. None of them successfully captured the soul of the sport better than Formula 1 ’97 on the PlayStation and PC.

Formula 1 ’97 brilliantly captured that TV feel
The sequel to, according to reports from the time, the PSX’s best-selling game of 1996 in the UK, F1 ’97 took everything that made the original game great – graphics, handling, authentic TV presentation and Murray Walker commentary – and simply did it better. Cars were an utter joy to drive on a controller and even better with analogue sticks. This was no simulation compared to the likes of Grand Prix 2, but no other console F1 game better translated the feeling of downforce until perhaps Formula One 2006 on the PS2, nine years later.

Each of the 11 cars from the 1997 season featured unique models of around 1,200 pixels – triple those of the previous game – with unique engine notes for each manufacturer. The iconic block yellow TV graphics are included throughout gameplay, with the broadcast immersion only enhanced by Murray Walker and Martin Brundle on commentary. Naturally, Murray delivers his lines flawlessly with all of his infectious enthusiasm, whether it’s giving race order updates, offering informative titbits about the oval shape of the Jordan’s air intake or exclaiming disbelief at the player driving the wrong way around the circuit.

AI was hardly anything to write home about, but honestly even modern racing games like Gran Turismo 7 can’t boast far superior CPU opponents than a game more than two decades old. A surprisingly sophisticated damage system and random failures added remarkable depth to racing, with a dynamic weather system that was better than any other on console at the time.

But it was the details that made F1 ’97 such a fun racer to replay time and time again. It was the cockpit view where grime and dirt would build up over a race, requiring you to clean the visor with a press of the Triangle button. It was the ability to rename drivers to either put yourself in the cockpit or add Jacques Villeneuve – AKA ‘Williams Numberone’ – into the game. It was the ‘Sunob’ bonus track, the mirrored tracks from the 1995 season, Edialeda and Adia IT, and the 1950s cars at Silverstone, complete with black and white filter. It was the incredible orchestral rock soundtrack with each tune named after an iconic circuit on the calendar. It was the entirely separate ‘arcade’ mode, that offered a whole other way to enjoy the game.

No other F1 console game has ever stirred the emotions the same way as Formula 1 ’97. One of the best F1 games of all time? You’re right there, Murray.

Will Wood

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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64 comments on “The retro racing games that sit strongest in our memories”

  1. My #1 was Colin Mcrae Rally 2. I stopped playing computer games when I became an adult so I never tried any of the later racing games except for rFactor 2 briefly during the pandemic. Guitar was more interesting.

    1. Check i played that a lot on my Commodore 64 and later on my Amiga….

    2. CMR2.0 was sooo good. Arcadey but amazing. The handling was godly precise. Know what’s not precise at all? Trying to undo 20 years of practising guitar with the picking hand being palmed instead of doing a fist…

  2. Ah F1 97 was what got me into this sport. And have they absolutely destroyed Silverstone. I got my first win in a racing video game at Silverstone Bridge Layout. Bridge Layout has always been legendary. Almost no slow speed corners.

  3. Geoff Crammond’s F1 GP series is what got me into the sport. It was a birthday gift from my uncle and whilst I was terrible at it on anything except rookie level back then, I read the manual from cover to cover and learned so much about the sport from what the racing line was to who the drivers were. Then there was the Editor that was bundled with some Amiga magazine which unleashed my creativity and 30 years later I’m still doing the same thing on GP4 making videos for YouTube and running a fantasy F1 series based on the game.

    1. Geoff’s work was legendary, @willwood if you can track him down for a meaty interview the comment section will be on fire.

      1. José Lopes da Silva
        18th August 2023, 20:46

        This, this, this!
        We are waiting for Grand Prix 5!!!!

  4. First racing game I’ve played was Grand Prix Circuit by Accolade. I have fond memories of the game. Controls were slightly difficult to handle, especially shifting, and it was difficult to tell when AIs in front of you braked, so I would frequently wreck with them accidentally. Lack of walls on tracks like Monaco feels strange, but they at least make up for it by providing parallax background to their fake 3D. Some of the files on my floppy eventually got damaged, making the game crash when you had more than 0 points after Monaco in the championship mode. That made it challenging to win titles because Monaco is race 4 of 8.

    My second game deserves a mention because it’s an unusual piece of software. Named Car & Driver, it was more of a software demonstration than a game. Notably it featured Laguna Seca (named Monterey in the game), which would go on to become one of my favourite tracks in the world, in part thanks to that one daunting corner that often killed me in the game.

    As a kid I would often go play one of the demo PlayStations in a local game store. They had original Colin McRae Rally there as well as some F1 games. Being a keyboard player, I was completely hopeless on controller and considered it a success when I didn’t finish last among the AI opponents. The more was I surprised when I finally got the game on PC to win all the championships at first try.

    On top of those, I’ve clocked a lot of time on some of the old Need for Speed titles, notably NFS II SE and NFS III HP. Back in the day I could drive every track on NFS II SE blindfolded. There were some bangers on the soundtrack, too.

    I would also play RollCage with a friend a lot. Each time when mum told us that he had to go, we would ask for one more race, then start a 50-lap marathon.

    Ever wondered what tracks would look like if every track was a kart track? Few years later we found out that we were both playing GeneRally. It’s a lovable top-down game by an indie Finnish studio with a ton of customisation options. Think Micro Machines but you see the whole track at the same time. The cars are so small you can barely make them out on larger tracks. Gameplay is so much fun. I sometimes play this game against AIs to this day.

    Finally I would like to shout out another game introduced to me by friend long after it was relevant, Ignition. It’s a brilliant mid-90s 3D racing game for PC. The game is very simple and arcade-like. I sometimes play it to this day, raising the difficulty for myself by driving two cars at the same time (yes, the controls are very simple).

    This comment is a lot longer than I’ve planned 🤔

  5. Never played Formula 1 ‘97 and recently getting into retro gaming, should I give it a shot? Looks like I should.

    1. Absolutely! Whether you’ll have the same feelings Will and I have is another thing.. but it’s a good game. If you take one of the lower end cars for a long distance race, you need to emotionally prepare yourself for some type of failure, whether it’s terminal or temporary. It’s a true rollercoaster of a game. The original was mindblowing, but ’97 took everything and made it better. It was the PS1’s finest F1 title, and one I can still have fun with to this day.

      Hearing Murray over the top of it, accompanied with the graphics and all the licenced teams (gutting Lola didn’t make the final cut – they were still featured in the game manual…!), and not forgetting the advanced damage model/failures – well worth a shot.

  6. The game I remember most fondly is Need for Speed 2, probably because it was one of the first racing games I ever owned, but ultimately because of the showcases for each car. I must have spent more time watching the videos and learning the specs than actually playing. The driving may have been a bit wild and arcade-heavy, especially from today’s perspective but also compared to its predecessor, but the eloquent presentation and cinematic video production was first class. Coupled with a memorable soundtrack and good graphics, especially with 3dfx, it was a special game in its time.

    Another significant title for me is Live for Speed. It’s been 20 years since I stumbled across the demo, and it changed me permanently and turned my focus away from racing games to simulations. To say it was ahead of its time is almost an understatement, even though it was essentially programmed by one person. Not only was it groundbreaking in terms of driving physics, the ease of participating in a race online is still unmatched today. After a few minutes you were on track and thanks to the great netcode you could enjoy close and exciting racing.

    1. I highly encourage you guys to check out the showcases. ahh, the memories!!

  7. For me, GP4 and Richard Burns Rally represent the highest place on the podium for F1 and rallying games respectively. No other games before and after have produced equally great racing experience. Can’t even estimate how many hours I’ve spent playing them. Still have them installed on my current PC.

    Anyway, I’d like to mention a couple of hidden jewels:
    F-1 World Grand Prix II for Dreamcast. Wonderful game that still holds up today. Not an arcade game like other console games of the time, but a real simulator. The tracks are so realistic they feel like laser-scanned. You could say it’s a console version of Geoff Crammon’s Grand Prix series.
    Mobil 1 Rally Championship. A 1999 sequel to Network Q RAC Rally Championship. Difficult and challenging game with exhaustively long stages in British forests. After playing it, Colin McRae Rally feels like Sega Rally Championship in comparison. Still today, it’s one of the best rally simulators out there.

    1. Richard Burns is a bonafide masterpiece. I played it on PS2 the first time round oddly enough. But yeah, as an experience whatever magic dust the devs used has never been bettered.

      Live For Speed is up there too. Indy500 as well. Gran Turismo 1-2 for obvious reasons.

    2. F1 World Grand Prix on N64 (also 1997 season) was head and shoulders above F1 ’97 on Playstation, despite the lack of commentary.

      The handling and graphics on the PlayStation game felt awful coming to it from that game.

  8. Ohhhhh this is the content people want! retro gaming!

    My very first F1 game was Ayrton Senna’s Monaco GP II on the SEGA Genesis. It was an eye opener for me, a 6 year old kid who had never played something that competitive. You had to beat your rival and if you beat him twice you got his place at the team. You climbed up the ladder until winning the championship but then you get your rival in the fastest car and you had to beat him again!

    It was unlicensed of course, which added to the 90s nostalgia: Ferrari was Firenze, McLaren was Madonna and the drivers all had fake names (except their initials) but it was fun to try to guess which was which.

    Of course then things evolve and you move to more realistic games: Gran Turismo, the Colin McRae games (after which my cat was named!), iRacing and so on… but there’s something incredibly nostalgic about trying to beat some pixels in one go as you couldn’t save your progress!

    1. This was called Super Monaco GP in the UK, and yes it was indeed awesome. I still play it on an emulator sometimes.

  9. When I drive on country roads, I still occasionally find myself thinking Colin McRae Rally-style corner notes to myself in Nicky Grist’s voice. And when I say ‘occasionally’ I mean quite often.

    So I guess that would be the one that’s stayed with me the strongest.

    But also F1 97, original Gran Turismo, Micro Machines V3 (multiplayer mode) and Toca 2.

    1. You’re not alone there! 50 straight into 2 left tightens, care rocks inside, over crest!

  10. F-Zero GX was fantastic, it’s a shame Nintendo decided to make all racing related games into endless Mario Kart releases for the past two decades.

  11. The Geoff Crammond GP series and especially the Grand Prix 2 game played a quite significant role in my life. When GP2 was released I was a young teenager and I loved playing the game with friends. Back then you had to wait several years for a new game and there were no season updates so you were always driving in cars, teams and on tracks that were outdated – which was a bit frustrating and this sparked a whole community of people modifying the game themselves, some even wrote small programs for it. For example- The game already had a rating system (database) for ranking the drivers and teams and if you found out where in the database this was you could happily adjust this yourself. Mind you this was way before handy tutorials on YouTube etc – so you had to figure out a lot of things yourself. When I first started modifying the game I was nervous as hell about touching or chancing anything on a computer (my dad’s computer) but I soon found I had a knack for it and learned by trail and error. This also sparked an interest for graphics – chancing the liveries of the cars or helmets of the drivers meant having to learn PaintShop Pro – it turned out to be a stepping stone into Graphic Design and the modding gave me a lot of confidence and knowledge of software and operating systems – things that helped me a lot in life and my career and still do. So if by any chance they might read this – thank you Geoff his (MicroProse) team and all the people from the modding community!!

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      18th August 2023, 20:48

      A couple of tracks and a 23 carset were released a few days ago… and new track versions might be about to come out!

  12. Christmas 1996, I had gotten a new PC (A Pentium 75 my first new one outside of hand me downs and my OG, a Commdore 64) a few months earlier and I asked -of course- for video games. My parents got me two, C&C Red Alert and Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 2. And boy did I ever get my mileage out of both, but especially the latter. I played that game for years. The chrismas after I asked and got a steering wheel with pedals. And boy for years there was not a single day I wasn’t racing that game. It had such a lively modding community too, I spend ages in MS Paint, customizing my own team with GP2Edit. Adding new seasons, new tracks, everything.

    That game was pure magic, I don’t think it’s ever been topped, even by it’s own successors.

    Second game would be GP Manager 2, another game that just got everything right. I don’t think any of the current management games come even close to that for me. Though that’s probably more nostalgia than anything else.

  13. When I still had playtime, everything Geoff Crammond, hands down. Shout out to Grand Prix Legends,original from Papyrus but made infinitely better by the modding community. I think it’s still going today, they released a HD upgrade to 1080p in 2021? It’s just awesome.
    Sega Rally arcade cabinets. I spent many a coin on those in the day

    1. really? a 1080p upgrade for GPL? that’s awesome!

    2. I loved GPL

  14. Geoff grammonds games was the thing that changed my life in games. I was because of my age (52 now) on the beginning of everything as matter gaming and at start i was playing everything but when i laid my hands on Formula, that was it.
    What i want to remember and i ask here if anyone does is what game was the 1st f1 that you was able to play with another one player with two computers. I remember that i was grabbing my pc and i was l went every weekend to my friends house and we did connect or two computers with serial cable and we were playing together the whole weekend 48 hours straight.
    It was gp2? Or Monaco racing? My mind plays tricks on this.

  15. Grand Prix Legends
    Especially with all the mods!

  16. Not a great racing game but I used to love the names on super cars 2. Nigel Mainsail, Ayrton Sendup, Crashard Banger. Classic!

  17. F1 ’97 and Wipeout are absolute classics from the OG Playstation. I just discovered that the source code of the original Wipeout game as been made public in 2022. Unofficial ports to modern systems have since appeared, even correcting the collision system which was way too strict.

    But what got me definitively into weight transfer, racing lines and setups was Gran Turismo. This game changed the racing landscape on consoles.

  18. I played lots of racing games in the late eighties and early nineties, mostly on my Amiga 500. Many top-down racers that I quite enjoyed like Nitro and Super Cars, but my favorite by far was Geoff Crammond’s Formula 1 Grand Prix. I think I played around 12 full seasons of that game. I also quite liked Crammond’s ealier Stunt Car Racer, and an honorable mention goes to the fully mouse controlled Ferrari Formula 1 (not by Crammond btw).

    When Commodore went bankrupt in 1994 and the Amiga went into decline, I played fewer racing games as I did not get my hand on a PC until 1998, so I never really got into the Grand Prix 2 and the later versions (none of which appeared on the Amiga). I did play games at friends’ houses, and a notable racing game on the PC that we liked was Stunts, in which we loved creating tracks and then beating each other’s times on them. When I did finally started playing some games on my own PC, I have some memories of Grand Prix Legends – but man was that a tough game. One of the few racing games where I did not even occasionally beat the AI.

  19. I show my age but Grand Prix Legends from MicroProse was the hardest racing game I ever played. I don’t know if Geoff Crammond wrote it or not. It was a simulation of the 1967/68 F1 racing season and it was fabulous with all the cars and tracks available to the player

    1. GPL was not by Microprose or Geoff Crammond. It was Papyrus, headed by Dave Kaemmer.
      It was the first game or sim featuring the Nordschleiffe Nurburgring. And it was quite brilliant. But brutal. The Dark Souls of Simracing. Though developing or pinching a more benign suspension setup could make it more forgiving.

    2. I read something (not sure if true or not) that there were some default setup options that basically made the cars unintentionally difficult to drive, and if you changed those areas of setup to something more realistic, the car became more drivable.

    3. @photogcw I don’t think there has ever been a game which I liked so much despite being terrible at! Merely completing a lap at a competitive pace on some circuits was an achievement.

  20. Once I won a longer race (something like 8 laps) in NFS2 at LAN against a multiple friends, maybe with 8 participants, with a handicap as I had to get up and login for someone at an other computer. This was something like a 10secs stop and go penalty, as it cost me 30seconds. The last overtake happened in the last turn. Sadly with a contact (although not a big one), and the victim was 2 meters tall, and weighing 140-150 kilos around these heydays :XD

    I have liked NQ RAC Rally Championship too. A bit rudimentary with today’s eye, the car was able to take an incredible amount of beating, and the collosion system with the trackside rewarded some impact angles in hairpin-like turns quite much more instead of braking properly. But the many and long stages provided a good sense of speed and challenge considering how old that game was.

    I have played tons of oldie games, I would mention the Micro Machines series for example. I think top-down racers could have been mentioned a bit more often. I like them quite much, maybe with sim-like physics, and steering wheel and pedals support they could have their fans even today. Btw are there top-down racers with nice physics, and wheel+pedals support?

    OR Stunts, the game from the turning point of the 80s and the 90s maybe – quite amazing it was with its track builder/editor feature. If someone liked the pixel pile what Stunts was, maybe liked the Street Rod series and the Lotus series as well. Funnily enough, not much before I have seen someone benchmarking GTA San Andreas with 144p graphics on a Geforce GT210 :XD.

    I really liked NFS3 by its release. I really loved NFS Underground 1 as well, UG2 a bit less, and at about Most Wanted I stopped loving NFS. Since I have tried sim racing titles, I think I could not enjoy arcade/too easy games any more, unless the game in question is something genuinely fun, maybe in a new way. I think GTA V does driving better than many of the not so well done arcades – funnily enough I have never used the bullet time special ability of Michael, by the time I have figured out its existence I had no willing to build it into my gameplay.

    I have almost forgot to include the games “Terep” and “Terep2” maybe better known as “Deformers”. It is a game of a Hungarian indie. Terep means something like terrain. An offroad game. I think if someone would try it, then forget Terep1, Terep 2 is way better. Maybe it needs a DOS emulator, or maybe it can be played at an oldie games website with in-browser emulation, sadly I have not found a link to the latter option yet. The makers of Terep later came up with the offroad game 1NSANE. These games were nice by their time, because they provided a by them quite unknown open-world feeling, map size- and freedom-wise. The Terep2 had an opportunity to make your own maps, by editing bitmap files, so images. There was a heightmap, and maybe an other for the surface textures, which also defined the surface materials as well like: grass, mud, stone, water, ice, sand, oil. It was quite mind blowing by then. The cars looked like a bit like paper maché, but handled and got damaged quite realistically.

    The other decent titles I have played, and not mentioned, are maybe: F1GP, F1GP2, NFS1, Death Rally, BC Racers, Mario Kart, Wacky Wheels (the latter three at LAN as well). Most likely I omitted some, once I have assembled a list of my favourite oldies of all kind, but it took so long that the post have lost :) Even I was astonished how long that list was.

    One of my favourite games, was not about driving a car, but about driving a helicopter made of a wooden cage, and palm leafs-rotor. It is a platformer, named “Ugh!”, very old, but despite of the incredibly small file size, it has nice musics, and makes an amazing use of those pixels, and low color depth. It provides long long challenge, something like 100+ levels. That chopper is a real challenge, but consistent at the same time. I think it is maybe my favourite retro game.

    1. I have also played:
      “Trabi racer” :XD – Czech make,
      Destructon Derby 1-2,
      Screamer 1-2,
      some rally games like the Colin McRae series, Live for speed 👍,
      Re-Volt 👍,
      Trackmania – far too arcade for me,
      Elasto Mania – another Hungarian old indie game motorcross themed platformer, looks like it is remastered and available on Steam. The original was quite funny or genuine I think.

    2. Thanks for your detailed memories, interesting.

      Though it doesn’t support wheel and pedals, by a very long way, the best attempt at a ‘realistic’ top down racer came out a year or two ago. It’s called Circuit Superstars, and it’s lots of fun.

      1. Thanks, I liked many of your comments too before as well. Especially the one below the article titled “Jordan’s original Formula 1 factory to be demolished next summer” from the end of last year, here on RaceFans.
        Circuit Superstars seems to be amazing, today I have watched some videos aboout it at Steam. Haha, racing with a caravan attached to the car. Once I have seen a promo video from Red Bull, with Verstappen and Ricciardo having a fun race with such configuration, that was very funny. If one have not seen it yet, its worthy, but I will not tell details to kill the joke.

        1. Thanks Jockey, it’s nice to be appreciated and remembered.

    3. For top down racers, Ultimate 2D racing 2 is excellent, Circuit Superstars is good but a bit arcade, Super Woden GP is also good but a bit arcade, and Formula Top is good but in early access. All have been released in the last three or so years and are on steam. Do not know if they work on a wheel though.

      1. Thanks, nice list, I will definitely check on these when I am in top-down mood :)
        I think I have tried Ultimate 2D racing 2, and I remember it was challenging and well done. The others I do not really know yet. I think in case of these top-down games doing a good job with the camera is a really important thing, what can add or take away from the quality/feel of the game. I see some fantasy in once assembling such a game with wheel support, at least in a freely available game engine.

  21. Firstly, the Haynes Manual for Racing Games is a superb historical tome.

    Two sims stand out in history as the greatest steps forward in accurate physics modelling:
    1989’s Indy 500’s physics were light years ahead of all of Geoff Crammond’s sims. Sorry to burst fans’ bubbles on that one. It was tragic that it only had 1 circuit with 4 copies of the same 225mph left hander. Tooling around on throttle and steering inputs at slower speeds e.g. with one wheel on the grass showed it belied a stunning physics model that Papyrus would later carry over into Grand Prix Legends and iRacing relatively unchanged. A nice feature was that only during free practice sessions, you could use the keyboard to immediately alter the highly intricate suspension set up options whilst doing 230mph… Not realistic, but a great feature never repeated that enabled you to quickly understand their effects.

    2005’s Richard Burns Rally was sensational. Again I was impressed by how it handled physics when the 4 tyres were each on different friction surface. The response to combining transients was perfect (and the maths behind transient vehicle dynamics are not trivial, believe me). My favourite memory was the best tutorial ever. I’d been simracing since 1985 and Geoff Crammond’s Revs+, so I’d just confidently dive into to each tutorial lesson and be miles off the required pass time. I’d then listen to its video brilliantly explaining what I should have done for that corner. These pretty much culminated in a lesson video analysing the nature of a particular corner and concluding I’d be best doing a Scandinavian flick on entry with a touch of handbrake, balancing the throttle with left foot braking, and hooking a wheel into the deep gully on the inside to enable it to pull you through the corner much faster than otherwise possible. And the physics let you do all that and benefit. This meant the learning curve would just go up and up as you kept learning for years. Only Rocket League has a longer learning curve.
    I heard Colin McRae jibed Richard Burns on how many more millions his game had sold, and Richard just smiled and proudly said those *game* sales were impressive, but had Colin tried driving his *sim*?

    Though its physics weren’t a patch on Indy 500, 1990’s Race Drivin’ Panorama arcade cab by Atari was ground-breaking hardware. I now feel so lucky to have driven it, as it turns out only 100 were built! It featured triple screens combining to create a 180 degree field of view of its 3D polygonal world; a clutch pedal to avoid stalling at the start and crunching its H-gate gear lever; and steering wheel force feedback that accurately pulled the wheel towards countersteering when the back end would drift out.
    Atari employed consultancy from William Milliken, who also wrote the engineering bible Race Car Vehicle Dynamics, and designed the famous barrel roll jump over the broken bridge in the James Bond Man with the Golden Gun movie.

    Other notable mentions:
    Geoff Crammond’s 1989 Stunt Car Racer, a unique fantasy racer in need of a sequel by someone (with Trackmania perhaps coming closest). I once played 2 player by locally wiring together an Amiga and Atari ST. Very finely balanced tactical management of both your race’s nitro supply and also the damage gauge that cleverly combined damage repairable after each race and damage only repairable at the end of each season.

    1990’s arcade cab Super Monaco Grand Prix was the epitome of pseudo-3D racers, using Sega’s hardware 2D sprite scaling to simulate 3D instead of 3D polygons. Combined with the first person view through pouring rain and sparks from the other cars, the sprite scaling gave it a grittiness that really captured Monaco’s terrifying speed and claustrophobia. A very strong memory was the brutality of my crashing heavily at 160mph overtaking at the fast final chicane. One of my tyres bounced away as I slewed sideways post-impact as everything faded to black and the Game Over text sombrely and silently materialised, uniquely without the customary cheery ‘Game Over Yeah!’ sound. I was shocked – it being lap 1, I loads of time left to reach the time extend checkpoint, but that was it – the end of my precious £1. I was… dead.

    1996’s spiritual arcade cabinet sequel to Daytona, Scud Race (aka Super GT) was graphically very close to games 20 years later. I was lucky to regularly play a cab set for 10 rather than 4 minute races, and kept battling to improve my best race time on the hardest circuit. It was beautifully balanced to yield basically identical times whether you ran a flat out drifting 1 stop strategy or babied the tyres throughout to preserve them in a no-stop strategy. Not bad depth for an arcade machine.

    1996’s Wave Race 64 on the Nintendo 64, for the most realistic wave physics for the 15 years that followed it. And a hidden mode where you ride a dolphin around the island at sunset.

    1998’s F-Zero X on the Nintendo 64, just for trolling the future of gaming by achieving a consistent 60 frames per second whilst playing 4 player split screen!!! 25 years on, quite a few single player games only run at 30 fps on a PS5…

    My proudest sim racing achievement was my best Grand Prix Legends Monaco lap ranking in the top 200 fastest in the world on GPL Rank, 2.5 years after its release. My 2nd best lap would have been absolutely miles off it – it was a momentary miracle.

    Lastly, my top tip for people wanting to just gently dip their toe in modern simracing would be to try Wreckfest. It’s a great laugh. And if they can’t afford modern hardware, Live for Speed (not Need for Speed) runs on any PC from the last 15 years.

    1. So very disappointing that I missed out on COTD, but really crushing that I got no replies. TLDR, but there’s not an ounce of fat in my post. It was just the concentrated essence of my almost 40 years of simracing wisdom.

  22. Toca 2: Touring Cars was the best for me. Tiff Needell on commentary, authentically replicated British circuits, pit stops, decent AI, AI that also made mistakes, various changing weather (although this ran to a script), and really challenging on a PS1 controller with no analogue sticks! If you span off on hard difficulty, you were never making that time back! Loved it.

  23. F1 World Grand Prix on N64 (also 1997 season) was head and shoulders above F1 ’97 on Playstation, despite the lack of commentary.

    The handling and graphics on the PlayStation game felt awful coming to it from that game.

  24. Gran Turismo 1 & 2, with the disc that you could scratch and sniff and it smelled like tyres.

    Need for Speed Underground 2, the music, the tuning, the drifting. Masterpiece.

    TOCA 2, the huge variety of cars, tracks, and “offline” multiplayer.

    Games should come with more options for offline racing. So fun.

    1. Gran turismo 2 was my first ps game,when i got it for Christmas back in 99, great game and played it for hundreds of hours.

  25. I have only recently discovered Nascar Racing 3 (1999) for the PC. It has a working safety car, in game save, and AI that can reliably overtake other cars. I honestly do not know of another sim with all those three features. This makes it perfect for endurance. I have painted the 2023 IMSA cars and am working upon a 2023 WEC cars.

    1. Oh, but obviously F Zero X for the N64 is the all time greatest racing game, hands down.

  26. Anybody having played Indycar Racing by Papyrus (1993) ? It was brilliant for the time. I guess it was the precursor for GPL, that I never heard of at the time.

    1. I have played Indycar Racing 1 or 2. I almost forgot it, but, now watching a few videos, I clearly remember the sounds of the game. Maybe it was the first and not the second, as I remember something much more pixelated than the quite smooth looking Indycar Racing 2. But even the first one, after this many years, I say that they made good use of those big pixels in case of the first version, the opponent cars look nice on the track.
      As I see, these two games recieved pretty high ratings according to Wikipedia. I’m a Central European, and by then I was a younger kid so, one of the things I remember: “What are these tracks with 4 turns, what is the difficult thing here? :)”, and soon I had realized what :). As I remember I enjoyed the road courses of this game quite much.

      1. Oh yes, being more a track guy than a car guy, and being European as well, I also never thought I would enjoy racing on ovals so much. The racing was so good. Plan ahead and don’t lose your momentum while lapping Fred Jones !

        Some time after Indycar Racing 2 stopped working on my PC, I bought a F1 XXXX game, played it twice and gave it to a friend.

    2. I have played Indy Car Racing 2 recently. Very few games can simultaneously handle ovals, street courses and road courses but it does an excellent job of all three. It is pretty easy to get running on modern systems, there are tutorials on youtube.

  27. I could have written Keith’s piece about Geoff Crammond’s F1GP (Well it wouldn’t have sounded as good but the thought is there). I could never understand why mid session saves never really took off. It was great doing a full race distance but being able to stop for tea etc.

    F1 on the original Playstation I will never forget. Walking into the big Co-Op store in Nottingham before it closed and seeing the demo running, it was amazing! Got me into console gaming and I haven’t really looked back.

    1. @squeakywheel Me neither. It’s definitely something I’ve come to expect from any computer game designed to last more than 10 minutes total (even roguelikes manage it, and they have permadeath), and not having it in a racing game of the 2020s comes across as insufficiently accessible.

  28. Ah F1 ’97 that takes me back, still remember the nuggets of information that Jordan had opted of an oval air intake this year and we will see how that fairs, along with “Driver number 1” cos Villenuve didn’t want his name on screen.
    Having failures turned on, at Monza i made a run down to the Parabollica on the opening lap only for a fuel line failure to take me out of the race. On the flip side the same failure happened as i crossed the finishing line on the old Nurburgring with the car in flames only to be told i hadn’t finished the race at all!!!!!
    The one i couldnt manage was a full race distance on ultra thin brakes on a full GP distance at Hockenhiem through the forest and trigger brake failure, ahhh well never mind :)

  29. Mine was surely PITSTOP II.
    Released in 1984, featured a split-screen, tyre wear and fuel strategy.
    Was one of the first games you could play against your friends in real time. Amazing (at the time).

    1. Ah yes, a favourite of ours too, after pole position in the arcades this was the next best thing. This and REVS on the BBC. But I mean who had a BBC?!! We later loved playing 1989 stunt car racer, 2 Amigas by rs232 cable…awesome!

      Even so, gran turismo 7 now infinitely better.l, can’t deny it.

  30. The reason Villeneuve wasn’t named in it was because at the time he was supposed to be developing his own racing game, so he wouldn’t licence his name (the game never came out).

    F1 ’99 raised the game even further; the gameplay was really hard and the graphics much better. Plus you could play as Villeneuve in that one – see how far you can get in the 1999 BAR! :-D

    Admittedly the last F1 game I played was 2012 – I never bothered with career mode, just played the arcade version in whatever car I wanted. Was a great game.

    1. This was particularly strange as Johnny Herbert was also working on his own racing game (that did come out, was quite enjoyable and had possibly the first game to feature the Zhuhai track, but not many people bought it as it was not an improvement on GP2).

      I think Jacques just wanted too much money for his name rights to be used.

      When I started playing racing games, I began with Accolade’s Grand Prix, and was still playing that right until the late 1990s (when my computer got upgraded from DOS to Windows 98). I also played quite a bit of Skunny Kart (a mascot karting game that was much more colourful than Wacky Wheels, but its lax approach to copyright meant it was nearly impossible for me to get a full version of the game, and the inability to remap its unfortunate control scheme means it’s difficult to play now without accidentally minimising the game.

      Thankfully, about a year after I fully converted to Windows, Grand Prix 3 was released. It still gets community mod updates to the latest F1 skins and was set to a good level of difficulty for me. Getting round the track took thought and delving into the systems was rewarding, but it also didn’t require the pinpoint precision of Grand Prix Legends or Colin McRae.

      I have yet to play any of the Codemasters/EA games from the current licensing era.

  31. The first game I played was Revs which was made by Geoff Crammond. Playing it with the keyboard controls was and still is a challenge. I think I also played soemthing from the Grand Prix series, but nothing impressed me as much as GPL – Gran Prix Legends!! My first true love! ♥

    Many hours of gameplay went into that. Several times per year my friends and I would gather our computers in a room, connect on a LAN and we would spend all weekend racing against each other and the AI. Free training sessions of 2 hours, followed by qualifying session of 1 hour and then a race of roughly 30 minutes or so. Obviously the race was always nerve-wrecking as a tiny mistake could have severe consequences of crashing out and then losing so many positions. The game was so beautifully made, you could see the spring and dampers of the tires work. I really enjoyed this game the most of all the race games I ever played. The tuning of the setup was not overly complex, but still enough complexity for it to make it interesting and to get different handling results based on a driver’s preference. The lack of wings and aerodynamic parts made it easier to manage.

    I wish they would make this game again with current world technology!!

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      18th August 2023, 20:51

      Have you checked Ted Meat REVS season on Youtube?

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