It’s that time of year again and I find myself racing toward another birthday and to the ripe-old age of 31. In celebration I thought why the hell not have a racing themed countdown – so here we are, counting down 31 racing games that have defined my enjoyment of the genre over the last 31 years. Enjoy!
I love the sound of racing motorcycles. The high pitched squeal of a 400 cc engine at high revs is a sound your eardrums most likely won’t let you forget, at least so long as they’re still ringing from the experience. But despite this love of the machines and my love of Motorsport in general, I’ve never really been a fan of bike racing.
Bike racing games on the other hand, now they’re something I can get into.
I love bike racing games, right the way up to Milestone’s most recent SBK and MotoGP licensed games. The differences in how bikes handle on the race track as compared to their 4-wheeled counterparts, makes for absolutely fascinating and captivating racing, in many ways nothing like what you’d find in a car racer. And the biggest difference between the two classes of racing is how weight shifting impacts your path around the track, which makes for, in the case of two-wheels, an incredibly unique and nuanced racing experience. While weight absolutely factors into how cars handle on the road – particularly at speed – it’s all dependent on the car itself and the way you drive it. On a bike this isn’t the case, and turning a corner isn’t just a matter of braking and taking the best possible line through the corner, it just as much about shifting your body weight to keep your bike and its tyres in the best position possible through the corner to maintain momentum and friction. It may seem minor, but that added layer of complexity means that bike racing is an almost entirely different beast from anything with four-wheels.
While perhaps the complexity wasn’t quite there back in the day, it was games like MicroStyle’s RVF Honda, that caught my attention and had me intrigued with the notion of taking a bike around a race track. Sure i’d played Hang-On, but there was something more nuanced and dare I say it realistic, that really stuck with me. It may not look like much now, but compared to its contemporaries like SEGA’s Hang-On, it was a relatively grounded take on motorcycle racing and had a level of depth that most motorcycle racing games just didn’t have at the time. You could even overheat your engine – something that didn’t really hit mainstream racer design en masse well into the future. It even gave you the ability to create a rider and take him through a career, saving your stats and performances, not that unlike a feature you’d see in a modern sim. So while technically the game was relatively constrained by the limitations of the hardware available at the time, the ambition to create a thoroughly realistic racing game was there.
The game also looked and sounded great in motion, using many of the same sorts of 3D trickery that games that came before and after it used, giving it the sense of speed you’d expect from machines capable of travelling upwards of 200 km/h. While the detail around tracks is relatively sparse and simple, it is the animations of the rider that made it such a technical showpiece. The way the rider would angle his bike and get his knee down to guide the bike around the corner never got old, or watching him run-start his bike after a crash, really give it the attention to detail you might not find in many games of its ilk. Oh yeah and it sounded good as you’d roar around the track, too.
And boy did they roar.
Love RVF Honda or any other two-wheeled racers? Let me know in the comments and come back tomorrow for #28 in the countdown! And be sure to catch up with past games in the countdown below.
#31: Stunt Car Racer #30: Badlands #29: RVF Honda #28: Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge #27: Nitro #26: Super Grand Prix #25 Super Cars II #24 Super RC Pro-Am #23 Sega Rally #22 Wipeout 2097 #21 Micro Machines V3 #20 Gran Turismo #19 Need For Speed: High Stakes #18 Colin McRae Rally 2.0 #17 Wave Race: Blue Storm #16 Grand Prix Challenge #15 Project Gotham Racing 2 #14 F-Zero GX #13 Mashed #12 Burnout 3: Takedown #11 Ridge Racer #10 Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast #9 Forza Motorsport 2 #8 Motorstorm: Pacific Rift #7 Midnight Club: Los Angeles #6 Dirt 2 #5 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit #4 Shift 2: Unleashed #3 Sonic All-Star Racing: Transformed #2 Forza Horizon #1 F1 2013: Classic Edition