Racing to 31: 31 racing game greats – #26 Super Grand Prix (1991)

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!

Surely Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 4.38.45 pmnot another top down racer?  Why yes (…and there’s more to come).

It’s funny how in vogue the word ‘balance’ is when it comes to speaking critically about modern video games, because it is almost the antithesis of how games were made in the early 90’s.  Super Grand Prix is at times far from a balanced racing game, something that it almost revels in just for the sake of bringing about an outrageously fun and quirky racing title.  And in many ways its this audacious design philosophy that sticks in my mind the most about the game, and why it is still worth writing about 23 years later.

In an era of the ‘Definitive Edition’ style updates on the PS4 and Xbox One, it seems timely to document the fact that remaking games for more powerful hardware, sometimes adding new features in the process, isn’t a new trend by any stretch of the imagination.  Super Grand Prix is one such game, essentially a drastically improved Amiga 500 remake of Grand Prix Simulator on the Commodore 64, improving both the graphics and gameplay well beyond what the 0ld 8-bit computers were capable of.  It was an update that also happened to add what I consider the game’s defining feature, expanding the roster of vehicles well beyond the open-wheeled cars in the first game, to include a myriad of ridiculous vehicles that dramatically changed the tone of the game.  Gone were the pedestrian formula one style races, in were sports cars, motorbikes and drag cars.  The addition of these vehicle classes made added to the variety and gave Super Grand Prix a unique bullet point to put on the back its box.

As did the bulldozers, monster trucks, and tanks. See what I mean about balance?

Super Grand Prix is technically more novel than a truly fantastic racing game, but that doesn’t make it any less of a legitimately great game experience.  Like every racing game from the same era, there were technical limitations that severely constrained what these games could realistically be, even when games were striving to be the ultimate in video game realism.  But it is games like Super Grand Prix, those that worse their whimsical heart on their sleeves and threw unattainable realism out the window, that have fared better in the passage of time.  And Super Grand Prix makes no bones about being a ridiculous and over-the-top top down racer – and that is a large reason I consider it a bit of a cult classic of its time.

Let’s face it, Codemasters have always been at the forefront of the racing genre.

Do you remember playing Super Grand Prix?  Were you the idiot tank driver that blew the living crap out of your opponents?  Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to check out the previous entries in the countdown!

#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