Racing to 31 – 31 racing game greats: #20 Gran Turismo (1998)

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!

GGTran Turismo is more than just the best selling game on the Playstation, it is as cultural zeitgeist that changed car culture in Australia almost overnight.  There had always been an underlying current of appreciation for Japanese sports cars, but in a country where Formula One and our own home-grown V8 Supercars rule the roost, they had never been a mainstay of our car culture.  Polyphony’s game changed that, and over the next few years we saw a significant change to the cars on our roads, as the Subaru WRX  and the Nissan Skyline became the new hotness for car lovers, replacing the roar of Holden’s own OHV V8 engines with the purr of an I6.  Whether Polyphony Digital and Sony intended or not, Gran Turismo was for many people, the gateway into a new appreciation for automotive and the birth of a new type of car enthusiast.

Its achievements in bringing a more grounded take on racing also gave rise to the popularity of the genre to consoles.  It may be hard to believe now with the significant strides that have been taken since its release, but at the time Gran Turismo was streets ahead of other console racers, both in terms of presenting a photo-realistic (don’t laugh) and physics-heavy driving simulator.  It was the type of game that you’d gather the family around the telly to watch a replay of your victory around the high-speed ring simply just to show off just how good the game looked.  It is the very sort of game that while playing you’d find yourself saying “games can’t get much better than this” while onlookers nod in agreement.  And its beauty is probably a significant part of the game’s success, as word of mouth spread like wildfire, and every man and his dog was talking about the game that looked too good to be true.  The fact that it was probably the best console-racing game to date was a second order issue in the grand scheme of things, which to be honest was the general sentiment of console gamers at the time.  But Gran Turismo changed player expectations, and in doing so opened the floodgates on what have been enormous steps toward realism, as people want more and better physics guiding their way around the track, and in doing so giving rise to a plethora of imitators and innovators vying for Polyphony’s throne.

I played have played the hell out of every Gran Turismo since the release of the original, making my way through championship over championship, eager to get a feel for how as many cars handle on the tarmac as possible.  I’ve relished driving everything from a 1971 Nissan 240ZG to a 2004 Aston Martin Vanquish to everything in between.  And as the car rosters of the games have increased with every game so has my infatuation and need to experience absolutely everything the developers have stuffed onto the disc.  But while the games have gotten bigger and better, nothing compares to my first few hundred hours with the series over the scorching summer of 1998.

Have Gran Turismo memories?  Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to look back at past games 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