Racing to 31 – 31 racing game greats: #16 Grand Prix Challenge (2002)

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!

F1 Grand Prix Challenge
Formula One games have been a staple of video games since the figurative beginning of time.  While a handful have tried to slip down the arcade lane, the underrated F1 Race Stars comes to mind as an extreme example of this, most have stayed true to the reality of the sport.  Even during the glut of F1 games in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s before Sony scrambled to get exclusivity over the licence, developers weren’t terribly interested in straying too far from the well-worn path, and so what we ended up with is a sort of video game industry example of Hotelling’s law playing out.  So it was probably for the best that the approach to the licence has been one of exclusivity ever since.

But there were rare gems among the pile.  While some of the big-guns of the industry had admirable attempts at making the ultimate F1 game, Electronic Arts’ career-focused F1 Career Challenge comes to mind, it was a small developer in the heart of the greatest city in the world that stood head and shoulders above the pack.  Melbourne House’s Grand Prix Challenge was not only a stunning game, it was the rare example of getting the mix of realism and arcade-style racing right, earning itself a place next to the likes of Psygnosis (later known as SCE Studio Liverpool) and Codemasters, as purveyors of fine Formula One racing games.  As is too often the case though, Grand Prix Challenge fell into relative obscurity, along with the scores of me-too F1 games it shared store shelves with.  Sadly as a result,  the Aussie workhorse never got the chance to dip its toes deeper into the racing game well, and prove it had the chops to go head to head with the best in the business.

There is something about going back to old Formula One games that excites me.  For one, it’s a great sport with a great history, and a history that video games for the most part have done well by.  But going back and driving as the drivers of past seasons in the cars of past seasons offers a proposition .  In much the same way Gran Turismo gives car lovers a way to revisit and appreciate the classic (and not so classic) cars of yesteryear, digging through old F1 games is a way to be a participant in some of the great rivalries in history and try to recreate the moments and races that have defined the sport.  While it would be nice to have a one-stop shop for this nostalgia, and F1 2013: Classic Edition came pretty close, we have to resort to going back and playing games of the era.  It’s not perfect, but when some of these games still play as well as Grand Prix Challenge does, it makes waiting for the Gran Turismo of Formula One games that we may never get just that little bit easier.

 Have a favourite Formula One game?  Tell us in the comments!  And make sure you check out previous games in the countdown through the links 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

Grand Prix Challenge Screen