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, down 31 racing games that have defined my enjoyment of the genre over the last 31 years. Enjoy!
I can hear the cries now. “What! No Mario Kart?! Why?”.
Look, I love Mario Kart as much as the next guy. Its combination of fast racing, its whimsical take on racing, and its beautifully crafted Nintendo fan-service, have made it into the enduring household name that it is. I’ve played ’em all, and have enjoyed almost every minute of it. Blue Shells and aggressive rubber-banding aside, it’s the perfect go-to game to boot up on a hot summer day, sitting under the AC, enjoying an ice cold beveragini, glad you’re not outside sweating balls. And many a great time was had doing just that with Mario and friends.
At least it was the perfect go-to game until 2012, when Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed took its place. British workhorse, Sumo Digital, seems to be the kind of studio that you can throw anything at and they’ll make a meal of it, and no moreso than in the racing genre where they have proven their chops time and time again, with solid game after solid game. From their work on the Playstation Portable port of Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, to Codemasters’ first go at the Formula 1 license with F1 2009, the good people at Sumo have always impressed with plenty of first-rate titles to their name. Arguably though, their best work has been on Sega’s answer to Mario Kart, with the first game laying a solid foundation for the brilliance of Transformed.
Solid or not, the real golden ticket inside Transformed‘s gem of a package it its fan-service, its nostalgia, and its balls to the wall approach to paying respect to Sega. Strangely, while i was never much of a Sega lad growing up, I found its treatment of the company’s long and storied history more reverent than Nintendo’s efforts ever have been, digging deep into the well of nostalgia and perfectly capturing the look and feel of Sega games past. Sure, Sonic is a great mascot, but I was more excited to see the the bucket-hat wearing bloke from Crazy Taxi, and the Dwarf chap from Golden Axe making an appearance. It may be fan-service, but as far as video games paying due respect to the brands that old farts like me remember reading about in Mean Machines Magazine goes, Sumo Digital absolutely hit the nail squarely on the noggin.
I reviewed the game last year, after playing through both the Wii U and the Playstation Vita versions in their entirety, concluding that while they were rock-solid kart racers, they were best looked at as magnificent trips down memory lane. And that’s not a criticism because, well, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And I don’t know if you heard, but kart racers as a genre are still mighty fun, and Transformed right now stands as the best in its class.
Should I have included Mario Kart instead? Let me know in the comments!
#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