Virtual Racing | Cool Arcade Games Then And Now

About five years ago I had my first dinner ever at Dave And Buster’s. It had been over a decade since I was last in an arcade, and that was just the corner one down the street from my parent’s house. I walked through D And B, between the monstrous machines, and sat down into a car racing game. Twenty dollars later, my love of the arcade was thoroughly renewed and I had a brand new obsession, car racing arcade games. You can take some rather incredible driving risks in those games that you absolutely could not take in real life. My job necessitates a lot of commuting, so I find myself behind the wheel almost as often as I’m riding the train. After all of those hours spent every week ensuring I drive responsibly and safely, it’s a lot of fun to hit the arcade and throw caution to the wind. Last week I had a meeting in New York City and took the group out to Dave And Buster’s afterwards. On the train ride home I got an idea, and decided to write this blog.

Here’s a list of 5 particularly cool car racing games that are either currently in arcades or used to be.

Dirty Drivin’

Raw Thrills and Specular Interactive 2011

Cool Arcade Games


The first game to hit this list is none other than Dirty Drivin’. DD is a relatively new addition to the virtual racing scene. Release in 2011 by Raw Thrills and Specular Interactive, DD is a one-seater game which can feature the driver in one of ten custom vehicles. That might not sound like very many, but the list of upgrades that are available throughout the game is almost endless. Racers can find themselves tearing up the craziest of tracks, unleashing weaponry on their opponents, or even grabbing on-course power ups to catapult themselves to victory. There is a special, skull-shaped crank next to the drivers seat which, when pulled, releases the power ups that can be acquired throughout the game. Smashing into your opponent is also encouraged. The more points you get throughout the game, the more power-ups become available. The whole game has a wonderfully gritty feel to it that translates into an incredibly fun experience behind the wheel.

Hard Drivin’

Atari 1989

Cool Arcade Games


I’m going to reach way back here and talk about one of the first arcade driving games ever, Hard Drivin’. I never played this game, and I’m sure it has since disappeared, but it’s more than worth mentioning for a whole host of reasons. First of all, Hard Drivin’ is a game that doesn’t skimp on the realism when it comes to driving. This game actually featured a clutch pedal to be worked in conjunction with a gear shift. If the driver couldn’t work those seamlessly, the car would stall in the game and affect the lap time. Secondly, this was the first arcade racing game of it’s time to feature the driving perspective from inside the vehicle. Just looking at this game, I bet it was tough to drive with that perspective. Not for any lack of talent on the gamer’s side, but mainly because the perspective is like a horse with blinders on. When you’re driving the car in the game, you can’t see off to the sides! I’m sure that made it difficult to navigate turns. Then, on top of all that, if you left the road, you had ten seconds to return before your game was automatically over. While this game may have been very accurate and revolutionary in it’s day, I prefer the games that followed it. I like my virtual racing games to be fun, especially in an arcade setting.


Sega 1986

cool arcade games


Now here’s a game I played when I was younger and occasionally made it to arcades. Outrun was truly the beginning of the racing games we see in arcades today. Yes, like Hard Drivin’, this game features a full sit-down cabinet for arcade play. However, Outrun uses the more popular “behind the car” perspective. The seat would also shake and turn along with the on-screen turns and crashes. Outrun made you really feel like the action was happening around you. The game was designed by Yu Suzuki. Yu toured Europe before working on the game in order to add as much realism to the game as possible. Most of the backgrounds and settings seen throughout Outrun are modeled after European landscapes. It wasn’t just a coincidence that the races took you past windmills, the Alps, and rock formations like Stonehenge. The whole point of the game is to escape reality. Let me tell you, driving through the Alps while sitting in a small arcade in Minnesota was definitely escaping reality.

Fast & Furious Supercars

Raw Thrills 2010

cool arcade games


Let’s get back to the modern racing games you will find the next time you step into an arcade. This next one is also from the geniuses over at Raw Thrills and it’s called Fast And Furious Supercars. Although Raw Thrills began developing and releasing these “Fast And Furious” games in 2006, Supercars is the most recent addition to the family. It features 10 incredible cars, like it’s predecessors, everything from a Dodge Viper SRT10 to a Saleen S7 Twin Turbo. That’s another thing that makes me love racing games right there, the modern ones feature some of the most incredible cars ever made. Although driving the car in the game is a stretch from the real experience, it’s a stretch in the most fun way possible. Another key difference between Supercars and those games that came before it is the number of races available. While the first Fast And Furious game had only 12 races, Supercars has 27 different racetracks for the driver to tear to shreds. The designer of the game is also the leader of Raw Thrills development studio, Eugene Jarvis. Jarvis originally developed pinball games in the late 1970s for Atari. Inspired by the release of Space Invaders, he sought out to design his own game. Almost thirty years later, he is developing and releasing some of the most incredible arcade games on the market.


Sega 2010

cool arcade games


The final virtual racing game of my post is truly a monster. GRID was released into the arcade world by SEGA in 2010. This game features 12 different insane automotive machines, everything from a Pagani Zonda to an Aston Martin DBR8. The car options alone might make this my favorite of all the games, though the player only has 8 different racing circuits to choose from. The screen on this game is 42”, basically the size of the average flat-screen living room TV. Even when up to 6 of these get linked together, everyone still gets their own 42” screen for game play. Plus, each cabinet also gets its own 2.1 digital sound system and sub woofer. The driver can even switch between auto and manual transmission, as well as several views of the car. So, if you wanted to play it with a Hard Drivin’ perspective, you could absolutely do that. I’m going to call it now. Of all the modern arcade racing games out there, this one is my favorite. Though some other games have more course options, GRID always draws me back with it’s encapsulating construction and fantastic car options. Really, any game that features a Pagani Zonda, that’s a game you’ve got to play.

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