Racer represent quite the broad genre–it contains everything from kart racing to formula racing. Diddy Kong to Mario, Gran Turismo to the recently released, an much hyped, Forza 4. I remember spending at least $10 alone on the Crusin’ the World arcade machine at my local pizza joint. Not all racing games are liked by all, but almost anyone can point out at least one they like. We at 2D-X are no different. Here are our favorite racing games, Forza 4 and beyond.
Forza Motorsports 4 (Xbox 360)
To be blunt and honest, I hated Forza until this last release. Growing up I was a Gran Turismo kid, and now I’m a Forza fan girl. The amount of cars and tracks is ridiculous—I think I’ve spent 25+ hours in career mode and have yet to still finish it. Forza really tests you in your love for cars, and love for cars that you cannot afford. Your career mode starts off with a Toyota Yaris, which, if you didn’t know, is a 2-door egg-shaped hatchback that barely fits one person’s luggage for a three day trip. Forza pushes you through everything from “F Class,” cars to Formula-1 racing cars. It’s Turn 10 Studio’s way of saying, “if you really want us to just hand over that Gumpert, you’ll have to prove you can drive everything else below it first.”
The customization for Forza 4 is ridiculous. I can literally do whatever I want to my car (like my decked out blue ’10 Evo with the carbon fiber hood and a bright blue Phoenix on it and an insane body kit and parts that are par with a McLaren MP4-12C), and it’s full of win. I’ve spent hours painting cars. If you look into other customizations people have done, they’re equally as incredible. People have made cars with unicorns on them, cars with ridiculously detailed anime girls–using nothing but vector layers and shapes. There have been many hours spent tweaking, and many finger blisters acquired.
Autovista mode is also fantastic. I love being able to walk around and sit inside various cars and learn all sorts of fun facts about them. This is the one big thing I truly wish Gran Turismo did. I can literally walk around, sit in, and get specs on a McLaren F1 as if I were at the dealership. Forza 4 also has a lot more DLC than Gran Turismo 5. They release stuff almost weekly, from free stuff to packs that cost 800 points. The DLC is constantly changing–sometimes it’s a specific brand, or type of vehicle, and this month, they’re releasing the Porsche pack. Forza 4 also does a good job with the “community” aspect in terms of being able to purchase and sell designs, tuning kits, and cars you previously owned. If you’re a big “cars are porn” person like me, you can’t go wrong with Forza 4.
Outrun 2 (Xbox 360)
Fast cars. A hot female companion. The open road. Killer music.
These four elements, ones that tap into the most passionate element of the male psyche, were brought together in most excellent fashion in Yu Suzuki’s 1986 groundbreaker Outrun. But it was 2003′s Outrun 2, the first official sequel to the original game, that brought SEGA’s racing series into contemporary times.
Outrun 2, much like its predecessor, is all about extreme replayability. After selecting one of seven racing tunes (including the classic tracks like “Magical Sound Shower,” “Passing Breeze,” “Splash Wave,” and the the song that launched a thousand karaoke stars “Night Flight”) you speed through a series of four timed checkpoints, which are proceeded by forks in the road that require you to select the path. As such, Outrun 2, with its five different endings, is a game that demands you to play again and again to see the entire game.
Despite Outrun 2′s dozen-deep car stable, this isn’t a gearhead’s racer, which is a huge part of the appeal. The game’s all about speeding through the gorgeous environments, which include majestic mountains, rolling fields, and quaint towns lovingly rendered with polygonal excellence. It’s the digital equivalent of going on a cross-country road trip if it were timed and featured a woman riding shotgun who actually approved of you recklessness behind the wheel.
I could touch upon drifting, Heart Attack Mode, or Time Attack Mode, but I won’t. None of those are necessary to feel the game’s loving touch. Every time I fire it up Outrun 2 on my Xbox 360, I’m swept away on an audio-visual feast that remains one of the best arcade racers ever produced.
Diddy Kong Racing (Nintendo 64)
The hours I spent playing Diddy Kong racing attests to its greatness. Yes I admit the game was a Mario Kart clone, but Rare took that formula and revamped it. The game had a diverse cast of cute and cuddly characters, some of which ended up getting their own games. (Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day) The game was more than just Kart racing. I remember soaring through the skies on my way to victory in a plane, and struggling to handle the hovercraft during sea races. These vehicles led to a refreshing change of pace. The different in-race pick ups always kept the races competitive, especially when racing over aggressive players it was important to choose between defensive pick-ups or offensive ones.
But what really kept me glued to the game was the amazingly put together adventure mode. Rare did a good job of hiding so many Easter Eggs and unlockables all through out the adventure mode for players to find. You had to search through each course trying to find keys to open locked doors. The time trials were also worthwhile as they unlocked a hidden character T.T. I couldn’t get enough of this game.
Diddy Kong Racing also had some of the best video game soundtracks on the Nintendo 64; each track had a festive piece that just fit into the tracks theme. It’s really one of the more playful, but highly enjoyable compositions that are still very memorable. The DS version of the game isn’t as enjoyable as the N64 version, but it’s still a good port for those that have missed this classic racer.
Mario Kart: Double Dash (Gamecube)
Mario Kart: Double Dash was a staple with my friends for a while. We’d get together, team up and let mayhem reign.
With two riders to a kart, each rider had a job — driver or gunner. It was possible to switch between the two on the fly. Like, if I was really good at turning a particular tricky curve but I was in charge of throwing shells, I’d yell at my partner, “Hey, doofus! Switch!”, then we would trade places. I’d drift to victory, and s/he’d snipe someone, or steal their item. Timing and coordination was essential. The lingo was one of the best things about our matches. For instance “gunner” for item thrower, and the command “Bring the blue sparks!” That meant both riders had to wiggle their control sticks together while on a drift to initiate a powered-up, blue-flamed boost. Blue sparks meant victory.
And, man, the memories. After we saw the Speed Racer movie, my friends, brothers and I were on a racing high, especially after Speed literally brought the blue sparks in the climactic race. We flocked back to the game after that. I was so attached to experiences like that, that I ended up disappointed with Mario Kart 7. It felt like a big step backwards. I mean, it is on a handheld, so it’s not exactly a game friends can flock around to play team-up matches. It was more about multiplayer through online connectivity. Double Dash on the Gamecube was personal — a natural evolution of the split-screen multiplayer Mario Kart 64 brought us. DD improved it by adding teamwork and decreasing the amount of split-screens, thus increasing the screen real estate for players. Four players could play on two split-screens, rather than four. So simple, yet such a difference! Plus it had the best course design and best character selection in the series. It’s not just one of the best racers, it’s one of the best multiplayer games around.
As you can see, the types of racers are wide and varied. From Buggatis to bananas, racing games can offer something to all age groups, and gamers. But when you look into what truly is the top racing game out there, who takes the cake? Is it Forza 4? Does Sony have something under wraps that we don’t know about, or is Turn 10 going to blow us away with their new Forza announcement at this year’s E3? What’s your favorite racing game?