With Gran Turismo 5 getting all of the attention this holiday season we thought this would be the perfect time to take a look at the best automotive video games over the last couple of decades.
Check out some of our favorites and add yours in the comments section below.
The Need for Speed (1994)
The automotive video game that had the biggest impact on me growing up was the original Need for Speed (PC version). I received it as a Christmas gift back in 1995 and on Boxing Day I played it for 12 hours straight (to the point where my father had to pry me away from the computer). The game was a collaborative effort between EA Games and Road & Track. Aside from racing, you could conduct acceleration tests, braking tests and ¼ mile tests. The coolest thing was watching detailed editorial videos of each car thanks to Road & Track. It was plenty realistic for its day and holds a special place in my heart, right beside my Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox. And yes, I still have it (the game and the lunchbox).
The Need For Speed 2
My favorite racing game has to be Need for Speed 2. I received this computer game for my birthday when I was 10 years old. I could not stop playing it; every spare second was spent playing Need for Speed 2. I remember almost being late for school because I lost track of time (I often woke up early to play the game).
The game included an impressive list of cars and it introduced me to great vehicles such as the McLaren F1, Jaguar XJ220, Isdera Commendatore 112i, Ferrari F50 and the Lotus Esprit. One of my favorite parts of the game is the ability to drive concept cars such as the Italdesign Calà, Ford GT90, Ford Indigo and the Nazca C2.
Like the original Need for Speed, NFS2 had voice editorials of each vehicle, as well as videos. I spent hours viewing the vehicles and watching them over and over again. I still have the original game and found myself this past weekend installing the game on my old computer and playing it for half an hour.
Top Gear 2 - Sega Genesis (1994)
I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian, so when I was a kid and all my friends had Super Nintendos, I rocked a Sega Genesis. One of my favourite games was called Top Gear 2, and while it may not have been ahead of its time, it had something in 1994 that even Gran Turismo hasn’t had until GT5; car damage. In many ways it preceded the gameplay elements that Gran Turismo perfected, including a career mode, changing weather conditions, and the ability to upgrade your car. Technology back then wasn’t quite what it is today, and even though I was quite content to play Top Gear 2 split-screen on my 13” TV 15 years ago, Gran Turismo 5 on a 50” plasma is much more satisfying.
One of the first racing games I played after 1976's Night Driver, was the 1987 release of Test Drive. This game featured licensed cars from Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini, something even GT5 doesn't have today.The car even showed the windshield damage when you crashed. Radar detectors and police were part of the fun, a speeding ticket your reward for test driving on the mountain roads. I have to believe this fostered my love of cars as a child because the vehicle selection screen was one of the first graphical representations of supercars and their relative performance.
There have been quite a few enjoyable car based video games since the wonders of modern technology have allowed the advancement of gaming as we know it … and things have come a long way since the blocky graphics and square-wave sounds of Enduro on the Atari 2600 (I remember playing this and LOVING it).
In the last few years, I have really enjoyed the Burnout series of games for its sheer fun and pointless destruction. Turning cars in to weapons so I can ‘punt’ slower moving traffic out of the way and destroy my adversaries? Yes please!
But the big daddy for me is the Gran Turismo series of games (shocking this probably isn't). The opportunity to play this game was the only reason I ever wanted a PlayStation; and the only reason I ever really really wanted a PlayStation 2. So … on a Christmas morning not so many years ago, I unwrapped my own PlayStation 2 and it was on. That Christmas Break was full of the peaceful wonders of the season - and many long red-eyed nights of car and trophy collecting and (sometimes) diminishing lap times while playing my own copy of GT3. I now rest secure in the knowledge that lurid powerslides in a Nissan Skyline R34 GTR are possible at almost any speed … as long as you have the e-credits for the serious turbo upgrades. And doing this never got old. Long live Godzilla!
Then came GT4 with its greatly improved graphics, sounds, and driving dynamics. It was the king of racing games (at least in my humble opinion), and lived up to its billing as ‘the real driving simulator’.
Now, after MANY delays and a launch with some controversy (I can’t upgrade the brakes? Ummmm … what were you guys doing for 6 years?), we have the latest edition of the series that I think redefined what racing games should be. Quite recently, some serious competitors for the crown have emerged; many have said that Forza Motorsport on the Xbox is nearly its equal (or possibly even its superior). And perhaps they're correct, but I haven’t played it and remain loyal to the epic simulated racing that is Gran Turismo 5.