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What we do on Sunday afternoons without going for a nice drive around a scenic city, or racing round the track at Le Mans..? We take a fond look back at the racing games that defined each generation (of video game console that is). Do you remember the oldies?

First and Second Generation

The first generation of video game consoles way back in 1972 were pretty basic. The first decent driving game was at the arcades – Taito’s Speed Race, from the guy who brought us Space Invaders. Atari’s Rally Speedway was released in 1984. This 8bit Atari game was played from overhead and had a track editor (possibly the first of its kind) so you could create your own tracks.

Notable Mention goes to: Street Racer, Atari 2600, 1978 for being so early!

Third Generation – Out Run (Sega) 1987

This racing game was a console version of the really popular arcade game, which was converted to most  of the consoles of the time (NES, Sega Master System, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC etc) so it was a real commercial success. It was the best selling video game of 1987 in the UK. It was innovative, the music was great and the graphics were impressive (for the time!).

Notable Mention goes to: Indianapolis 500 (EA, 1989) for having car setup that actually defined gameplay.

Fourth Generation – F-Zero (Nintendo) 1990

The futuristic F-Zero was a leap forward, and set the bar for future racing games. There was no multiplayer option, but the driving was smooth and fast, unlike many of its rivals at the time. Graphically, the game was said by Electronic Gaming Monthly to have, “the most convincing racetracks that had ever been seen on a home games console”.

Notable Mention goes to: Super Mario Kart (NES, 1992) for being a guilty pleasure.

Fifth Generation – Ridge Racer (Namco) 1994

The introduction of the Sony Playstation in 1994 was a milestone. It was the first to sell 100 million systems (albeit over the course of 9 years!). Ridge Racer was a best-seller on its release as the launch game for the PS. What it lacked in AI, it made up for in replicating the fantastic arcade version of the game. Graphics and gameplay were key in this game’s role in establishing the Playstation as the games console of the 90s.

Notable Mention goes to: Sega Rally Championship (Sega, 1994) for being a really high-quality and responsive off-road adventure.

Sixth Generation – Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (Sony) 2001

Playstation 2 gave the Gran Turismo series the boost it needed after the second instalment wasn’t so well received as the original GT. The precision graphics, car reaction to terrain and realism made it the darling of the critics – aggregator Metacritics scored it at 94.47% – and a smash in sales. It is still one of the best-selling video games of all time.

Notable Mention goes to: Need for Speed Underground (EA for GameCube, 2003) for being like Fast and Furious, without Vin Diesel.

Seventh Generation – Forza Motorsport 4 (Xbox 360) 2011

Definitely the racing game for the OCD gamer. It contains squillions of cars.. well 500, so technically not as many as GT2 (which had 650), but each with detail to the nth degree. Commentary is given by Jeremy Clarkson, which might annoy some. But the gameplay is excellent (even on mute if you can’t stand Clarkson) and the graphics and views are sublime. The harshest score this game got from critics was 80%.

Notable Mention goes to: GT5 (Sony PS3, 2010) of course, it’s ridiculously good.

As for the Eighth Generation, which the wii u is dragging us into as we speak, EA seem to be on top of the racing games here, so we can expect some interesting developments.

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