Before a car nut can drive they’ll often get into what has to be the next best thing, and for a lot of us that was spending night after night honing our skills on various driving games.
Call it a misspent youth, call it a waste of time, but years of button mashing and sitting too close to the television and I don’t have a single regret.
This post is dedicated to a previous generation of driving games, long before the razor sharp visuals and hyper real simulations of today. I’ve included video clips of gameplay for each of the featured games for maximum nostalgia.
Colin McRae Rally series
Colin McRae’s video game franchise now serves to immortalise one of Rally’s greatest drivers. These games were absolutely brilliant back in the day, with cars that somehow felt weighty and responsive through the PS1’s basic handset.
Nailing the co-driver’s notes and beating the clock resulted in heaps of satisfaction while slick visuals more than did justice to the interesting car selection on offer. Crashing the game’s cars was pretty much a game in itself thanks to advanced models and accurate physics.
Sega Rally Championship
Head to the right place and you can still find an original Sega Rally arcade game. True fans will remember the weightless feel of that four speed manual gearbox. Dropping in 1994, Sega Rally Championship opened with a Martini-liveried Delta Integrale jumping and drifting through a series of tracks with a WRC spec Toyota Celica GT-Four in hot pursuit, and if that isn’t epic then wtf is?
True fans will never forget the hardness of that seat, the weightless feel of the manual gearbox and squishy pedals underfoot. Truth is, it’s still fun today.
TOCA Touring Car series
This is the game that I miss most from the whole list. Based on an era when BTCC was still popular on TV and all the major manufacturers were having a stab, this game managed to recreate the door to door magic that resulted.
Accurately recreating all of the UK’s best racing circuits and filling them with Lagunas, Accords, Vectras and other cars that you’ll only find in historic races nowadays. If you had the right cheat codes you could even play with a tank or a huge pink Cadillac.
I think this was where me and so many other 90s kids really earned their driving licenses.
Driver was inspired by car chase films from the 60s and 70s, and put you into the shoes of NYPD undercover detective John Tanner. As a man who was chosen for his exceptional driving skill, Tanner is called on throughout the game to pursue criminals, deliver stolen cars and even terrify taxi customers.
Playing Driver was all about creating the most spectacular car chase possible. Hurling through the streets in a car with a big V8 and boat-like suspension, pedestrians would flee as you’d try and evade police pursuit. Man, there was even a dedicated button for burnouts! Once you’d either totalled the car or been gripped, it was then possible to watch it all back through the game’s cinematic replay mode.
From the music to the artwork, the whole experience was just brilliant.
Yeah, it’s not cars but it’s close enough. Road Rash put its players in the place of a motorcyclist taking on illegal street races. Speeding through wildly undulating terrain crammed with traffic, wildlife and other competitors, Road Rash could never have been described as easy.
In-game combat allowed a rider to punch, kick or use weapons to beat others out of the competition. Trance-inducing visuals combined with a characterful soundtrack made for an experience that was hard to pause.
Have I missed any big ones? Want to add to this list? Let me know using the comment box below!