While the term "arcade racer" sounds too dense for the professional gamer, there is a fine line between the "technical arcade racer" and the "simple arcade racer." San Francisco Rush for arcades tends to blur the lines by including lucrative car physics and crashes with finesse and skill. The game's seven courses take place all around San Francisco, including the famous Alcatraz prison, and each is littered with plenty of detail and shortcuts. The selection of cars range from BMWs to Lamborghinis, and each one defies defies the law of gravity by taking off in the air, perhaps running head-on into a wall or flipping over. A colorful explosion follows, with a brand new car appearing seconds later. With a delicate mix of goofy and technical racing, a nice helping of features, an unusual soundtrack, two sequels, and an also-excellent N64 port, this game has done a lot to please those looking for that special something in racing games.
Back in the day when 2-D graphics were the norm and every skating rink and bowling alley boasted the coolest arcade games, most racing games were as simple as "drive left and right." The same thing applies here in Super Off-Road, but the presentation and the faux-2-D gamplay were memorable. Each race involves four cute little trucks on a single screen vieing to win the race. The tracks were littered with bumps, water pits, and so forth, which meant catching air was a nice twist to the game. Players were able to buy upgrades and turbo boosts for their vehicles, which was a decent touch to a simple arcade racer. The cabinet, with its three steering wheels with the single pedal and turbo button, lined up next to each other, was distinctly enjoyable, especially for the player stuck in the middle. While not a deep game, it was a step forward for arcade racers.
The Cruis'n series has been a love or hate kind of game, but one thing's for certain; a lot of people like it. So much that most arcades are guaranteed to have this game, and that's gotta mean something. Cruis'n USA was the first entry in the Cruis'n series, but starting with Cruis'n World, the series took off. The no-brainer racing was accomodated by tons of tracks in different countries such as Russia or China, a bunch of vehicles such as slick sports cars and hummers, and a cheezy soundtrack. Not to mention that the inclusion of stunts such as back flips and barrel rolls added more icing on the cake for Cruis'n fans. With a comprehensive N64 port that came soon afterwards, Cruis'n World changed arcade forever. For those of us looking for a need for speed without all the fluff, this game is right up your alley.
One thing's for certain; Sega has contributed a lot to the arcade racing scene with its outstanding games. Daytona USA 2, while riding the coat-tail of its predecessor, Daytona USA, didn't make much of a splash in arcade, but it was an excellent racing game nonetheless. The gameplay is still the same; pick a car, a track, a transmission, and win the race. However, with four well-detailed stock cars, three exotic courses, a heaping dose of drifting madness, booming audio, awesome framerate and sense of speed, and solid gameplay, there was no doubt that Sega was in the arcade business to succeed. For a game released in 1998, it rivals that of next-gen consoles, minus a few nitpicks here and there. It would've been ranked higher, but hey, this isn't Sega's first great arcade racer, so you're getting more of the same goodness this time around.
Hydro Thunder is certainly unique because it's not even a car-racing game. This arcade racer from Midway consists entirely of boats on water. Being the the boat-racing equivalent of the Cruis'n series, all of the boats bob up and down on the water and handle excellently. The racing is not all that difficult, but the slack is picked up by numerous turbo icons and shortcuts that are scattered around each course. With ten unique courses in places such as Greece, China, and the Arctic Circle, as well as a bunch of funny shaped boats, including some joke ones such as an old man in a boat with a trolling motor, there's something to like about Hydro Thunder's linear racing. This game has made a "splash" in arcade games, literally.
Sega loves racing games, but so does Namco. To rival Sega's release of arcade racers such as Virtua Racing and Daytona USA in the early 90's, Namco releases this full 3-D racer. The formula remains similar to Daytona USA, except there are multiple Grand Touring cars, a couple of tracks with varying difficulty, as well as the same old stick shift with crazy drifting included. The gameplay was not for the weak, yet it was rewarding to learn. The game looked fresh and the framerate was upheld during the entire race. With a techno soundtrack and all sorts of flair not seen in any other kind of arcade racer, there's a lot of appreciate about this game. To this day, Namco has created six sequels, each across a wide spectrum of consoles, such as the N64 and the PS3. Such a fact is attributed to the success of the original arcade racing game.
To those who said that arcades are dying out--think again. Sega Rosso has released a new arcade racer which loosely follows the plot of the Initial D anime, in which racers cruise through the Japanese countryside, completing drifts with exemplary skill. There's a handful of famous Japanese sports cars, such as the Nissan Skyline, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and the infamous Toyota AE86, the most memorable hatchback in racing history. The game handles like Gran Turismo of sorts, except with some mad drifting, done with tricky braking and downshifting. Players can save their cars and progress to a purchaseable card, which is good for safe keeping and for use in other Initial D cabinets. Also, don't forget the awesome soundtrack, consisting of J-Pop tunes such as "Running in the 90's" and "Space Boy." Sega's done a great job with this game, as represented by the large amount of hardcore racing fans who flock to arcades to play this addicting game.
#3: Crazy Taxi (ARC)
I'm not sure who came up with the idea for this game, but it's a stroke of genius. Instead of the standard "race and beat all the other guys" kind of racing, you're driving a taxi. There are people all over town that need rides, and by cruising on over to them, they'll point you in the direction to take them. However, the game is a big race against the clock, since if you squander time trying to bring people to their destination, your game will end too soon. Each person gives you a fare, and the point of the game is to earn as much cash as possible. The driving is not at all that difficult, but it's a crazy, fast-paced experience. With four cool cab drivers and their convertible taxis, a big city littered with all sorts of roads, highways, and shortcuts, and a dose of attitude, this is one upbeat game that's sure to please most gamers. This game really is crazy.
#2: OutRun (ARC)
Back in the day of 2-D arcade racers, it was a tall order for someone to make an actual "3-D" racing game, or at least something that's not in the top-down view. Pole Position did attempt this amazing feat a few years beforehand, but the gameplay was very limited and only consisted of one track. However, Sega changed everything with OutRun. In this game, there's the infamous red Ferrari Testarossa with the guy and girl in the cockpit, cruisng from point A to B before time runs out. There's fifteen different "tracks" lined up in a cone shape, thus the driver can choose his own path each play. The game makes good use of scrolling 2-D sprites, which was revolutionary at the time. Each track has its own flair, such as trees, houses, beaches, rocks, and whatnot, as well as thrills such as sharp turns that may send the poor Ferrari flying into the air, only to be placed back on the pavement seconds later. The racing may be outdated, but it still mesmerises gamers to this day, dodging traffic and getting through turns intact. Not to mention that the soundtrack, consisting of three upbeat, enjoyable tunes--Splash Wave, Magical Sound Shower, and Passing Breeze--still mesmerizes gamers to this day.
If there's one arcade game that deserves a ton of credit, it's Daytona USA. It's a cult classic arcade game from 1994 that makes the perfect mix of thrilling arcade racing combined with technical, yet rewarding driving. There's only one car in the game, the memorable Hornet car, which single-handedly holds up the game by itself. The game's three tracks; the three point-oval, the mountain excavation, and the crazy seaside romp; are all well-detailed and exhibit its own memorable features. Who remembers the Sonic Mountain? Who remembers the Jeffrey Statue? The gameplay is innovative and the car is a blast to drive. The drifting is an excellent touch that defies the law of "boring old Nascar" and started the whole downshift-upshift trend. The game is also oozing with charm, especially the soundtrack, which is as popular as the game itself. With the famous Engrish singer belting out tunes such as "Rolling Staaarrrtt!" "Dayttonnnaaa! Let's go away!" and "Blue, blue skies!" you've got to love it (or love to hate it). With its in-depth gameplay, addictive multiplayer, and awesome presentation, it's no wonder this is the highest grossing arcade racing game of all time, as well as number one on the list.