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Part 1: From arcade to simulator – The journey of racing games

A debate raged within the Repco Garage office as the editorial team discussed the best racing games to have graced the shelves of Kmart, Target, Big W, JB HI-FI, Brashs and EB Games, representing each decade of the console or PC.

It was a vigorous discussion as the team remembered some ace titles such as Mario Kart, Need For Speed, Forza, Colin McRae Rally/Dirt, V8 Supercars, Toca Touring Cars, Gran Turismo, Burnout, Daytona, Sega Rally and even some old timer suggested Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix!

Racing games continue to play an important role in bringing new fans to motorsport by making it accessible no matter the age or budget. It also provides an experience of driving dream machines from the world’s most exotic brands or halo models available not only in the current marketplace, but from the past. Lately, the development of technology allows drivers to complete preparation for race events the realism has become so good.

So here is the result from this discussion, a reflection through time of racing games starting with the 1980s:


Pole Position

This was a trailblazer in the segment and proved a winner straight out of the box on the NAMCO arcade game board. Much like Daytona and Sega Rally during the 1990s, Pole Position was a coin operated game, growing to be the most popular in North America. It spawned two sequels, but the original was the first to have qualifying, feature a real track and introduce checkpoints. The latter versions added crash damage and colour schemes as well as multiplayer functions.


A precursor to Test Drive and Need For Speed, Sega’s Outrun was released in 1986 based around driving a Ferrari Testarossa really, really fast on the open road. It was a major success and continues to this day as a mobile app. Developed by a team at Sega not focusing on other projects, it was said the game was about the experience whether it be the music soundtrack or the palm trees that whiz by, Outrun was the start of the driver simulator.

Test Drive

Launching the year after Outrun in 1987 was Accolade’s Test Drive. Featured on home consoles including the Atari, Amiga, DOS, Apple II and Commodore 64, Test Drive provided a first person view of driving the world’s most exotic models including the Lotus Espirit, Porsche 911, Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Testarossa and Corvette C4. Driving along a winding cliffside two-lane road, the player must avoid traffic and outrun police speed traps. The game went onto sell more than half a million copies and multiple sequels.

Check back on Wednesday for the 1990s.