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Cars & Trucks on Videogames


If there’s one thing that features as prominently in games as weapons and monsters, it’s cars. Whether it’s that special “go to” car we use in racing games when our friends are over, or that speedster we sprint the extra block for to “borrow”, cars in games definitely form bonds with drivers the way they would in real life.

Pole Position – Released in 1982 by Namco, Pole Position was one of the first Formula One simulators. Players were required to complete one qualifying lap then compete against other cars in the second lap. While the original game only featured the Fuji track in Japan, later sequels would include the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Long Beach California’s road track, and the Suzuka Circuit in Japan. Pole Position wasn’t the first racing game to utilize the third-person racing format, but it was arguably the most popular and therefore pioneered the format. This may explain why the game, although nearing thirty years old, is still being ported again and again to newer systems, including the Xbox, Playstation 2, and GameCube.

Ivan Stewart’s Super Off Road – Released in many iterations throughout the years, Ivan Stewart’s Super Off Road first appeared as an arcade game in 1989. In 1991 an NES port was released followed by other consoles and formats such as SNES and MSDOS. The game usually involves up to three players who control their off road vehicles from a communal overhead view of an indoor, off-road race track. The fourth player is typically controlled by the game and labeled as either Ivan Stewart, Mickey Thompson, or Kevin Lydy. Super Off Road was also one of the very first games to feature the ability to upgrade one’s vehicle with winnings from previous races. This feature in and of itself has become one of the most popular elements in racing games today.


Grand Theft Auto – The very first Grand Theft Auto game premiered in 1998. Ssince then, the series has gone on to sell over 65 Million copies. The first Grand Theft Auto game featured a single overhead view. The character would receive various missions, most involving some sort of illegal activity, and the character would move on. Grand Theft Auto 2 offered more of the same, but with improved graphics. When Grand Theft Auto 3 arrived in 2001, however, a new era began. With GTA3 the camera moved down to a first-person view and the game became truly 3D. Voice acting and storytelling were improved resulting in a much more immersive game. Gone was the mission, mission, BOSS structure that permeated video games. GTA3 featured a much more realistic, fluid mission system. At any point in the game, players could simply explore the virtual city and find things to do. This freedom, however, also gained the ire from many groups as player were free to do whatever they wanted, whether that be peacefully cruise the streets, or mow down innocent bystanders with a submachine gun before picking up a prostitute. The next installment in the series, GTA4, will be released in a few months.

Gran Turismo – Lauded for its attention to detail in handling, sound, and the overall driving experience, Gran Turismo is arguably one of the best driving simulators of all time. The game’s creators have licensed hundred of cars and simulated them to the best of their ability including realistic physics and the best graphics available at the time of launch. The Gran Turismo series is a flagship of the Playstation game consoles. The first Gran Turismo was released in 1997 for the Playstation and is still the greatest selling Playstation game of all time. It’s first sequel, Gran Turismo 2, followed in 1999. Gran Turismo 3 and 4 would be released for the Playstation 2 with similar fanfare. There has, however, been criticism. Japanese cars feature prominently in the games, to the point of being ridiculously favored. And while the game might boast hundreds of models, often that number is inflated by dozens of variants of the same model car. Others often criticize the lack of certain cars, such as Ferraris, but this is due to licensing restrictions and hardly the fault of Polyphony Digital, the creators of Gran Turismo. Despite these criticisms, Gran Turismo is still popular and a veritable advertisement for car manufacturers world wide. The game has introduced many cars that weren’t well known to the American market, one of the most famous being Aston Martin’s newer line of cars. Gran Turismo 5 is currently in development and will be released for Playstation 3 in a few months.

Need for Speed – First released in 1994, Need for Speed is Electronic Arts’s motor racing game franchise. The original Need for Speed featured realistic physics and the ability to be ticketed or even arrested by the police while racing other cars on city streets. Subsequent sequels would do away with the realistic physics, opting instead for a more “arcade” feel to the game. The capability to be chased by the police would come and go with various iterations of the game, but those sequels featuring the police have proven to be consistently more popular. The series was originally developed by Distinctive Software, a company purchased by Electronics Arts and relabeled Electronic Arts Canada. Since Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 however, the franchise has been developed by Black Box Games, which prior to publication of its first Need For Speed game was purchased by Electronic Arts and relabeled Electronic Arts Black Box. Need For Speed: ProStreet, the next game in the series, will be released in mid 2008 and signal a return to more realistic physics and gameplay.


Cruis’n – Developed by Midway Games for the arcades and ported to Nintendo consoles by various other companies, Cruis’n is a franchise known for its eclectic list of tracks and locations. The first in the series, Cruis’n USA featured routes from all over the United States. While the routes actual path might not be accurate, many of the sites one could see along those routes were. Examples included Washington DC, Beverly Hills, the Redwood Forests, and the Grand Canyon. The first sequel, Cruis’n World featured sites from around the globe. Cruis’n Exotica featured exotic locations from Las Vegas and the Lost City of Atlantis to the surface of Mars. Cruis’n, the next title in the series, is actually a port of The Fast and the Furious arcade game without the movie license.


18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker – Originally released in Arcades in 2000, 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker was quickly ported to the Sega Dreamcast, Playstation 2, and Gamecube in 2001 and 2002. The game is a race against the clock as players try to deliver their cargo on time. Various drivers can be chosen, each owning trucks with different attributes. Two of those drivers can be unlocked, one being a Japanese truck driver and the other the game’s villain driving a super truck. While generally panned in the reviews, 18: Wheeler: American Pro Trucker earns mentioning as one of, if not the only, truck driving simulator available for newer generation consoles.


Out Run – Described by its designer, Yu Suzuki, as a driving game... not a racing game, Out Run features a guy and his girl speeding across the United States in a Ferrari Testarossa convertible. The game featured a unique branching system in which after the first race the driver could choose between two courses. The path players took through the five stages would decide the ending if the players won. Out Run was especially popular in arcades as it was one of the first games to feature a simulated car one could sit in that would react to the game. Out Run was released in 1986 and has seen a number of sequels, the most recent being OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast. As games move forward and technology improves, the fun will only grow as gamers experience the virtual reality of driving the cars of our dreams.