Top 10 Old School 80’s Racing Games

Growing up in the 80’s , I was always fascinated by driving. Especially since my Dad sported the racing gloves and drove a stick shift Corola throughout the decade.  Therefore,  naturally, I wanted to be just like him.  I knew that wasn’t going to happen until I became an adult, which was a bummer. However, I was part of the 80’s generation, where one was now able to drive a racing car via a video game. How cool was that? The following is a list of my favorite racing old school games of the 80’s!  Even Next-generation gamers will appreciate this list.

10.Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road –  1989

I can remember the days, late 80’s Bigmouth Pizza on Bergenline Ave in North Bergen, NJ! They featured Ironman’s Stewart’s Super Offroad! This was a souped up version of Championship Sprint. It featured off road madness, water pits, mud pits, nitros and more!
This racing game was loads of fun and included up to 4 players of fun for everyone! For all of our Latino readers, how funny is the name of the track above? Guess you need grandes to get through this obstacle! LOL

A next-gen version of this game is available on WiiWare called Drifter..

Looks pretty good!

9. Super Sprint – Atari- 1986

Ahhhh, Super Sprint, how many quarters did I deposit into this bad boy? Super Sprint is a 1986 arcade game by Atari Games. The player drives a Formula One-like car on a circuit that is viewed from above.  From picking up wrenches, avoiding oil slicks, even using your evasive maneuvers on tornadoes, this game was a winner!

As in the aforementioned, Super Off Road, this game requires you to master the art of the everlasting steering wheel. This would allow one to perform hairpin turns at high speeds. Also, one would need to use the track efficiently by utilizing shortcuts and grabbing all of the power ups one can!

8. Chase HQ – Taito -1988

CHASE HQ! One of my all time faves! It wasn’t just about racing anymore! Now we could crash into Yellow Lamborghini’s and turn them into a fiery mess! You play a detective in this one, tracking down a fugitive with a ridiculously expensive car. The play controls are superb in this game, from driving off road, to racing over cacti in the sand. You have 3 Nitro’s, one has to ensure that they are used effectively to either make the checkpoint or catch up with your enemy Porsche! All in all a spectacular game that mixes, racing with crime fighting and expensive luxury cars.

7. Pitstop II – Epyx 1984

Ok, now is the time that my list separates the real old schoolers to the wanna be ones! This game was way ahead of its time. As you can see from the image below, you could play, head on with a challenger via a split screen view. Pitstop II is the  first 3D racing game to implement a split-screen simultaneous two-player game mode.

The paradigm shifter was the fact the actual pitstop mode! You had to watch your fuel and tires. When both needed work, you would pull over to a designated pitstop and then control your pitstop crew. Since you couldn’t control two crew people at the same time, you had to use them wisely. One would fill your gas and leave him there, while you switch your attention to the tire guys. But keep a watchful eye, if you overfill the gas tank you would have to start filling from empty!

Those of you who missed it or were just a twinkle in your dad’s eye at the time don’t fret,  you can catch this one the Wii Virtual Console  at a cost of 500 Wii Points.

Pole Position – Namco – 1982

Who can ever forget the famous scratchy woman’s voice stating, PREPARE TO QUALIFY! This game was really the first racing simulation super smash hit in the arcades! With its fancy cabinet, rear view racer format (which became the standard for many racing games) and very cool steering wheel, Pole Position became the most popular game of 1983!

Who can also forget the strategic product placement ads that the game featured. And you thought that American Idol over did it with the oversized coca-cola cup in front of the judges! This game had more ads then Harry and Kumar’s Trip to White Castles!

5. RCA Pro – Am – Rare -1988

We all love Mario Kart these days, but before Mario Kart, in the 80’s lived a little game called R C Pro am. It was a very popular game in its time selling over 2. 3 million copies in its day. It had all of the elements that made Mario Kart a hit, usage of weapons , obstacles and speed boost regions etc.
Collecting various weapons or tools helped increase your cars traction, engine or your turbo acceleration.

The real  fun factor of the game was that the player was not in the driver seat but actually on the sidelines controlling the car via remote control.  (Just like Doc controlled the Delorian in Back to the Future while Einstein was in the car!)

Overall, a very fun game that our family logged many many hours on!

4. RoadBlasters – Atari – 1987

The game, in a nutshell, is Spy Hunter crossed with Pole Position, thrown into the 21st century. It featured 50 tracks, a fuel gauge, great graphics and excellent play control.Main objectives were to keep a watchful eye of their remaining fuel, dodge enemies, manage the track and by the way shoot down others cars with a large cannon. Special weapons can be obtained through an overhead helicopter which drops it down to your vehicle. Be sure to line yourself up perfectly, or no weapon for you.

Refueling was a fun factor as well, you can refuel your main tank by picking up green globes that were all over the track. Red globes can also be obtained after destroying a vehicle and checkpoints garnered you some fuel as well.

All in all a great game which was ahead of its time in 1987!

3. Spy Hunter is a 1983

This has to be one of the best arcade racing games ever! The arcade game featured either a stand up or sit down cabinet. It boasted amazing music and sound quality, pinpoint controls and futuristic special purpose buttons.  Some of the most interesting features of the game where the wide array of weapons that one can use which could be obtained through the weapons van, the low gear or high gear option (driving in high gear all the time made the game very challenging) and the various types of traffic that you encounter.

The game has attracted worldwide fame because of its fun gameplay, futuristic arcade look and feel and of course who can forget the addicting musical arrangement. The game has spawned make sequels, ports and even an Easter Egg in Microsoft Excel 2000!

The ROCK, was contracted to play the lead role of s Spy Hunter Movie back in 2004. It has been delayed numerous times, however I am sure gaming fans would love to see a Spy Hunter the movie!

2. Enduro -Activision -1983

Enduro! YES!  This game has to be considered a miracle in software programming  with the anemic hardware constraints that the Atari 2600 had to utilize. Enduro, was based on long distance endurance driving.

On the first day, the player hits the road at sunrise and is given the task of passing 200 cars before the day is done. If the player manages that, he is to pass 300 cars, and the difficulty ramps up on each subsequent day.The simulation concept would also allow for various types of road conditions to arise.

You can drive in sunlight, snowy roads, night time, and the dreaded foggy condition.  To be successful the player to has to demonstrate  cat like reflexes to avoid cars that you have to pass to advance.   Icy conditions and very thick fog make this task very difficult, only an expert can navigate the upper levels successfully and then earn the crown of Roadblaster!

All in all, the best racing game on the 2600, arguably amongst the top 2 2600 games of all time, (the other is Pitfall which was also designed by Activision as well) and in my book, the 2nd best racing game that the 80’s produced!

1. Outrun – Sega -1986

Ok we have finally reached the number one racing game of the 80’s The choice is quite simple, Outrun was by far the best racing game the 80’s produced.

It revolutionized the gaming industry in so many ways. New scaling techniques in software engineering, gave the driver the impression of traveling at very high speeds. Players had a maximum of 16 options to complete the game, with forks in the road which included different routes along the way. A player had the option of choosing music, from soft soothing passing breeze to Crazy Taxiesque Offspring-like tracks. The racing experience featured lots of roadside detail and a camera angle that really captured the essence of racing. The player could also choose manual or automatic transmission if they wanted a real challenge!

Check out XBLA’s Outrun Online Arcade, I must have logged 40 hours last month playing that game, A Winner!

How can one not picture themselves, in a Ferrari Testarosa, with a hot blond beginning a drive in a beautiful coastal area? Need I say more! Honorable Mention – Rally X – Namco – 1980

I had a chance to play this game this past week and I was amazed by how much fun it was to play. Of course, while I was playing it, I kept saying to myself, this was released in 1980? Wow, it really stands the test of time. Fun to play, challenging and pioneered many concepts which other games utilized.  Here’s to Rally X, our Honorable Mention!

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Readers Comments (15)

  1. Great List! EPYX made great games and Pitstop II took driver games to another level. For the first time, you were able to change tires and gas up you car which was vital to your success. Looking at the pic reminded me that you only needed to change the tires when the color indicated so. Green meant good, while red meant change it or you tire will explode.

    RC Pro-Am was also one of my favorites. Controls were odd since the screen view was static but you always seemed to know how to maneuver your way past an oil slick or right before an accelerator pad.

  2. Some great titles in there. Oh for the day when technology gets to the stage where the exploits available in RCA Pro Am are possible in a real RC car race.

  3. RCA Pro AM was great with the cheat codes. Love that game. But spy hunter was just a game that was hard to put to down.

  4. hi just wondering if you can help im looking for the arcade game where you were racing in a 2 lane game it had low and high gears you would stand and play the car would travel through a tunnel and the light would come on im sure it was not in colour maybe green

  5. Great list! I really think “Turbo” should have been included though. That was my favorite 80s car racing sim.

  6. LOL…. Ah, looking back at the “classics”…. Unreal to see how far we have come…. Online Ethernet connected consoles with wirless microphones and controllers… In Full HD graphics on 50″ screens and so on….. First ever game I played was a Golden axe on a 10″ CRT…. Then I went advanced…. Sega with a big ass 12” screen playing Alex Kidd…… lol Best christmas ever…. And just crazy comparing that to things like F.E.A.R, Oblivion, Fallout 3….

    Been a real burst in advancement… Even if you look like at GTA and compare that to GTA IV lol…

  7. Wait…. No Road rage?? Come on… That should be up there.

  8. online racing is of course fun to play too, i always bet on it when money permits `

  9. i would really love to bet on online racing, i think it is kind of exciting *.’

  10. Some good choices in that list here are some of my fav racing games from the 1980’s hope it brings back memories 🙂 GOOD TIMES
    Indianapolis 500: the simulation – PC 1989, Best racing sim around at the time!!!
    Test Drive PC 1987,
    Test Drive 2 PC 1989,
    Street Rod PC 1989,
    Road Fighter Nintendo 1984,
    Death Track PC 1989.

  11. Wow!!! I thought I was the single person on this planet trying to remeber the name of a 80`s racing game!!!
    The one that is driving me crazy to find it is from the early of the decade, and there was a moment in the the game that an ambulance pass you by. I saw a few seconds of this game in a music clip from The Strokes ( about 24 seconds), and it all came back to me: the afternoons spent in front of that arcade trying to pass to the next fase… Does it ring a bell to someone?

  12. Hi, no idea of name but Im trying to remember as well this was a coin op in an arcade in burntisland back in the early eightees….quest continues!

  13. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run
    into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up
    all over the web without my permission. Do you know any techniques to help stop content from being ripped off?
    I’d truly appreciate it.

  14. Does anyone remember the arcade machine Crash and Smash Derby type game that had x4 steering wheels. I’d love to play it again, there don’t seem to be arcades anymore in the UK.

  15. Does anyone remember a game exactly the same layout as Super Off Road but with indy cars and you could tweak you car with prize money it was 4 players. I got it in 1993 and loved it.I’m sure its called Indy something which makes it hard 2 find.Any help would be sound.

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