Driving Games That Deserve A Comback
When it comes to racing games nowadays, we're spoiled with some of the best we've ever seen. Simulation games from the Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo have never looked so real or performed so realistically. They've also been joined by other notable sims such as Project CARS and Assetto Corsa for pavement pounders, and the Dirt series for people who prefer dusty trails.
However, we've lost some great series as gaming machines have progressed, with no successors, in name or spirit, in sight. More niche driving games that involved arcade-style driving physics or less popular racing disciplines have fallen by the wayside in recent years. It's a real shame, because these other driving games are a real blast.
We don't want people to forget about them, so we've rounded up seven we want to see come back. Maybe this could coax some developers to revisit these series. Maybe.
The Burnout series is one of the greatest arcade-style racing series of all time. Known for its high speeds, tight controls and endless amounts of destruction, the series was a favorite among gearheads and the general public alike. It also brought us a game mode that was sort of like bowling. Except instead of a ball and pins, you had a car and an intersection with traffic. The person who caused the most damage won.
Unfortunately, we haven't seen a new installment since Burnout Paradise, which came out in 2008. After Paradise, Criterion Games was put in charge of the Need For Speed franchise. The last game it released was Need For Speed Most Wanted, and since then the developer hasn't announced anything more. We hope EA, Criterion's publisher, will come to its senses and let the developer give us another sheetmetal-crunching crash fest.
Burnout isn't the only destruction-heavy arcade-style racer. Taking a dirtier path was Motorstorm. The PlayStation-exclusive series featured off-road racing in some amazing locales, from Mad Max-esque desert courses in the first installment, to lush jungles in Motorstorm Pacific Rift. One of the other big draws was the wide array of vehicles. Players could use motorcycles, big rigs, buggies and more. Each drove a little different, and every track had pathways that favored one vehicle type over another.
Although a smaller downloadable game followed, the last truly full-fledged game was Motorstorm Apocalypse. It had the largest selection of vehicles, tracks that were being destroyed by earthquakes and massive storms, and even a story. It was loads of fun, and it was a unique racing title. Sadly, Evolution Studios moved on to a more generic sports car racing game, DriveClub, and the developer was shut down after a middling reception. But we'd still love to see the property brought back, even if it was with a different developer.
Even though many of the games on this list are of the arcadey variety, there are a few sims we'd like to see come back also. One of those is Tourist Trophy, a simulation game that was literally the Gran Turismo of motorcycle games. It was made by creators of Gran Turismo, Polyphony Digital, and actually uses the Gran Turismo 4 engine, tracks, and more. The result was a realistic riding sim with an amazing assortment of bikes from scooters to racers. It went to some impressive detail as well, since you had to input your weight and height so that the rider is modeled and simulated properly.
The game wasn't perfect, as it lacked some of the depth of Gran Turismo, and because it was basically GT4 with bikes, there weren't any new courses. However, it was a great first effort, and showed the potential of motorcycle games. Unfortunately, Polyphony Digital never made a follow-up, and with how long it takes for the company to release a new GT game, we don't have much hope for seeing a sequel. But the idea is good enough to merit another company's take on it. If any developers are reading, feel free to take our idea.
Along the lines of Gran Turismo-esque games with different vehicles is our next entry, the 4x4 Evolution series. While the physics weren't phenomenal, the extensive list of licensed vehicles was. Trucks and SUVs from all of the major manufacturers were included, from Chevrolet to Toyota. And each vehicle could be improved with suspension lifts, bigger tires, lights and brush guards, and engine mods. Very little was missing, but if something was, there was also an active PC modding community providing new tracks and trucks for downloading.
The series only saw two iterations from developer Terminal Reality. The second game, released in 2001 on PC, Xbox, GameCube, and Mac, was the most content rich, including free-roaming exploration missions, functional winches, and the largest track list. The odds of the series being revived is pretty slim. The developer shut down in 2013. But like Tourist Trophy, the idea is great and should be picked up by another studio.
During the height of sport compact popularity in the early to mid-2000s, there was no shortage of video games about hopping up mundane sedans and coupes and racing them on the street. However, only a few were truly great, and among them was the Midnight Club series. Arguably the two best ones were the last ones DUB Edition and Los Angeles. These combined fast-paced racing and tight controls with incredibly deep visual customization. Hydraulics, spinners, neon, graphics, carbon fiber, wings, you name it were at the player's fingertips to create gorgeous and garish machines alike.
Midnight Club: Los Angeles was the final installment of the franchise, and while some of the customization options were more limited, it also ushered in new options such as interior customization, as well as an impressive graphical overhaul. If Rockstar San Diego were to make a successor, it would have to wait until it finished the newest Red Dead game. But Rockstar North, the developer of the Grand Theft Auto series, put a surprisingly deep customization system into GTA V, as well as a solid driving engine. Perhaps it could take over the franchise?
Test Drive Unlimited
We're focusing specifically on the Test Drive Unlimited games here. What these two games did better than just about any other was fulfilling the dream of being a millionaire car collector. Not only did it give you the opportunity to drive the world's most valuable automobiles, but it let you go to the dealer and spec out your wheels, colors, and even mess with the windows and horn. And as you accumulated money from race winnings, you could go off to buy your dream mansion with a massive garage, and then customize those. You could even buy a yacht with vehicle storage.
The other big draw of the series, was the massive environments. The first game took place on the island of Oahu in Hawaii – and the entire island is to scale. The second one added Ibiza in Spain. Now this admittedly did result in some relatively boring stretches of road when driving from place to place, but at the same time, it could even be relaxing. Just cruising in your Pagani along the coast. Few games have managed to evoke that feeling. Sadly, Test Drive Unlimited 2 was the last game, released five years ago.
We round out this list with an arcade classic, Sega Rally. The series started in arcades and moved on to console releases. The last versions of the series, Sega Rally Revo and Sega Rally Online Arcade, were refreshing in how they provided lush, colorful courses to drive through, and the ability to take corners with huge, effortless slides.
The games even featured a classic arcade mode in which players had to hit checkpoints in time to keep racing. Some nifty terrain deformation was also a treat. Unfortunately, aside from the unique arcade mode, a limited track roster and progression system probably contributed to slow sales. However, we feel there's no reason a new version couldn't preserve the lush environments but add more content and better pacing.
Honorable (and Futuristic) Mentions
Because we're Autoblog, and we obsessively cover wheeled transportation, we focused on racing games that involve wheels for this list. However, we have some favorite racing games that do without wheels entirely, or are so futuristic as to have little to do with any car we're familiar with. Among racers of the hovering variety were the Nintendo classic, F-Zero, and the best thing to come out of the Star Wars prequels, Star Wars Episode 1: Pod Racer. Another futuristic racer suggested was POD, with more conventional machinery in a grimmer setting than the Star Wars game with the similar name. All three of these game series have been missing in action for years. You can see game play of each game in the linked names.
We also know that there are surely many more racing and driving games deserving of a revival that we couldn't fit in this list. So we encourage you to comment and let us know what racing games you miss.