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These racing games vanished and deserve far better

Project Gotham Racing 4

Project Gotham Racing: Last seen 2007 on Xbox 360

This was a massive missed opportunity. Project Gotham Racing had four incarnations after first appearing as Metropolis Street Racer on Sega Dreamcast. The pitch is simple: Realistic, licensed cars, driving through photorealistic, real-world cities, with extra points awarded for stylish driving. Telephone boxes are in the right place and everything.

Well, the world may have changed since the last game (“what’s a telephone box?”, I hear you ask), but that’s exactly why this would have been such a great game as an Xbox Series S/X launch title. How better to show off next-gen racing tech than with a ray-traced car title with perfect recreations of London, San Francisco, Tokyo and Vegas? It would have sold millions. But no, Activision closed developer Bizarre Creations and Microsoft wasn’t interested in making more PGR, with Phil Spencer saying he didn’t think they would need three racing franchises. In other words, eat your Forza Motorsport/Horizon pudding and be quiet.

Road Rash

Road Rash – Last seen on Game Boy Advance in 2003

Express a wish for a new Road Rash on Twitter and people will leap into your notifications pointing out Road Redemption. Well, that game may well feature the same basic gameplay as Road Rash, but it just doesn’t have the same feel or (and this will sound weird) innocence.

Road Rash was violent, but it did it without sword decapitations, and the original game dwells just as much on the romance of a roadside bar at night with bikes lined up outside it as it does smashing someone to the asphalt with a club. The other riders have character and there’s the impression of a rivalry system. Some say there’s no actual coding in the game to make the other riders like or dislike you more based on your actions, but I swear Natasha drops back if you regularly ride next to her without attacking.

While the game was translated into dodgy 3D and various levels of pseudo-3D on various platforms, it’s not had a true modern outing. At this stage, it surely wouldn’t require a AAA budget to do the game right. But that would also be nice. Just an authentic Road Rash for modern consoles would be wonderful. Please?

F355 Challenge

F355 Challenge: Last seen on PS2 in 2002

It’s hard to imagine it now, but for a short while, Sega’s legendary arcade department AM#2 had made not only the finest arcade racers but also the best realistic racing sim you could buy. The game only simulated one car, but it did so so assuredly, so gleefully, so effortlessly, it made PlayStation’s Gran Turismo 2 look like a joke.

The 60fps movement was coupled with a delicious lens depth that made the scenery appear to glide past slowly while the track itself rushed beneath your feet, giving a supreme sense of speed and motion – the kind of thing that OutRun did so well. AM#2 understood this need for great movement and whether in the arcades or in the stellar Dreamcast conversion, F355 Challenge played like a dream.

But then, of course, Dreamcast died and the game was ported to PS2, minus its lovely anti-aliasing. And then? Nothing. System 3 tried to make out their 2008 game Ferrari Challenge: Trofeo Pirelli was the spiritual successor to it, but it was nowhere near as assured. Or good. What would a ray-traced sequel look like on new-gen? Just imagine that red paintwork…

Downforce

Downforce – Last seen on Game Boy Advance in 2002

It’s entirely likely you’ve never heard of this one, but you’re missing a treat. The track design is excellent, the car handling is just the right mix of arcade accessibility and physics-based challenge, and the cars are ludicrously cool-looking fictional ideas of what a racing car should look like. But the best part? The crashes.

Bodywork flies off these beauties and you can easily find yourself upended, careening through the air in a blaze of flames and debris. After a superb demo on PS2, it took months for the actual game to arrive, but it didn’t disappoint. The split-screen two-player mode was also top-notch. It isn’t particularly realistic (the engine note continues to rise and change up even if you’re flat out just because it sounds more exciting) but dismissing this because it’s deliberately larger than life is to do yourself a massive disservice.

Naturally, the Game Boy Advance version was nowhere near as impressive, and then… nothing. Bring back Downforce – we need it more than ever.

FZeroGX

F-Zero – Last seen 2004 on Game Boy Advance

How can it have been so many years already? Miyamoto said he won’t resurrect a game unless there’s something new he can offer. Well, at this stage a new game would add internet play, HD visuals, and y’know, being available to buy on a modern console.

We’re on the third generation of hardware since Gamecube’s F-Zero GX and we still haven’t had a new F-Zero. It gets stages in Super Smash Bros and every E3 it’s expected to be announced, but it just never happens. There’s nothing more to say about this one or the italics will be so slanted they’ll just be a line. Look: It’s almost a dead franchise. Boo.

Ridge Racer

Ridge Racer – Last seen on iOS in 2016

It may feel like Ridge Racer is still an active IP, what with a couple of mobile games in fairly recent years, but the last console Ridge Racer game was Ridge Racer: Unbounded in 2012. And that wasn’t a true Ridge Racer game – you likely would never have recognised it as Ridge Racer if it had turned up with the name ‘City Speeder’ or something. Before that oddity, it was the PS Vita’s launch game that was the last true Ridge Racer title. And yes, that was nine years ago.

It’s a pity because the series was going great guns until it took a wrong turn at Ridge Racer 6, eschewing the race day atmosphere of Ridge Racer: Type 4 on PS1 and the interlinked city streets of Ridge Racer 5 on PS2 in favour of sweeping corners that used questionable drift physics to charge your boost gauge. That’s pretty much what the last two games should have been called: Drift Gauger.

The actual act of driving the car skilfully was arguably lost, and with it went interest in the series. A new Ridge Racer that recaptures that RR4/5 magic on new-gen would be immense. But sadly rumours of Ridge Racer 8 being a Switch exclusive a few years ago were met with even stronger rumours later of its cancellation, so it’s unlikely we’ll see another one any time soon.

Scud Race

Scud Race – Last seen as a Dreamcast Tech Demo in 1998

Considering Scud Race doesn’t have licenses in it like Sega Rally Championship, there seems to be no reason why this one hasn’t been released on something. Originally touted as a spiritual sequel to Daytona USA (before Daytona 2 existed), this is a classic Sega racer. But has it ever come home? Nope. Not ever, never.

There’s footage on YouTube of the game running as a tech demo on Dreamcast, and you can drive tracks in the Xbox release of OutRun 2, but that’s it. It’s not as if it’s easily found in arcades either. This one’s long gone at this stage, yet those who know it will still wax lyrical about how great it is. A sequel is unlikely to ever get the greenlight, but surely a conversion for Switch by M2 is needed at this stage? Hello? Is this thing on? Ah, forget it.

Which other racing games that haven’t had sequels of late do you want to see a revival from? Please join the debate and let us know on social media or in the comments below.

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