By Justin Melillo, Ross McGregor and Thomas Harrison-Lord
With the impending launch of Gran Turismo 7 on 4th March 2022 for PlayStation 4 and 5, we’d thought we’d look back at the storied racing game series so far.
The last numbered release was Gran Turismo 6 way back in 2013 – staggeringly over eight years ago. We had to dust off the old PS3 in order to capture images for our recent GT cars retrospective, there’s been an entire console generation in the interim.
After a discussion with friends, while racing in Gran Turismo Sport online as it happens, it became apparent that many people have different opinions about their favourite Gran Turismo title. This in turn got the Traxion.GG team thinking – if we put it up to a poll, which will receive the most votes?
Before we get too carried away, GT Sport is excluded from this particular reckoning. The reason is quite simple. Before the announcement of Gran Turismo 7 in June 2020, and after several important updates, the 2018 spin-off may have been considered part of the main GT series.
But, because Gran Turismo 7 isn’t called Gran Turismo 8, and therefore Polyphony Digital doesn’t count Sport as the seventh main release, the ranked online racing-focused PS4 release is not present.
In our book, it, therefore, counts as a spin-off alongside the likes of the PlayStation Portable release, Gran Turismo HD Concept or Gran Turismo Concept: 2002 Tokyo-Geneva. By all means, argue with us in the comments about that one…
That leaves six games to choose from. We’d like to know what your favourite primary Gran Turismo is up to this point. Vote in the poll at the bottom of this article and read through a brief synopsis of each release to jog your memory.
Release date: December ‘97 Japan, May ‘98 Europe and North America
Metacritic.com score: 96/100
The originator. Without this game, not only wouldn’t there be the following Gran Turismo games, but there’s a strong argument to say that the sim racing scene wouldn’t exist at all.
In the age of magazine and AM radio, this was also where the world outside of Japan got to learn about Mitsubishi Evolutions and Nissan Skyline GT-Rs.
Values of ‘90s Subaru Impreza skyrocketing at the moment and the reason is that millions of people now in their 30s and 40s grew up driving them in Gran Turismo.
This title showed the world that racing games could have a more serious tone to them, but still be fun and accessible.
Grinding away those credits to finally purchase a TVR or completing a license test to a gold level are special memories
But, there’s not much else like driving a Mazda Demio around Autumn Ring for the first time…
Gran Turismo 2
Release date: December ’99 Japan and North American, January ’00 Europe
Metacritic.com score: 93/100
Gran Turismo 2 arrived in 1999-2000, and is widely seen as a bigger, bolder continuation of the original game. There were now over 600 cars to race in an expanded career mode.
There was so much content Polyphony Digital had to add a second disc!
The game also saw the series’ first dabble with dirt, and saw a number of licensed rally cars added to the game – including Richard Burns’ 1999 Subaru Impreza WRC.
Off-road enthusiasts will also have been delighted by the first appearance of a real-world track to the game, the fabled Pikes Peak hill climb (alongside the Laguna Seca Raceway road course).
Combine that with the frankly insane fans’ favourite Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak car, and you had a recipe for disaster/fun (delete as appropriate).
The sequel was the first time DualShock 2 vibration had been used in the series and employed a neat memory card feature where the player could transfer some of their license test progress from GT. Handy.
Seen as a beefed-up version of Gran Turismo, GT2 introduced a ton of new content that set a high bar Polyphony Digital perhaps couldn’t match in subsequent full-game releases.
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
Platform: PlayStation 2
Release date: April ’01 Japan, July ’01 Europe and North America
Metacritic.com score: 95/100
After two fantastic games on the original PlayStation, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was the first of the full series to release on the then-fresh PlayStation 2.
While GT2 was quite ambitious and featured oodles of content, GT3 condensed the library but aimed to increase the quality.
Down to about 180 vehicles and 19 racetracks, mostly fictional, the series also simplified upgradable parts and reorganized the layout of the simulation and arcade modes.
In essence, A-Spec was a bit of a needed makeover for the game. Looking back on it, the game has one of the most iconic sequences with Just A Day by Feeder accompanying the cinematic, although those in the USA received Lenny Kravitz instead.
As far as numbers are concerned, GT3: A-Spec has the second-most sales of all-time on the PlayStation 2, just a few million ahead of Gran Turismo 4 which launched a few years later.
This game also had that 11-kilometre fantasy track called Complex String, which looking at a track map of it now, just looks absolutely bizarre.
Many would find this as their first PS2 game with the bundle pack that sold the game with the new console. Overall, this was a huge step forward in the succession of GT games.
Gran Turismo 4
Platform: PlayStation 2
Release date: December ’04 Japan, February ’05 North America, March ’05 Europe
Metacritic.com score: 93/100
Infamously delayed for 18 months, Gran Turismo 4 (GT4) arrived without the long-mooted online mode. Thankfully, the single-player content was incredible.
A series-high of over 700 cars spanning the late 19th century all the way up to 2022 – in the form of the Nike One concept – could be driven on an expanded roster of tracks.
Real-world locations such as the Circuit de la Sarthe and Nürburgring Nordschleife were introduced to the series for the first time. The Nordschleife in particular was significant, being one of the first faithfully rendered console versions of the track.
Track day enthusiasts could now learn the circuit safely, before heading to the real Green Hell safe in the knowledge they had mastered the layout.
Perhaps the biggest innovation in GT4 was the photo mode. It set the benchmark for future iterations in the franchise, leading to GT Sport ranking as our favourite photo mode in the racing genre.
Also new to the series was the B-Spec mode. This let an AI control your car so you could tackle the longer endurance races without having to pause the game. This was absolutely crucial for 24-hour races unless you were a glutton for punishment.
Although the flat engine noises were beginning to grate, the graphics had moved up a level, and GT4 was undoubtedly one of the PlayStation 2’s finest-looking games.
Gran Turismo 5
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release date: November ’10
Metacritic.com score: 84/100
Moving from PlayStation 2 to PlayStation 3 brought a wave of innovation to the Gran Turismo series. Preceded by the HD Concept in 2006 and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue in 2007, both precursors to the next numbered series game.
Gran Turismo 5 would bring some of those tested elements and a whole lot more just three years later with the full release in 2010.
The second-best-selling PlayStation 3 game of all time and the best PS3 exclusive with multiplatform Grand Theft Auto V removed, GT5 brought a damage model for the first time, as well as online lobbies.
The number of track layouts included nearly doubled from GT4, and more than 1,000 different vehicles could be found.
Speaking of cars, manufacturers such as Bugatti and Ferrari were included for the first time in the line-up of games. NASCAR, WRC and Super GT licenses made their debuts too, with each having their own slice in the extensive career mode.
With stunning graphics and longevity through years of added DLC, GT5 made waves for its genre in a time where racing video games, in general, found themselves at a crossroads as official licenses for series such as NASCAR and WRC were shifting across to new studios for future development.
Gran Turismo 6
Platform: PlayStation 3
Release date: December 2013
Metacritic.com score: 81/100
Following the pioneering Gran Turismo 5, 6 is often forgotten. We put that down to a lack of innovation. There were more cars, more tracks, improved engine sounds and a noticeable step-change in vehicle handling characteristics.
But there was also the moon. Really, the moon. And the stars at night were said be astronomically aligned. You could even design your own tracks via a tablet app. All very nice, but perhaps not the most important of development priorities.
The Ayrton Senna post-release downable content was joyous, but fewer online features than the fifth instalment – goodbye the aforementioned shuffle races – dented its longevity.
The main thing, however, was the timing of the game’s release. It launched one month after the PlayStation 4, which itself was not backwards compatible with PS3 games. Simply, the media and the communities had moved on to covering games on the newer systems.
The game itself, though, was still just as rewarding, and in retrospect doesn’t deserve to be overlooked.
Your winner: Gran Turismo 4
The people have spoken! You voted Gran Turismo 4 as your favourite numbered version of Gran Turismo, and it took the title comprehensively, gaining 23 per cent more votes than the second-placed Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec.
The biggest shock was the last-placed finisher. The original Gran Turismo garnered less than 7 per cent of the vote, which is a little surprising given it was such a ground-breaking game for the time. It still remains an important racing title, but subsequent entries perhaps added more memorable features.
For example, the fourth added a superbly detailed and functional photo mode and saw the addition of real-life circuits like Suzuka and Circuit de la Sarthe. It was the Nürburgring Nordschleife that really captured car enthusiasts’ imagination, however, as the track day mecca was added to the series for the first time.
The sheer breadth and variety of vehicles on offer clearly made an impression on you all, and that’s maybe why it’s your favourite Gran Turismo ever… perhaps until Gran Turismo 7 comes in March?