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special >> 25 greatest >> racing games

Welcome to BlueStorm's "25 Greatest" series, which kicks off with the 25 Greatest Racing games made. Here, we'll countdown what is the 25 greatest racing games according to BlueStorm. You may ask, "why not just do this in the Top 11 section?" Well, because sometimes it's hard to just pick 11 games, so we're upping the ante to 25 games. Plus, this is a whole new series devoted to the greatest things the world of gaming has to offer, and you'll soon see the difference between the Top 11 lists and the 25 Greatest lists.

There will be one nagging problem, though, or this paticular list. As I'm writing this countdown, there are three big racing games that are soon to be released: Forza Motorsport, Midnight Club III, and Enthusia Professional Racing. So, if and when these games are released, they may be fitted onto this list some point in the future (maybe a "part 2" of sorts). That just seems to be the problem with writing these types of lists, is the timing. Oh well, fixes can be made.

Anyway, enjoy the feature.

Test Drive: LeMans

System: Dreamcast , Publisher: Infogrames, Year Released: 2000

The number 25 game on the list is the Dreamcast version of Test Drive: LeMans. Maybe some of you out there have heard of this game, maybe you forgot about it, or perhaps this is the first time you've heard of it. Both the PS1 and DC versions of Test Drive: LeMans were released to little fanfare, which wouldn't be so suprising if we were talking about the PS1 version, which was an average racing title. But the Dreamcast version turned out to be one of the best looking racing games on the system, and even better than some of the first-year racers of the PS2 (even today, this game features some sharper textures than the ones found in a great deal of PS2 titles). The gameplay was also readily accessable to novices or expert racers alike. The real downside is that the game wasn't terribly long or big, as it could only do so much with 8 or 9 courses. Still, even now, TDLM is a great racing game, and if you own a Dreamcast (still), you may want to hunt this game down if you don't already have it.

Need For Speed: High Stakes

System: PS1 , Publisher: EA Games, Year Released: 1999

Although many have said that the Hot Pursuit games of the NFS series are the best ones pre-Underground, I would tend to disagree with that statement. I preffered the fourth entry in the Need For Speed line, which had the title of High Stakes. The gameplay changed rather dramatically here compared to the games before it. Yes, you still drive expensive, exotic cars. But now you could earn money to buy new cars and upgrades. In the High Stakes mode, you can play against another player (who also has a NFS:HS file on a seperate memory card) to win the other player's car. While I wish that the framerate was a lot smoother and higher, this was still a fine entry in the NFS franchise.

Hydro Thunder

System: Arcade - Dreamcast - N64 , Publisher: Midway, Year Released: 1999-2000

Hydro Thunder may be one of the simpler racing titles on the list (after all, it's basically made up of single races), but it's still pretty damn fun. It's straight-forward racing from one point to another, beating the timer and trying to get the highest position possible (which is no easy task). Probably one of the last great racing games Midway released in arcades before the company decided to call it quits on the arcade business (I'm not counting Rush 2049, because it was published by Atari Games in arcades and by Midway on home consoles). The Dreamcast version of the game is the most accurate arcade-to-home port of the title, with the N64 version coming second (there was also a PS1 version, but it's probably not worth mentioning since it was the most inferrior version). Hydro Thunder will return to consoles again in Midway Arcade Treasures 3, due on all platforms in late 2005.

Gran Turismo 2

System: PS1 , Publisher: Sony Computer Ent., Year Released: 1999

You may think it's odd to see GT2 so far down on the list (although for a game just to make it on the list should be honor enough), mind you that all 4 Gran Turismo titles made the list. This one ranks lowest due to the fact that it's the buggiest version of Gran Turismo to be released. If you bought one of the original releases of GT2, you may have found a nasty bug that erases your game if you enter the machine tests. Sony did later recall the game, and a fix was made in future versions. Aside from the erasing glitches, there were many spelling errors in car descriptions and even car names (the Suzuki Cappuccino for one, was spelled "Capcino"), and many of the car restritions were not enforced (in the special car events, you basically drive any car you want, as long as it met the HP requirement). But not all was bad. GT2 boasted over 500 cars, had over 20 courses, introduced the rally mode and was so big, that the game spanned across two discs, one for the simulation mode and one for the arcade mode. While it wasn't totally the "best" GT game made, it's still one of the best racing games made.

Wave Race: Blue Storm

System: Gamecube , Publisher: Nintendo, Year Released: 2001

No, this game isn't on here because this site shares a similar name, there is good enough reason to include this game. Wave Race : Blue Storm served as one of the launch titles for the Nintendo Gamecube system back in 2001, and while it didn't feel like much of a sequel, it was one hell of an upgrade. Something that was instantly noticeable was how much cleaner and sharper the graphics looked compared to Wave Race 64 (which at the time, was technically stellar). The character models lookd so much smoother rather than the rough angular models used in the N64 classic. Everything about it did make it seem like there was a noticable difference between the new generation of games and the last generation of games. But the gameplay stayed the same. The championship mode had a very similar set-up and the stunt mode had a very similar set-up. While this wasn't such a bad thing, it would have been nice to see a few more innovations. The only things new to Wave Race Blue Storm was the weather effects and the boost meter, and some new characters. Other than that, it was Wave Race 64 in a prettier package. Again, was it like this was a bad thing?

Need For Speed Underground

System: PS2 - Gamecube - Xbox , Publisher: EA Games, Year Released: 2003

Up until Need For Speed Underground, street racing games seemed to be far and between. Probably the best known street racing title pre-NFSU was the Tokyo Xtreme Racer series that appeared on the Dreamcast and later on PS2. The problem with the TXR games was that it lacked licensed cars. It really wasn't until the growing popularity of street racing in the last couple of years that a game company would take notice of this tuner-car culture. That was, until Need For Speed Underground came out in 2003. NFSU, at the time, was considered to be a very flashy-looking game with a load of new special effects that really hasn't been seen in other games. But then as time passed by, other companies were making their street-racing titles in the same style as NFSU, and other games started using the same soft-lighting/bloom lighting techniques EA used in NFSU, and the technique just became less and less impressive, and more generic, since almost EVERYONE was doing it (even EA in games like Def Jam: Fight For NY, GoldenEye Rogue Agent and NFSU2). But despite the trend the game caused, the game is still a good racer (although NFSU 2 added a lot more than what was offered here). It offered some intense racing action (especially when you unlocked the nitrous parts), and something that was far different from the classic NFS design. Too bad that there are not that many courses to race on, and that the gameplay seemed to become repetitous past the halfway mark. But even so, this remains as one of the more influential racers in recent times.

Ridge Racer V

System: PS2 , Publisher: Namco, Year Released: 2000

It seems like with every new console from Sony, Namco is right there at launch with a Ridge Racer title. The PS1 had the original Ridge Racer, the PS2 had Ridge Racer V, and the recent PSP has Ridge Racer (which is a newer RR title using courses from past games). Ridge Racer V didn't really recieve that much fanfare when it hit the PS2 in October 2000, even though it was basically the only racing game available at launch (Midnight Club might have been there at launch, but I think it came a month or two afterwards). Although this was a new Ridge Racer title for a new system, the game design was pretty much the same as past RR titles (although ignoring R4). Hell, even some of the courses were the same. But it still stood as a fun and challenging arcade racing game, and included enough features to make your time worthwhile. While you won't get the same amount of replay value as say, GT3, the arcade nature of the game makes it easy to just pick up and play every so often. If you haven't given RRV a look (and I'm sure there's many of you who haven't, as the game only moved about 200,000 units in it's 5 years), go down to a used game store and give it a try. On Gamestop, it's one of the cheaper used PS2 games available, ranging from $5-7. That's cheaper than a rental.

Stunt Race FX

System: Super NES , Publisher: Nintendo, Year Released: 1994

I'm not sure how many of you remember this game (especially if you're in your teens and reading this article), as it's nearly 11 years old, but it's one of the earliest 3-D racing games to appear on a home console (I think Virtua Racing hit the Genesis in 1993). Sure, the game may not look like much today with it's flat-shaded and primitive polygons, but back in 1994 it was something truly special. Even against today's games, though, there's still something to Stunt Race FX. It was a simple, yet challenging racing game, and included a pretty tough stunt-track mode where you needed to collect stars in a given amount of time. The vehicles looked goofy as hell, as they for some reason had to have eyes like they were cartoons, but at least the game was fun, and was the only other actual 3-D Super FX title aside from StarFox that was fun.

Project Gotham Racing

System: Xbox , Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios, Year Released: 2001

Project Gotham Racing served as one of the launch titles for the Xbox back in November 2001, and like Ridge Racer V for the PS2, it was one of the only racing games available at launch. PGR is actually an enhanced port of Metroplois Street Racer, a racing game that appeared on the Dreamcast in 2000, which was a game based upon the fact that how you drive is just as important as to how fast you drive. PGR kept every course from MSR (San Francisco, London and Tokyo), and threw in New York for some extra courses. The car lineup also changed from the numerous sedans and sport coupes, to sport coupes, roadsters and supercars. The kudos system was also tightened up a little more from MSR. The Gotham series is a much needed franchise in the current gaming market, as it provides a different type of racing than what you would usually find in other racing games. The style system is far from a gimmick, it's what makes the game.

Metropolis Street Racer

System: Dreamcast , Publisher: SEGA, Year Released: 2000

Now you're probably wondering why MSR ranks one position higher than PGR. As I said for PGR, that game was basically just an enhanced port of this game. MSR introduced the type of racing where style is just as important as speed, and actually influenced games such as Need For Speed Underground where scoring is concerned. MSR also did something else that PGR didn't, have races take place during the actual time of day. Metropolis Street Racer actually used the Dreamcast's internal clock for something useful. Depending on what the time was in your system, the race could take place at morning, noon or night. Of course, it also depends on what timeline you're playing from (at least one of the courses will be at night, because of the international timeline). It was something different and something unique that I had not seen offered in racing games before. Also something unique was the graphical style. The cities had a photo-realistic look to them, which made this game look much more realistic than any other game on the market. Sure, the builidngs were low on polygons, but the effect the photo-realistic textures had made up for that. For the time, it was one of the most incredible racing games I had ever seen. That was until Project Gotham Racing 2 (also by Bizarre Creations). MSR is one game that can be seen as a fairly big acheivement in this current generation of consoles.

Come back again for games 15-6!