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Our Top 10 Favourite Retro Racing Games

Today’s next generation consoles are able to offer an almost real driving simulation. Revolutionised by the original Gran Turismo which back in its day on the PlayStation offered the player an incredible driving game experience. Since then we have newer versions of Gran Turismo, Need For Speed and Forza which, apart from getting in an actual car and going for a drive, offer the most complete diving simulation experience without leaving your armchair.

But never mind all that, we’re going back to list our favourite retro racing games in terms of pure, unadulterated fun. Here goes…


10 – Lotus Espirit Turbo Challenge (Sega Mega Drive – 1990)


The Lotus Espirit was a cool car and this was a cool game. 2 Player split screen on the Mega Drive was our go to racer. Spawning a couple of decent sequels, the original was the best. The different circuit locations provided scenery specific obstacles to avoid, like ice on the snowy levels and logs on forest tracks. Also the addition of pit stops offered something different – fuel was only something you had to worry about in Formula 1 type games.


9 – Pole Position (Atari 2600 – 1982)


Wow what a game! The nauseating sound FX just added to the enjoyment and the buzz of passing the yellow computer controlled competitors. I played with a joystick with a single button. If you asked me to play a racing game today with a joystick I don’t think I’d be able to!


8 – Out Run (Commodore C64 – 1989)

out run

Don’t crash – not because you might die – you won’t!…But your girlfriend with give you a right telling off! I got through a few joysticks because of this game – sometimes snapping the stick clean off as I had to violently swerve last minute. Oops! One of my all-time favourite cars – the Ferrari F40 was the star of this after the lary girlfriend that is. Had quite a funky soundtrack too if you can hear it over the tyre screeching! Weaving in and out of generic traffic and trying not to crash into the or the scenery. Thumbs up!


7 – Super Off Road (Sega Master System – 1992)

super off road

This game was great. A sort of isometric view where you controlled an off road truck around different tracks. Pick-ups like the nitros were really cool, one of the earliest games to have a little bit of vehicle physics so you could bully one of the other four racers. Also the trucks reacted to the elements on the track like water, bumps and jumps. Modding the trucks was also a cool addition and what was even better was the two player option. Good fun game and a worthy member of our top 10.


6 – Super Sprint (Commodore 64 – 1986)

super sprint

Before Super Off Road was Super Sprint. Another game I mastered using a joystick! 4 tracks, 2 competitors, obstacles and short cuts. Possibly the inspiration for Super Off Road but as we love them both this one came first so pips Super Off Road to sixth place. Keep winning and you have the option to tune your car up. Try to avoid crashing – but if you do don’t worry – a helicopter will air drop you a new car. But why was there always a tornado?! Who cares, we love this no nonsense fun racer!


5 – Carmageddon (PC – 1997) / Destruction Derby 1 & 2 (PlayStation 1 – 1995 & 1996)


Some slightly newer titles here but in a similar vein. We have the controversially violent Carmageddon which despite being able to run over people, it wasn’t the aim of the game but it did help you get points. Trying to win races while battling with other racers was both fun and frustrating. Destruction Derby games were just magnificent. There was nothing more satisfying than seeing cars that actually get damaged rather than bouncing off them without even a scratch. Destruction Derby 2 was even better and more OTT but all 3 offered a new dynamic to racing games. Hard to pick a favourite as they all contributed to the genre.


4 – Road Rash / Skitchin’ (Sega Mega Drive – 1991 & 1993)


Coming in at number 4 in our all-time favourite retro racing games are two games with a different take on racing – on motorbikes and roller blades respectively each with a little bit of violence thrown in! Road Rash allowed you to kick and punch your fellow racers to gain an advantage, but they would fight back. There were scenery and other traffic to avoid plus the police. Crashes were brutal but it was a lot of fun. As for Skitchin’, what a cool, BADASS game! A bit of button bashing to get you going and to get ahead of your fellow skaters keep checking the rear view for traffic you can ‘skitch’ on. Another skater joins you? Hit him off! Cool soundtrack too, bit of a rock vibe going on just adds to the experience. Great stuff!


3 – Micro Machines / Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament (Sega Mega Drive – 1993 / 1994)


Top down multiplayer racer with a twist – your car is tiny and general household items are now forming both your race track and obstacles! Everyone loved Micro Machines in the 90s and the games were brilliant fun. Choosing a character and racing in a variety of vehicles from cars to boats to helicopters! The first game paved the way for the second so although Turbo Tournament was even better, we have to give credit to the original here. Bashing your mate’s car to get ahead with the fun vehicle physics was so much fun. These games prove you don’t have to be realistic or serious to make a racing game fun.


2 – Super Mario Kart (SNES – 1992)

mario kart

Mario + Racing = FUN FUN FUN! What a great game with a great multiplayer option too! Each character had their own unique traits. We had it sussed – Toad and the Koopa Troopa 😉 Such a fun game with added features like the random pick-ups you can use to gain advantage over the field. Vibrant graphics and tracks in a number of locations meant endless hours of fun – especially in multiplayer. An absolute classic!


1 – Rock n’ Roll Racing (SNES – 1993)

r n r

The game opens with George Thorogood’s ‘Bad to the Bone’ – this game was never going to be bad though. With other tracks from Deep Purple and Black Sabbath we’re on to a winner already! Customisable vehicles, different characters, an in race commentator, 3D isometric graphics instead of behind the car, hovercrafts, tanks, big foot trucks, weapons, jumps and pick-ups. It had everything!