Arcade Racing seems to be a lost art these days. It’s been eight years since the last OutRun, seven since the last Sega Rally, and even Ridge Racer sat out all system launches of a generation for the first time since the series kicked off in 1993. Sure, there’s DriveClub, but as the forthcoming review will point out, it doesn’t really buy into the concept of the arcade racer as completely as it might have. This is a shame, because arcade racers enjoy a more straightforward gameplay style and form of mastery that you really don’t get from the douchey “action racers” that have all but replaced them on the market, and the digital revolution has effectively created a perfect environment for a renaissance should the likes of Namco and Sega follow through.
So what makes a good arcade racing course? Well, first of all it has to be memorable. Arcade racing was, of course, born in the arcades, and so the experience by nature should be one that stays with you. This means that it has to have an effective design that tests players while not being outright convoluted (sorry, Daytona USA Expert). Atmosphere matters, too. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the signature clear skies and palm trees that largely served as the staple setting of the genre from the start, though some of those are certainly represented on this list. The important thing is that it’s pleasant, immersive in its own way, and once again, memorable. The scenery should be a joy to behold as you make your way through it.
However, it’s arcade-style racing only, which excludes real-life courses, as well as anything from a racing sim or action racer. As much as we love Deep Forest, Maple Valley Raceway, and Special Stage Route 5, those will have to wait for another list before we gush about them.
So with the criteria in place, in no particular order, here is our list of the greatest arcade racing courses we’ve ever driven.