The 15 All-Time Greatest Arcade Racing Courses

Seaside Route 765

Debut: Ridge Racer (1993) (as “Novice”)
Other Appearances: Ridge Racer 2, Ridge Racer V, Ridge Racer 64/DS, Ridge Racers, Ridge Racers 2, Ridge Racer 7.

Your lead-off course in any arcade racing game should be a sample of all things to come, and Seaside Route 765 set the standard. Visually, it was right in the strike zone for what arcade racing exemplified in the early 90s – stylish, distinctive racing on a background of sunny skies, big cities, and beaches. Its lengthier counterpart, Ridge City Highway, saw the addition of a trip through a rather simple-looking construction site on narrow roads. This proved to be a clever move by the developers, as the construction in question would eventualy bring us wider roads and a landscape that was entirely absent in the original game, save for a lone lighthouse. 21 years after its introduction, you’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran arcade racer who hasn’t had this course etched into their muscle memory, and its map should be an instantly recognizable icon of the genre itself. In fact, if Namco should ever decide to get back into the arcade racing business, whatever studio they put to work on it should adopt this course as their logo.

Diablo Canyon Road

Debut: R4 – Ridge Racer Type 4 (1998) (as “Wonderhill”)
Other Appearances: Ridge Racers, Ridge Racers 2.

Okay, so let’s be honest here, R4 was something of a vault of great courses, all of which you could justifiably put on this list. (Even the notoriously short Phantomile was brilliant in its own right.) However, Diablo Canyon Road is one of those that stand out. Set in Fukuoka, Japan, the track was introduced to us as Wonderhill, and did a great job following up on Rage Racer’s focus on extreme topography in its courses. It started off with the first half of Crimsonrock Pass, or “Heaven And Hell” as the veteran players knew it, which takes you up the mountain with a series of turns that will test your mastery of the series’ drift mechanic. After that, though, a corkscrew sends you back down the mountain far more quickly than you climbed it, and an extremely ambiguous back straight will all but finish off the course. With the game largely focusing on managing tight corners without full control of your vehicle, the back straight featured far more subtle twists while giving you what was an almost frightening degree of control the whole way, making it something of a reverse-psychology killer until you got to know it.

Dinosaur Canyon

Debut: Daytona USA (1993) (as “Intermediate”)
Other Appearances: Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition, Daytona USA 2: Power Edition, Daytona USA (Dreamcast).

Let’s be completely honest here. If not for its, ahem, distinctly-stylized soundtrack, there’s a good chance Daytona USA would have fallen into total obscurity by now with some of its less memorable counterparts from that era. However, tucked between its excessively simplistic first-impression oval circuit and the expert course that was a little too easy to get lost on for its genre, was the track we now know as Dinosaur Canyon, which really managed to hit the sweet spot for both the arcade racing genre as a whole and Daytona USA’s particular brand of handling. We’re here to judge courses, not whole games, and Dinosaur Canyon is one we’re always happy to see whenever Sega decides to revisit it.

Big Blue

Debut: F-Zero (1990)
Other Appearances: F-Zero GP Legend.

F-Zero wears well the same kind of distinction as R4, where the game is basically loaded with excellent courses. Truth be told, we could have easily given this spot to the entire Knight Class, and particularly the opening one-two punch of Mute City I and Big Blue, but having to whittle it down to one course to represent the game, Big Blue does a fantastic job of representing Nintendo’s premiere attempt at a proper arcade racer on this list in both technique and aesthetic. Not only is the design a simple but effective way to give players a chance to show off their racing skills, the look is fantastic and the BGM is easily one of the best that F-Zero had to offer. Whenever someone mentions F-Zero, you can’t help but have the Big Blue circuit come to mind right away.


Debut: Sega Rally Championship (1994)
Other Appearances: Sega Rally 2006.

The three courses that comprise Sega Rally’s main league are all masterpieces, but Mountain is the one that was really made to determine the cream of the crop. The trick was that you only had the time remaining that you had banked in the first two races, giving you loads of incentive to maximize your efficiency on two courses that could otherwise be driven passively. Even then, Mountain is a decent challenge even for accomplished arcade drivers, and learning to plow through the otherwise sleepy-looking town presented on the course’s back half is where you really find yourself breaking through as a Sega Rally player. It’s a good thing, too, because what comes next is one of the biggest challenges any arcade racing fan can take on. Lakeside, to be sure, could have made this list if the criteria were somewhat different, but Mountain is the test that truly judges all Sega Rally players.