The 15 All-Time Greatest Arcade Racing Courses

Mute City 2

Debut: F-Zero X (1998)

When F-Zero X was first announced, there was some division amongst the players as to what the series’ first step into the third dimension might be like. Some envisioned an over-the-top approach littered with all manner of upside-down and sideways racing, while others thought a more subdued method, true to the original’s flat-land courses, might be in order. When the game was released, of course, the former seemed to be largely the order of the day, but there were a few nods to traditional F-Zero scattered about. One of these came in the form of Mute City 2, a night race on a flat course, that focuses more on discerning jumps and good cornering than anything else. The overall layout is a fairly simple trapezoid configuration, but the judgment and technique it requires, along with its overall throwback value, elevates it to the status of one of the best courses available among the many F-Zero X offers.


Debut: Sega Rally 2 (1998)

Night racing and weather always make a good impression with arcade racers, and when you put the two together, you get Sega Rally 2’s finale course, Riviera. Riviera is particularly refreshing after what the game has already put you through, as it is the only track in the game that is exclusively on tarmac. Wet tarmac, but tarmac nonetheless. The night time setting, a fitting BGM, and the pouring rain make for an outstanding finish to one of the best arcade racing experiences around, just hectic and competitive enough to make any potential championship victory even sweeter. A few laps of Riviera is a great experience that any arcade racing fan should really appreciate.

Ocean Bay

Debut: R4 – Ridge Racer Type 4 (1998) (as “Out Of Blue”)
Other Appearances: Ridge Racers 2.

Introduced to us in R4 as Yokohama’s “Out Of Blue”, Ocean Bay is a powerful testament to the underlying relaxing atmosphere behind the intense racing action of the genre. With the pre-sunrise morning light giving everything on this coastal track a blue tint, it’s very easy to get distracted by the setting and start treating it like a leisurely drive instead of a championship race. The back half of the course will whip you back to reality, however, as high-level drifting skills are basically required when exiting the seaport section if you’re going to avoid an encounter with the wall (perhaps the tightest corner in the game), and the S turn that puts you on the final stretch is almost as brutal. Still, Ocean Bay is both atmospheric enough and fun enough to want to revisit time and time again. That’s a good thing, because you won’t find a better course to train on in any game it appears in.


Debut: Sega Rally 3 (2008)
Other Appearances: Sega Rally Revo (different starting point, no snow).

We’re not entirely sure why things didn’t work out between Sega and the once-named Sega Racing Studio, which was supposed to champion a new era of arcade racing for the company before it was unceremoniously shipped off to Codemasters and repurposed for the Grid series. In their short stint with the legendary publisher, however, they proved to have great minds for Sega’s brand of racing, with Sega Rally 3 (and its console counterpart, Revo) showcasing a variety of courses that fit in perfectly with the circuits from past installments of the series. Out of that selection, Alpine stands out the most for being as eclectic in its layout as it is a showcase of whatever hardware it happened to be running on. Alpine slowly becomes an ice/snow course as you climb the mountain, treating you to a pair of dangerous hairpin turns as you reach the summit, then proceed (carefully) back down into the town below. It may not have had Canyon’s display team of planes soaring overhead on the final lap (a very arcadelike touch in its own right), but Alpine is definitely the standout course in a very underrated arcade racer.

Sunset Bay

Debut: Wave Race 64 (1996)

Wave Race 64 is another collection of fun, atmospheric courses, but Sunset Bay may be the best track to summarize the entire Wave Race experience in a single run. Sunset Bay has it all, jumps, tight turns, and plenty of activity from the water itself to keep you on your toes. Like many of the game’s courses, the BGM at Sunset Bay is a remix of the theme song, but it’s more appropriate here than anywhere (save perhaps Southern Island), and if anything, helps it fit in with other arcade racers. If you can ride a wave coming in on the final stretch, congratulations, you just experienced one of the best feelings Wave Race has to offer.