The 15 All-Time Greatest Arcade Racing Courses

Cloudy Highland

Debut: OutRun 2 (2003)
Other Appearances: OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast.

When OutRun 2 came along, it wasn’t just a revival of one of Sega’s greatest arcade institutions, but an excellent showcase of their Chihiro arcade hardware, as well as the Xbox it was based on. If your treat the game as a search for the best driving roads Sega AM2 has to offer, you may not have to wait long, as the easiest path of all (all left turns) will take you through two of the best in the game. For purposes of this list, the very Scottish-inspired Cloudy Highland and its no-popup-to-be-found reveal moment narrowly edged out the great arcade atmosphere of Deep Lake. Cloudy Highland starts off unassuming enough, with you climbing a hill to a rather high altitude in the course’s first several seconds, before a long right takes you over the summit to where you can see for what feels like miles compared to what we were used to from past racing games (pictured here). It turns out that you’re seeing essentially the entire remainder of the section before you move on to either Tulip Garden or Metropolis to finish your run. Whichever you choose, rest assured that Cloudy Highland is the one that will stay with you after that experience.

Crystal Coast Highway

Debut: Ridge Racer Revolution (1995) (as “Intermediate”)
Other Appearances: Ridge Racer 64/DS, Ridge Racers, Ridge Racers 2.

Don’t get us wrong, the lead-off version of Revolution’s course, Sunset Drive, is memorable and iconic. It’s just that the game is truly defined by and remembered for the back-to-back massive half-circle drifts that only appear on Crystal Coast Highway. It’s labeled as an intermediate course, but some of the drifting demands and overall precision required to navigate the course make it competitive with the Expert version, EX Revolution Road, in terms of difficulty and mastery. The twitchy back straight is, in a way, a possible precursor to Diablo Canyon Road, but the narrow path and scarcity of precision controls in the mid-90s make for a much different experience in its debut than for those playing it in its PSP incarnations.


Debut: Sega Rally 2 (1998)

In any era, a good Winter course can be an impressive and atmospheric display in an arcade racing game, and Sega Rally 2 got it absolutely right with its offering. The snow and ice sections alike will really test your driving ability down a winding road, with high embankments ready to devour any vehicle whose traction may fail it. You lose a lot of speed for hitting a wall, and that fact alone makes Snowy a fitting gatekeeper course to the aforementioned Riviera. Once you’ve mastered it, though, a good Time Attack can provide just the kind of rush that keeps people coming back to this genre.


Debut: Wipeout XL/2097 (1996)
Other Appearances: Wipeout 3: Special Edition, Wipeout Pure (as DLC).

Continuing our love affair with inclement weather in our arcade racers (even in games where said weather has no influence on your car’s handling), we have Sagarmatha from Wipeout XL. This is a relatively straightforward track compared to some that show up later on in the game, but simplicity in design often paves the way for atmosphere, which can never be taken for granted. Sagarmatha takes you through a scenic mountain course in the middle of a sleet/snowstorm. Technical limitations of the PlayStation and Saturn prevented this weather from having much impact on the look of the track itself, which made for a great setting that you don’t usually take notice of when it’s speeding by at 200+ MPH. Of course, if the track layout wasn’t itself solid, it would have no place on this list, and thankfully that’s not a problem with Sagarmatha’s parade of long straightaways setting up a deceptive variety of high-speed corners. Races here can be pretty tense in their own right, but this place was pretty clearly built for the Time Attack, which is where you’ll best be able to appreciate it. Unfortunately, its return in Wipeout Pure was a track layout only, and didn’t feature the mountain setting. It’s a shame, and hopefully we’ll see Sagarmatha in modernized glory someday on the PS4.

Airport Lap

Debut: Ridge Racer 6 (2005)
Other Appearances: Ridge Racer 7.

Ridge Racer 6 had some great courses and some not-so-great courses. In fact, if we did a list of the worst arcade racing courses, RR6 would stand a great chance of being the most well-represented game there just by virtue of Seacrest District and Island Loop being absolute locks. By the same token, Airport Lap deserves recognition as one of the best arcade racing courses ever, and perhaps the most perfectly tailored for Ridge Racer’s unique drift mechanics. The rest of the course is a perfect blend of straights to keep your speed up and corners subtle enough that the best players can keep their nitrous stocked the whole way. The result is a course that unassumingly tests the capabilities of its drivers perhaps better than any other in the game, and the early morning setting provides a nice, almost Ocean Bay-like atmosphere for the race.

So, how did you like our list? How does yours play out? Feel free to add your two cents in the comments section.