A few of the best retro racing games ever

Racing, in a car, for real, is perhaps one of the most exciting things you can do, however it has two rather inconvenient draw backs: it's very expensive, and injury and death are likely side effects.

In view of this, if we want to get some kind of racing action, the majority of us stick to driving games on our respective consoles, and thankfully, due to massive advances processing power - not least because of the huge economic benefits awaiting any company that could produce a faster, smoother and prettier gaming experiences - the driving game is as close to the real thing as many of us are going to get (and remember 3D is just around the corner).

But as we set forth into a new age of driving game bliss it's important to take a look at where we've come from, and so Pocket-lint has compiled, what we believe, are some of the best retro racing games to grace the consoles and computers of the past. So buckle your virtual seatbelt, and mirror, signal, manoeuvre for our top racing rundown. 

Lotus Turbo Challenge 2

Platform
Amiga

Released
1989

Next-gen updated
No

To start us off we've chosen a game that optimises excellent programming, as Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 not only gave us some great graphics but a very smooth ride indeed (on the Amiga anyway).

The second iteration in the series from developers Gremlin brought a second car to drive (Lotus Elan SE) and split screen allowing for two players to go head to head. For its time it was one of the most impressive games in its class, as its chosen platform, the Amiga, ran the game with barely a hitch. An absolute classic.

Super Cars 2

Platform
Amiga

Released
1991

Next-gen updated
No

Another sequel, this top-down racer not only had the gameplay but slick graphics and some nice off-track elements.

Best played with a mate, Super Cars 2's premise was simple enough as you raced around a variety of tracks earning cash to spend on weapons and upgrades. There were cut scenes where you could interact with a variety of characters, as well as the ability to buy and sell weapons, often at a huge profit. Towards the end of the game things could get very interesting with mines aplenty (best under a bridge) and multiple missiles flying around the track.

Micro Machines

Platform
Mega Drive

Released
1993

Next-gen updated
Many versions

Micro machines has been updated frequently, with the last instalment coming in 2006, however the premise hasn't changed and its early release date and brilliant gameplay makes it a must for our retro roundup.

The gameplay consisted of racing miniature vehicles around a variety of tracks in household settings, ranging from the bathtub to the kitchen table. Adding to the uniqueness of the title was the innovative head-to-head which required players to get a screen's-length ahead to score points. The best track by a mile was Desktop Drop-off.

Gran Turismo 2

Platform
PlayStation

Released
1999

Next-gen updated
many versions

Compared to our previous entry, Gran Turismo 2 is about as far removed as you can get, highlighting the many sub-genres that the racing game offers.

There are few racers that can match Gran Turismo's dominance of the driving-sim market, and we've chosen the second instalment due to its greater freedom when choosing races and massive list of cars compared to the original - you're looking at over 600. Pretty much everything could be tweaked and refined, and even with the annoying bug which meant cars disappeared from your garage, it couldn't detract from the superb realistic racing.

Indianapolis 500: the simulation

Platform
Amiga

Released
1989

Next-gen updated
No

Carrying on the driving sim theme our next choice was seriously good fun, not necessarily for the continual, and sometimes arduous racing around a oval track, although that wasn't without its merits - but for something else entirely.

Smashing, crashing and bashing was where it was at with Indianapolis 500, helped in no small part to its excellent replay mode. It was something of a fine art, and we're sure many a player spent many an hour in search of that holy grail of a 32-car pileup. The racing was good, with choice of cars and set-up, but the potential for awesome crashes was unmatched at the time.

Chase HQ

Platform
ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC

Released
1989

Next-gen updated
No

Chase HQ was made available on many platforms, but none of them managed to bring the gameplay of the original arcade to the home - accept perhaps the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad versions.

A bit like Outrun, but more fun, the aim of the game was to bash your assigned criminal off the road before the time ran out, and, eh, that's about it. Simple but highly addictive in the just-one-more-go stakes.

Super Mario Kart

Platform
SNES

Released
1992

Next-gen updated
Many versions

If we were going to label just one of these games featured as a classic, then it might just have to be Super Mario Kart.

The game had superb graphics and even better gameplay, which helped it sell over 8 million copies and become the third best-selling game ever on the SNES. A decent array of characters and interesting tracks kept the interest going, whilst the two-player Battle mode was an absolute blast. The game skilfully wove racing and powerups to produce one of the best arcade racers ever.

Stunt Car Racer

Platform
Amiga

Released
1989

Next-gen updated
Needs one badly

IStunt Car Racer managed to bring something a little different to the early clutch of home-computer racing titles, as unlike many it wasn't a third person behind the car setup or top-down effort, but gave you a first-person view of the action.

This worked exceptionally well, and provided real excitement to the elevated track on which you had to drive. Two player was possible by connection two Amigas together, which would then had to be viewed on separate TVs, but the single game was easily good enough to carry the day as the tracks became ever more outlandish and your car ever more beaten up.

Rollcage Stage II

Platform
PlayStation

Released
2000

Next-gen updated
Possible fan-made sequel RollcageX

Rollcage Stage II is like Mario Kart gone bad, as it has similarities in the way it blends excellent racing with great powerups - however that's where the comparison ends.

To be honest it was tricky choosing this one as Wipeout 2097 is clearly a classy title and arguably was more ground-breaking coming in 1997, however a choice was made on the basis that Rollcage has the edge in the two-player battling stakes. The appeal of this game was not just the blisteringly fast cars or great variety of tracks, but also the superb weapons on offer.

Clearly this isn't a definitive list, rather a few of our favourites, so make sure you let us know what you'd have included in the comments below.