QotW: What’s your favorite automotive game?

Coming this week is March 10 (aka Mar 10, aka Mario Day), and 2021 also happens to be the 40th  anniversary year for Nintendo’s plumber mascot. In the decades since his debut in Donkey Kong games have had a huge influence on the automotive world, and vice versa, from the ultra-realistic Gran Turismo series to the stupid-fun Mario Kart (in which Mario drives something clearly based on the 1965 Honda RA272 Formula One race car).

Most of us have a favorite car-themed video game, but we’re not going limit this question to digital distractions. Nintendo traces its roots back to 1889 as a playing card manufacturer, so pre-pixel amusements are also allowed. If your jam is I Spy, then tell us why.

What’s your favorite automotive game?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “How did you learn to drive a manual?

We are surprised at just how many people learned stick in a trial-by-fire situation. Jace‘s dad took him to the top of a mountain and handed him the wheel, Steve‘s coworkers made him drive their Datsun 620 shop truck for a good laugh, and Rick Moore had to endure the discomfort of moving a customer’s new A70 Supra while they looked on during his stint as a Toyota dealership lot attendant.

Those, however, were cases where the trial was forced upon the driver. Just as many of you chose to throw yourselves into the deep end by learning on a car you had just bought. Land Ark bought a Mitsubishi 3000GT ES without looking at the shifter, Yuri picked up a 1987 Ford Ranger cross-state and drove banged on its Toyo Kogyo gearbox on a three-hour drive home, and Chris G – bought a manual Civic after many failed attempts.

Then there were the stories with good teachers, like Mark A‘s experience with McGinnis driving school in Albuquerque, r100guy‘s excellent mom, and KevinH‘s friend who actually had a great lesson plan. Also, we’re not sure if we’re more impressed that Mike P‘s dad owns a 17,000-mile Suzuki Samurai or that he teaches teens to drive stick on it.

Of course, learning how to drive a manual is not at all unusual in many countries. Peter Quinby had the honor of learning on a 3-wheeler Bond minicar in the UK. Banpei says that in the Netherlands if you don’t learn stick you are forever shamed with an “automatic only” mark on your license. Negishi no Keibajo learned on a VW Bug at the US Army base in Tomioka and never saw an automatic car until he moved to the US.

The winner this week also hails from overseas, and Azfer wins for best conveying the thrill and feeling of freedom when you finally fully learn:

It was a graduated program by my dad. 5 steps for the 5 gears our car had.

Step 1 – This required only 1 gear. Initially, it was just learning to move the car a bit forward and a bit back on the street, literally just inches, where the family car (Dark Sky Blue 1981 Mazda 929 Limited, Middle East spec) was parked. There was one time I almost took out the outside wall of our house, lol.

Step 2 – This required me to drive in second gear as I graduated to taking the car around the block.

Step 3 – Eventually, I started to do grocery runs and the grocery store was far enough to hit 3rd gear but close enough to not need to shift into 4th.

Step 4 – I was SUPER excited when my dad finally told me to drive on a stretch of road where I can move into 4th. This was a long enough stretch which was interrupted by a traffic light. After we reached the traffic light, he asked me to do a u-turn and go back.

Step 5 – Hitting the open highways of Eastern Saudi Arabia. This was BY FAR one of the most exciting times in my life, hitting top gear!!!

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26 Responses to QotW: What’s your favorite automotive game?

  1. MWC says:

    Pole Position

  2. Brian Garrity says:

    I’ll go a little off the beaten path to see if anyone else has ever come across this game: Top Gear Rally for Nintendo64.

  3. XRaider927 says:

    Most of my time….I usually play racing games when I’m bored or something brilliant(Like racing to first place, or being chased by the cops, or both, or even taking a photo in what angle I like). Recently racing games like Need For Speed series, Midnight Club Series, Ridge Racer Series, Burnout Series and TXR Series…But one game got me the first time I remember playing a lot and enjoying a lot on the Sony Playstation: Gran Turismo 2….I first play this game after I turned 9 in 2002 when my uncle stayed in our home for the next 3 months…Some cars in the game I never heard of were in this game and today I knew most of the cars from that game alone for the likes of the Toyota Altezza(Lexus IS), Honda Civic Type R, Daihatsu Storia, Honda del Sol, Nissan March, as well as the first car I liked in the game which is the Honda S2000(I even bought a Tomica version of it)…..I only tried playing the game but I never got to first place because I enjoy driving a car in the game rather than racing(except for two-player which I won sometimes even I don’t know how to hit the brakes occasionally because of what speed am I in the car I drive, today I play the game again via emulator on my laptop my grandfather bought it for me on my birthday last 2019 just one year before he passes away, because it’s hard to find and too expensive these days…..Now my favorite car to this day aside of the S2000, is the R32 Skyline GT-R…..And also the PSP version of the game I literally taking screenshots as of now…..

  4. James says:

    My fondest memories are of the older automotive games. The first few Need for Speed PC games, the original Grand Turismo and Grand Turismo 2 and Mario Kart all bring back fond memories. But my favourite to this day is the card game “Mille Bornes”, a 1970s edition that my Grandparents had. Many rainy (and not so rainy) afternoons were spent trying to be the first one of my family to hit 1000 miles.

  5. Tim says:

    Posted this one a few days early!

  6. Jim Daniels says:

    I have never been one to play electronic games or board games. My games all involve real life. Such as my favorite, Your big ol V8 is not afraid of my little ol Datsun is it 😉

  7. Lee L says:

    Hard Drivin’ was my favorite when I was a kid. I remember going through those crazy loop-de-loops, usually flying off the side and watching my car explode.

    I also remember the game had a manual transmission mode with a clutch. You could stall the car out and mis-shift. What a fun game, that looks completely awful 32 years later.

  8. エーイダン says:

    It’s a tossup. I liked Need for Speed Shift 2 because my foster brother and I used to spend hours in it toying with high-end supercars and ended up making donut cars out of the lot of them. Prior to that Need for Speed Hot Pursuit was the choice item. I hadn’t actually played modern games until I was in foster care. Up till then I was used to 1990s hand me downs on a PS1. When I was driving in NFS I would set up the controller settings to match up with games like Gran Turismo (1998) and Driver 2: The Wheelman (2001) because apparently I’m a cave man or something.

  9. Chet Manley says:

    The correct answer is Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero

  10. Rotsun says:

    Auto Modelista is an oldschool gem with tons of cell-shaded JNC goodness, also loved Enthusia racing. Lately been playing a ton of Gran Turismo sport tho

  11. Lupus says:

    Well… this is a tough question. But, if I have to choose to one & only game that i would take with me onto a desrt island it would be: GRAN TURISMO 4 on PS2. From today’s point of view it’s far from prefect – there is no in-car viev, cars cannot’ be repainted, engine’s cannot’ be swaped, visual tuning is minimal or none. But the sheer fun it gave me for during the millenias is uncauntable. The graphic is still decent, the driving model and physics are aren’t arcady but it’s still not a hardcore sim. It’s IMO the best ballanced driving game ever.
    Beside GT4 i also praise very high: Tokyo Extreme Racer 3 – for awesome mood, detalied tuning system, fascinating depiciotn of Japan Metrolopolitan Expressway System; Need for Speed Underground 2 – for awesome tuning, especcialy visual, early F&F/Ricer style, extremly fun-giving driving model, most notably drift mode; Auto Modellista – for lovely graphics, unparalleled anywhere else, arcade, non-biding feel; Forza Horizon 3 – great graphic, awesome open world set in warm Australia, nice tuning, superb soundtrack (in-game radio stations actually).

  12. Mark Farrell-Churchill says:

    I enjoy Dirt2 and GT5 as much as the next bloke, but my favourite automotive game is decidedly non-commercial: Punch Baja. It’s essentially Punch Buggy but for a family of Subaru drivers. Whether we’re on the road or walking through a car park, whoever is first to spot one of Subaru’s distinctive utes gets to punch his or her companion on the arm. (In our area at least, Bajas are encountered about as frequently as old-school Beetles, so no one is getting beat up too badly.) Now I’ll admit that having originated the game, and as the most enthusiastic enthusiast in the family, I am usually the one dealing out the playful violence, but I love it when my wife or daughter beats me to the punch—it means they’ve got their eyes open for ‘rus! From time to time when we’re not together I receive a text message reading simply “yellow one!” or “silver one!” and I am to consider myself punched virtually. Great fun. But once my daughter spotted the Baja’s predecessor and hit me despite knowing full well it was outside the rules…the little BRAT.

  13. Curtis says:

    Hard to pick just one because they all hold special places in my heart, but for arcade games it’s Daytona USA (arcade version), Gran Turismo series, and Initial D Arcade Stage series. With as much money as my parents gave me to dump into both of those arcade games I could have bought both of them for home use. Gran Turismo because it’s Gran Turismo and I wouldn’t have any interest in Japanese cars at all without it.

  14. Land Ark says:

    Tokyo Xtreme Racer is a classic. Import Tuner Challenge as the final in the series was fantastic. I picked it a few years ago, many years after its release, and could not stop playing it until I beat the final boss – the Wangan Midnight Devil Z! Yeah it was pretty easy to win, but the car and Japanese road eye candy is awesome.

  15. CycoPablo says:

    Soon after release, I scored an NTSC-J copy of Gran Turismo.
    Of course, the gameply and visuals were great — changed my life to be honest.
    The intro sequence and music, plus the cheesy-jazz menu tunes were just the icing!

  16. Oli. B says:

    Racing games had such a big role in the early development of my interest in cars, long before I was old enough to drive and work on them for real.

    I think my first racing game memory would be going over to my uncles house and getting to play Big Red Racing on MS-DOS.

    I’m sure everyone on here will remember their first Gran Turismo. Mine was GT3 A-Spec and I remember going over to a family friends who had a PS2 and taking turns playing with their kids building silly modified cars (Escudo Pikes Peak anyone?) and taking turns trying to complete an endurance race before our parents told us we were going home.
    Still my favourite GT to this day.

    I also remember my brother buying a GameCube with paper round money and watching him play R: Racing and staring at the white Pantera on the box art.
    Still think that game got unfairly slated in reviews.

    But my absolute favourite game has to be Ferrari F355 Challenge, the “Deluxe” single seater arcade version with the 3 “Wrap-Around” CRTs and most importantly the open gated manual and 3 pedals.
    Absolute heaven. Graphics, physics and realism have come a long way since then, but the FEELING of driving that virtual F355 around Monza cannot be beaten.

  17. Nigel says:

    It is a tie between Granturismo 4 and Automodelista on the PS 2.

  18. Ridgeway Burns says:

    Despite the title, Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA is my nostalgic favorite and played a big part in encouraging my interest in tuning. Notable JNC inclusions: A80 Supra, Gen 3 Integra, and my favorite the EG Civic Hatchback.

    Here’s the key part about the game- the customization options for Stunt Mode meant I could create the mid-mounted Turbo V6 EG Civic of my dreams and drive it off of all sorts of sweet jumps. Light weight plus powerful engine plus even weight distribution meant flips and spins were childs play to pull off. Gran Turismo has it beat for realistic tuning options but engine swapping huge engines into tiny cars is too much fun.

  19. F31roger says:

    One game that always captured my love for Japanese cars…

    Racing Lagoon.

    I bought it in 1999 when I was in Canada visiting the race shops. I stopped by Yaohan shopping mall and found a small store there that sold Japanese games.

    Luckily, my PS was chipped…

    Anyways, TXR is dope.. but something about Racing Lagoon, the story and the weird set up s you can do to your car (like MR on any car), but going to the different locations and race, different cars.. All at night time and RPG set up.

  20. Tom Westmacott says:

    I’ve been blessed to grow up alongside videogames, and I’ve got history with Need for Speed, Gran Turismos 1 to Sport, Shutokou Battle, F355 Challenge and more.

    The one game however that sticks vividly in my memory is Grand Prix Legends. It was a passion project, marked by huge technical ambition that outstripped nearly all contemporary PCs and an absolute unyielding commitment to realism that outran the skills of nearly all potential players.
    This almost artistic determination to realise a distinctive pure vision at any cost, commercial considerations be dammned, reminds me of my favourite Japanese cars like the 2000GT, RX-7, NSX and LFA.

    So Grand Prix Legends decided to resurrect not contemporary F1 known around the world, not the famous glory years of Senna v Prost or the turbo era, but to wind the clock back to 1967. Formula 1 was in its infancy, a sport of small teams and limited media coverage, a niche interest whose cars were unbespoilt by sponsor logos or wings. Racetracks were little more than public roads closed for the occasion, safety was a pair of goggles and fuel economy meant preventing too much petrol from spilling onto the ground. What they did have was powerful engines, lightweight cars and heroic pilots.

    The game was built around uncompromising first-principles physics engine, which it gleefully showed off as your car rocked on its axis when you blipped the throttle, squatted and dived as you accelerated and braked, and then spun you into the weeds as soon as you made the slightest clumsy input. Other games have ‘easy mode’ or ‘arcade physics’; GPL simply suggests you try a fully-realistic Formula 2 car to get warmed up. Most players never got round a lap; but for those who persevered, a whole world opened up. Each engine had its own distinctive sound and character, setup tweaks make all the difference, cars leap and bound over crests and dips. Not content with stretching PC hardware and player skills to their limit, the creators built a online play system that worked over the 33k modems of the day too, letting you race against real drivers. At one point at least one driver who’d driven these cars in the day logged on to join the fun.

    Of course, the 1967 included a Japanese entry in the form of the Honda RA300, which appears in the game under the “Murasama” pseudonym, Honda presumably not wishing to licence its brand. The car, complete with screaming 420hp V12, is however perfectly represented.

    Rather like some Japanese classics, Grand Prix Legends never found a market when first released and was a commercial flop, and yet was increasingly appreciated over time, Moore’s law absorbing its hardware demands while patches and recommended setups, plus patience, allowed more players to get a handle on these firecracker cars and start to enjoy the realism. Watkins Glen, old Spa, Monza sans chicane, Rouen and the full Ring, plus many more, were there for the driving.
    The true legacy of GPL, however, was how it educated and inspired people about the history of F1, about the people and companies who competed back then. Thanks to GPL I learned about Honda’s heritage, and about the whole era before I was born.

  21. My_Fairlady_ZFG says:

    For video games, My favorite car game is probably going to be a common one: Need for Speed Underground 2. I didn’t grow up with video game because my parents don’t believe in exposing kids to the violence of first person shooters or staying inside and staring at a screen in general. I was first exposed to NFS In Hot Pursuit when I was at my friends house in high school. That’s an awesome game, and has great graphics, but the reason I like underground better is because of the cars. AE86, 240SX, 350Z, all the hero cars. I picked up an A original xbox and NFS for cheep when I got a little older. Because older Japanese cars rock.

    My favorite non video game related to cars is definitely the license plate game. On long road trips, my parents and I would keep track of the license plates we saw, and tried to collect as many we could. That was always a lot of fun, and there are a lot of dogs memories there.

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