Sunday, 20 November 2011

Top Five OutRun Games

There's been surprisingly few long-running series' of racing games, but of those that have been doing the rounds there's one that continues to elicit both tremendous excitement and expectation from the many fans that continue to worship the series. The name of the series is of course OutRun and continues to be one of Sega's most popular. By my count, there's now been ten games in the series but here are, in my view, the best five:

5. OutRun Europa (1991)

Unusually for an OutRun game, Europa was never found in an arcade and wasn't developed by Sega either. It did see release on Sega's Master System console though, as well as most of the home micros of the day, courtesy of Probe Software, and was something of a departure for the series. It charged the player with racing across Europe using a variety of vehicles, including a motorbike, jet-ski, and a powerboat, in addition to the usual sports car, to retrieve some 'secret documents' or some such nonsense. Doesn't sound much like an OutRun game I'll agree and perhaps it shouldn't have carried the name, but it is a surprisingly enjoyable and nicely varied game in its own right which even had a bit of combat thrown in for good measure!

4. Turbo OutRun (1989)

This was the first arcade release after the original and I still remember how excited I was when I first saw it sitting imposingly in whichever arcade it was (I can't remember that part!). I had to wait a quite a while before it was my turn to play but when I did it was more than worth it! It's based on the same hardware as the original but had noticeably superior graphics including lots of special effects such as a variety of weather. It also upgraded your car to a Ferrari F40 (the greatest supercar ever?), added a rival racer, gave you limited use of a turbo boost, and did away with the branching stages, replacing them with a timed, point-to-point race across the USA. Some didn't like the changes but it added more than it took away and it remains a fast and exciting game worthy of the OutRun name.

3. OutRun (1986)

Is this the best OutRun game ever? It was certainly a revelation in its day and few games bring such warm, fuzzy feelings flooding back, for me included, but I have to ignore nostalgia for the purposes of this list and acknowledge that for all its innovations and general brilliance, the game that started it all is starting to show its age, just a little. That said, I still own two copies of it for my Saturn and won't be getting rid of either of them in a hurry. When the mood takes me, there's still nothing quite like a laid-back cruise across the varied terrain this wonderful game has to offer - no positions to race for, no annoying rivals trying to smash you off the road - just a road, a clock, your girl... and that music!

2. OutRunners (1992)

Of all the games on this list, this is the one that I'd had by far the least time with until recently. I knew it offered multi-player frolics and I knew it was pretty well-regarded, but I've never seen it 'in the flesh' so I've never really had a chance to play it, so that's about all I did know. However, upon firing it up just a few days ago, even via emulation, its quality was immediately obvious. It takes the best bits from OutRun, the best bits from Turbo OutRun, and adds a few ideas of its own such as selectable cars, each with their own unique driver and passenger, and some very creative stages (Atlantic Ocean Underwater Tunnel?). Throw in some fantastic graphics and mix it all together and the result is one of the finest non-polygon-based driving games I've ever played.

1. OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast (2006)

This was the game I bought my otherwise-hardly-used PS2 for. Is any console worth buying for one game? Maybe, maybe not, but either way, this flashy update/sequel to OutRun 2 is a pretty blinking awesome game! I'm not keen on the idea of having to do huuuuge drifts around practically every corner but apart from that it really is a faultless racing game. There's loads of stunning tracks, branching stages, lots of awesome Ferraris to drive, several play modes including a creative mission mode, and tons of stuff to unlock (including the original OutRun music). Best of all though, it comes closer than ever before to matching the charm and atmosphere of the original game which is all many fans wanted, including me. Sega have rarely seemed to reach their former heights in recent years but this wonderful, addictive, and long-lasting game made up for a lot of previous disappointments. One of the best arcade-style racing games ever.


  1. I never really enjoyed the original Outrun until I played the Sega Saturn conversion which was really smooth at 60fps and just really fun to play.

    Love Turbo Outrun for it's incredible music and the strategic use of the turbo feature. I had to play it on MAME though as I'm not sure if there were any really accurate arcade-perfect conversions/re-releases.

    Totally agree with the No.1 spot though - stunning game. I love drifting around huge beachside bends while 'Rush A Difficulty' from Turbo Outrun plays :). The only thing I loath about C2C is the fact that you can't buy all the cars without linking up to the PSP version via the USB cable. Such a dirty trick by Sega but thankfully I picked a PSP copy up for around £8 a while ago.

  2. Sadly, the only one of the bunch I've ever played is the original -- both in the arcade and on the PC Engine. I definitely want to give both OutRunners and Turbo OutRun -- oh, hell, and OutRun 2006, too -- a try after reading this post, though :)

  3. Thats an outrageous and inexcusable tactic by PayGa, I mean Sega. :( So can you play all cars on PC or xbox version? I'll have to remember to play this on ps2 when i move over to this format after spending sometime on the wonderful saturn.... :p

  4. @Darkstalker - yeah, they're all fantastic games for different reasons really, aren't they? :) It sure was a dirty trick they pulled on the PS2 version of C2C though. I'd be interested to find out if it was Sumo Digital's idea or if Sega made them include it...

    @Bryan - I'd certainly recommend the others, certainly the ones you mention at least! Luckily, Outrunners and Turbo OutRun both work splendidly under emulation :)

    @Luke - you're right, it's an uncharacteristic but still unwelcome tactic, I didn't even realise until I started writing this post. There is at least a cheat code that unlocks everything! I've got the PS2 version if you want to borrow it? I`ve also got the Xbox version of OutRun 2 - you can have that if you want? :)

  5. I have fond memories of the original Outrun. I hate to think how much money I spent on it down at the arcades at Southend seafront. Unfortunately, I also have the awful memory of the Commodore 64 conversion - Not very good (possibly the worst of the 8 bit conversions)! Outrun Europa was only marginally better. Fortunately the Turbo Outrun conversion was much better and made up for it! I never got a chance to play the arcade version.

    I've never even played Outrunners.

  6. Hi Stuart :) I never played OutRunners prior to this article either, it must've been quite rare! It was worth the wait though :) I remember trying to recreate the original OutRun on my Speccy. Like your C64 version, it wasn't much cop, although US Gold were good enough to put the original arcade music on the 'side b' of the tape! I've heard good things about the C64 version of Turbo though, I'll have to check it out :)

  7. I also have fond memories of playing the original in the arcade in the 80s. It just blew me away at the time. I have it and Turbo Outrun for the Mega Drive and enjoy them from time to time. Nice post!

  8. Thank you sir, it was an enjoyable post to 'research' too! :P The original OutRun is responsible for me getting into videogames to start with so it certainly means a lot to me. I never played the MD version though, I suppose I should! It seems that hardly anyone knows much about OutRunners, I might have to do a proper review of it soon :)

  9. Ahhhh... the original soundtrack on cassette! The publishers way to try and compensate for a naff conversion... Load up the game, turn off the game music and play the audio cassette instead, pretending you're actually playing the real arcade... What a tactic! 720 was another US Gold game that did the same thing as I recall.

    If you do give the C64 version of Turbo Outrun a go, don't play the cassette version - it has an awful multiload. The disk version is so much better. Also, turn your speakers up high and experience some of the finest music ever to grace the SID chip!

  10. Haha, I'll remember that! :) Although, from what little I've experience of the C64 so far, this revered SID chip isn't as amazing as I thought it would be :P

    I think I still have my Speccy OutRun tape with the music on somewhere. I haven't got a cassette player anymore though, hmmm...