With the recent announcement of NFS Heat showcasing the new "Speedhunter Showdown," I thought that finally EA was making a modern homage to one of my favourite titles growing up, the criminally underrated Need for Speed: Prostreet. That got me thinking what some other titles that have long been lost to time deserve to be brought into the upcoming new decade. Some of these are titles that myself and many others grew up playing, some never gained relevance outside its own country, and some never got the attention they deserved but here are 4 forgotten racing games that should be rebooted.
Let's get the obvious one out of the way first, eh? Rockstar's much-loved racing franchise was cancelled after the release of the thoroughly excellent Midnight Club: Los Angeles, widely regarded by fans as one of the greatest racing games ever, as more focus went on the development of the Red Dead Redemption series and the extremely popular Grand Theft Auto series. Of course, the Midnight Club series was so much more than that game, as there was also 3 games preceding it, most notably Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, with its over the top customization and left-field vehicle choices (Chrysler ME412, Cadillac Cien, Ducati Paul Smart, to name a few). Midnight Club in its heyday rivaled NFS's great game atmosphere, racing, police chases, but brought a bit more to the table than that. The addition of motorcycles was very welcome, as was a focus on region-specific car tuning, adding cars and tuning options (such as the ability to create lowriders) that much better exemplified LA's ethnically and stylistically diverse car scene. Add in a soundtrack very heavy on bling-era hip-hop, and you have a revered franchise. So what happened? The fans haven't gone away, but I suspect it was a shift in focus at the developer itself, with a lot of the prominent customization features and styles now available in Grand Theft Auto 5. A modern reboot of the game with more cars and tuning options that we've seen over the decade since MCLA came out would definitely be very popular and rekindle some of the magic many of us felt as kids.
Tokyo Xtreme Racer (Shutoko Battle/Kaido Battle)
One of my favourite aspects of Japanese car culture has always been the illegal highway races that take place in late hours of the night on the highways of Japan's biggest cities, but most famously on the expressways towering above the busy city streets of Tokyo, better known as the Wangan. While the storied street racing scene has been immortalized in the manga and anime series Wangan Midnight, there is a lesser known game series that also was centered around it, called Shutokou Battle in Japan, but better known to people on this side of the Pacific as Tokyo Xtreme Racer. The series was at its strongest in the PS2 era with Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3, where the gameplay focused on driving around the highways of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, looking for and challenging rival racers in duels along the narrow, high-speed expanses of road in the night. This being a Japanese-made game, naturally it was a treasure trove for fans of JDM machinery, not just with the usual selection of 90's JDM halo sports cars, but also some interesting selections, such as the pictured-above Mitsubishi FTO, the Subaru XT, the Isuzu Vehicross, a smattering of kei cars, and even some lesser-seen non-JDM sports cars like the Lotus Esprit and De Tomaso Pantera. So a celebration of weird and wonderful cars, and tricky high-speed highway battles, and also surprisingly in-depth visual and performance customization.
The developer behind the series, Genki, also produced a touge battle series known in Japan as Kaido Battle. Also full of quirky Japanese machinery and challenging gameplay, this spin-off of the series was also huge fun. After a Xbox 360 title sold outside of Japan as Import Tuner Challenge which offered the same sort of gameplay with updated graphics, the company went quiet, and only a couple years ago announced that a new title was on the way. I was hugely looking forward to a next-gen TXR title with Wangan battles and intricate customization, but it wasn't to be. After a huge buildup it was announced that the new title was a low-effort mobile game that to me at least was an insult. It seems my sentiments were shared as the game was largely unsuccessful and was shut down after less than a year. I think this series deserves better, and a modern reboot could be quite popular amongst today's throng of JDM fans. A game that includes updated graphics and combines both the highway racing and mountain "touge" racing would be a refreshing alternative to the largely overdone AAA titles we have now, keeping it simple and fun.
I would definitely forgive you if you don't remember this title. Launched in May 2010, you may recognize the developer who was behind it, Bizarre Creations, as they were behind the much-loved Project Gotham Racing series. While many have called for the revival of PGR, I think Blur is much more deserving of a reboot, and here's why. While Blur's handling was more arcadey than PGR, it was not by much, and it's not as ridiculously arcadey as some other current racing titles (NFS, The Crew). Blur also had an interesting variety of track locations and vehicles, offering a nice blend of supercars, concepts, off-roaders, tuners, and more. But of course the biggest reason would be the perfectly implemented power-ups. Sharing similar mechanics to Mario Kart allowed it to be well-balanced, but the art design Bizarre Creations used surprisingly didn't make the frankly juvenile concept of real cars with power ups seem silly at all. The minimalistic and somewhat futuristic design and colour-palettes used made it very distinctive and quite nice to look at. But while I can talk about how well-executed this game was, it won't tell you how much fun it was. To this day I still boot up my first-gen PS3 and get this game running when I have friends over, and even my non-car guy friends love it. If you have an older console still running and a few controllers for it, I highly recommend picking up an old copy of this game to play with your car-loving friends.
Of course, now its 2019 and a game like this even with new cars, tracks and graphics would be a hard sell as a full price console title, let alone that so few current console games support 4-player split screen and so a like-for-like reboot would likely be difficult. However, I could see a dedicated community arise if this game were to be sold on Steam for example for less than full-price, especially as being on PC would allow more customizable online support, where I think a modern reboot would thrive. A game like this would be the perfect antidote to stressful online racing sims where the slightest contact is frowned upon, and I think that's worth something today.
In 2016, Evolution Studios was shut down by Sony. They were the developers of the much-loved game Driveclub, and following their shutdown that game was left for dead. Many fans are calling for a reboot of the game, and it's easy to see why. While the varied car list was excellent, the real USP was its detailed car and environment models, as well as its pick up and play handling that made it less intimidating to casual players. That however, is not the Evolution Studios game that I would revive, that honour would go to their off-road racing series, Motorstorm. The game had incredible graphical quality for the time, and the art direction was spot on for the theme of the game. It was truly engrossing, something helped by it being huge fun to play. An enormous array of vehicles on offer was matched with very diverse level design, especially true in the second installment of the series, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. The game mechanics also allowed for different elements of strategy that made the game easy to learn, but difficult to master. For instance, the 'boost' system was not the traditional draining meter that would be refilled over time, instead it was available any time, but if used too much would cause the car to overheat and dramatically explode. This meant it wasn't simply a matter of holding down the boost button until it was empty, as the player would have to monitor their use to be able to get the maximum speed advantage while staying intact. Also taking into account the fact it cooled down if in water, or heated up when close to fire/lava, it shows that the game mechanics were very detailed and thought out.
While the key developers at Evolution jumped ship to Codemasters, their next project was not quite what most Motorstorm fans had in mind. Onrush was too unrealistic in design and concept, and it went a tad overboard with new game mechanics to truly be a real successor to Motorstorm. While people nowadays have much higher expectations about what a AAA racing title should be, I do think that this series deserves a proper second chance, as all the elements that made it great (vehicle variety, level design, art direction, interesting game mechanics, damage model) came together to create something truly memorable, and if a developer was capable of mimicking that, I think it could be very popular.
I thought I'd close this out by including some of the titles that didn't make the cut for this article, mainly because I feel that there is a title on the market already that fills a similar space. The first is Test Drive Unlimited. The final and most celebrated evolution of a long-standing series, TDU was an excellent open-world game with unique USP's such as property purchasing and interactive dealerships. I think however that its spirit does live on in the very excellent Forza Horizon 4, as although its property buying system isn't quite the same, the idea of touring a real-world locale in high-end supercars is somewhat emulated. Another series I would like to mention is FlatOut, which isn't actually defunct, but has changed dramatically from its original concept. The original game's essence has been recreated beautifully by the same team in Wreckfest, which includes the fun banger racing and demolition derbies alongside somewhat realistic driving and damage physics, making it hugely entertaining (I would strongly recommend it if you're looking for a new game to play).
I hope you enjoyed this article, let me know in the comments what you think, and which dead racing game you would bring back.