It's hard to believe Sony's Gran Turismo racing franchise reached its 15th anniversary this year. We fondly remember the original on PlayStation One, taking turns in pixelated cars and drooling over those quality replays.

With the latest entry in the series, Gran Turismo 6, set to pull out of the garage this week, we identified 10 defining features. If you're a die-hard fan, chances are you'll agree with these picks.

Car Selection

Ever since the series' humble beginnings, Polyphony Digital has made sure there were plenty of authentic vehicles to race, whether you were in the mood for a casual drive or a thunderous run in a sleek sports car.

The original game featured 140 cars, including a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette and a 1998 Mazda Roadster, among others. With each passing year, the roster has grown, and now Gran Turismo 6 is set to deliver over 1,200 cars in its initial release, with plenty more to come through downloadable content. That should give racers more than enough reason to return.

Variety of Tracks

When the original Gran Turismo came out in 1998, it provided a number of great tracks to race on – but the series would eventually get better with age. With each new entry – starting particularly with Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec on the PlayStation 2 – Polyphony Digital would go out of its way to create photo-realistic landscapes based on real circuits, from Fuji Speedway to the Daytona International Speedway.

That list continued to expand with the PlayStation 3 entries in the series, starting with 2010's Gran Turismo 5. Featuring the legendary Nurburgring circuit, among others, the sequel would allow drivers to race wherever they pleased around the world.

Gran Turismo 6 will be no exception, offering a lot of familiar favorites, along with new tracks – and even the ability to drive on the moon. Talk about out of this world.

Living the B-Spec Life

Gran Turismo not only gave the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a race car, but it also presented a simulation mode where you could understand the basics of what made a racing team work. With B-Spec, you manage a crew of AI-driven drivers as both director and manager.

While not as thrilling as driving a car, this mode contains a deeper understanding of how a race works, with an outside perspective you don't normally see in a racing game. As a result, you learn basics that you can actually apply the next time you're behind the wheel. That's something that sticks with you.

Creating Your Dream Garage

Director Kazunori Yamauchi and his team at Polyphony Digital wanted Gran Turismo to feel like an authentic racing experience. As the series grew, so did the options to customize and store cars.

Within the Gran Turismo world, players can create their own dream garage, choosing from hundreds of vehicles and deciding which are best for their tastes. From there, they can customize cars however they please, then store them for later driving tournaments or events.

Gran Turismo 6 will continue this trend, with the option to change out parts, accessories and upgrades. Once again, the decisions are yours to make.

The Growth of Community

When Gran Turismo got its start, you could complete with friends locally via split-screen. Obviously, the series changed exponentially when it came to interacting with the driving community.

Over the last few years, Gran Turismo has really picked up on PlayStation Network usage, allowing players to connect with one another and even join up in driving clubs, if only to compete against others to prove who is the king or queen of the road.

Gran Turismo 6 will obviously keep this trend alive, with the continuation of community features, as well as quick match options for those who just want to get out and drive.

Support for Authentic Peripherals

Playing Gran Turismo with a controller is a good experience, as you can really feel how your car performs with an analog stick and buttons. However, as any fan can tell you, the best way to go is with a peripheral designed to take advantage of Gran Turismo's control scheme. In this case, a number of Logitech's third-party accessories that successfully integrated the Gran Turismo experience into a realistic driving set-up.

Utilizing a steering wheel, steel foot pedals and a gearshift, Logitech's peripherals have done a bang-up job making you feel like you're cruising in a car, especially with the utilized force feedback system.

Since Gran Turismo 6 is due for release on PlayStation 3, you'll be able to use these peripherals all over again, getting the most out of your driving skills. They can be a bit expensive, running around $99 and up, but enthusiasts will certainly appreciate what they can do. Everyone else, though, can stick with their Dual Shock 3's. 

Into the Third Dimension

Polyphony Digital went out of its way to make Gran Turismo 5 fully compatible with 3D TVs – and the gamble paid off. 

Adding a layer of depth 2D televisions simply can't match, Gran Turismo 5 really stood out for its seamless 3D presentation.

Will Gran Turismo 6 support 3D? Not out of the box, but Polyphony Digital should provide an update that will allow you to play that way, if you prefer. We suggest giving it a try – it's definitely different, but simply incredible once you get into it.

Special Vehicles

With each Gran Turismo release, Yamauchi and his team always throw in a fun little "bonus" car for us to try out, whether it's a concept vehicle or a one-of-a-kind model built specifically with the series in mind. 

Gran Turismo 6 will feature a number of these vehicles, including the Red Bull X2014, a sleek Formula One-style racing car that gamers will be able to compete for in a number of events. If you're good enough, you'll also be able to take the LRV-001 for a spin on the moon. Because nothing beats cruising along in a moon buggy, right?

No matter what your tastes may be, the sheer allure of driving an exclusive car that you can’t get your hands on in real life is definitely there. Gran Turismo 6 will have this in spades.

Take a Photo, it'll Last Longer

Driving is more than just feeling the rush during the course of the race – it's reflecting on those divine moments during said race. With that, Polyphony Digital hit a grand slam introducing the Photo Mode to the series.

In this mode, you're able to take pictures with your dream car across a number of locations, whether you prefer the tranquil bamboo trees from Kyoto or the peaceful terrain of the Town Square in San Gimignano. The later Gran Turismo games provided ample opportunities to do so, allowing you to save them to your Photo folder for display on the PS3, or even the option to print them out and frame them.

Photo Mode will make a return in Gran Turismo 6, along with a new Replay mode, in case you need more than pictures. With a game this pretty, you definitely might.

The GT Academy 

With the GT Academy, Polyphony Digital not only provided the opportunity to compete for best times, but also gave virtual drivers the chance to dominate at the real thing through various Academy-sponsored tournaments.

Gran Turismo 6 was no exception, as a demo launched back in July, giving potential drivers the chance to earn a spot in the prestigious Academy. After a hard-fought tournament, 24-year old Miguel Faisca emerged victorious, earning a spot in an intensive driver training program to acquire an international racing license, which he'll use for a Nissan GT-R NISCO GT3 in a full season of racing.

The series has raised the bar in terms of what it has to offer, and the opportunity to make a real career out of playing a video game is something we don’t see too often. That's why it's one of our favorite features. Who knows? Maybe one day it'll be our turn.

Gran Turismo 6 will release this Friday for PlayStation 3.