Gran Turismo: Then and Now - Prima Games

Gran Turismo: Then and Now

by Prima Games Staff

We’ve come a long way with Gran Turismo games over the past 15 years, and this Friday, the release of Gran Turismo 6 will bring new experiences for fans and newcomers alike. Whether you want to go for a casual race or take on the Career Mode to unlock all the Special Events and concept cars, there’s something for everyone.

Before we race into the future, we thought we’d take a step back into the past, looking at each game in the series to see what they had to offer. Although some experiences look a bit ancient compared to today’s racers, there’s no question that the vital essence of Gran Turismo remains intact.

Gran Turismo (PlayStation, 1998) 


Back in 1998, Sony was out to change how players looked at driving games, and enlisted director Kazunori Yamauchi and his team at Polyphony Digital to create an ideal sim with its 32-bit PlayStation technology.

The end result was Gran Turismo, a fascinating racing game that provided a deeper experience than its competitors. With a simulation style set-up, controls that required more than just “press gas and turn to win,” and a variety of modes, the game became an instant hit, shipping over 10 million copies and creating a new franchise that Sony would stand by for some time.

Gran Turismo also introduced a fun championship structure, where drivers could compete and earn credits to purchase new items. They could also unlock demonstration tracks and car videos, an ideal extra for car junkies.

Polyphony Digital wasted no time getting to work on a sequel.

Gran Turismo 2 (PlayStation, 1999) 

Following up on the success of the original, Gran Turismo 2 introduced four times the number of cars, with 650 to choose from. The tracks also increased, with 27 available, including rally courses – a popular off-road feature that many players took advantage of.

While the graphics were roughly the same, Polyphony improved stability with brakes, causing less problems with over steering that were found in the original. It also introduced more events in the simulation mode, allowing players to earn additional trophies and unlock new vehicles.

The sequel wasn’t without controversy, though. Early copies only allowed up to 98.2 percent of events to be completed, instead of the full 100 percent. While it was still playable, some fans of the series were left a bit bummed. Thankfully, Sony offered a hassle-free replacement program, and soon, racing fans were able to complete the game. 

Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec (PlayStation 2, 2001) 

For the next Gran Turismo game, Polyphony Digital faced a monumental task, creating a next-generation experience that would go leaps and bounds over the first two PlayStation games. Turns out, Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec became one of the more appreciated racing games for the console.

Featuring an all-new structure for tournaments, events and unlockable goods, the game became a more rewarding simulation than ever before. It also did quite well in the visual department, with cars that resembled their real-life counterparts.

The game sold 14.89 million copies worldwide, a significant jump from the first two releases.

Gran Turismo 4 (PlayStation 2, 2005) 

Following the release of a special demo-based Prologue entry in 2003, Gran Turismo 4 had no problem getting up to speed – literally – in its final release several months later. Featuring over 700 cars to choose from, a number of visual and performance improvements and even some aspects of online racing (later removed for testing purposes), the sequel would become both a critical and sales hit for Sony.

The game introduced a new simulation feature called B-Spec, giving drivers the opportunity to learn the basics of a crew chief, giving commands to AI racers. While obviously not as exciting as racing itself, this does provide some fundamentals players could provide to their driving style.

Gran Turismo 4 would also add driving missions, in which players could earn A-Spec points to apply towards their general experience. Along the way, as with previous games, they could purchase and unlock special vehicles as well, including the DeLorean DMC-12, the Pagani Zonda Race Car and the Jay Leno Tank Car.

Gran Turismo HD (PlayStation 3, 2006) 

With the arrival of the PlayStation 3, Polyphony Digital was unable to have a full Gran Turismo experience ready for the system’s launch – which sounds familiar with the situation today with the PlayStation 4. However, it did provide a taste of next-gen racing goodness with the free-to-download Gran Turismo HD. 

Featuring five playable cars and a minimal number of tracks, Gran Turismo HD was nevertheless a popular download at the time, introducing users to a premium game – free of charge, mind you – for the PlayStation Network. It would also provide future content that could be used with the forthcoming Gran Turismo 5.

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (PlayStation 3, 2008) 

After a tough two-year wait, players could finally get their hands on a piece of Gran Turismo 5 through the release of Prologue. Featuring full-on online racing for up to 16 players, 70 cars, six tracks and a zippy 60 frames-per-second speed, this game offered a glimpse at GT5.

Since it didn’t really count as a full Gran Turismo release, Prologue only sold moderately well, with nearly four million units worldwide. Regardless, fans were still excited about what was coming.

Gran Turismo (PlayStation Portable, 2009) 

Seeing as how Gran Turismo had been exclusive to consoles for the longest time, Sony decided to give it a shot on the PSP with this self-titled release. Although its experience was shorter compared to previous games, it found its fair share of fans, and provided over 800 vehicles to choose from, with a progression scale to earn more powerful cars within the game.

Featuring a variety of driving missions and a trading system where players could attempt to acquire their most wanted rides, Gran Turismo did go on to moderate success, though some fans were bummed by the lack of a career mode – a long-time staple in the Gran Turismo series.

Gran Turismo 5 (PlayStation 3, 2010) 

At long last, Gran Turismo 5 made its long-awaited debut in time for the 2010 holiday season, and players were thrilled with the results. With the largest count of vehicles in the game to date (over 1,000), photo-realistic tracks, a fast frame rate, various online options, the return of B-Spec mode and a number of off-beat mini games (including kart racing), Gran Turismo 5 would regain the popularity of the series and introduce a variety of special concept cars only playable in this game, including Lamborghini and Bugatti models.

The community for Gran Turismo also showed some growth, with the evolution of the GT Academy and a variety of tournaments with players taking part worldwide. It would grow even further with an “XL Edition” in 2012, featuring the addition of the Spec 2.0 update with a number of features, as well as all the downloadable content released in the prior year.

The game sold over 10 million units, and while not quite the benchmark as previous releases in the series, it was still impressive.

Gran Turismo 6 (PS3, 2013) 

Finally, we come to Gran Turismo 6, which will arrive later this week and usher in a number of features that driving fans have come to expect over the years. It’ll keep us busy for some time, until the series’ eventual debut on PlayStation 4, and perhaps even the PS Vita.

Hey, as long as the motor keeps revving, we’re in.

Gran Turismo 6 will arrive on December 6th for PlayStation 3, in both retail form and as a digital download.

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Prima Games Staff

The staff at Prima Games.

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