It’s Memorial Day weekend and we’re certainly hoping you have a good one. The sixth movie in the Fast and the Furious franchise hits theaters this weekend, and from we’ve seen, it’s just as great a ride as 2011’s Fast Five if not better.
As a tribute to that movie and its ridiculous vehicular stunts (and we do mean ridiculous – at one point there’s a road chase involving a tank), we’ve decided to pay tribute to some of the best and craziest racing games out there. Whether you’re scurrying through mid-town in a souped-up taxi or showing your opponents a thing or two with aggressive driving.
Here now are some of the most unpredictable and over-the-top racing games you can find right now. We’ll see you on the virtual road!
San Francisco Rush (Nintendo 64/Arcade)
Arcade racers were all the rage back in 1996, between Sega’s Daytona games and several other offerings that kept folks busy. One game that managed to stand out was Midway’s San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing. It took the basic concept of driving through a locale and bumped it up several notches, with hidden pathways that had you flying through the streets and exploding from hitting something if you weren’t careful. The sheer unpredictability of Rush’s momentum truly made it exciting. It’s still a must-play if you can find it in arcades, though the Nintendo 64 port that followed is about dead-on, too. (Don’t forget to seek out the sequels as well, like the exclusive home release Rush 2, the expansion The Rock: Alcatraz Edition and the futuristic San Francisco Rush 2049.)
MotorStorm Apocalypse (PlayStation 3)
Back in 2011, Evolution Studios opted to take its MotorStorm franchise and go to a whole new level with it, taking away the tropical and desert settings and instead putting in an end-of-the-world scenario. In Apocalypse, the latest and perhaps greatest in the MotorStorm series, you’re literally racing on tracks that change over the scope of each race, like collapsing roadways, new shortcuts and launches into (and out of ) buildings to reach the finish line. The design is absolutely fantastic even two years later, and the multiplayer continues to be the best around with plenty of competition on PlayStation Network. Just make sure you watch out for collapsing buildings – they’re pretty nasty to fall off of.
Crazy Taxi (Arcade/Dreamcast/Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network)
Sega has a prominent list of arcade racers that are considered classics, but Crazy Taxi manages to stand out. This was the first free-roaming racing game, where you perform stunts and high-speed hijinks while delivering drivers from point A to point B. If this includes doing damage to phone boots and stands, making people jump out of the way, and clearing nearly impossible jumps, so be it – you’ve got a fare to make! The arcade version remains an inspired hit, and the home versions are equally likable, thanks to the inclusion of bonus mini-games. Enjoy the ride.
Burnout 3: Takedown (Xbox/PlayStation 2)
When Electronic Arts acquired the Burnout license from the then-defunct team at Acclaim, it was optimistic for what Criterion Games had bubbling for the third go-around for the series. The sequel Takedown came out and focused not only on fast-paced racing, but also aggressiveness. You’re actually obligated to ram into cars and make them wreck, in order to maintain a lead or, in Road Rage mode, earn bonus points and unlock new content. You also have the ability to hit others in Aftertouch, so you’re never entirely out of the race. Throw in an awesome Crash Mode where you can do millions of dollars in damage without paying an additional dime in insurance costs , and you have a classic that continues to stand the test of time. We need a new version of this and pronto.
Blur (Xbox 360/PlayStation 3)
Though some folks at Activision considered Bizarre Creations’ final gaming go-around to be a disappointment, racing fans felt the arcade-style action game was a splendid experience. Featuring a variety of power-ups that tear up quite a bit on the tracks and some great track design, Blur also benefited from strong online play, a huge single player campaign with challenges galore, and oodles of cars to unlock. When you fired off a homing shot at an opponent and watched him (or her) flip around in the air, there’s nothing like it. Here’s hoping that we see something like this down the road from Bizarre’s newly formed studio at Lucid Games after it finishes up with its project at Microsoft.
Split/Second (Xbox 360/PlayStation 3)
Last but certainly not least, we have this farewell effort from Black Rock Studio: a racing game that’s built around the concept of reality TV. Drivers compete on tracks to see who can win but there’s a catch. They can knock out other drivers, but not by using weapons on their vehicles. They instead trigger traps on the tracks themselves, like falling girders, exploding buildings and our personal favorite: knocking down an airplane to smash down into opponents. The sheer madness that can follow from activated traps is sensational, even years after the game’s release, and the music matches every ounce of its energy, coming across like a huge action film soundtrack. If you’ve got $20 lying around, Split/Second is a very sound investment. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
What are your favorite over-the-top racing games? Think there are any we missed?