Box Score is a weekly column that offers a look at sports games and
the athletic side of the industry from the perspective of veteran
reviewer and sports fan Richard Grisham.
I’ve always loved racing games, but I have a confession to
make: if significant use of the brakes is involved, chances are it’s not going
to work out well for me. I’ve spent countless hours having a blast with all
sorts of brake-optional racers over the years, but have long struggled with the
“true” simulators of the sport. For every Hot Pursuit and Burnout I’ve sunk my
heart into, I’ve been destroyed by the Forzas and Shifts and Gran Turismos.
Sometimes brutally so. When it came to contemplating the best racing games
ever, I realized I needed help from someone who’s actually qualified.
I went to Greg Sewart.
Above: RC Pro-Am was an early favorite of Sewart (inset)
He’s a man of many interests, to be sure. From co-founding
the influential Gaming Age forum to working at the seminal EGM during its apex
to co-hosting the beloved Player One Podcast every week for nearly 300
episodes, he’s known by thousands of gamers as an authority on a number of
But chief among all of them is his love of racing. Coming from
a family that dedicated their lives to the sport – his uncle is in the Canadian
racing Hall of Fame and his dad also ran on several circuits – he’s one of the
most knowledgeable people on the subject of racing, and the games that
We started off briefly discussing the NES era’s offerings.
It was Greg’s second system – like me, the Atari 2600 was his true introduction
to home video game consoles – but the first on which he spent a lot of time
playing racing games.
“My brother and I talked my dad into getting us an NES one
year just after Christmas,” he recalls. “The two games that really stood out
were Excitebike and RC Pro-Am. Excitebike – amazing. I just thought that was
one of the most incredible things ever.
And RC Pro Am, I was really into that. I played hours of RC Pro-Am when
I was a kid. Rad Racer was quite good as well.“
The NES was a great system for many games, racers included,
although the technology of the time put Greg in an interesting spot. His
intimate familiarity with the real sport exposed some of the limitations of the
“With those systems, you got some of the 3D into the screen,”
he explains. “They were decent, they weren’t great, they looked as good as they
could, I guess, on a system like that.”
When the Sega Genesis hit, however, things changed.
“A lot of the subsequent systems that I bought, I was sold
on racing games,” Sewart continues. “The game that sold me on the Genesis was
Super Monaco GP. I remember that being the first console game I was truly wowed
by, for so many reasons. The 3D motion was quite good, and having real tracks
was huge. The visuals, the fact that you could see your driver’s hands on the
steering wheel to me was like, holy mackerel, this is as good as it’s ever
going to get.”
More important, though, was the sense of immersion that
Super Monaco GP offered to someone interested in more than just accelerating
“They would add almost like an RPG element to it,” he
remembers. “You could run the full season, but you’d start with one of the lower-tier
teams and the whole idea was to beat your ‘rivals,’ which would be the guys on
the higher teams. If you challenged them and won, you would get hired and
replace them on their team. It encapsulated a career within a season. It really
spoke to me.”
It’s also something that is sorely missing in the majority
of current racers, which Greg longs for.
“That’s one of the things I’ve always been kind of looking
for with console racing games, is to sort of re-enact that level of the racing
as well,” he says. “There’s a lot more to it than going out on the track and
going fast, and I loved seeing that.”
The Sega CD took it up another notch, with Formula One World
Championship: Beyond the Limit.
“It was basically the next level of Super Monaco GP in a
way,” he recalls. “You had to drive to get contract offers from different, real
F1 teams. One of the things that was really interesting to me was called ‘1993
mode.’ What they’d done is, they’d gone back to the previous season, and they’d
taken race situations and put you in the shoes of a driver. For example,
something like Michael Schumacher in the last 10 laps of Monaco; you’re up
front and you’re running out of gas. Do you pit and try to win, or stay out and
risk running out of gas?”
“It brought you even closer to the simulation side.”
Next week, Greg will dive into the best racers from the more
recent generations, as well as examine the rivalry between Gran Turismo and
Forza. Until then, what were your favorite racers from the NES,
Genesis, and Sega CD eras? Tell us in the comments below.
Richard Grisham has been
obsessed with sports and video games since childhood, when he'd routinely
create and track MicroLeague Baseball seasons on paper. He currently lives in
New Jersey with his wife and four-year old son, who he'll soon be training to
be an NFL placekicker. As a freelance journalist and writer, his work has
appeared in GamesRadar, NGamer, and 1UP.
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