I know I’ve probably written thousands of words by now on why Crazy Taxi is so goddamn ace, but it is - and its scoring system is yet again a worthy reason for inclusion in such a feature as this. Every racer these days seems to reward you with driving as close to oncoming traffic as possible, but Crazy Taxi was the game that patented the idea.
Picking up a passenger in the middle of a bustling city and literally scaring tips out of them is a brilliant idea for a game. The fact that your score multiplier gets set to zero if you hit anything is the genius part. The taxi’s indestructible, sure. But what about your pride? Nah, didn’t think so, punk...
Above: Craziest thing of all? He’s driving a vicar to a church. Like that! That’s CRAZY.
Metropolis Street Racer - 2000
After the demise of Bizarre Creations, it’s sad to go back to Metropolis Street Racer. Oh, but what a game it is. As the predecessor to the Project Gotham Racing series, you’d expect the quality level to be high, but it’s the emphasis on driving on the ragged edge that really stands out.
Kudos points are earned through driving like a loon, without hitting anything like a skill-less twazzock. The longer you can hold a slide, or the more sideways you get the car through a bend, the more kudos you earn. But every racer does that these days. Metropolis still has a unique element up its belt.
The game encourages you to push yourself on every challenge. It’ll give you a set time to beat, or number of cars to pass in a certain time, sure. But what if you think you could do better? You can simply up the figures until the challenge is ridiculously hardcore. Crucially, you then only get one chance at doing it right. Fail, and you lose a truck-load of kudos. Ah, but win, and you’ll walk away a winner.
Above: Sliiiiide! Looks great, feels great... pays great too if you can manage to avoid hitting the wall
Add to this a limited number of ‘joker’ cards that you can play to double up on any of the kudos you win (or lose) and you’ve got yourself a brand new gambling addiction. Hooray!
Interestingly, early screens of the game show buses and other cars on the road - something that was taken out long before the game hit store shelves (as was the replay mode - boo!). We’ll never know how much that would’ve changed the game - or the entire Project Gotham series, for that matter, but it’s probably safest that we’ll never know. After all, we soon had...
Burnout 2 - 2002
Burnout 2 was a landmark for racing games. It pushed the sensation of speed in driving games to such extremes, people's brains gave up trying to process the overload of visual stimulation, instead opting to convey one simple message: "wow". It also encouraged you to ‘takedown’ your opponents by gently coaxing their cars into the path of oncoming traffic, which is awesome every single time it happens.
These days, the game actively encourages you not only to drive as fast as you can around busy streets, but rewards you with extra speed if you do stupid things. For instance, driving along in the oncoming side of the road, while the civvy cars leave scared little oil slicks in their wakes. There’s even a crash mode, where you get judged on how many cars you can get involved in an accident by driving full-pelt into a busy junction. Madness.
Best of all, the tracks are designed so that you only ever have to use the brake to get the back end of the car to step out around long turns. There’s no such thing as ‘slowing down for a tight corner’. Slowing down is for wusses. Just hold tight, and scream if you wanna go faster...
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