One solo dev is keeping the spirit of PS2-era racers alive with this retro Japanese street racing RPG with open world levels and a bangin' Steam demo

If you grew up playing games like Tokyo Xtreme Racer, Need for Speed Underground, Wangan Midnight, and the like, you'll feel right at home in the driver's seat of a souped-up sports car in Night-Runner.

Night-Runner caught my eye when its Kickstarter campaign was fully funded a couple of days ago, and I've since come to realize it's a whole thing; a vibe, you might say. You can play through the meaty prologue for free on Steam, and according to thousands of reviews praising its immaculate throwback atmosphere, extensive vehicle customization, bangin' soundtrack, and tight gameplay, you probably should if you're at all a fan of the genre.

"Set throughout Japan in an unknown time between 1990-2009, you will navigate through the corrupt and shady power struggles of local street racing crews, all competing for control of their regions and to top the crew rankings," says solo developer Planet Jem Software. "Explore the real location open world(s), compete in wager races, battle other crews and upgrade your vehicles with extremely detailed car customization."

Explicitly inspired by popular street racing RPGs from the PS2 era, and particularly those based around Japanese street culture - a fascination of mine since childhood - Night-Runners starts you off with very little money as you navigate the seedy underbelly of Tokyo in search of some wheels. Your first car will invariably be a total beater, but as you win races and gain reputation around town, you'll make money to afford upgrades, maintenance, and of course, whole new cars.

Even if you aren't much of a racing game fan, if you're nostalgic at all about PS2 games or have an interest in exploring Japan, it's worth checking out the free demo. Just think of your in-game car as a simple vessel for exploring open world maps taking you through the highways of Japan's capital at night. There are also some sections where you can walk around in a third-person perspective to chat with other racers or customize your ride. With VHS filters and your choice of some stellar music, it's hard not to become absorbed in Night-Runner's dense atmosphere.

Planet Jem hopes to have Night-Runner released in May 2025, with a beta in the works for that April.

While we're on the topic, here are the best PS2 games of all time.

Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.