The top 7 best SEGA racing games
Image credit: SEGA

Top 7 Best SEGA Racing Games of All Time

SEGA is potentially one of the most important game developers in history and has put out some amazing racing games. Here are our top 7.

Founded in 1960, SEGA is one of the great video game developers and publishers. Today, it is best known for its numerous fantastic gaming franchises like the Football Manager titles and Sonic games. But before the age of personal home consoles, the Arcades saw huge variety in SEGA products, notably racing games.

In fact, this Japanese games company has put together so many fantastic racing titles over the years. With that in mind, let us rewind the clocks and take a look at some of the all-time best racing games SEGA has ever released.

Crazy Taxi

Whilst racing generally refers to side-by-side action on-track, it is worth noting that racing the clock is just as exhilarating. That is even more true when the clock ultimately counts down to the end of your game.

In Crazy Taxi, racing around a fictional city picking up fares is the only way to keep the game going. Do it faster and your game will last longer all whilst reaching the lofty heights of the high score leaderboard. In fact, each Crazy Taxi session features an overall timer and each fare you pick up has its own shorter timer. Get to the passenger’s destination in the allotted time and you will score points and gain extra time to your session. Perform stunts such as jumps, skids and flips and you will earn extra cash for you score.

The Crazy Taxi series by SEGA consistently receives new racing game additions, the most recent being the mobile management title, Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire. But it all started with the first release back in 1999. This first iteration was first only available on the SEGA NAOMI Arcade machine. However, it later received a port to the Dreamcast.

In this first iteration, players had access to a single map, inspired by San Francisco. But later titles received more and more content, providing greater variety in gameplay.

Scud Race

This year, in 2023, we are set to see Le Mans Ultimate release as the official game for the FIA WEC. Well, this is not the first time that a major international sportscar championship gets its own title. In fact, one can argue that SEGA kicked off the tradition with Scud Race.

Featuring officially licenced cars from the 1996 BPR GT Global Series, the game was heaven for GT racing fans of the late-1990’s. The car list for Scud Race included four playable vehicles alongside a pair of additional AI cars. Players could choose to control either the Porsche 911 GT2, McLaren F1 GTR, Ferrari F40 GTE or Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The AI additionally had the choice of the Alpine A610 and Lamborghini Countach.

Races took place on one of four tracks; two beginner circuits and two more advanced locations. Beginner courses were the daytime Dolphin Tunnel, California and night time Twilight Airport, Japan. Mystery Ruins, Ontario was a Medium difficulty circuit whilst true pros chose the challenging Classic Castle in Italy.

One could race the game with up to eight friends depending on the Arcade layout and number of machines available. Furthermore, the machines could either be set up in the shorter Grand Prix Mode, Endurance Mode for longer races.

Despite extremely positive reviews upon its release, Scud Race is an often forgotten SEGA racing game. Despite launching in 1996, SEGA decided to only bring it to the Model 3 machines. The title would never appear as a port on the home console, SEGA Saturn. As a result, other racing titles of the time garnered more attention, available to play from the comfort of one’s living room.

Virtua Racing

In the early 1990’s, the idea of strapping a pair of screens to one’s head was somewhat strange. Therefore, the term VR meant something totally different. Virtua Racing, also known as V.R. was essentially just a trial game providing Arcade goers with the latest ‘Model 1’ 3D graphics. But proving popular, SEGA released the title as a full racing game.

Sporting a Formula One-esque car and a trio of circuits, the content on show was far from the most impressive thing about this racer. What blew the world away was its revolutionary graphics at the time that included several dazzling animations such as pit mechanics and sparks whilst the circuits all looked fantastic.

V.R was available in two machine forms; either Twin cabinet or Deluxe. As one can imagine, the Twin setup allowed a pair of players to race one another. The Deluxe machines however were a single screen setup that saw players get inside replica F1 car elements behind a wheel and pedals.

Each game could be setup as an eight-player game with up to four Twin cabinets able to connect to each other.

However, the most expensive version of the game was dubbed Virtua Formula. This iteration of the game took the DX formula and turned everything up to 11. The replica formula car was mounted to a hydraulic chassis, essentially creating an early motion rig. These would hold large 50-inch screens for players to enjoy the action. Later on, these Virtua Formula machines would become the Super DX version of the Indy 500 game.

Initial D THE ARCADE

Yesterday, our very own Timo gave an insight into the fabulous world of Initial D. Now, many petrol heads and racing fans will best know this name thanks to the anime show and series of Mangas. Featuring Takumi Fujiwara, a Tofu delivery driver and budding street racer, it appeals to those of us that dream of excellent drifting proficiency.

However, what many do not realise is that Initial D is also a celebrated arcade video game series following a similar story line to the show. Originally made by SEGA in 2002, it is truly one of the best racing games to ever feature in an arcade. However, this was mostly thanks to Initial D featuring a full story mode.

Akin to the show, Initial D was all about rising through the ranks of Japanese mountain street racing. One would start out racing against easy opponents in 1v1 AI races. However, later opponents would soon require car customisation and skill.

Speaking of cars and customisation, every version of the Initial D THE ARCADE game is full of cult Japanese cars. In fact, any JDM fan will easily spend hours simply gawking at the selection of iconic street racing models from the late-1990’s and early-2000’s. Fans of the series will recognise excellent stage names like Mount Akina and Akagi.

With a relatively long campaign, Initial D THE ARCADE was one of the few titles to feature mid-game saving thanks to special magnetic cards. This meant players could pick up where they left off in the progression ladder.

Several versions of the game have released over the past few decades, with ten dedicated to arcade machines and three available for home consoles. But to get the true experience, one has to visit the Japanese arcades where Initial D is a religion.

OutRun

Whilst Initial D Arcade is most definitely the go-to game for JDM nuts, there is also a SEGA racing game catered to European automobile enthusiasts. OutRun is a name many will recognise, having spanned pretty much the entire history of racing games.

Featuring some of the car world’s most sought after supercars, it gets blood pumping. That is only increased when flying through a crest-ridden stage with traffic blocking the road.

Earlier this week, OverTake’s Luca took a look at the history and popularity of the OutRun series. He even got the chance to try out a true arcade machine, sitting behind the wheel of a classic supercar. Make sure to check out his article to learn more about this iconic gaming franchise.

Daytona USA

Sometimes, games manage to reach cult status all whilst presenting as disastrous flops for the developer. Fortunately for SEGA, Daytona USA was not one of these situations, becoming one of the highest-grossing arcade games of all time.

Making the most of NASCAR’s popularity in the late 1990’s, SEGA decided to create a stock car racing game. This lead to the development team mapping a detailed recreation of the Daytona International Speedway, forming the base of the Beginner Course, ‘Three Seven Speedway’. Advanced and Expert circuits also featured in the game dubbed Dinosaur Canyon, and Seaside Street Galaxy respectively.

Daytona USA would see players jump behind the wheel of a stock car and race up to 39 AI cars. This made for hugely popular and chaotic races. In the title’s Arcade version, several cabinets could link up allowing eight-player sessions. With rubber banding on, this led to intense battling.

Speaking of the cabinet machines, seats, pedals and steering wheels were the early days of sim rigs. Furthermore, with true force feedback, players got a taste of the future we all now live in today.

Daytona USA was the first game to release using SEGA’s Model 2 Arcade chips. This meant the title presented with far greater graphical detail than anything else on the market at the time. Furthermore, the title used the same camera mechanics as Virtua Racing, allowing both chase cam and onboard cockpit view.

Daytona USA is one of the all-time best SEGA racing games
Daytona USA is one of the all-time best SEGA racing games. Image credit: SEGA

Contrary to popular belief, Daytona USA was not an official NASCAR game as SEGA decided to avoid costly licencing discussions.

Originally launched in 1994 for Arcades, it progressively made its way to consoles. It first released to SEGA Saturn in 1995 and then to PC in 1996.

SEGA Rally Championship

As well as celebrating the history of SEGA, this week also marks the release of EA Sports WRC. This latest rally game is sure to get fans excited for the sport. But once can certainly imagine that it would never have been developed had SEGA Rally Championship not kicked off the rally game genre.

In 1994, SEGA Rally Championship hit arcades around the world and became an instant hit. Featuring a highly detailed handling model including different friction rates for the different track surfaces, it was a simulator before its time and is still considered one of the most popular rally games ever made.

The title featured the top Group A rally cars of the time such as the Toyota Celica GT-Four and Lancia Delta HF Integrale. However, it also threw back to the iconic Group 4 Stratos of the 1970’s.

Players would enter what SEGA dubbed the World Championship mode and compete across three different stages. Desert, Forest and Mountain formed a diverse calendar of both loose surface and tarmac stages.

Did SEGA Rally Championship kick off the rallying genre?
Did SEGA Rally Championship kick off the rallying genre? Image credit: SEGA

Players would race against the clock and the AI on stage-like circuits. One’s finishing position in a previous race would dictate their starting position in the next, thus forming the championship aspect.

If kicking off the rally racing game genre was not enough, SEGA Rally Championship is said to be a strong inspiration for Codemaster’s first rally game, Colin McRae Rally. According to Sega Retro, the developer mentioned this in a now-lost 2010 interview.

What is your all-time favourite SEGA racing game? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

A petrol head and motorsports fan since the early days, sim racing has been a passion of mine for a number of years. The perfect way to immerse myself in my true dream job; racing driver. With lots of experience jotting down words about the car industry, I am happy to share my passion for pretend race cars here on Overtake!