Since the days of Atari’s Space Race and Wipeout for the Magnavox Odyssey, racing games have come a long way. However, it’s not hard to come a long way from this. I know it was the early 70s, but come on! Racers are a huge pillar of the gaming industry, from the titans of Forza and Gran Turismo to casual classics such as Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing. However you slice it, these games are big. They can also, however, be a bit formulaic. Formula One-layer? Does that work? Probably not…You choose your car or plane or weird flying boat thing and then race against your friends or enemies in a bid to see who can reach the finish line first. It’s a simple yet effective approach that has brought gamers countless hours of joy over the decades, sure, but sometimes a racing game will veer off track and take players in a completely different direction.
I’m just warning you now I’m doing my best to understand a passing toy fad in a country other than my own. Sorry in advance; I did not play with Homies as a child, and I regret it every day. Homies were collectible figurines created by cartoonist David Gonzales. They were based on caricatures of Mexican-American culture. The series was incredibly popular in the late 90s in the United States but encountered some controversy, because well-intentioned or not. They played directly into the stereotypes that many people preferred not to reinforce. It probably isn’t surprising that these toys eventually got the video-game treatment, but they didn’t get it until 2008, well after anyone would have thought to look for a game, let alone buy it. Players take control of ten different Homies and compete in the Wizard Circuit, a series of races in which the winner receives one wish from a local old man who claims to have magical powers. Bet you didn’t expect that to be the story. I know I didn’t. Even an old wizard couldn’t save this game from negative reviews, as critics derided its poor controls and similarities to Mario Kart. In fact, with a score of just 23%, Homie Rollers is one of the lowest-rated titles in the history of Metacritic, which is…something, I suppose. Roll on, Homies.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing
Originally developed as a sequel to the much-more-normal RPM Racing, Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing for the SNES was the handiwork of Silicon and Synapse, who would later go on to become…wait for a second…Blizzard Entertainment! Does that technically make this game a Warcraft prequel on wheels? I hope so. After all, we have the example of Hearthstone before us, when part of the WoW universe became a separate game, where players even pay money for game boosting services. Rock ‘n’ Roll Racings is your standard 16-bit racer but with one notable twist: The game’s soundtrack contained famous tunes from the likes of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Having a game with licensed music was a real treat back in the day, and for these great songs to be the soundtrack to a random racer? That was downright bizarre. Weirdly, this actually became relevant recently when the game was re-released, and Blizzard had to warn streamers not to have the volume on while streaming the game due to the music. Although, judging by the reviews Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing got, I highly doubt many people bothered to stream this thing in the first place, and even fewer bothered to watch it. Good songs, though!
My Summer Car
Some driving games require you to perform certain tasks before you can actually drive. I’m looking at you, Gran Turismo, and your stupid licenses! Why won’t you just let me play?! However, very few require you to build your car from scratch before you can hit the road. Enter My Summer Car, a Finnish game released on Steam’s Early Access in 2016. The game puts you in the shoes of an eighteen-year-old boy who wants to restore and upgrade his family car in order to have his own “Hot Guy Summer.” Actually, this game is set in Finland, so it would be more like a “Slightly-Less-Chilly Guy Summer.” My Summer Car is incredibly detailed, with players not only having to correctly assemble their car with no instruction, but they must also eat, drink, sleep, and go to the toilet. I apologize, Gran Turismo; at least you didn’t make me pee. If that weren’t weird enough, you also need to earn money for new parts by running errands such as driving tractors, picking up litter, and emptying septic tanks. Honestly, this game is obsessed with the potty! A unique take on the driving format, My Summer Car will certainly be an interesting play if it ever gets fully released.
Race with Ryan
For those of you without children – which I assume is all of you, so that I won’t feel left out–Ryan’s World is a YouTube channel aimed at young kids and starring ten-year-old Ryan Kai. The channel is extremely popular, amassing…hang on, that can’t be right…31.9 million subscribers?! But he’s ten! I’ve never felt so inadequate in my entire life. Even more embarrassingly for me, Ryan got his own video game in 2019 with the release of Race with Ryan. Players can take control of Ryan or a variety of other characters from Ryan’s World including Power Peck, Mixer Moe, and Choochoo Gus. That’s it, I give up trying to understand young people. I’ll just be here listening to my cassette tapes and watching my CRT television. The game is your bog-standard kart racer with the appeal coming solely in the license, but it is worth reiterating that said license is a hugely popular YouTuber I’ve never heard of and can’t even hope to understand. I may as well just check into the old folks’ home now. Anyone for bingo?
PS Vita title Drive Girls feels a lot like Flag Rally ‘96’s older brother. Or, perhaps, sister, as this game also uses anime women as its main selling point. Drive Girls is set in a fictional world in which mechanical insects have conquered society. I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords, but the titular Drive Girls rise up to bash the bug bots into submission. Why are they called “Drive Girls,” I hear you ask? That’s simple! Because they can transform into souped-up supercars at a moment’s notice! Wait…that’s not simple at all. That’s the least simple response possible to any of this! Players can choose from one of five Drive Girls to commit mass insecticide through combat that is described as “combining action and driving into a hack ‘n’ slash bonanza.” Hopping between melee and vehicular combat is a genuinely fun idea, and with options to upgrade your Drive Girl throughout the game and a story to follow, the experience is actually quite deep. It’s just… was the anime thing really necessary? We all know what you’re trying to do to us, Drive Girls, and we don’t appreciate it.