The Evolution of Driving Games (And Our Place in It)



Since the earliest days of video games, developers have tried to capture the feeling of being behind the wheel. Here at Mighty Robot, we feel reverence for these classic titles that brought the genre forward, and it's our sincere hope that our games will be able to stand side-by-side with these influential titles in the evolution of driving games. Join us as we remember some of our favourite driving games from days gone by, and talk about our place within the genre's evolution.


Arcades and Early Consoles


The tradition of driving games began in 1974 with Gran Trak 10, which is considered to be the first racing video game ever made. The primitive top-down racer appeared in arcades, giving early gamers their first idea of virtual driving, but it was Night Driver that first positioned the camera behind the car, as many driving games do today.


Next came Namco's groundbreaking Pole Position. Considered by some to be the most influential driving game of all time, this arcade-racer redefined what was possible for driving games, with colourful visuals and smooth gameplay that perfectly conveyed the sense of speed that racers crave.


The driving genre came on leaps and bounds when a little company known as Nintendo stepped onto the scene. Few will forget their first time playing Super Mario Kart. The SNES original put Nintendo's iconic characters behind the wheel for the first time, bringing a generation of gamers with them. The success of Mario Kart made driving games accessible to all, and further games from Nintendo like F-Zero imagined out-there futuristic scenarios that pushed the boundaries of what a driving game could be.


The 3D Revolution


Things accelerated even faster when consoles transitioned into 3D. Notably, the Sony PlayStation made driving games a key piece of their library, with Gran Turismo, Driver, Ridge Racer, and WipeOut serving as graphical showcases and system-sellers. Innovation continued into the PS2 era, as favourites like Burnout and Need for Speed took centre stage.

Many look at these years as a golden age of driving game design. Experimentation was everywhere across these console generations, with almost every driving game having its own distinct identity and gimmicks separating them from the competition. Combat and destruction also became a central theme in this era, as games looked to tap into the rising popularity of street racing.


The Modern Era


Transitioning into the era of HD consoles, developers saw budgets skyrocket as high-definition graphics became the norm. With the increasing success of long-running franchises, driving games began to polarise. The success of Forza and Gran Turismo gave way to an emphasis on true-to-life simulation, which also gave console makers a chance to show off their most realistic graphics. Arcade-style racers like Need for Speed began to lean more towards the simulation side of things, while less realistic racing experiences became limited to kid-friendly family fare. While all of these games found success in their own ways, a gap in the market emerged for arcade racers with serious replayability.


However, that's not to say that driving games have stagnated. Driving games big and small continue to innovate, often by bringing in elements of other genres to diversify themselves. Rocket League tapped into the appeal of competitive sports games, for example, while The Crew brought the joy of discovery found in open-world games to racing fans. It may sound cheesy, but cars are constantly moving us and the games industry forward, and continue to do so in a myriad of ways.


The Future of Driving Games


This brings us to the present. The gulf that emerged in the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 generation between simulation and arcade racers now looks larger than ever. Which is where Mighty Robot comes in. Our mission is to create an ecosystem of driving games that tap into the inherent thrill of high-speed action while keeping the gameplay light and accessible to all players, whether they are a racing veteran or still have their L-plates.


We believe this fun-first focus, combined with our respect for both the player's time and money, could be just what the driving genre needs to reach its next step in evolution.


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