20 years ago, if you asked a racing gamer to name popular racing video game series, one of the series on their list would've likely been Ridge Racer. However, nowadays, the new generation of racing gamers haven't heard of Ridge Racer.
We'll take a stroll down memory lane and go over this former great of the arcade racing genre.
An Arcade Masterpiece
To tell the story of Ridge Racer, you have to go back to the early 1990s, when arcade racing machines were extremely popular. These were the days before a 3D video game console was available at home, so the only way to play the most advanced racing games was to go to your local arcade sink 20p coins into them.
Namco saw the potential of these arcade systems, but needed a new game to take full advantage. That's how Ridge Racer was born in 1993 and gamers loved it. For the time, Ridge Racer was ahead of its time and combined elements of both sim racers and drifting arcade games.
The success of the original Ridge Racer meant that it was always going to make its way out of Japan and onto the latest home consoles. By 1995, Ridge Racer was available on the first home system powerful enough to play it, the original PlayStation.
Ridge Racer was, and still is, revered by both fans and critics. So much so, that some claim it's one of the best racing games of all-time. The original Ridge Racer had the perfect blend of high-speed action, great drifting mechanics and a badass soundtrack saw Ridge Racer become one of the most successful games of the 1990s.
Continued Arcade fun
Ridge Racer was always going to receive a sequel after its accolades and high sales. Namco didn't stop when it came to their racing series, churning out Ridge Racer games almost every year up until 2000. Sometimes, even two games were released in the same calendar year.
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Ridge Racer 2 and Rave Racer were both release on Namco's System 22 arcade machine and were as big of a hit as the first game. Despite plans to port Rave Racer to the PlayStation and PC, it took until Ridge Racer Revolution in 1995 for the PS1 to get another Ridge Racer.
Revolution was a genuine evolution over the original RR game and was as big a hit with both the fans and critics as well. Both Rage Racer and R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 were two of the best racing games of the original PlayStation era.
So, what went wrong? How could a series that was riding such a wave of success be brought to its knees within a matter of years?
The sixth generation of consoles would spell the beginning of the end for Ridge Racer. It wasn't so much that Ridge Racer declined in quality during this time, but more than other game series took its spotlight.
It's possible that Ridge Racer also became a victim of its own success, as so many games had already been released. While you don't have to re-invent the wheel, you do have a innovate upon it every now and then.
With that being as well, Ridge Racer V on the PS2 wasn't of the same standard of those in the PS1-era.
The new millennium saw a lot of new and improved racing game series challenge, and ultimately defeat, Ridge Racer. Gran Turismo became established as the best racing simulator on PlayStation, while Forza would emerge on the new Xbox system as their in-house racing series.
EA's Burnout and Need for Speed franchises would become extremely popular on the arcade front as well. Even series like Midnight Club ultimately turfed out Ridge Racer.
It's sad, but it doesn't matter how good your game is, if nobody knows about it or plays it, it will be a commercial failure.
The final days
A lot of people believe that Ridge Racer died off after the PS2 days, but that's far from the truth. Ridge Racer 7 was actually a launch title for the PlayStation 3 in 2006. That same year as well, Ridge Racer 2 was released on the PlayStation Portable and marketed as a flagship game for the new console.
Ridge Racer would also see titled releases for both the PS Vita and the Nintendo 3DS as Namco attempted to expand the series' player base. The final home console Ridge Racer to date was Unbounded, released in 2012 for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Unbounded saw Ridge Racer's first and so far, only major change in direction. Elements of Burnout's takedown system and NFS's open-world city to explore produced a surprisingly good game.
Lastly, Ridge Racer Draw & Drift was release in 2016 for iOS devices. However, from what we can tell, this has since been pulled and is no longer available for download.
The same is true for Slipstream as well. Released in 2013 for both iOS and Android devices, the game is nowhere to be seen to download.
Will Ridge Racer return?
There's no getting away from it, those final games don't paint a positive picture for Ridge Racer. There is hope though, as another drift racing game, CarX Drift Racing Online, has had huge success on both mobile and home consoles.
It's also fair to say that Ridge Racer never had a bad game, particularly on the home consoles, their formula does work.
So, when a leak online seemed to confirm that Ridge Racer 2 was going to be remastered on PS5, we were understandably excitied. PS+ is getting a big revamp in June, with many classic games coming to the service to rival Xbox's Gamepass.
Whether this will be a full remaster or a texture improvement, we don't know yet. However, this could spark an interest in the series in the new generation of gamers. Either way, us oldbies will still enjoy it when it drops later this year.
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