5 Dreamcast Racers Which Didn't Quite Make the Podium

There is no shortage of 'best racing games' lists for the Dreamcast - a system which had some of the most critically acclaimed racing games of the early 00’s. Everyone knows just how good Dreamcast classics like Metropolis Street Racer, Daytona USA, Sega Rally and Ferrari F355 Challenge were. Absolutely fantastic driving games that really did move the genre forward in their own way, and games that as a Dreamcast fan reading this article, you’ve probably spent many hours playing.

As you should know by now, here at the Junkyard we like to think outside of the box a little. So here we go, then. In no particular order, I present to you my alternative top five Dreamcast racers that you might not have played yet:

Tokyo Highway Challenge / Tokyo Extreme Racer
Released for the PAL launch (and confusingly called something different in every territory - Tokyo Extreme Racer and Shutokou Battle in the US and Japan respectively), Tokyo Highway Challenge is a game that I rented plenty of times when I was younger and have since put many hours into. I think it’s one of the most underrated racing games on the system and thanks to its evening setting, it still looks fantastic when played today in a smooth 60fps.
Tokyo Highway Challenge sees us buying cars, tuning them up and taking to the Japanese highways to challenge other hoons in a race for cash. Each other driver belongs to a gang, and when you’ve beaten all drivers in a particular gang, you get to face off against their leader.
It’s all a bit like a 'racing fighting game' where all races are 1v1 and you have an energy bar at the top of the screen. Whoever is behind on the road starts to see their energy bar deplete, ticking down faster as the gap between first and second increases. A simple concept but a refreshing one for those who don’t want to race lap after lap.
The biggest criticism of the game is a well noted one - just one 'track,' which itself isn’t particularly big, even though you do get the option of racing in either direction around the highway loop. Nevertheless, the tuning and upgrade system is fantastic and an essential part of the game. As you get further in, your tuning skills will make the difference between winning battles or not, regardless of how well you can drive!

Toy Racer
My love for Toy Racer is no secret. In a retrospective from 2018, I wrote that: “Toy Racer is one of my favourite and easily most played Dreamcast titles -- not because it’s necessarily a fantastic game -- but because it genuinely changed the way I enjoyed video games forever by fully opening my eyes to the world of online gaming.” And that’s still true today.
Toy Racer in reality is nothing more than a technical demo, proving that online racing was possible on Dreamcast. For the single player, there honestly isn’t too much here to get excited about. Using the Toy Commander engine, four different racing tracks have been built around the house and you can race around them against the clock to try and beat your ghost time.
When connected to Dreamarena however, the game came alive. Back in 2000, racing against other people from across Europe from your bedroom was something us teenagers had never dreamed of on a console. And yet there we were, doing exactly that. I used to play race after race online into the early hours of the morning.
Being a predominantly online game, and not many people having an online gaming focus in 2000, it’s fair to say Toy Racer got largely ignored (I can only remember one print review -- a scathing one from CVG), and not many people ended up picking it up.

Wacky Races
Another hugely popular genre back in the 90’s/00’s was the kart racer, probably thanks to Nintendo’s own Mario Kart 64 and Rare’s Diddy Kong Racing. Every system needed a top kart racer and the Dreamcast’s answer was Wacky Races, released in 2000.
The TV show was decades old at this point, so it was certainly an interesting choice of IP. Coupled with a cel-shaded aesthetic (something that would a few years later become a popular style) it’s easy to see why the game was fairly overlooked, despite it scoring pretty well with the reviewers at the time, if not exceptionally.
I picked up Wacky Races on launch and was immediately glad I did. It looked phenomenal and the gameplay was brilliant. Featuring a central hub where you could drive around to find your next race, it really felt like a lot had been packed in. Plenty of beautifully designed tracks, characters to unlock and challenging AI meant lots of depth, keeping me engaged for a good few months.
In truth, Wacky Races didn’t come close to dethroning the big two kart racers on N64, but it was still a really great game that was worth buying, despite an aging license.

Sega GT
Sega’s 'other' racing franchise is another game that was massively overlooked at the time it was released. Gran Turismo on PlayStation had moved the bar massively for simulation console races just a few years earlier, subsequently followed up with the improved-in-every-way sequel in 1999, and few other titles managed to get anywhere near the same level of depth that it offered. Eager to capitalise on this new sub-genre and have a GT simulation of their own, Nintendo had GT64 from Ocean and Sega released Sega GT on the Dreamcast.
Sega GT is actually a very good game. It’s not a Gran Turismo beater, of course, but taken in isolation it does a lot of things right. It looks lovely and whilst isn’t quite as deep as Gran Turismo itself, it still has plenty to do with multiple licenses to obtain, 22 tracks to race and over 130 different cars from a range of real manufacturers to buy. There was a lot here to get into, especially when you compare it to games like Sega Rally and F355 Challenge, two games which almost certainly would have got more attention than this.
The car handling on Sega GT is honestly lovely. It feels nice and tight and you can normally feel the adjustments you’ve made when tuning up your ride reflected through the analogue stick or triggers. However, with better alternatives out there on other platforms and with Gran Turismo 3 on the PS3 just around the corner, Sega GT was nowhere near as popular as Sega would’ve hoped.

Re-Volt
The first time I played Re-Volt was on a DreamOn demo disc which came with the Official Dreamcast Magazine in the UK. Like most games at that time, the first time I’d heard of it was when I eagerly removed the demo disc from the magazine cover to put it into my Dreamcast. As a racing game fan, I’d almost always gravitate to the racing demos first, even if I’d never heard of the game, and this was true of Re-Volt also.
At first, controlling your RC Car feels a bit twitchy, but when you get into the mindset of controlling an actual RC Car rather than a real car, it all just clicks and the game becomes great fun. Some really great circuits designed around real-world settings like the park or the street outside your house make Re-Volt an experience I’d easily find myself getting lost in for hours at a time. It was great fun to play and didn’t take itself too seriously.
Re-Volt released at a time where the industry was trying to make games more and more realistic and I think this ultimately made it feel a little dated. Just a few years previously, cartoon/toy style racers were all the rage as technical limitations prevented realism but as the Dreamcast hit its stride, I feel that gamers wanted and expected more. It meant that a lot of people missed out on the brilliant Re-Volt and it’s one I still play regularly today.

And that brings this list to a close. Five great alternative Dreamcast racing games that I’d still recommend picking up and playing today, especially if you were someone who overlooked them in the past for one of the critically acclaimed games we mentioned. Whilst researching for this article, it reminded me just how strong the racing genre was on Dreamcast. Beyond this list, there are more unappreciated racing games: Vanishing Point, Looney Tunes: Space Race and Monaco Grand Prix to name just a few. Maybe we’ll need a Part II to this article in the near future...

What do you think? Which also-ran Dreamcast racers would make your list? Let us know in the comments or chat with us on Twitter.

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5 comments:

pcwzrd13 said...

How did I know Toy Racer would be on this list? I must be psychic. :-P Great article James!

DCGX said...

I have fun with 'Tokyo Xtreme Racer,' but have not played it nearly as much as the sequel. The bummer about the sequel is they removed the multiplayer. I'm sure it was to compensate for the larger scope compared to the first game, but it still sucked. The multiplayer is the only reason I keep the first game.

81Zero said...

I remember playing Toy Racer a short while after release and it was hardly ever active. Not very fun either compared to other online games. Also Wacky Races is on another level to the others, that game is awesome.

JRod said...

Fantastic list. I feel like I might be the only person who prefers Stunt GP to Re-volt or Toy Racer.

Anthony817 said...

I love most of the games on this list. Still haven't given Wacky Races a try might need to.

I also only RECENTLY last year actually took Sega GT seriously because I had always had a thing for GT2, and we already get to play GT2 on Dreamcast. However I found a pretty deep game with decent handling physics. I always played the game for a few minutes here and there over the years, but never really delved deep into it. Plus. it has the Mitsubishi 3000 GT/GTO. One of my all time favorite cars.

@JRod I equally love both games. Although Stunt GP can have quite a bit of slow down due to how nice it looks. It really pushes the system well. Even on my overclocked Dreamcast that is pushed to 240mhz it has some issues running at a steady frame rate at times. Not so with Re-Volt.