Racing Game History: Gran Turismo 2 (1999)

The original Gran Turismo brought ultra-realistic driving simulation to the masses via the PlayStation 1 to the tune of 10.85 million copies sold and a trunk full of critical acclaim. All of that success came after five long years of crunch conditions with Director Kazunori Yamauchi estimating he returned home from the Polys Entertainment offices for a scant few days each year. 

For the sequel, the team would put the pedal to the metal once again releasing a follow up to one of the most successful and highly regarded PlayStation 1 games of all time in record time. Gran Turismo 2 was published on the PlayStation 1 in December in Japan and North America and early January in the EU, roughly two years after the game’s original Japanese release on December 23, 1997. 

Like a lot of games with a two on the box, Gran Turismo 2 didn’t revolutionize the real driving simulator, but it did expand upon it. The original game asked players to “feel the power of 140 authentic sports cars” right on the back of the box. Gran Turismo 2 dwarfed the original with 650 cars and a whopping 27 racing tracks (with some returning from the first game) compared to Gran Turismo’s 11 tracks. 

Gran Turismo 2 shipped with two discs offering two different types of experiences. The “Arcade Mode” disc offered racers the instant gratification of getting behind the wheel of several vehicles without having to grind prize money to buy them first. Players could race on the open road, get the tired dusty in “Rally” mode or prove their mettle in a time trial mode.

The “Simulation Mode” disc (known as “Gran Turismo” mode in Japanese and PAL versions) stuck closer to the gameplay loop of the 1997 original, pitting places against numerous license tests, qualifiers, and tournaments to prove their racing prowess. Living that sweet podium life meant lining your virtual pockets with cash to upgrade your vehicles and fill out your garage. 

Though it fell a bit short of the success of its predecessor, Gran Turismo 2 did sell an impressive 9.37 million copies—a spray of champagne on the aging original PlayStation hardware as it neared the end of its lifecycle. Gran Turismo 2 would receive a sequel in the form of Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec on the soon to be released PlayStation 2 console. 

But before we close the jewel case on this PlayStation 1 classic, let’s examine one last bit of trivia surrounding the game. The opening cinematic includes a version of “My Favorite Game” by Swedish pop rockers, The Cardigans. The song comes from their 1998 album titled, you guessed it, Gran Turismo! The band claims that the name was inspired by the relation between music and tourism or traveling, but we’re fairly convinced one of the Cardigans may have been spending downtime at the studio earning licenses and filling a virtual garage with sports cars.