Racing Game History: NASCAR Heat (2000)

These days, players can snag a game on their preferred platform and feel relatively certain that the experience will be comparable (if not near identical) to the same game on other platforms. Sure, a Nintendo Switch version of a game may lack the graphic fidelity of a PlayStation 5 port, but at least the controller has a more or less standardized set of buttons, triggers, and bumpers. 

This was not always so in the world of gaming. Take Mortal Kombat for example. When the 1992 arcade classic hit home consoles and portables it meant adapting to the game to the available buttons on the corresponding controller. On the Super NES you could battle it out with four face buttons and two shoulder buttons, but on the original GameBoy your kombat would be relegated to a mere two buttons. 

For publishers, releasing a game on multiple pieces of hardware (even if that game was unrecognizable compared to its counterparts) meant reaching a wider install base. Perhaps that’s how we ended up with NASCAR Heat, a 2000 title developed primarily by Monster Games that was released on the original PlayStation, Windows, and the comparatively underpowered GameBoy Color. 

On PlayStation and Windows, Nascar Heat is a basic but competent simulation of proper NASCAR race complete with post-race replays where players can enjoy the action from multiple camera angles including an angle that recreates the feel of watching the race on TV. The PlayStation version suffers from a bit of “pop-in” with the stands and fences seemingly loading themselves into the game as the car approaches them, but otherwise the games feature a lot of going as fast as possible with convincing stock car models and sound effects. 

NASCAR Heat | Playstation

On the GameBoy Color, all of that changes. The camera angle shifts to an above-car-view with an arrow serving as the primary indication that a turn is coming up. The cars themselves appear in a range of colors but are functionally the same pile of pixels merely in different hues. Even the pit crew is shown gassing up your car and replacing tires from a bird’s-eye view. 

NASCAR Heat | GameBoy

To say that NASCAR Heat on GameBoy Color is comparable to its PlayStation and Windows counterparts would be a bit of a stretch to say the least. But in the old days, we gamed as best we could with the hardware available to us. With a heart full of NASCAR fandom, a couple of batteries, and a bit of a squint, the thrill of the race was more or less still there. 

NASCAR Heat | Windows

After NASCAR Heat, Monster Games would continue to produce racing games, sometimes even ditching real world racing for a wacky detour. If you haven’t played Excitebots: Trick Racing on the Nintendo Wii (2009), for example, you’re missing out on perhaps the greatest animal robot racing game known to man. Monster Games brought the heat back in 2016 with a reimagining of NASCAR Heat in the form of NASCAR Heat Evolution, a 2016 game on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC that kicked off a franchise.