Racing Game History: Nascar Racing (1994)

In the early ‘90s, simulation racing games were still primarily the purview of personal computers with console releases more often than not focusing on arcade-style action rather than realism. With certain exceptions, racing games that emulated Sega’s Out Run (1986) were far more common including titles like Rad Racer (1987) on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Top Gear (1992) on the Super NES, and Cruis ‘n USA (1996 on the Nintendo 64) as gaming entered the fifth console generation. 

Meanwhile, racing simulation was building speed on personal computers. In a previous edition of Racing Game History, we looked at Indianapolis 500: The Simulation (1989) developed by Papyrus Design Group. Papyrus continued to make IndyCar games along with a few offshoots like J. R. R. Tolkien’s Riders of Rohan (1991) which despite its name is not a The Lord of the Rings-inspired racer. There was also Nomad (1993), a space trading and combat simulation game. 

In 1994, Papyrus left IndyCar temporarily in the dust for the world of stock car racing. Nascar Racing (1994) brought the same attention to detail and emphasis on realism that had PC-owning racing enthusiasts revving their engines in Indianapolis 500: The Simulation to a game based on the 1994 Winston Cup Season. 

Once again the view from inside the car frames the screen with dials and information while the realistically polygonal competition jockey for position on the track—and the tracks were based on the real locations! The sense of speed as the player tears through a course is impressive, particularly when compared to its contemporaries. Ridge Racer (1994) for example, wouldn’t hit Japanese living rooms until nearly the end of 1994 and The West would have to wait until September of the following year. 

Nascar Racing would receive a PlayStation port in 1996 with slightly altered graphics, although this version had critics hitting the brakes while the PC original was flying off the shelves. Papyrus’ success with this first game created an enduring franchise that continued even after Sierra On-Line bought Papyrus. With the exception of the first title, all other entries were released on PC (or Mac in a few cases). The final title in the franchise, Nascar Racing 2003 Season hit both computing platforms in 2003.