If you ask a racing gamer to name popular racing video game series, they'll probably respond with the likes of Gran Turismo, Forza and Need for Speed. However, 20 years ago, Ridge Racer would've been at the forefront of their mind.
While the series hasn't seen a new entry in half a decade, Ridge Racer remains one of the all-time greats of the early PlayStation days. What made it so good though? And is there potential for a revival? We give our take right here!
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 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 sim racers and drifting games.
The success of the original Ridge Racer meant that it was always going to make its way out of Japan and onto 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 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 games almost every year up until 2000. Sometimes, even two games were released in the same calendar year.
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 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. That being said though, 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 ultimate 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.
Will Ridge Racer return?
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 (different to the RR2 from 1994) was released on the PlayStation Portable.
Ridge Racer would also see titled released for 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.
There's no getting away from it, that doesn't look good. 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.
With Gran Turismo 7, NFS and Forza Motorsport still without a release date and both Burnout and Midnight Club gone, now could be a better time than any for Ridge Racer to take the racing world by storm again.