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Forgotten Racers of SEGA’s Past: OutRunners

When it comes to arcades, we all have at least one or two favorites that we love to go back and play. Whether it be the simple, basic shooters and such of the ’80s, to the new and graphically amazing arcade games of today, every gamer has his or her favorite genre or game.

For me my personal favorites have always been the arcade racers of the ’80s and ’90s. From the simplicity of games such as Pole Position and Hang-On, to the newer classics like San Francisco RUSH and Indy 500, arcade racers have always been a favorite genre of mine.

I was lucky to grow up in a time where there was at least one good racer at almost every arcade. Yet,  there is still one racer that still calls back to me every once in a while; the first SEGA racer I ever played and one of my favorites to this very day. This brings me to this week’s Forgotten Racers of SEGA’s Past,  where I’m going to be looking at the somewhat overlooked classic – OutRunners.

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Released to arcades in 1992 by SEGA AM1  (The same team that developed House of the Dead and Indy 500) for the System 32 arcade board, OutRunners was the third arcade release in the OutRun series, right after 1989’s Turbo OutRun. 

OutRunners was the first attempt after Turbo to bring OutRun back to its roots with branching paths and all, just like the original. It was more or less a better expansion to the original, with newer graphics and stellar audio, not to mention being the first OutRun game to have multiplayer. All in all, I consider this one of the best in the series next to Turbo and 2019.

At its core, the game is pretty much the original OutRun, albeit with a big graphical upgrade and a couple different gameplay changes. For one, now you have the choice between an automatic and manual transmission, an option to change music on the fly during gameplay and the choice of two completely different courses with branching paths.

New to OutRunners as well is the choice of eight different cars to race with, each featuring unique stats, characters and handling types. This definitely brings a new aspect to the gameplay considering how many different course/car combinations there are to use.

OutRunners came in two flavors in the arcade, with there being both stand-up and sit-down linkable cabinets, designed in that signature OutRun look.

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In the handling/gameplay department, OutRunners is on point for the most part, with all the cars handling very well and feature a great sense of speed. The courses are designed beautifully as well, taking place in different places all around the world.

OutRunners’ stage layout is almost exactly like the original, but instead of just one course to navigate through, there are two.

After finishing the first stage, the left path takes you through the East Course, with the right taking you down the West Course, all with branching paths. In total, counting the first stage,  OutRunners has about  31 stages, having some intense replay value for an arcade racer. Being the first multiplayer OutRun game, up to eight cabinets could be linked together, providing some serious racing awesomeness.  I remember spending hours on multiplayer races with friends on this one.

OutRunners Arcade 2

OutRunners went all out graphics wise, with huge scaled sprites for the cars and some well designed backgrounds for all the courses.

The road design looks amazing, and it barely looks blocky, featuring impressive scaling. In fact, it kind of reminds me of F1 Super Lap, which was a racer I had covered earlier, with a very similar road design. The cars look good too, all being designed around real cars of the time, and having varied paintjobs, and some cool and crazy designs.  This has to be one of,  if not,  the best looking System 32 game.  How much detail and work that went into this one, to keep everything moving at  these speeds,  is a marvel in some aspects.

OutRunners Arcade

Another cool aspect of  OutRunners  is the ability to change music at any time mid-race, with about eight original tracks and the entire the original OutRun’s soundtrack on board.

There was also an option to listen to the MRS (Mega Radio Station) and have more original music play, with different music for every course. This also brought a new aspect to OutRun,  with OutRunners having an announcer that would let players know who was in the lead, tell players to drive faster, and other random things.

Altogether, OutRunners audio was great, the cars all sounded different like they should, and the sound effects were awesome. The soundtrack is amazing as well, with great sounding remixes of the original OutRun tunes and some kickin’ original music. I can still listen to the music these days – this is one of the soundtracks that stuck with me for life it seems.

OutRunners Genesis

OutRunners, from what it seems, only got one port to home systems. In 1994, ported by Data East/SEGA, OutRunners got released to the Mega Drive/Genesis, and boy did it take a hit.

The game is constantly stuck in a two-player screen (like the original Top Gear) which severely reduced the graphic quality.  The soundtrack suffered as well,  with some of the songs missing sections, and not even sounding the best, by Genesis standards. For the most part, it plays like the arcade, with all the courses and cars being there, even having a cameo by the Virtua Racing Formula 1 in certain versions.

The Genesis version isn’t terrible, but I think it could have been done a lot better. If you have the OutRunners itch and can’t find an arcade,  the Genesis version should suffice. It’s pretty inexpensive as well, which is always a plus!

OutRunners Genesis 4

All in all, for being my first SEGA racer, OutRunners is still damn good, and to me, is the true OutRun sequel. I’ve just poured so many hours into the arcade and Genesis versions, completing it on multiple occasions.

Whether it be the arcade, or the Genesis port, OutRunners is definitely worth a try. The soundtrack is damn good, the gameplay is done great,and it could provide some really fun multiplayer action if you get some people together at an arcade.

I hope you guys enjoyed my look at OutRunners, this was a racer I felt like I had to do, considering my deep history with it. As per usual, make sure to leave your feedback in the comments below. If there is any idea of a SEGA released racing game or a racing game on a SEGA console you’d like to be featured in a future Forgotten Racers, you can always comment or reach me on my Twitter handle, @Kusanagi765. Have a great day, and I’ll see you all out on the road, fellow OutRunners!

Jayson Lamp

Resident SEGA racer expert of sorts,been playing them since OutRunners. Writer of the Forgotten Racers series,among other things. Favorite SEGA series is Hang-On,and my favorite console is the Saturn. "Welcome to our exciting circuit. Do your best,and good luck!!"-Power Drift,1988

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