Unsung Heroes: old and obscure sims and games

Let’s make like an archaeologist, and dig up old gems and really valuable artifacts. Games that either were too old to remember or were overshadowed or got stuck in development hell or something prevented something really very good from being a smashing success.

For example, back in 2004, Colin McRae 05 rally was king of the rally sim. And for good reason: it was challenging but also accessible and conveyed very much of the excitement of rallying. For that reason another sim, with the most intensely realistic physic model and technical rigor, went unnoticed and was deemed a commercial failure.

The rally legend behind the eponymous Richard Burns Rally died shortly thereafter, and was therefore unfortunately not present to witness the gradual rise from the ashes of almost zero sales to an enduring cult following that has culminated in a fan-driven reboot of the game as of last year. You thought Dirt: Rally was difficult? The main issue with RBR was that it was brutally unforgiving. In rally, a mistake is a mistake and then you go fender first into a tree or fly off a cliff or hit a divot and your car goes flipping into the forest. There was an entire tutorial section to rival the likes of the GT license levels, that taught you all the various techniques of rallying, all of which you had to master in order to even hope to make it through a stage in one piece. But it was the twitchiness of the controls that made things truly scary: apply the throttle with even half a tyre on the wrong surface a fraction of a second too soon and you’ll know it instantly. The game is liberally plastered with hints and tips about how to drive within your limits, take it easy, get used to things, all the while tempting you and goading you with Richard Burns’ own times which are blisteringly quick, actual professional simulations. When you do nail it however, dancing over the course with your armament of Scandanavian flicks, lift off oversteer, and brake feathering under throttle to pitch the nose in, it brings a sense of satisfaction rarely met in any other game.

All that in 2004: the world simply wasn’t ready. Probably a great deal many monitors were thrown out the window in ragequit. And for me that is what makes this game all the more delicious to sink my teeth into.

Warning: you can, sort of, play this game with keyboard, but it’s highly unadvisable. It’s about as sensible as trying to play NFS: Shift with a keyboard… immensely finnicky. It’s not like they give you an option to use ABS here, either.

Example video will appear below once it finishes uploading:


RCR is awesome and still my favorite rally game. It’s totally possible to play with keyboard, just difficult.

1992 brought us street rods 2, the first of the great modification car racing games, to start off with a few thousand dollars, a empty garage, and a newspaper with cars, engines, replacement parts, racing parts, and tires to buy. The parts all get worn from use and you can swap engine blocks manifolds, carburators, add fuel injection, and even superchargers. You add parts by click unscrewing the various bolts (ala car mechanic, only 20 years earlier) you can even adjust the timing to optimize the engine (damn that finicky points ignition). You do all this to race of course, there’s three basic tracks, stop light straight line street racing, the aquaducts straight line racing with deadly obstacles, and the twisty turny Mulholland drive with rocks, oil slicks, and traffic in the way. Racing on anything but the street is dangerous and very risky but it’s so much fun to play.


10x harder than the first Street Rod game for sure. My horror when I finally defeated the King in the Mulholland drive (having had to find the exact speed to take the jump), and then realised that there was still the aqueduct race to get through, which is bloody hard to do flat out.

The whole premise and execution was a gem, though.

Man, I still have Street Rod 1 and 2 on Floppy disks, I used to build the hottest 6 Cylinder Falcons and smoke the big cars at bracket meets.

“The first time you drive this car, you will crash and burn” - First line of the guide booklet

The game was planned simply because David Kaemmer wanted to drive the original Nurburgring in a racing sim after reading a book about it, Jackie Stewart said it was harder than driving the real cars and a group of beta testers who knew about this project through pure chance contributed amazing amounts of knowledge to the project.

Released in 1998 to amazing acclaim within the small sim community it was panned for being too hard, traced back decades later to the cars being too low and hitting their bump stops mid corner, leading to cars spinning without any indication of trouble, So the first patch came with FFB and changed the game for the better with players eventually fixing the set-ups, either raising the cars up to prototypical levels or lowering them so much that all the cars became go-karts and set record lap-times.

The car and driver list represented the 1967 Season aside from Cooper (Now BMW) and Honda (Who left F1 in 1968 after the death of a driver and didn’t want to remind people of it) with those two replaced with “Look-alike” names and identical cars (Also the drivers who died mid-season were left out).

The vanilla content suffers from the idea that “all old race cars were uncontrollable” so the modding community ran with the game and produced every F1 and F2 car and driver from 1964-1970 and then some, Old Indycars, Can-am series, Trans-Ams and Lancia Strati soon filled the modding scene along with every track ever, with content being released up until the present day.

On the right day with your favourite car and favourite track this game is still brutal and hateful but on those times when you’re fighting for the 1966 Championship with Jack Brabham at Reims in the 66 mod where your car evolves as the season progresses, or in your twin-winged 4WD Lotus 63 at Montjuc Park, then this is a dream game, those clipped apexs and drifting slides just make all the stars line up.

Also this game became Nascar Racing 2003 which eventually became iRacing, the only modifications the engine needed was aero effects and tyre wear, after all, they were wingless cars with tyres that used to last 3 races!


I mentioned Rally Sport on the thread where I talk about a game that I’m making that’s similar to it. Rally Sport is a 1996 shareware game for DOS that features rally cross style racing on mostly dirt circuits. There are a couple of ice tracks also. You drive old rally cars which are not named makes and models but you can recognize them as for example an Opel Manta or Toyota Starlet.

For a 1996 game made by one man, the graphics are actually not bad. The terrain looks like it’s maybe based on a height map and the cars and some trackside objects are simple but somehow charming little 3d models. The engine sounds are short lo-fi loops but sound kinda cool anyway. You can run over spectators (which consist of just a few pixels arranged in somewhat human form) and they emit a funny scream and just flatten on the ground.

The controls are a bit odd with A and Z for gas and brake and , and . for turning, but it works surprisingly well. The handling of the cars has a fun feel to it, on a video I made of the game I mention it to be “almost realistic” but actually it’s more like… I can’t really explain it, “intuitive” is the best way to describe it I guess. Jumps and slides happen in a way that just feels right.

Most of the videos of the game on YouTube have really poor image quality. My own video of it is only 480p but it’s still probably one of the best image-wise that I have come across. I would probably rather show other people’s videos on it otherwise, but 240p? I mean, come on, I know the game’s own resolution is 320 by 240 but making a compressed video of it at that resolution is going to look like just a mess of random pixels.

Anyway, here’s my video of it. Sorry to all you non-finns here, I’m speaking Finnish in the video but the things that I say in it are mostly just the same things that I’ve written here.

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Live For Speed (it’s still active but the following is low)

The first “real” simulator i tried way back in 2003 - 2004 or something like that, and got hooked. It’s still a pretty good sim and so, but with only one(?) developer/programmer the rate of updates is slow and new features are to far apart for most people nowadays.

Gee, I wonder why.

Also this is what I did in LFS back in the day


I actually played this when it was out on Spectrum. Stunt Car rACER FTW


I used to play this a lot. I was actually looking for it again recently, after you posted your game prototype! I’ll beat you one day, Ari Vatanen!!! :triumph:

Don’t have pics, but I recall a F1 game on Commodore 64 called Pit Stop. I remember having to cope with limited fuel and tire wear (especially if you hit the side.)

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It’s no surprise to me that the following is low on LFS, but it was fun for a while :slight_smile: Nice vid, btw.

Oh yeah stunt car was awesome. Dad used to take myself and my younger brother into town to the local bowling alley once a month and gives us $5 each in 50cent coins which gave us 30 games each back in the day… also like to shout out to Daytona speedway and sega rally and the terminator2 pinball machine…i miss the early 90’s kids these days will never know the satisfaction of completing the commander Keen games

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In Sydney there was a venue in Darling Harbour, called SEGA World. Not surprisingly it shut down several years ago, but while it was open, I think I racked up some serious hours on both Daytona and Sega Rally… to the point I not only could finish them both on a single credit, but was vying for top spot on the leaderboards…

Actually it was Daytona 2, which somehow vanished long before the first Daytona did, despite the fact I felt Daytona 2 had more compelling mechanics. I’m pretty shit at Daytona even to this day.

Also fuck yes Commander Keen. There were what, 7 episodes plus the super trippy Keen Dreams? 4 on hard mode gave me the most grief though, I didn’t feel so bad blasting Billy in the secret Doom II level 32…


Ah lol the in my 30’s or older club…its strange seeing people say all the way back in 2003…feck I was training for my first try-out back then and it was much easier back in the day compared to my middle aged pudgy bellied workouts…still cant get rid of my whiskey/cognac belly

Did you stop drinking the whiskey yet? :stuck_out_tongue:

Yell no.
.gotta get it in me while i can

Trying to resist turning this into a “30-something-year-olds reminiscing the good old days” thread, but oh man, Sega Rally with my sister at some weird apartment hotel’s lobby one summer. A lot of my mom’s and dad’s money went in that.

I used to go on holidays with the family down in some little seaside town near Geelong for about 20 years straight and there was a pizza place that had Sega Rally, I only got to place it once because mum insisted I play the 20-cent pixel car racing game instead.

So I got really good at racing the cheap game.

This shit however, is a game that almost makes me cry when I think about the anguish I went through…

Top sixth of the screen was blurry, the sit-in racing seat was stick and the wheel was tattered and awkward to hold.
The series went on with another game and introduced multiple cars to choose, but I’ve never come across another cabinet with either of the two games.

Later on after I just about mastered that rally game I had the chance to do a Vic Police “drink driving simulator” at the Melbourne show, which was a Daytona USA cabinet with an intentionally dodgy steering wheel and wearing “drunk” googles, so I ignored the distractions from the police officers around me, who wanted me to get some sort of message from this experience and went and won the bloody race.


That sir, was pretty funny, what was the Cop’s reaction to your win lol

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Believe it or not, I actually did visit SEGA World in Darling Harbour, more than 20 years ago, and was simply awestruck by the sheer number of arcade cabinets. Many of my favorite arcade racing games (the original Daytona USA, Indy 500, and Sega Rally Championship 1995, among others) were among them. However, I was a young child back then, and the difficulty was well beyond my then-limited skillset. Only recently was I able to adapt to the challenging handling found in either game, and when I did, I had no trouble winning races, especially against other people.

All this talk of Daytona USA just gives me another excuse to post the trailer for the new one:

Hearing that DAAAAYTOOONAAAAAAAAA again made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up man.

Anyway, the first game that came to mind for me when I opened this thread was Screamer 4x4.

Released some time around 2000/2001, this was a game I liked because it ran well on my old laptop with it’s VIA Graphics chip I had at the time. Focusing more on realism than anything else, it tried to give you an experience of competitive off road driving using a few popular 4x4s from the era with a range of upgrades for each.

It had a couple of different modes, from shorter stages making up a championship where you were forced to drive a certain route between checkpoints to my favourite, the Pathfinder mode, where checkpoints were set miles apart and you could take whatever route you wanted. Penalties were given for hitting or missing checkpoints, or having to be recovered.

The game gave you control over locking of diffs, low/high range, 2WD/4WD etc. which was pretty much unheard of at the time. It also had relatively realistic damage for the time, with deformable bodies and mechanical damage.

And hey, once you unlocked the lifted 90s Hilux secret car, you were pretty much unstoppable.

I still go back to this game ocassionally now. There have been a couple of good attempts to re-create it since but none of them, for me at least, have done as well to re-create that feeling of barreling over a boggy moor in the pouring rain in an old Land Cruiser with a wonky wheel because you landed a jump badly, with nothing but a compass to guide you to the next checkpoint.

It even had a properly good cockpit view:

Edit: I’ve gone maximum sad git as well looking at that last picture of the Land Cruiser there, I knew something looked familiar…

Yes, even has the same TM4000 cassette player that’s in the Corolla.

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