I had originally envisaged this article to be a follow-up to the surprisingly popular list of the ten best retro racing games ever made. But, instead of sifting through the cream of the video gaming crop once again, I would handpick a selection of racing games that served no real purpose other than to firmly establish the bottom of the barrel.
Problem is, however, that researching – well, playing – some of the lousiest games to have ever seen the light of day proved to be a rather harrowing experience. It also became apparent rather quickly that for every stonker of a racing game there has ever been, there are at least 20 absolute stinkers. Games so bad they probably drove kids outside to play.
So, in order to protect my mental wellbeing, I thought I would just cut to the chase on this one and proclaim Hard Drivin’ to be the single worst racing game I have ever had the misfortune of spending my pocket money on.
Chances are that some of you reading this may not be familiar with the hellish driving experience that is Hard Drivin’. So, with the aid of words and moving imagery, allow me to explain just what made it so unremittingly horrible.
Hard Drivin’ first emerged in amusement arcades towards the end of the 1980s. Up until then Out Run and its fellow 2D sprite-scaling brethren ruled the roost as far as driving games went. And then some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to create a rudimentary 3D environment in which to drive around in, and with that Hard Drivin’ was born.
Billed at the time as “the world’s first authentic driving simulation game,” it was about as realistic as seeing Freddy Kreuger at a Killers Anonymous meeting. It had perhaps one – count it – feature that actually replicated real-life driving: a clutch pedal that all too regularly resulted in you stalling mid-shift.
Other than that, Hard Drivin’ was ghastly in every single department. The graphics resembled Lego Hell, the high pitched screeching noise emitted from the tyres made you want to shove knitting needles in your eardrums, and the gameplay, oh the gameplay…
Well there wasn’t any to be found. Trying to steer the car along each of the two tracks was unbelievably difficult and made you wonder if the game’s developers took its title a little too literally. Either that or the game’s testers were asleep at the wheel.
The car – which looked suspiciously like a Ferrari Testarossa – had the turning circle of an oil tanker, and you would regularly be wrestling with the wheel as the countdown timer to oblivion appeared as you careered off-road for the 427th time. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it.
But, as terrible as Hard Drivin’ was in the arcades, it was only a short-term kick in the cods, and one that only robbed you of 50p. Imagine paying £10.00 on a massively inferior version of it. Who would do such a stupid thing as that?
Well I did.
A ten-year-old version of me was easily susceptible to the glossy adverts that used to feature regularly in Your Sinclair! magazine, and so, I was hoodwinked into buying the Spectrum port of the game regardless of how rubbish it was – and it was.
Some of you may not be old enough to remember the rubber-keyed masterpiece that was the ZX Spectrum. It had the computational power of a damp sponge but, in the right hands, could do great things, especially when it came to arcade conversions. Chase HQ, for example, was absolutely fantastic. Hard Drivin’, however, was a spectacularly large turd.
The video below hopefully conveys just how ghastly it was. Imagine forking out ten quid on this. Imagine wasting ten minutes of your life waiting for it to load. Imagine trying to play this…
In summary, Hard Drivin’ was considerably less fun than choking and is undoubtedly the worst racing game ever made. If you think any differently then you are wrong. But don’t let that deter you from suggesting any would be contenders to the ‘Worst Racing Game’ throne…