Game Changers: Out Run

Out Run (Arcade) (SEGA, 1986)

So, Out Run has just hit the Nintendo 3DS eShop. That got me thinking about games that have had a significant impact on me over the years. Games that, for me, were so astounding, so groundbreaking, so incredibly stunning and awe-inspiring that they redefined what I thought a game could be at the time. I decided to start a column that will pay tribute to just those sort of games. What better game to start with than the one that both inspired it and, perhaps, had the biggest effect on me as a gamer?

What the majority of popular arcade games looked like at the time.

A Little Perspective

At the time that Out Run came out, arcades were mostly filled with 2D perspective puzzle/platform games set against a featureless black background. The most popular ones were probably Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. They were fun and engaging but, overall, quite visually simplistic. These were the gaming staples I had grown accustomed to seeing and playing at the arcade. Then, Out Run was released, and my gaming world was turned upside down.

I still remember the first time I saw it. My mom had dragged my siblings and I to a local ice rink. I didn't feel much like skating, so I decided to pass the time in the adjoining arcade. I hit the BurgerTime machine first. It was always good for at least a few minutes of fun. After burning through several quarters, I soon tired of that game. I decided to look around and see what other usual suspects they had on offer. Then, something over by the far wall caught my eye. Something colorful. Something new! Something quite unlike anything I had seen up to that point. Out Run! My first encounter with Sega was a game that instantly and forever converted me into a loyal fantatic.

"Get Ready..."

In All of Its Arcade Glory

It was a 3-dimensional racing game with actual backgrounds! Blue skies! White fluffy clouds! Waves rolling up onto a sandy beach! Palm trees! There was a pristine gray highway stretching out to a vanishing point in the middle of the screen. It was calling to me. Inviting me along on what would surely be an amazing road trip. And that car! That beautiful, shiny red convertible Ferrari! My god, did I love that car! To this day, I still want one. It will be the first thing I buy if I ever win the lottery.

It wasn't just the mind-blowing visuals, though. Everything about this game just oozed glorious, arcadey entertainment. The digitized speech. The fitting sound effects. The excellent driving mechanics. Seeing your car flip through the air and tumble sideways if you accidentally hit a sign or tree. My brother called that "Burton air". I have no idea why. (Snowboarding reference?) Possibly, more than anything else though, was the soundtrack. I still can't help but smile anytime I hear Splash Wave or Magical Sound Shower. Sega was actually nice enough to release a bunch of Out Run music on iTunes last year. To say that I was excited when I found out would be an understatement.

Out Run SMS
Box art for the Master System version.

Master of the House

That day in the arcade was pure magic. I played Out Run until my mom made me quit. Or, maybe it was just until I ran out of quarters. I can't quite recall. At any rate, I played it for as long as I could. Soon after that life-altering experience, my siblings and I were fortunate enough to receive a Sega Master System for Christmas. Most kids got the Nintendo Entertainment System that year. Some guy at Lionel Playworld had convinced my mom that the Master System was going to be bigger. Yes, bigger than the NES. Despite the fact that he couldn't have been more wrong, it all worked out. Receiving my first Sega system sealed my destiny as a lifelong fan. I got to enjoy all the great games the Master System had to offer (there were a few). Also, whenever I wanted to play Nintendo, I could just go over to any of my friends' houses. Literally, any of them. They all had one.

One of the first games we bought for our new Sega console was Out Run. Obviously, on the Master System, it didn't look nearly as good as it did in the arcade. No arcade ports did at the time. On any home system. I didn't care. I was just happy to be able to play Out Run in my own home. The version we bought actually came with a special arcade-inspired joystick called the Sega Control Stick. It was pretty rad. We spent hours fighting over that thing, trying to see who could get the farthest in the game. Soon, it became about seeing who could beat the game. Then, who could beat it on the most routes.

OutRun 2
OutRun 2 was an improvement over its predecessor in nearly every way. But, I will always love them equally.

Beyond And Back Again

To this day, I still love that game (in case there was any doubt). In the mid-2000s, Sega released OutRun 2 for the Arcade and the original Xbox. I played both versions frequently. They later released another version of OutRun 2 on Xbox Live Arcade, for the Xbox 360. Of course, I played the hell out of that one too. Now, with the release of the original Out Run on 3DS, I've come full circle. Its probably safe to assume that as long as Sega keeps releasing new versions of the game (Out Run 3, please. Make it happen, Sega.), I will keep playing them; and I will enjoy every minute of it.


[Images: SEGA, G-Mode]

Andrew J Amideo

2009-06 O Small