For most of my life, I’ve loved racing games. I might not have been the best at the more simulation-based ones for most of that, but I loved driving, no matter what it was. Mario Kart would be the obvious favourite, with the likes of Forza Horizon and the DiRT series being other well-known series.
Then there’s the lesser known stuff, such as Wheelspin and Mini Desktop Racing, that replicate a certain style of racing on a budget (and usually fail at it in some form or other). But all of these are console-based racers, and while they’re great to get stuck into, for a gamer on handhelds – as I mostly was in my younger years – there needs to be some great experiences there, as well.
Such was indeed the case. Mario Kart DS is an easy one to pick out, but I’m not looking at Nintendo’s handhelds with this. Along with the DS, I owned a PSP, and two of the games I’d played on it have already featured as part of last year’s Racing Month – by way of their console counterparts. But what of the other racers I’d played on Sony’s handheld?
The obvious one to go for here would be Gran Turismo Portable. The handheld debut of Polyphony Digital’s series, it was the first time I’d dived into a simulation racer in any depth. I’d played this one for hours upon hours, driving around the tracks and getting a feel for the cars. I loved the tracks and playing this was the thing that brought me to want Gran Turismo 5 when that released.
The lack of a career mode didn’t bother me, since I just wanted to race. The free-form approach to earning money based on the set parameters also meant I had some fun with it on occasion (one such time being a 99-lap race on Ice Arena). There were many tracks I enjoyed, and though I’ve lost out on some of the originals since moving to Forza, I’ll occasionally boot this PSP classic up again to race through them.
Speaking of Sony originals, and moving from simulation to kart racer, ModNation Racers is another that I enjoyed plenty of. Released on both the PS3 and PSP simultaneously, I’d bought the handheld version to get more time out of it. And I spent plenty of time on it.
The customisation on offer here allowed for plenty of interesting mixes, with the ability to share everything – character, kart, and even tracks – to others meant there was plenty to explore after finishing up the main storyline. I spent quite a lot of time in the track creator – as I would whenever a creator was included in a game – making races purely for myself. If others played them, it was a bonus.
My love for the game followed on to the PSVita sequel, where I again spent a lot of time within the creator designing tracks for myself, while again giving some that others had made a go. There was plenty to get stuck into, with new creations appearing regularly.
Away from those of Sony, we get into questionable territory. Not questionable in terms of quality, but my memory of whether I played them. There are a few that I still own, so can easily trace, but many of the physical games were sold on, and it’s been an age since I played them, so can only rely on my patchy memory and a sense of recognition based on what I see.
One of those I still own is Cars – that Pixar classic featuring anthropomorphic cars. I’m a big fan of the films, but when it comes to the games… you’d have thought I’d love them just as equally. And perhaps I do, since it allowed me to take control of those characters and race through some familiar locations. But it’s been an absolute age that I have no memory of such at all.
One I do have memory of is MTX Mototrax. A motorbike racer, it was another game that featured a track creator. I spent pretty much my entire playtime of the game in this creator, just making tracks and racing on them. I didn’t care much for the career mode, and if I was to race on any of the official tracks, it would be through the free ride mode. Which didn’t leave me with a lot of choice in tracks.
Alongside those two would be FlatOut: Head On. I’d got my PSP around 2008, so these three were what I would jump to for some racing action before the other games found their way into my collection. FlatOut was fun for some destructive racing action, offering a nice counterpart to the other two games, but I think all three were just unable to hold my attention for longer than the year they lasted.
There were other games that I know I played a game in the series on the PSP, but am unable to determine which. Burnout was a series I was readily into back then, having Revenge on the PS2, so it’s only natural that I would have one of them for the handheld. And the Juiced series also had a few games released on the handheld, yet I can’t remember which it would have been.
I’m also pretty sure there were a few others beyond those, but while names do seem familiar to me, it’s difficult to remember where I played them. Test Drive Unlimited, for example, is a game that I am certain I have played before – yet where I’ve played it is up for debate. I’ve certainly got the second in my Steam library, yet I felt no recognition from it when I recently played it.
All of those games were great during that time, and I’m sure if I was able to return to them, I’d find them just as good. They all offered a lot of fun in different ways, even if the memories of them have been lost to time. They were a part of the continuous stream of racing games I’d find myself playing, and I’m happy that they were able to introduce or enhance my liking for the various types of racing games.