Pole Position

Pole Position

The first 16-bit video game, Pole Position was responsible for popularizing third-person psuedo-3D graphics and racing games as a whole.


Pole Position was an arcade game released in 1982, developed by Namco. The game is seen as revolutionary for its popularization of sprite based, pseudo-3D graphics. It was one of the first games to use the "rear-view racer format" that would change the way in which racing games were developed. Pole Position was also one of the first games to feature in-game advertising. It was also the first ever 16-bit video game, utilizing two 16/32-bit Zilog Z8002 processors.

The game tasks the player with completing a time trial before moving on to a full race. Both events take place on a recreation of Fuji Circuit (renamed Namco or Blue in subsequent releases of the game). 10,000 points are scored by completing the time trial lap, and additional points added for leftover time, completing the lap under specific amounts of time (with the titular pole position at 58.50 seconds worth 4000 points), and for passing cars in the trial lap.

Once the race begins, players must avoid traffic and hazards on the track and complete three or four laps (depending on machine settings). 10,000 points are scored for each completed lap, 50 for each passed car, and 200 points for each second of time left after completing the allotted laps.

Pole Position utilized a non-self-centering analog racing wheel, which makes the game difficult to replicate via emulation.

Release History

When looking for a publisher in the United States, Namco originally approached Midway with a choice between two games, Pole Position or Mappy. Midway chose Mappy and Namco turned to Atari to publish the game. Midway would miss out on a large opportunity as Pole Position became one of the most popular arcade games of 80s and was ported to an assortment of different consoles. The game even spawned its own Saturday morning cartoon show on CBS.