Ridge Racer is an arcade game developed and released by Namco in 1993. It is the first game in the popular Ridge Racer franchise, and in some ways a spiritual successor to Winning Run (1988). Ridge Racer originally began development as a prototype called SimDrive, which debuted at the JAMMA arcade show in 1992 before being cancelled and re-worked into Ridge Racer.
The arcade version debuted in September 1993, when it was reviewed by the October 1993 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly (issue 51, page 64). Upon release, it was notable for introducing a drifting gameplay mechanic.
As the second title for the the Namco System 22 arcade system (after SimDrive), Ridge Racer was notable for being the first mass-market video game to use texture-mapped 3D polygon graphics (the 1995 sequel Rave Racer took it further by introducing high resolution 3D textures) along with Gouraud shading. The game ran at a high resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, at a full 60 frames per second, which was unprecedented for a 3D video game at the time.
Ridge Racer introduced the mechanic of choosing between automatic and manual transmission, adding a simulation element to arcade racing. The deluxe arcade version was one of the first games where it was very difficult to drive in manual unless the player can really drive a car, as they need to use the clutch, gear stick, and proper three-turn steering wheel.
Upon release, Ridge Racer was well received. The original arcade version's 3D polygon graphics, which introduced texture mapping and Gouraud shading, was described by critics as being revolutionary and the most realistic video game graphics seen up until then. It was also praised for its audio, drifting-based gameplay, artificial intelligence, and in the full-scale deluxe version, the use of a real Mazda MX5 as an arcade cabinet.
It received a console port for the Sony Playstation that was released in Japan on December 3, 1994. While considered a high-quality port, the resolution and frame rate were halved (320x240 @ 30 fps) while the texture details were also reduced. US and European versions of the PlayStation port were released almost a full year later in September of 1995. The game was a launch title in all these territories.
The game played a major role in establishing the new system and in giving it an early edge over its nearest competitor, the Sega Saturn. The PlayStation version was also praised for its graphics, audio and arcade-style racing gameplay, becoming one of Famitsu's highest-rated games of 1994 and receiving Electronic Gaming Monthly's award for Best Driving Game of 1995. Retrospectively, reception has been positive to mixed, with several later reviewers criticizing its arcade-style gameplay and lack of strong artificial intelligence compared to later games.
Ridge Racer's game play mechanics are similar to most racing games. The player can accelerate or brake, and steer left or right. There is also a drifting mechanic which requires the player to release the gas and press the brake while turning. This allows the player to make sharper turns, but also runs the risk of the car losing control. The game has very little actual game content. There is only one track to choose from, and eight challenges that can be raced on it. Higher difficulty challenges add a small segment to the track to add length and difficulty. At the outset there are four challenges to choose from and by placing first in these races four more can be opened. These last four challenges are the exact same as the first four, but the player must race the track backwards. There is also a glitch that will allow a player to race mirrored versions of a race.
Game Menu Options
Course select allows the player to choose their desired course. Four courses are available initially. The higher difficulty courses have an additional track segment to lengthen the race. Placing first in these four races unlocks four more races which have the player race the track backwards.
Transmission allows the player to choose between automatic and manual transmission.
Car select lets the player choose which of thirteen cars they want to race with. Each car has strengths and weaknesses.
Sound select lets the player choose which music tracks they want to listen to while racing. They can also switch in their own music CD and choose from the first six tracks.
Options allows the player to view and save their progress, change their controls, and listen to music tracks.
Development and Arcade Release
At JAMMA's 1992 AM (Amusement Machines) show in Japan, held during 27th-29th August 1992, Namco debuted a racing game called Sim Drive, for the then new Namco System 22 arcade board. The game was itself a sequel to Eunos Roadster Driving Simulator, a Mazda MX-5 driving simulation arcade game that Namco developed with Mazda and released in 1990. Its 3D polygon graphics stood out for its use of Gouraud shading and texture mapping. After a location test at the show, where it was previewed by the November 1992 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly (pages 78 & 80), Sim Drive had a limited Japanese release in December 1992, but did not get a mass-market release. It served as a prototype for Ridge Racer.
Upon release of the arcade game in 1993, Ridge Racer was called by Namco "the most realistic driving game ever". The game featured three-dimensional polygon graphics with texture mapping and various types of terrain. Namco advertised it as being the first coin-operated video game with texture mapping.  The game made its North American debut at the 1993 American Amusement Machine Association (AMAA) show. [Electronic Gaming Monthly, issue 51, October 1993, page 64]
Namco System 22 Arcade Hardware
Main article: Namco System 22
The technical specifications for the 32-bit Namco System 22 arcade hardware running the game:
- Main CPU (Central Processing Unit) processor: Motorola 68EC020 @ 25 MHz
- Instruction performance: 7.6 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second)
- Floating-point performance: 0.19 MFLOPS (Million Floating-point Operations Per Second)
- + Custom Namco chips
- Main GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) processor: Evans & Sutherland TR3 chipset
- DSP (Digital Signal Processing) GPU processors: 2x TI TMS32025 (16/32-bit) @ 49.2 MHz
- Performance: 64 MIPS (32 MIPS each)
- Floating-point performance: 400 MFLOPS
- Polygon performance: More than 240,000 polygons per second
- Features: Texture mapping, Gouraud shading, transparency, translucency effects, Z-buffering, depth cueing
- Display: 640x480 resolution @ 60 fps (frames per second) frame rate
- Colour: 16.78 million colours (24-bit colour) on screen
- Sound CPU: 2x Namco C74 (based on 16-bit Mitsubishi M37702) @ 16.4 MHz
- Sound chip: Namco C352 @ 16.4 MHz
- Features: 32-channel, 8-bit PCM @ 42 KHz
- Audio output: Stereo (standard), 4-channel Bose surround (deluxe)
- Monitor: 33-inch (standard), 3x 33-inch (deluxe)
- Projection: 2x 110-inch (18 ft) screens (Full Scale)
- Controls: Wheel (force feedback), Shifter (six positions), Pedals, Mazda MX-5 (Full Scale)
- Pedals: Acceleration, Brake, Clutch
There was a deluxe arcade cabinet that featured three monitors to give a more widescreen perspective.
Ridge Racer Full Scale
There was a more expensive full-scale deluxe arcade cabinet called Ridge Racer Full Scale, which was released alongside the standard arcade version in 1993.
Ridge Racer Full Scale featured an actual Mazda MX-5 sports car, where all the controls corresponded to the controls on screen (including the wheel, clutch, brakes, throttle, dials, radio, and rev counter), providing an unparalleled level of realism at the time. It also featured a much larger (almost cinema-sized) 2x 110-inch (18 ft) projection screen wired to the car as well as a 4-channel Bose surround sound system; the game's 'graphics engine' board itself was stored under the bonnet. The entire full-scale deluxe cabinet was 6 metres wide, 5 metres long, and 2.5 metres high.
Players sat inside an adapted red Eunos Roadster, the Japanese right-hand-drive version of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and controlled the same car on-screen. The game was played in front of a 10 ft/3 m-wide, front-projected triple screen (which benefited from dimmed ambient lighting), with the car's wheel, gear stick and pedals functioning as the game's controls. The ignition key was used to start the game, the speed and RPM gauges were fully functional, and fans blew wind on the player from inside the air vents. Speakers concealed inside the car provided realistic engine and tire sounds, while overhead speakers provided surround music. In almost all locations, an operator stood by a console, to collect payment and control the operation. The game's P.C.B. was located under the hood of the car. The steering wheel could be re-linked to the rack and pinion steering of the car, making it easier to move.
The unit used similar projection technology to Namco's 1990 arcade shooter game Galaxian 3.  This full-scale deluxe version cost £150,000 for arcade operators upon release, equivalent to £260,312 or $411,895 in 2014. For players, it cost £3 per play,  equivalent to £5.21 or $8.24 in 2014. It was one of the most expensive arcade cabinets of all time, second only to Virtua Formula (which cost £250,000 at the time).
PlayStation Launch Game
The PlayStation version was shown at the 1995 Electronic Entertainment Expo event, and it was considered an innovation in the use of three-dimensional polygons on consoles. It won the Game of the Show award that year, followed by role-playing video game EarthBound as runner-up.  Ridge Racer was released in North America on September 8, 1995 as one of eight launch titles for the PlayStation.
Ridge Racer was a North American launch game for the original PlayStation (PSOne) back in 1995. The game launched alongside other PS1 launch titles that included:
- Battle Arena Toshinden
- ESPN Extreme Games
- Kileak - The DNA Imperative
- NBA JAM Tournament Edition
- Raiden Project
- Street Fighter: The Movie
- Total Eclipse Turbo
- Power Serve 3D Tennis
Ridge Racer Turbo
When R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 was released for the PlayStation, it included a bonus disc entitled Ridge Racer Turbo, a graphically enhanced version of Ridge Racer. In Europe, it was released under the name Ridge Racer Hi-Spec Demo. It ran at 60 frames per second, and used the Gouraud shading engine developed for R4 to render car shading. The drawback to this version was that you were only pitted against one AI opponent, regardless of what course you picked. This version was the closest the PlayStation came to the graphics and frame rate of the original Namco System 22 arcade version.
|GameRankings||PS1: 81% (2 reviews)|
PS1: 86% (15 reviews)
|Computer and Video Games||ARC: 80%|
|Electronic Gaming Monthly||PS1: 18/20|
|Famitsu PS||PS1: 36/40|
The arcade version was well received upon release. Following its North American debut at the AMAA show, Electronic Gaming Monthly reviewed the game in its October 1993 issue. They described it as a "racing tour-de-force" and "incredible title" along the lines of Sega's Virtua Racing but improving on the graphics with "some of the most advanced circuity ever seen in a coin-op." They stated "the cars look so realistic and fluid" and noted the backgrounds are rendered to "a very high degree of detail." They also praised the gameplay, stating the "tunnel sequences are real nail-biters" and obstacles such as "other cars," road hazards, "construction signs, speed bumps," guard rails, "warning barricades" and other "traps" cause the "car to spin helplessly out of control." Regarding the artificial intelligence, they described the "competition" as "some of the best drivers the world has ever seen" and "completely relentless." They concluded the game "is awesome!" [Electronic Gaming Monthly, issue 51, October 1993, page 64]
The January 1994 issue of Electronic Games praised the texture-mapped 3D graphics and described the arcade game as "exceptional" and "an incredibly realistic experience."  In the April 1994 issue of the UK magazine Computer and Video Games, the arcade machine (based on the full-scale deluxe unit) was rated 80% overall by writer Paul Rand. Graphics received 97%, sound 95%, and gameplay 80%. The reviewer Paul Rand praised the "revolutionary graphics" as "the likes of which you've never seen" and "far and away the most realistic arcade game ever seen," as well as the sound quality, the use of an actual Mazda MX5 as a cabinet, and the "side-ways skid" drifting mechanic that "really does feel that you could total that expensive car if you're not careful." However, he compared the gameplay unfavourably with Virtua Racing for lacking its greater "sensation of speed." 
In Japan, the arcade game was nominated for several Gamest Awards, including Game of the Year, Best Action Game, Best Graphics, and Best VGM. [Gamest, The Best Game 2: Gamest Mook Vol. 112, pages 6-26]
The PlayStation version was also mostly well received upon release. In Japan, Famitsu's panel of four reviewers gave it ratings of 9, 9, 10 and 9 out of 10, adding up to 37 out of 40 overall.[PlayStation Cross Review: リッジレーサー, Weekly Famicom Tsūshin, No. 333, page 21, 5 May 1995] This made it one of their two highest-rated games of 1994, along with Final Fantasy VI. Famitsu PS gave it a score of 36 out of 40.[PlayStation Cross Review: リッジレーサー, PlayStation Tsūshin, No. 1, page 13, 9 December 1994] In Europe, Edge gave it a score of 9 out of 10 in December 1994, stating that, from the "perfect game" of Galaxians to "the dazzling graphics and arcade-perfect music and speech," Ridge Racer is "the killer app" that Namco and Sony "can be proud of." In North America, Electronic Gaming Monthly's panel of two reviewers gave it ratings of 9 out of 10 each, adding up to 18 out of 20 overall.[Electronic Gaming Monthly, Video Game Buyer's Guide 1998, page 74] Ridge Racer was awarded Best Driving Game of 1995 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. The game was reviewed in 1995 in Dragon #221 by Jay & Dee in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Jay did not rate the game, but Dee gave it 2 stars. [Jay & Dee (September 1995), "Eye of the Monitor", Dragon (221): 115–118]
Retrospectively, reception to the PlayStation version has been positive to mixed. In 1996, IGN gave Ridge Racer 7.5 out of 10, saying that, despite two years since release, the game "has definitely stood the test of time". IGN's main criticisms were that "there is no two-player mode" and that "the cars don't really vary in performance that much". Allgame's Shawn Sackenheim praised the game, particularly graphics and audio, and ending that it "is a fun title that racing fans [...] will love." Despite the positive reviews of the game, it was later criticized for the arcade style of gameplay. The artificial intelligence has also received criticism—the movement of the computer-controlled cars is restricted to predetermined waypoints. 
Impact and Legacy
Ridge Racer has been followed by many sequels and helped establish the position of the PlayStation console. IGN stated that Ridge Racer had been "one of PlayStation's first big system pushers" and "an excellent port of the arcade version that showed the true potential of Sony's 32-bit wonder".UGO Networks' Michael Hess and Chris Plante said that the game had "set the stage for Gran Turismo by adding an option to choose between automatic and manual transmission". John Davison of 1UP.com said that Ridge Racer was an "unbelievable demonstration of what the PlayStation could do."
The game has been listed among the best games of all time by several publications, including Game Informer in 2001,Electronic Gaming Monthly and Guinness World Records in 2009, and FHM in 2012. It has also been listed as one of the greatest games by Yahoo in 2006, and one of the greatest retro games by NowGamer in 2010.