No real-time tire degradation or dynamic weather systems here—just you, a generic red convertible (that, if some Italian lawyers come knocking, definitely isn’t a chop-top Ferrari Testarossa) with a charming 16-bit blonde in the passenger seat, and a near-infinity of American freeway. All accompanied by some of the most infectious video-game music ever committed to silicon.
When Out Run arrived in in 1986, it instantly transported you from standing in a sticky puddle of spilt Fanta at your local arcade to embarking upon the greatest road trip gaming had ever seen. You’d pick your favorite tune by twiddling the dial on the FM radio and, with a chirp of the tires, pull up to the start of a Cannonball Run-esque dash across the continent. This is a game that understood the romantic pull of the open road—and better yet, it was able to emulate that on technology you wouldn’t trust to run a mixed load cycle on your washing machine these days.
It was the sheer speed of the thing that was most intoxicating, though. The breakneck pace at which you scythed past traffic was unprecedented at the time, and was paired with the tactile rush of jamming the shifter into high gear and clinging onto the cabinet’s chunky wheel for dear life as the kilometer-per-hour figure climbed.
Boasting scenery that evolved as you completed each stage and a choice of routes to five different finish lines, Out Run also had surprising depth for a game designed solely to swallow as much of your pocket money as possible. And with the whiplash-inducing sequences of high-speed corners on the more challenging routes, anyone determined to complete it could expect to shell out a small fortune in shiny coins for the privilege. Although as far as we’re concerned, for a spot on the high-scores board and a steamy 15 minutes with the best arcade racer of the ’80s, that’s fine value.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.