Flashback: Race under the bright skies of OutRunners

February 15, 2013


Blue skies, the beach, a romantic escapade towards the sunset. The original OutRun was a very personal title, a game designed as a single-player experience first and foremost. The idea of turning it into a multiplayer racer strikes one as odd, but it’s surprisingly appropriate. given its origins.

Going back to one of the series’ influences, the surprisingly-poor 1981 movie The Cannonball Run, OutRunners reimagines the series as an energy-filled race between unlikely characters, tapping into the most fun aspects of the series and creating a memorable experience when your friends step into the picture.

At 180 miles per hour, you’ll head across the Grand Canyon, the snowy Russia and the Amazonian jungle toward no particular goal. Twisting the wheel like a madman and grinding your car against your rivals as you try to navigate an increasingly narrow road are a constant. It’s still OutRun, but it has been made bigger, louder, brasher. Gone are the soft curves of the original; here, 90-degree turns are standard before it gets wild. Insane spirals with more of a hint of Power Drift soon turn into emotional rollercoasters as you try to jam yourself between two trucks.


The landscape changes at a staggering speed and crashing only slows you down a bit. Coupled with an outrageous level of rubber banding, it makes racing a constant stream of battles, each one more exciting than the last, until you run through the finish line one second earlier than your rivals.

Running on the Sega32 hardware, OutRunners is the most technologically-advanced 2D racer ever made, pushing the Super Scaler technology to the limit for the most vibrant colors. While the flashy pixelation of the game may very well turn off some potential players, it gives the game a nice retro feel at least as many will appreciate. It ties into a lively universe on overdrive, down to the buffed and muscled Flagman and a lively Radio DJ which is more than a Blue Brothers reference. And the music he plays is pretty great! Lively remixes of the original music pump you into action, while the original music of this version matches the classics in quality and catchiness.


Finding OutRunners in arcades may pose a challenge to most readers, even if the machines are surprisingly common for their age, but the oft-maligned Genesis port is actually more than decent. The forced split-screen is only a minor nuisance, given that multiplayer is the only way to get the full experience.  In fact, beyond the overly-compressed samples, I only have a mechanical complaint with the home version, and that’s the lack of a steering wheel to turn and twist.

So what are you waiting for? Go racing!