When Ridge Racer first burst into arcades on October 30th, 1993 (that's an incredible 30 years ago today), it felt like the dawn of a new generation. Namco's 3D title was comfortably the cutting edge of video game graphics at that point, effortlessly outclassing Sega's Virtua Racing from the year before. Not only did it boast jaw-dropping texture-mapped visuals and incredibly smooth racing action, it also introduced the 'drift' mechanic which would become the trademark of the entire series.
For some people, Ridge Racer remains the quintessential arcade racing experience. It's fun, accessible, challenging and gorgeous to behold; colourful visuals and peppy music are hallmarks of the franchise, and Ridge Racer has often been seen as a series which helps to launch new console hardware. It was instrumental in the early popularity of the Sony PlayStation, becoming the system's undisputed 'killer app' for its Japanese launch, and has since been present at the birth of other consoles, including the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita.
However, if you're a newcomer to the franchise, then it can be hard to know where to begin; some of the more recent instalments – such as the PS Vita version – have proven to be crushing disappointments, while the earlier entries retain that amazing playability despite the passage of time. That's where we come in; below, we've ranked all of the mainline Ridge Racer titles (and a few associated spin-offs) in a handy list. Don't agree with our picks? Then let us know with a comment!
An early attempt by Bandai Namco to bring Ridge Racer to mobile phones (and pre-smartphone ones, at that), Ridge Racer Drift is a bit of an abomination, even by the low standards of the time. While it incorporates the nitro boost system introduced in its console-based contemporaries, the 2D visuals are terrible, the collision detection is laughable, and there's hardly any content to speak of. We should probably be thankful that it's almost impossible to play this game today, because it's a complete wreck.
A fairly recent Ridge Racer release, Draw & Drift is an awkward attempt to do something new with the franchise using your smartphone's touchscreen. You see, rather than actually controlling your car around each circuit, you have to first doodle your intended route beforehand. When the race begins, you then control when the vehicle enters a drift as it roughly follows your pre-determined path. It's about as exciting as it sounds (not very), and, despite some nice visuals, doesn't feel like a Ridge Racer game at all. Bandai Namco clearly agrees as Ridge Racer Draw & Drift is no longer available for download on either iOS or Android.
This smartphone offering gets a lot right. The visuals are great, as is the music. It also has series mascot Reiko Nagase, which ties it in neatly with the main franchise quite neatly. The big problem is the fact that there's very little sense of speed and precious little content – players were expected to resort to in-app purchases to expand the scope of the game. Ridge Racer Accelerated is another duff attempt to bring the franchise to a medium which just doesn't suit it; it has since been removed from sale by Bandai Namco, which tells you all you need to know, really.
Developed by Bugbear, the same studio behind the divisive Ridge Racer Unbounded, Ridge Racer: Driftopia was effectively a free-to-play version of Unbounded supported by annoying in-app purchases which curtailed the whole experience – unless you were willing to dig out your credit card. There was such an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the game that it was canned before it even got out of its beta phase on Steam and PS3. While the core gameplay was very similar to Unbounded, players took issue with the somewhat cynical alterations made in order to force people to spend real-world money. Unbounded itself is seen as a controversial game by many Ridge Racer fans, but at least it was playable; this version was rightly seen as a morally dubious cash grab, and is best forgotten.
Ridge Racer Slipstream is easily the best mobile phone-based Ridge Racer, but you might consider that to be damning with faint praise, given how poor the others have been. Visually, it's a fairly close match to the full-fat home console editions, and it controls well enough, given how imprecise touchscreen virtual controls are. It's certainly a fine way to while away the hours on your smartphone, but it can't hold a candle to the best the series has to offer – and some obnoxious microtransactions leave a bad taste in the mouth. Like the other smartphone Ridge Racers, this has been delisted from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, but you're honestly not missing much.
If it weren't for the terrible mobile phone Ridge Racers listed above, this would be rock-bottom of our ranking. The PS Vita version of Ridge Racer is an utterly cynical attempt to get people to part with more money after already spending a considerable amount of change on the game itself; much of its content is locked behind DLC, and it lacks any career mode or sense of progression. The blame, in this case, falls at the feet of developer Cellius, a joint venture between Sony and Bandai Namco headed up by 'Father of the PlayStation', Ken Kutaragi. This was the only game the company produced, which speaks volumes about its critical and commercial reception.
With Gran Turismo giving players a taste of authentic racing in real-world cars, it was perhaps inevitable that Namco would try and shift Ridge Racer into the same kind of territory. The result was the spin-off title R: Racing Evolution, which not only attempts to adopt a more realistic driving engine but also includes vehicles from real manufacturers, such as Dodge and McLaren. The surprisingly deep story mode is a welcome addition, but R: Racing Evolution falls between a rock and a hard place; it's not thrilling enough to succeed as a pure arcade racer and lacks the depth required to challenge the likes of Gran Turismo and Forza when it comes to being a realistic simulation of driving a sports car. An interesting experiment, but one that doesn't quite work out.
This Japan-only arcade release isn't really a fully-fledged sequel, but rather a spin-off from the first Ridge Racer that uses cute "super-deformed" vehicles. This was inspired by Ridge Racer Revolution's very similar buggy mode. Aimed at kids, this is hardly an essential entry in the series, but it's still good fun to play – assuming you're lucky enough to track down the original arcade cabinet.
Based on Ridge Racer 64, Ridge Racer DS was developed by Nintendo Software Technology rather than Namco. It has all of the shortcomings of its N64 sibling, with the addition of rougher-looking visuals, imprecise touch-screen controls and (if you don't like the touch interface) poor digital control. The game's multiplayer options are good, however, and there's just enough Ridge Racer magic here to keep you entertained – but this is a long way from being the best handheld entry in the franchise.
Developed by Nintendo Software Technology, Ridge Racer 64 takes inspiration from the original game and its PlayStation sequel, Ridge Racer Revolution. While it's not quite as polished as Namco's homegrown efforts (the collision detection is off, and the sense of speed is rather muted), the game looks and sounds nice enough, and the analogue controls are interesting. This isn't premium Ridge Racer, but given the small number of racing games on the N64, it was a welcome diversion for Nintendo diehards at the time.
Many fans don't consider this Japan-only title to be part of the Ridge Racer lineage, but it shares the same developers and even features some of the same cars, hence its inclusion here. The game is set in a city you're free to drive around, giving it a GTA-style vibe. You must embark on missions to progress, and Critical Velocity's risk-and-reward boost system makes it a lot of fun to play. It can be a challenge to understand if you don't know Japanese (a western release was apparently considered but never happened), but if you'd like a glimpse of how the Ridge Racer series could have evolved had Namco gotten a little more experimental, then it's well worth a look – just don't expect your typical Ridge Racer experience.
Ridge Racer Unbounded has to rank as the most divisive entry in the entire Ridge Racer canon, mainly because it doesn't play like a Ridge Racer game. Developer Bugbear was, at this point, most famous for the FlatOut series, which focuses on vehicular destruction. While many fans have lamented the fact that the game differed so massively from previous Ridge Racer outings, it's easy to forget that Unbounded got plenty of praise at the time of release, and – taken on its own merits – is actually a heck of a lot of fun, especially if you're a fan of Burnout. However, there's no getting around the fact that it doesn't 'feel' like a proper Ridge Racer.
It might seem odd that the game which started it all isn't ranked higher on this list, but, influence and impact aside, Ridge Racer hasn't aged as well as its descendants. There's only one circuit, and your play options are limited compared to what came later. It's still amazing fun, of course, and hasn't lost its dizzying sense of speed. Very much like Super Mario Bros. and the first Sonic game, Ridge Racer is an important historical artefact which is worthy of your attention today, even though there are arguably superior sequels to play. It's also important to remember that this is the title that 'sold' the original PlayStation to the Japanese masses.
Not so much a sequel as an update of the 1993 original, Ridge Racer 2 allows up to eight players to compete in a race by linking up four two-player cabinets (the first game was a totally solo experience). Outside of that – and a smattering of new music – this is very much the same deal. The big addition from a gameplay perspective is the rear-view mirror, which allows players to see rival cars coming up behind them and adjust their car's position accordingly.
This PlayStation-exclusive sequel to the original game adds in a host of new features while improving the performance and visuals. Coded around the strengths of the PlayStation hardware, Ridge Racer Revolution is even more impressive than the first title, and the introduction of link cable support allows players to compete against one another – assuming they both have a copy of the game and access to two PlayStation consoles, of course. Support for Namco's NeGcon controller is also included. There's much more to unlock here, but Ridge Racer Revolution will still feel a little primitive to modern players.
This arcade-only sequel adds two new courses to the original Ridge Racer, as well as a raft of visual enhancements and interface adjustments. It all results in a more refined and enjoyable experience, but sadly, it's one that very few people got to enjoy back in the day. A proposed PlayStation conversion never materialised, and while it was shown off as a potential killer app for NEC's PowerVR graphics processor on PC, that version was ultimately canned before release. Rave Racer is included as one of the five games on Arcade 1Up's officially licensed Ridge Racer arcade cabinet, alongside Ridge Racer, Ridge Racer 2, Ace Driver and Ace Driver: Victory Lap.
Notable for being the first game in the series to feature Reiko Nagase, who would go on to become the franchise mascot, Rage Racer is, in many ways, something of a departure from what came before. The bright visuals have been toned down dramatically (something that many reviewers took issue with at the time of release), and there's more content in terms of cars to unlock. Even so, it feels like an iterative refinement of the franchise up to that point rather than a groundbreaking new experience – but when you're refining something as great as Ridge Racer, that still results in a title that's well worth your time.
The first game in the series to use a nitro boost system, PSP launch title Ridge Racer (known as Ridge Racers in Japan) isn't really a stand-alone release but more a 'greatest hits' collection of the best bits in the franchise up to this point. Back in 2004, it was genuinely mind-blowing to see a game of this graphical quality on a portable system, and Ridge Racer will have shifted a lot of PSP consoles – just as the original game did with the PlayStation 1. The core gameplay is engaging and enjoyable, and it still looks polished today – although we'd recommend you pick the second PSP game over this one, as it adds in even more content.
Like PSP launch offering Ridge Racer, Ridge Racer 3D doesn't really feel like a totally new experience, as it borrows a lot of content from previous games in the franchise. That being said, playing Ridge Racer with convincing autostereoscopic 3D is one hell of an experience and one which makes us rather sad that the 3DS' gimmick didn't really go anywhere in the end. While it often feels like it's going through the motions and not really doing much new, Ridge Racer 3D is a highly refined entry in the series and one that is genuinely enriched by the introduction of glasses-free 3D.
Released alongside the shiny new PlayStation 2 in 2000, Ridge Racer V perhaps typifies the best and worst qualities of the series. The visuals, controls and sense of speed are remarkable, but some critics at the time of release felt that there wasn't enough content to keep players coming back for more (for example, there are only 15 vehicles to use compared to the 321 different variations available in Ridge Racer Type 4). Even so, this remains a classic entry in the franchise – some would even say it's one of the best games of all time – and one of the finest arcade racers of the past few decades. It simply drips style.
Ridge Racer's first foray into the world of HD graphics, Ridge Racer 6 introduces the "World Xplorer" career mode, a branching arrangement of races which unlocks as the player progresses through the game. Thirty new circuits are on offer, with 130 cars to obtain – all of which results in plenty of longevity. None of this would count for anything if the gameplay wasn't up to scratch, but thankfully it is – it's fast, addictive and a joy to control – everything one would want from a Ridge Racer outing, in fact. It was recently added to Xbox's backwards compatibility list, so you can check it out on your Series X if you wish.
Ridge Racer 2 was criticised at launch because it didn't do very much different from its forerunner, and that's a fair point. However, if you approach the series as a newcomer today, this is arguably one of the most content-packed instalments. 42 new racing tracks are included – 21 being entirely unique, and 18 are taken from previous titles in the Ridge Racer games – and fresh gameplay modes are also included. All of this makes Ridge Racer 2 one of the most feature-rich titles in the series – and one that is thankfully now playable as part of Sony's PlayStation Plus Premium service, complete with upgraded, higher-resolution visuals.
Boasting 1080p visuals moving at 60fps, Ridge Racer 7 is almost certainly the best-looking game in the series. It also adds the ability to tinker with your car's setup, which adds a welcome wrinkle to proceedings and even supports 3D, assuming you have a 3D-ready television. It's a crying shame that Bandai Namco hasn't returned to the grid for an eighth mainline entry; a few moments in the company of Ridge Racer 7 should be enough to convince anyone that this style of arcade racing still has a place in modern-day video gaming.
With Ridge Racer, Ridge Racer Revolution and Rage Racer behind it, Namco clearly knew that the fourth PlayStation entry needed to be something special. Ridge Racer Type 4 is unquestionably the best instalment of the franchise on Sony's 32-bit PlayStation – and some would argue it's the zenith of the entire lineage, full-stop. The visuals have taken a massive leap forward (you've got to love those trailing brake lights), while the sheer volume of cars to unlock will keep you glued to the game for ages. The introduction of a 'grip' driving mode alongside the traditional 'drift' allows for more precise driving, and the whole package is wrapped up in some of the slickest presentation you'll see in any video game – oh, and the soundtrack is utterly brilliant, too.