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Remembering classic games: NASCAR Racing (1994)

An entertaining Nineties gem, even for those who didn't see the appeal of 40 cars going fast and turning left a lot

Published: 07 Jun 2024

The mid Nineties saw two very different takes on NASCAR games. On the one hand, you had NASCAR Racing, which aimed to replicate the complex dynamics of pack racing on oval circuits and provide a true recreation of the various stops on the Cup calendar. On the other, you had Daytona USA, which let you powerslide past a space shuttle.

We’re not going to get into arguments over which is the superior experience here, but NASCAR Racing’s simulation approach certainly proved to be hugely influential. With early texture-mapped 3D graphics and handling that felt good even if you were pecking at the arrow keys on a keyboard, NASCAR Racing was entertaining even if you were a Brit and the prospect of watching 40 cars turn left for three hours was about as tempting as watching the Paint Drying World Championships.

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Whether it was the enormous superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, or the short ovals at Bristol and Martinsville, there was something thrilling about attempting to scythe your way through the pack and there’s no experience more terrifying in all of racing than finding yourself in the middle as cars enter a turn three wide.

Developer Papyrus Designs also pioneered online racing with a service codenamed ‘Hawaii’ that allowed players to connect via dial-up modems and rack up the sort of long distance phone bills that would have telecoms shareholders ordering a second yacht. This work in online racing would prove beneficial not just for the sim community, but also for Papyrus cofounder Dave Kaemmer who went on to launch a modest platform called iRacing in 2008.

So beloved was the NASCAR Racing series among simracers that, for a time, sealed copies of the final game, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, were selling for hundreds of dollars apiece. As retirement plans go, it’s a marginally more canny investment than Beanie Babies. Marginally...

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