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Remembering classic games: Super Off Road (1989)
This arcade classic had you freewheeling like a professional
Normally when the steering wheel is spinning freely between your fingers, it’s evidence of a catastrophic steering column failure that’s about to end in an expensive accident. In the case of Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road, it’s just how the arcade cabinet was designed. This was an era before force feedback wheels made every racing game a workout and hustling the game’s teeny trucks around a corner had you spinning the rim like a roulette wheel.
Super Off Road’s tracks were an immediately identifiable series of muddy arenas, liberally decorated with berms, banked corners and water splashes, and the four brightly coloured trucks bucked and bounced their way across the terrain in a deeply satisfying fashion. This was definitely a game best played while clashing elbows with two friends, each of whom had their own freewheeling steering and unruly Baja truck to contend with. While bragging rights over your mates absolutely counted as a victory, your ultimate goal was to beat the white truck, purportedly driven by real-life off road racer Ivan “Ironman” Stewart. Presumably Captain America was busy.
Between events you could spend your winnings on upgrades that make your little truck quicker, easier to handle or more stable over bumps. This being an arcade game though, and therefore designed to gobble your pocket money like popcorn, by about race four Ironman appeared to have secretly filled his vehicle up with stolen kerosene and became almost completely unbeatable.
Home versions of Super Off Road were released on just about every contemporary format imaginable and a handful of sequels followed, but nothing beat the experience of standing in an arcade, basking in the glow of a 25-inch CRT screen and spinning that steering wheel like you were opening the hatch on a submarine.