Daaaaaytonnnnnaaaaaaaa. Daaaaaytonnnnnaaaaaaaa, Let’s go away! Back in the arcades, Sega’s Virtua Racing was a revolution in 3D racing games. The only drawback, was that the polygons were all…polygon-y. No textures, just triangles, squares and hexagons. It wasn’t until 1993 and 1994, when SEGA’s Daytona USA hit the arcades, and took the world by storm.
Being the first 3D racing game to feature texture mapped polygons, Daytona was a beautiful game. High speed, gorgeous graphics, and a soundtrack that has since been burned into everyone’s mind if they were fortunate enough to play it at the time. Daytona USA featured three tracks to choose from, and the choice between manual and automatic transmission. Each race tasked you with competing against a grid of up to 40 cars, while trying to reach checkpoints in a period of time.
The three tracks included were the 777 Speedway, based on the Daytona circuit, Dinosaur Canyon, a looped track race through canyons with sharp hairpins and sweeping corners, and Seaside Street Galaxy, which started on a cable bridge and took the players through small towns, a harbour and hills.
Daytona USA allowed for up to eight cabinets to play together in arcades. Some of them offered driver facing cameras so you could see your opponent’s face above their car when near them. It wasn’t long before it became the highest grossing arcade game of all time.
A console version was released in 1995 on the SEGA Saturn, although graphically it was a bit weak. Texture pop up and a lower frame rate was notable, but not enough to ruin the experience. The lack of tracks was another issue, but a Saturn mode added extra features like mirror mode racing, more cars to choose from, and horses. Yes, horses. Manual and automatic transmission horses. It also added Endurance races on all three tracks, which if successful, unlocked more horses, with foals in tow. Don’t ask…
A PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 version were released in 2011, updating the game with modern HD visuals, and including the original soundtracks. These versions allowed for 8 players to play online using PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. This version also included a karaoke mode, with the lyrics appearing on the screen while you raced.
Below, you can see Daytona USA’s intro and the circuits in action in this longplay video. It didn’t hold up too well as the years went by, but still, it was an inspiring racing game, and look where it has brought us to now.