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Discussion: Recommended, Vintage Racing Games... that don't feel like they "rubber band"


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Whether it's from the days of the early arcade, to today, "rubber banding" has been a cheap tool that game developers have used to keep racing challenges fun.  Yes, that's right, I said fun.  The reason why this works is because no one wants to be really good, at least not quickly, at a game to where the game quickly becomes unchallenging and all races can be won with a breeze. Rubber banding allows for a player to have a challenge that seems to match their skills set.  That car behind you will always be riding your tail and if you get in the lead, stay sharp because if you crash, you'll lose your lead.

Some games do this well while others have been really bad.  Then there's the infamous Mario Kart series that due to it's power-ups like the blue shell, the rubber banding feels super unfair because there's nothing worse than playing a 150/200cc race, getting to the end in record time and 100 ft from the end, you get blue shelled, take 5th place AND STILL beat your course record!  To me, that is bad game design.

So, I have a question.  What are some really good racing games that either do not rubber band, or the balance is so subtle it feels unnoticeable.  Personally, I'd prefer to hear about old school 2D racers but since I want it to be an open discussion, I'm not putting any limits on the genre.

For me, the only ones that come quickest to mind are the ones that tend to be based 100% on a time trial mechanic.  In a sense, these do count.  Who doesn't enjoy Outrun or Rad Racer?  These can be suggested but I guess they are also numerous.  Off the top of my head, I think one of the games I've loved the most is Ridge Racer 5 on the PS2.  There's certainly rubber banding in that game but from time to time, you can break away from the pack and make a distant lead.  I can't say for sure, but I think they scale the banding effect with your saved progress, which I think is smart.  Does anyone know of any other games like this or have any suggestion?  Also, probably the oldest game I can think of is Pole Position.  I don't think it has any rubber banding but instead, it overwhelms the player with something like 30-40 cars to pass, IIRC. Honestly, I think I prefer that to most cases where you are always being tailed by an AI car, no matter how good your lap is.

Edited by RH
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  • The title was changed to Discussion: Recommended, Vintage Racing Games... that don't feel like they "rubber band"
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