Days of thunder
Image: Paramount Pictures

When developer Chris Oberth passed away in 2012 at the tragically young age of 59, he left behind a considerable legacy, with titles such as Phasor Zap, Anteater, Ardy the Aardvark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom listed amongst his credits.

He also left behind a massive selection of floppy discs, hard drives and CD-Rs, all of which were donated by his family to the Video Game History Foundation, which has been sifting through the data in order to properly catalogue and preserve it. The hard work has paid off because the VGHF has discovered a NES game coded by Oberth that was assumed lost 30 years ago.

That game is Days of Thunder, a racing title based on the 1990 movie directed by Tony Scott and starring Tom Cruise. It was intended to be published by Mindscape, but the company instead released a different version of the game on the NES developed by Beam Software. It appears that Oberth's version started development earlier but was cancelled; the developer himself only talked about it once, in a 2006 interview with the retro-gaming newsletter Retrogaming Times.

As you can see from the footage, it's a little different from Beam's released version, which used crude 3D graphics to replicate the stock car action of the movie:

Incredibly, the game was discovered totally by chance as the VGHF looked through Oberth's archive of discs. The source code was spread across 21 5.25-inch floppy disks – all of which were still readable – on which archivist Rich Whitehouse found the source code, game data and assembler. From this, he was able to compile a working ROM.

Had this discovery not been made, Oberth's work would have been lost forever – but now it will live on. The VGHF is planning to make the source code available online for those who are interested in creating their own ROM from the data, and there are plans to publish the game on a working NES cart, with the proceeds going to Oberth's family.