Out Run is the greatest, most influential arcade racing game ever made. There, we said it. Yes, there have been other classics over the years: Daytona USA, Ridge Racer, Virtua Racing, Let’s Go! Jungle and the like. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) But no game has meant as much to the genre as Out Run.
Back in 2015, Sega and wonder developers M2 released a fantastic port of Out Run for the 3DS as part of its Sega 3D Classics line. Now it’s back on the Switch, albeit obviously missing the 3D trickery of the handheld version. Is it still worth getting? You bet your bumpers it is.
For those who’ve somehow managed to go their entire lives without playing Out Run, the aim of Sega’s 1986 gem is a simple one: get to the end of a five-stage course, avoiding cars and roadside obstacles along the way, before your timer runs out. The twist is that at the end of each stage the road forks, letting you choose between two completely different environments to race through next. While most of the skill involved is in your driving ability, then, there’s also a strategic element where, over time, you can figure out the optimal path to the goal.
Once you find out a route that works for you, you may be inclined to just stick with what works and focus on improving your score for the game’s online rankings, but this Switch version of Out Run borrows a nifty gimmick from the 3DS version that encourages you to try out different paths. There are five different finish lines depending on which route you take, and each one gives you a different comedy ending (as in the arcade game), but each also now unlocks a special upgrade for your car.
These can be toggled on and off before a race begins and affect things like your top speed, handling and how much of an impact hitting other cars makes. As a nice touch, each of these upgrades also changes your car’s colour, meaning you’re no longer forced to go with a red Ferrari every time. You can even unlock ‘arcade mode’, which essentially drops the frame rate from the current 60fps to 30fps. It may not look as pretty, but it’s certainly authentic: one for the purists, we reckon.
In its shiny new, non-arcade form, Out Run has never looked better – the lack of 3D aside, of course. M2 has once again done a masterful job of upgrading the game to a solid 60 frames per second, meaning roadside objects zoom past you at obscene speeds in a gorgeously smooth manner. It’s particularly impressive in the stages with larger objects, like the iconic section where you race through an enormous tunnel made up of giant stone pillars.
It’s also now playable natively in widescreen. This isn’t done in the half-hearted way most emulation packages handle widescreen, where the image is simply stretched to make it look like Sonic and chums have been going heavy on the pies for the past few months. Instead, everything keeps its normal dimensions and the edges of the picture are simply extended, letting you see more roadside detail. This immediately makes it the best way to play the game (although, again, there’s still the option to play in the original 4:3 ratio that was in the arcades, if you’re a stickler for authenticity).
Graphics are one thing, but Out Run is one of those games where the sound is just as important. Its iconic three selectable tracks – Magical Sound Shower, Last Wave and Passing Breeze – are obviously here too, as are the two extra tracks that were added to the 3DS version (Cruising Line and Camino A Mi Amor). Four more have been added to this Switch version for good measure, though.
The first is a brilliant Driver’s Megamix that combines all three main tracks. Most interesting, through, are the rearranged versions of Step On Beat (from the Mega Drive port of Out Run), Midnight Highway (from the Master System one) and Radiation (from Out Run 2006), all of which have been recreated in the Sega System-16 style to sound like they would have if they had been in the original coin-op. It’s a fantastic touch that pays homage to the game’s lineage without just chucking in a bunch of random chiptunes from different eras that would’ve sounded completely out of place.
If you’re already a proud owner of the 3DS version of Out Run, this all may be starting to feel a little familiar by now. You’d be absolutely correct: almost all of the ‘new’ features in this Sega Ages version of the game – the native widescreen support, the switch to 60 frames per second, the unlockable upgrades, car colours and arcade mode – were also in the 3D Classics version. The Switch version even includes the option to play with motion controls (to emulate turning the wheel in the arcade game), which was also in the 3DS port (although it works better here because you don’t necessarily have to be turning the screen at the same time).
The only major difference here is those four extra music tracks, meaning if you’re still perfectly happy with the 3DS version, you shouldn’t feel like you’re missing out on anything major if you choose not to download this newer iteration. That said, as big fans of the 3DS version, we reckon £5.99 is a reasonable price to upgrade to the Switch’s bigger, higher resolution display, as well as the obvious added benefit of being able to play it on TV, too.
It could be argued that other games in the Sega Ages series have been blessed with more enhancements than Out Run, which is more or less the 3DS version with a resolution boost. But it could also be argued that those games needed it more. In this day and age, in order to be more enjoyable, Phantasy Star needs auto-mapping and its new menu, which better explains all its oddly description-free items and spells. Out Run just needs to be Out Run, and that’s exactly what it does, as well as it ever has.
If you originally missed out on the 3DS port, this is about as essential a retro release as you can get. Out Run has always been an infinitely playable game, and the new unlockables and online rankings only increase its longevity further. Those with the 3DS version will have to decide whether it’s worth buying what’s more or less the same game again in order to play it on their TV, but for everyone else with an interest in retro gaming, it’s a must-have.