What makes a racing game? They are usually the drivers, vehicles and courses that make racing worth the scene. I have played a many motorsport games for a long time to understand that the tracks are part of the attraction. As games have been created and released over the years along with the ever increasing realism, the creators of those games have decided to introduce and include the same road course across many of their games. It does make sense considering many games aim to achieve the realism by making the cars and also include professional drivers whenever they could. Road courses are another grand feature for many of these realistic racing games yet many courses aren't just found in the same set of series of those games.

There always a common course found across those games from dirt style tracks, indoor tracks or a track event specific like a specialised drag strip. The road courses are the most common courses found within these games which could be found in the countryside, desert, mountain or even next to a city. Usually covered in asphalt for your average to exotic vehicle to drive on for race events like for a Formula 1 or an endurance race with Touring vehicles to motorcycles and even driven in trucks or big rigs. Road courses in video games have become a feature in their own to give the experience, for any players a chance to what those courses are like when driven on and makes it a part of those video games.

With loads of racing games released over the previous few decades and with road courses being recreated, there have been the same courses featured across many games. No matter how different the challenge would be within the game, many of those games always aim to represent the same course design in the location in the same way. To help myself have an idea to what the courses are really meant to be and why they exist in the first place, I visited the road course's website if they have one, which explains their courses in detail and their history. I have also used data found on the website Giant Bomb to help me confirm what games feature the specific course locations for further research if I had missed any. I will also include my own experience understanding design for a game together with my experience playing many racing games that I have enjoyed over the years, which gives me a solid idea to why I believe these courses have been featured, let alone how they appear across video games. I also don't drive and even if I did, I wouldn't have visited these courses to drive on, so I am basing each entry based on the amount of games these courses have been featured in with my experiences of taking part of them when I had a chance to play them in a video game and to the website information to form my thoughts to why they are being featured.

Located in Nurburg, South West Germany and it has been said to be possibly the world's largest racing track, the Nurburgring Nordschileife is said to reach 21 kilometres/13 miles. The track doesn't just aim to be as huge, it aims to challenge the driver to think as they drive the long straights and to turn on the 73 corners like a never ending stream to think unlike the average course around the world before crossing the finish line.

It may have achieved this when driver and three time course championship Jackie Stewart called the track "Green Hell". Nordschleife has appeared in many video games to date but hardly in the first generation of gaming hardware, maybe because the track is very huge that it was a challenge to fit the track in any game until now. A more interesting title said to be circulating is a 1975 arcade title called Nurburgring 1, which was said to be a simulation of the Nurburgring Nordschleife released only in Germany, where the design of the game was said to be the basis of another Atari game title Night Driver which has nothing to do with the track.

It is a feat of getting the Nordschleife into the game to date, seeing developers making use of the track to set up challenges is another story. Gran Turismo series maybe being the best example, with license tests and missions being hosted on the daunting track, so imagine taking part of an event which would last 8 minutes on this course but you can't crash before finishing to win or complete the game That's is the kind of challenge the developers are using Nordschleife to really get players mastering this course. Seeing a screen with a brief to what to do and seeing the time to finish it in with just 1 lap, you'll somewhat know it would be a big course that gets away from the other courses. Need for Speed Shift was no different, mastering corners (without bumps) got the player awards however there was one corner on the track that was near impossible and had players annoyed because of it. There's also getting the AI right to make it more of a challenge as games have really slow cars which could be outrun during a race even on 1 lap. Until the later games decided to add algorithm performance to allow the AI drivers to pace themselves and be overtaken at the certain corner to make the races interesting. The game features overshadow the course design itself, which is a shame because the course has a lot to offer.

A first of many courses on this list based in Japan, a country that has a thrill and the thirst for motorsport racing, together with the amount of vehicles they produce and exports from different manufacturers. They sometimes demand a place to experience high speed and results from many of their vehicles in a short amount to time. The Tsukuba Circuit was designed to be a time attack course. The course is very short at a little over 2 miles however it hosts many racing events and tasks for vehicle manufacturers to test their vehicles on. Due to the course's small size, it weren't noticed by early developers as much compared to the other major tracks because of the course's small size. While video games stages and levels are increasing in size and detail lending more room to host bigger courses, Tsukuba Circuit is an interesting entry because it somewhat the opposite to what is expected in the ever increasing advancements in video games. The course is known for being able to test vehicles performance also. Tsukuba Circuit has been featured across many Forza Motorsport titles, later Gran Turismo games and Enthusia Professional Racing. I would strongly think that Tsukuba was just a way of presenting that a small course would look great in a game to show off the level of detail and any mini challenge part that a game offers. At one point, Gran Turismo 4 offered drivers to race on the course while it was raining to show off the game's level of realism.

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is a more of an interesting course. You wouldn't think Belgium would feature a road course that is worth the attention compared to the other courses found in any other country. Unlike the common modern variation found within the games which is measured at 7 kilometres, the old course was a lot more longer at 15 kilometres. The course is known for being the venue for Belgium for the Grand Prix since 1985 and known to be the longest course in the competitions which is maybe why the course has held the spotlight for a while. The course was first featured in many Sega Genesis and SNES Grand Prix games however the course seem to have taken a hiatus during the late 90s. Francorchamps later made a return to the course line up in Need for Speed Shift, a few Gran Turismo games, GIRD Motorsport and Forza.

Spa-Francorchamps features 19 turns, the great part of the track in my opinion is after the first bend, when the straight allows drivers to pick up speed before hitting a bend (a part I like cutting on to get a few positions in some games) and down another straight again uphill before hitting more turns and getting into the course. It does feel like escaping into the scenery before hitting the finish line. Spa Francorchamps is a course that settles into racing games. When it comes down to overtaking in any race across any courses, many courses were designed for drivers to over-take because that's what adds to the fun of witnessing racing events. Many of these courses on the list have courses which were designed for managing their speed and overtaking their opponents. This course allows that to occur on many later corners and bends.

There hasn't been as many courses from British featured in video games as I would maybe like, which may be very unusual considering that Britain manufactures vehicles as competitively as Japan and America. It should not be a surprise that they've taken racing onto a specialised race track of their own.The Silverstone Circuit has a long history and has been noticed by the Formula 1 to host the British Grand Prix. The course has many variations. The longest and main variation measures at almost 6 kilometres with 18 turns. The course also hosts the MotoGP. The course has been featured in the official Formula 1 games, Gran Turismo, Forza and many many more. Placing a Silverstone circuit in is maybe just a way to have a British track in the game to make notice of the British motorsport but the Silverstone track is a course to challenge drivers because of it's long straights and solid bends. Other British courses being introduced across later games to maybe fill the demand of British racing were the Donnington and Brand Hatch which are just as good,The Silverstone Circuit status as a Grand Prix track maybe helped the course to become featured in video games very early in video games. There's not much about this track over then being a solid British racing course.

Road America is an interesting course. Maybe been branded such a name to show off American patriotism but it isn't really the case after seeing what the course is really like. The course is located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Measuring 4 miles with 14 corners for drivers to turn on doesn't seem much. The straights were clearly made to for speed and the turns to slow down and would allow the player to overtake their opponents, which makes this a straight forward course of the players. The player who would encounter this course the most would be the NASCAR players for the recent NASCAR Heat games however the track has made their way into Need for Speed: Shift, Project Cars, Codemaster's TOCA Racing 2 and also Microsoft's 1998 PC driving game CART Precision Racing (What game?) which had included this for their game.

Seeing the scenery for the course make me wonder why Codemasters for TOCA Racing 2 and Slighty Mad Studios for Need for Speed: Shift made this course really worth making for the game. The scenery feels as the same scenes found in the country in the United Kingdom, so I'm taking a wild guess it was maybe very easy for the developers to place that in the video game. Either way, Road America isn't just a course with the name America tagged onto it, the course presents the challenges in both speed and skill to give a fair challenge to players just to have them drive around for a bit and focus on racing.

When it comes to America's super-sport NASCAR, they have a good selection of racing tracks across the country. Many of them are the usual oval or tri-oval shape with a few other tracks having an irregular shape with the usual turns and cornering like any other racing course. Daytona International Speedway hosts many events including the 500 series in America which promotes the NASCAR sport. Sega's decide to created a driving game with the NASCAR feel and courses for the arcade title Daytona USA. The arcade was popular for many reasons, even to go as far out to be considered Sega's most popular arcades of all time maybe because of the multiplayer gameplay where the cabinet has four screens and seats attached together. Despite Sega's attempt to make the game, there's no track in the arcade version of the game which looks closely like the actual course. They are fictional which is maybe why developers are rushing in to feature the real life counterpart. Daytona International Speedway has two variations in layout in the real life encounter part, one being the tri-oval built for speed and the other being a few turns in the oval for cornering and speed when drivers drive along the outer edge. It wasn't until other games focusing on realism, which really wanted to include NASCAR as well as games focusing on the motorsport. Thankfully, Sega later decided to recreate the actual track for the 2017 title Daytona Championship USA for the first time. Interestingly enough, Sega released another arcade title Indy 500, which was released around the same time that features the Indianapolis circuit however it may be the chance that Daytona USA's success may have over-shadowed this game and the Indianapolis circuit, considering Indianapolis also had been featured in many previous games before Daytona USA's release.

The Circuit de la Sarthe is well known for hosting the Le Mans which usually consist of races lasting 24 Hours. Located in France and measures 8.5 miles with both road sections on one half and a racing section of course on the other, it makes for a more interesting choice of track. The last decade saw a release of titles for the sport which would feature the track. It was unusual to see a racing game just to feature just one track at the time however it was understandable that the Le Mans 24 Hour games would feature just the track it was hosted on as the sport only uses this course. It didn't stop other developers to notice the sport to include it into their games. Polyphony Digital included the track in Gran Turismo 4 and Microsoft Studios included their track in the Forza series. The track is known for the extremely long straight, which is a road with three bends to slow the vehicles down which makes one half. The other half consists of bends and turns to give the usual challenge the sport gives to the driver to perform before winning the race. The Circuit de al Sarthe holds many other courses but they are less known like the Bugatti section of the overall course, which almost no one knows about, so who knows how developers would take advantage of the other sections of course within the future. Despite the courses long history from 1923, there is not much about the course other then being famous of the 24 hour long events. Really great for developers to apply their day/night features onto the course which is something not many video games have the chance to apply such a feature onto, which makes playing video games worth while.

The Suzuka Circuit has a rich history and features that really competes against other courses. The track was helped designed by Soichiro Honda himself, the founder of the Honda company. Located in where the name of the course comes from, Suzuka, Japan. The course itself is known the amount of features the track to make it unique from other courses around the world. The course has the figure 8 course layout for example, where the track crosses over half way across the track which holds some attention and usually sheds interest. The course takes pride being built in a mountainous area with the starting gird being located in a sloped area. This is because Mr Honda didn't want the track to be build on a level area like a farm land, he wanted the course to take advantage of an area of Japan that made use of the landscape. The track designers were also proud of the idea of the sloped starting grid as this helped Ayrton Senna in 1988 as his engine stalled at the starting line but the slope helped him roll his vehicle and start his engine which allowed him to win the race.

Suzuka Circuit has other iconic features in the area and that is not just the track itself. The Suzuka's Ferris wheel is seen as a land mark. So much of a course backdrop feature that a Ferris wheel had been created to sit next to a course in Sega's Virtrua Racing where they included it on one of their tracks they had created just for the game. If there were ever a fictional race track and it has a Ferris wheel in the scenery, then you'll know it was inspired by the Suzuka Circuit. The Suzuka Circuit have been featured in a lot of racing games because of the amount of features within the sight. One of the more interesting games to feature the course is Capcom's only racing game titled Auto Modellistia, which is rendered in cel-shaded to produce a cartoon/anime feel in the graphics. Seeing the Suzuka Circuit featured in the game in such a style is one of the more interesting sights I've seen in a racing game considering that the Suzuka Circuit has a fun feel to the track.

The Raceway Laguna Seca is a located in Monterey County of California, measuring 2.2 miles with 11 turns, with the usual straights and turns. The course has one specific feature that makes almost everyone focus to why this course is known which has been dubbed the corkscrew. It is a 59ft drop located on turn 8 before the course continues. Other then that, the course has different sights surrounding it, it is not your country or city based course as the surrounding area is a mix of tree and sand that makes it almost different in its own. A very Southern American feel to it. Shouldn't be a surprise that the track have been featured across many racing games. The Raceway has been own by many companies. It is currently owned by WeatherTech however before, it has been owned by Mazda which even features their banners in some of the courses in some of the previous games like Gran Turismo 3 which has had appeared in.

I think the Raceway in Laguna Seca was well fond for games because of the tracks length and scenery which made it ideal on screen. I think it is a giveaway when the track has a famous corkscrew section, which is seen as challenging for drivers which adds to the thrill of racing on this track. The features are extremely unique that it covers away the course's rich history as the site was founded in the mid 1850, when a ranch and built for purpose as previous races were deemed to dangerous, until it was converted into a racing course a century later.

Imagine a track where the surrounding area is filled with prestigious buildings of high class representing restaurants, casinos and an opera house in real life alongside a harbour were spectators who own boats and yacht also could view the races. Monaco makes almost every racing fans dreams come true with their design of their course. The Monaco circuit has more then enough to make this course extremely distinctive to the point where it really transforms the idea that road courses should not only limited to being hosted in a country side or in a middle of a desert. Monaco has made use of their setting since 1923 for their Grand Prix and has been hosted their races since. Should it be a surprise that many developers rush to try to include this course and the surrounding area into their games?.The course sometimes goes by the name Cote d'Azur which is French for French Riviera maybe because the track resides next to the sea compared to many other major events which take part in the city.

The course was a must for any F1 Grand Prix game. I think for the other developers for their other games, it must have been created because of the challenge to make the track look as worth it. Gran Turismo 3 which sold PlayStation 2s, let alone millions of copies had implemented the track in their game. Many early games found during the 90s were trying to include the course, maybe as at the time when video games were seen as a luxury. What better way to represent any luxury is to create sights in a game to what the Cote D Azur is to the world. The 1998 PC game Grand Prix Legends was a recreation of the 1966 Grand Prix featured the course however many of the sights were based of the year the game was set in, like lack of buildings and arch bridges to show what the course may have looked like. That was maybe Sierra was having a challenge trying to get people to play the game in the competitive world of how other games were featuring the track at the time. It is almost unreal that there is ever such a location and even more better getting it into a video game for anyone to enjoy while maybe worth seeing the real location. Circuit de Monaco or if anyone would prefer the name Cote d'Azur is almost every reason you would want to drive vehicles in a compete manner.

Worth mentioning that there's also Sonoma Raceway which has appeared across games. As it is mainly a course of NASCAR races, the road course is better known as Infineon Raceway in Gran Turismo 4 and in a few other games recently. The course seems to be as another tough challenge as it isn't the usual oval track as seen as many NASCAR courses across America. It has the uphills, tight turns and final challenging corner to see who really can handle the race or compete the course in the fastest time.

While developers for racing titles have worked hard to recreate and feature tracks for their games and see what other titles feature the game courses, my guess is, it wasn't long for developers to realise that they should go out of their way to find other courses from around the world to feature. Courses like Mount Panorama in Australia, Mondello Park in Ireland or the Red Bull Ring in Austria have found their way in some of the latest games. They were made to be seen in video games as well to give players that new challenge in video games. Moto GP were nice enough to include the Mugello course, maybe because it was more accessible to them to make, so it is nice seeing that in a game that wasn't just a driving game.

Be careful however, when I was young playing games like Gran Turismo 3, which is known for the high level of realism, I thought every course was a real course but some of the courses in the game were fictional. It helps to understand which courses are real and which aren't, especially when growing up as many games where they could explain this but simply don't because they really want to be seen as a game offering realism.

Video games haven't changed in creating the sights, challenge and realism compared to their real world counterpart as they offer what they can for the player who may never take care in such events as well to exclusive feature content away from other developers games. I welcome developers working hard to find courses like those because it does make racing games feel fresh as they are released within the future.


List by 91210user
(03/20/2019)

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