Gran Turismo: The Most Influential Racer Ever
With its impressive roster of cars and painstakingly recreated handling, there is no denying that Gran Turismo shaped the driving simulator genre for what it is today.
Kazunori Yamauchi's dream to share his passion for automotives came in the form of Gran Turismo for the PSX and spawned an immense following of car lovers and enthusiasts ready to fine-tune their dream cars to perfection and then take them out on the test track. It was the first of its kind to really let a person tune any aspect of the car, and in turn made them handle differently. It was revolutionary to say the least. Its success was initially a surprise but spawned four more sequels, and a couple of spin-off games. Developers later took notice of the rising popularity of simulation games and with the exception of the Forza series, were never truly able to capture that tuning and customizing perfection.
When early racers wanted to provide players with nothing but exotic dream cars, Gran Turismo wasn't afraid to include cars like the Mazda Demio, Buick Special '62, Daihatsu Move, and Volkswagen Kubelwagen. This separated this series from the rest by letting racers experiment with older and more obscure cars that weren't found on any other racing game.
Gran Turismo's level of realism wasn't for everyone however, and resulted in people who knew nothing about cars, but loved racers to feel somewhat alienated. As the series progressed further all the way to the fifth title, it became gradually more accessible to players, while retaining its simulation driving. While Playstation owners were treated to four Gran Turismo titles, Xbox owners didn't get their fix until developer Turn10 came out with Forza Motorsport in May of 2005, which touted the same amount of realism and tuning options as the GT series. While you're able to look at this from a rival's point of view, who is to say that Forza would ever come to fruition if it wasn't for Gran Turismo's influence.
Other developers soon saw the potential in adding a sense of realism to their series. EA's Need for Speed: Shift was a hybrid racer that contained simulation aspects, but also retained its arcade ancestry. Developer Codemasters also tried to infuse their titles such as GRiD and DiRT with hints of simulation, with the intention to capture the hardcore crowd while also pleasing the arcade crowd.
While Sony might not have a titular mascot, the GT series has been there ever since the PSX and had major releases on every Sony console released to date. With the immense fan following and anticipation that precedes each release, the GT series can definitely be considered as a system seller to purists that swore by GT standards back in the day.
Whether it's competitors trying to capitalize on providing realism, or developers borrowing certain simulation elements, there is no denying that Gran Turismo helped shape the way racing games are made today.