With the final release of Gran Turismo 5 looming on the horizon, gamers are gearing up for what’s likely to be a new pinnacle in the racing genre, if not one of the best autmotive sims ever made. Anyone familiar with the racing genre knows that it’s not all gold, however—racing games arguably have some of the worst shovelware and ill-conceived idea in the industry. It would be easy to just fill this article with the scores of bad licensed kart racers, but we dug deep to find the most abysmal racing experiences you’ll encounter on the proverbial track from across the board.
Auto Modellista – PS2, Xbox, Gamecube (2002)
I’m sure most of you remember Auto Modellista—the hype for this promising-looking racer was nearly inescapable before its release. Of course, since everyone was too busy drooling over the game’s real world cel-shaded cars they failed to notice that the finicky physics made every track feel like it was covered in Vaseline. Even after Capcom “fixed” the game’s physics for its North American release, Auto Modellista’s identity crisis over whether to be a breezy arcade racer or a sim was painfully apparent. Even making the simplest turn in this one was a disastrous chore, making the game an epic fail, albeit a seriously sexy-looking one.
Ford Racing: Off-Road – Wii (2008)
The Wii is no stranger to crap shovelware, and this piece of corporate garbage is certainly no exception. The concept of the game itself — racing in Ford’s Range Rovers — doesn’t exactly inspire visions of the most pedal-to-the-metal excitement. Everyone knows that Fords are designed for hauling trash around and urban SUV freeway use, not racing! To make matters worse, you would at least think a game with so much product placement (and there’s a lot of it) would provide decent presentation, so you might possibly want to run out to a Ford dealership and re-enact your favorite thrills in your neighbor’s backyard or something. Instead, the game has absolutely zero frills.
The most exciting thing about its corporate sponsorship are Ford-filled loading screens that have all the excitement of a powerpoint on Phillips-head screwdrivers. Racing doesn’t fare much better, with boxy Range Rovers that like minivans chugging down on-rails tracks to the sound of muted engine noise. Your congratulations for winning a race? A black screen of your results. You can almost hear the crickets at the Ford dealerships.
M&M’s Kart Racing – Wii (2007)
When I think of the breakneck speed and screeching tires generally associated with a good racing experience, the first image that comes to mind is cartoony corporate mascots for chocolate candies, so it’s a good thing M&M’s Kart Racing exists. I was never under the impression that the M&M’s were all that popular to begin with, but since large conglomerates will shill any licensed dreck to make a buck — including exposing how unbelievably stupid and out of touch they must be in order to give an idea like M&M’s Kart Racing a green light — I shouldn’t be too surprised.
Much like any other awful kart racer, you can pick from your favorite M&M’s (I know I have one!) and slowly chug through exotic locales with names like “The Farm,” “The Streets,” and “The House.” Then the excitement begins: I’m not sure if it’s the godawful frame rate or the Geddan-esque way the karts freak out, (popping wheelies for no apparent reason) but you’ll soon learn that when dealing with M&M’s races top off at approximately 27 miles per hour, and the karts literally stutter forward. When you factor in how often you’ll heard the candies yell things like “I need a better engine,” and “approaching sound barrier!” and you’ll probably want to commit vehicular suicide rather than keep playing.
Hooter’s Road Trip – PlayStation One (2002)
The tagline for Hooter’s Road Trip is “Tacky, yet unrefined.” It’s a stupid tagline for an even more asinine game. The point of the game is to drive all the way across the country (hence the “road trip”), stopping at Hooters all over the place. Now, as someone who doesn’t eat chicken, the prospect of a cross-country sojourn for some buffalo wings isn’t appealing, but even if it was, Hooters Road Trip is still a terrifically brain-dead concept.
Of course, the “allure” of the game isn’t the chicken, or the racing for that matter, as much as it is the Hooters girls — America’s family-friendly trailer trash alternative to strippers. You could make a tax attorney simulation game and people would buy it if there were boobs. But even any would-be T&A is neutered — and not just because the idea of sex appeal is incompatible with Hooters girls. The girls appear on-screen to briefly welcome you to whatever your state you’re in, often looking and sounding like they’re reading lines off of a teleprompter in the middle of a wake. Not that you would expect much of anything from this game, but the girls have as much talent and seductiveness as a pool of rejected soap opera actresses. At least BMX XXX had topless girls if you wanted skin but inexplicably wouldn’t go online; all Hooters Road Trip has is low-res FMVs of girls in bikinis, horrid car models and controls that make the game play more like Hooters: Driving Drunk Adventures.
SPOGS Racing – Wii (2008)
Remember when you were a kid and POGs were all the rage? Of course you do—it was a dark time in our nation’s history, much like the rise of the marcarena, or the Cuban missile crisis. And some group of idiots actually had the imminently laughable idea of bringing those lame paper discs back and combining them with a racer. That alone is almost enough to warrant a “worst racer ever” award to this Wiiware piece of crap (almost), but it actually gets worse. First off, the developers didn’t even have POG license, so what you have are POG knockoffs (SPOGS) enclosed in the center of a tire with what appear to be PBR tallboys attached to either side as boosters.
Aside from your tire-with-flaming skull floating a few inches above the ground, the game has N64-throwback muddy textures, no presentation and dull sound, making for an excruciating experience that could probably be better done as a flash game. Since you’re playing a SPOG and not a real driver of any kind, SPOGS Racing basically amounts to little more than watching inanimate objects move around ugly, boring environments, which would be more fun if you did the same thing with household items while running down the freeway. That anyone actually thought that someone would pay for this game is heinous; POGs? What in God’s name were they thinking?
Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing – PC (2003)
Winner of our most abysmal racer is Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing. With a game whose box loud proclaims “18 WHEELS OF THUNDER,” I would one raging hell of a racing experience. Reality isn’t far off, as Big Rigs also has the dubious honor of being the only game to make our list that’s so poorly made it basically was shipped unfinished. From the jewel-case-value-game-circa-1997 presentation to the semis themselves (which sound more like washing machines on speed than trucks) this is game is a disaster. There are no physics. You can clip through buildings, roads and other trucks. You can drive off the map. Your semi turns on a dime. The HUD looks like console coding. Hell, the game might as well be running in debug over half the time. The computer AI is brain dead and opponent trucks are about as fast and tenacious as garden beetles. Ugly, solitary textures and modeling makes the scenery and trucks look like they’re made out of cardboard.
The game is so bad it’s developed a bit of cult following on Youtube, and the results do not disappoint. The box also inexplicably depicts a cop car, presumably chasing the semi as if the vehicle itself had tried robbing a bank or something. It’s more likely that the police are actually trying to catch the truck so they can confiscate the game and arrest the terrible people that brought Big Rigs into the world.