Carmageddon, the Mad Max Racer That Never Was

Carmageddon, the Mad Max Racer That Never Was

When their licensing plans fell through, Stainless Software decided to throw social responsibility to the wind and double down on bad behavior.

Mad Max is no stranger to video games; the Road Warrior frequently wandered the desert wastes of the 8-bit era, and Avalanche's open-world Mad Max game seems like one of the most promising upcoming adventures coming for fall 2015.

But Max almost had another video game adventure in the '90s, long after everyone had forgotten about the films. The problem, according to an interview with EDGE magazine, is that everyone literally had forgotten about Mad Max by that point. Stainless Software's grand vision of a virtual Max revival was run off the road by the fact that, as Patrick Buckland told EDGE, "they couldn't find who actually owned the rights to Mad Max."

So, denied the opportunity to render Mel Gibson and Tina Turner in boxy '90s polygons, the developers shifted their attention to another forgotten film franchise: Deathrace 2000. That plan didn't work out, either, but Stainless' brief flirtation with that '70s shlock property informed the direction of the project as they built it into an original work, which they called Carmageddon. Carmaggedon may not have carried the Deathrace name, but it felt like nothing so much as a modern-day take on the arcade game by the same title.

Exidy's arcade racer Deathrace 2000 was arguably the first video game to prompt a moral panic, consisting of an arena where players attempted to run down people (Exidy called them "gremlins" to assuage angry parents) and turn them into tiny tombstones. In hindsight, the game was hilariously primitive and simple — the gremlins were nothing more than tiny stick figures, and the action slow and plodding. By comparison, Carmageddon was gruesome, violent, and realistic, a fast-paced racing game where players earned points by smashing into pedestrians, who exploded into showers of blood.

It was pretty shocking at the time... but, just as time rendered Exidy's Deathrace laughably tame, so too has Carmageddon entered the realm of historical camp. Like so much of '90s shock culture, it all seems so quaint in hindsight. Especially now that so many games include free-form racing — and thus vehicular manslaughter — as a matter of course. Including the upcoming Mad Max. This medium really has a way of coming full circle sometimes.

WATCH: A look back at Carmageddon.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Read this next

Mad Max Scrap, History Relics, Scrotus Insignia, Water Sources, Fuel Cans - Collectibles Guide - All Locations

Get all of the Scrap, History Relics, Scrotus Insignia, Water Sources, and Fuel Cans in this complete guide to all the items and resources in Mad Max on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Mad Max Walkthrough - In It for Glory and Paint My Name in Blood Missions Guide

Find Glory in The Dunes, defeat Stank Gum, clear Scrotus' convoy and beat the game!

Mad Max Walkthrough - The Gastown Race, Immortal Enemy and The Big Chief Missions Guide

Defeat Stank Gum in the Gastown race, then fight Scrotus himself and find the Big Chief!

Mad Max Unlock Locate Minefields, Refill Ammo Belt, and Maximum Mag Sniper Rifle Upgrade Guide

Earn special items and bonuses by completing side missions in Mad Max! Locate Minefields, Refill Ammo Belt, and Maximum Mag Sniper Rifle Upgrade Guide.

Mad Max Walkthrough - The Dump, Heights and Reek Hills Story Missions Guide

Find light bulbs in the Underdune, clear Fumehead's debt and win the Speed Demon race! Our Mad Max walkthrough for PS4, Xbox One, and PC continues.

Mad Max Walkthrough - Parch Moon, Chalkies and Knit Snack Story Missions Guide

Find Dim Rim's convoy, install the Thunderpoon, take Dead Barrens Pass and save Pink Eye! All this and more in our Mad Max walkthrough for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

More

Sly 2: Band of Thieves' Stellar Heists Still Can't Be Topped, 15 Years Later

Sly 2 turns 15, making us all feel very, very old.

Why the Dreamcast Still Matters

Why the Sega Dreamcast still resonates with game enthusiasts on its 20th anniversary.

Final Fantasy 8 Was Always Good

Reexamining one of the most divisive games in the series on its 20th anniversary.

10 Years Ago, Batman: Arkham Asylum Showed Us That Superhero Games Could Be More

Nothing before could capture the Dark Knight quite like Arkham.