The Grandfather of Racing Games

Four decades ago, Atari's Gran Trak 10 introduced racing in a whole new light.

Article by USgamer Team, .

Back in 1974, coin-op machines were still very primitive. Pong clones were absolutely huge, and Breakout wouldn't yet be a fixture in arcades for another couple of years. Yet between Pong and Breakout came a game with a level of sophistication previously unseen in arcades – Atari's Gran Trak 10.

Featuring a complete, overhead-viewed, single-screen racetrack, and a car that was capable of full 360-degree movement, the objective was simple – drive around the track as quickly as possible, earning points by going as far as possible within the time limit. What made the machine particularly notable was the fact that it was the first arcade game to feature a gear shifter – four speed, no less – plus a steering wheel, accelerator and brake. It really was a true racing game in every sense of the word.

This overhead-viewed racing format would become a staple for Atari over the next decade or so, and the company would go on to iterate a variety of versions of the machine, including Gran Trak 20 and Sprint 2 (two-player variants), Sprint 4 (a four-player version), and, a decade later, Championship Sprint – a full-color version of the game.

Something rather interesting at a time when pirates were making and selling their own versions of coin-ops was that when Atari assigned a part number to the custom-designed ROMs for the game, they deliberately named it after a Texas Instruments commercial Arithmetic Logic Unit so that if someone tried to create their own version of the game, they'd order the wrong part and it wouldn't work. Smart thinking!

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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #1 SuperShinobi 3 years ago
    Shooters, racing and sports games - that's how gaming began. It's kinda ironic that some people at times seem to think that those genres are "casual" genres, when those genres have been so fundamental and crucial to the history and evolution of video games.Edited July 2015 by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for inkybutt #2 inkybutt 3 years ago
    @SuperShinobi I would argue they are more casual (well--actually, not necessarily) but that casual games built the industry into what it is today. Spacewar may have been the first, but Pong got the ball rolling, so to speak.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #3 yuberus 3 years ago
    I think the major reason people consider 70s gaming to be nothing but Pong clones comes down to inaccessibility. So many of those games can't be emulated by MAME, finding cabinets is very difficult, and the interest to do so just isn't there like it is with golden age machines. It's unfortunate - I've had fun with stuff like Gran Trak 10, Head On, Tank, Breakout, Night Driver and Death Race when I've run across them - but they are definitely primitive and not, on the whole, well-played.

    On the plus side, nearly the entire early Atari 2600 lineup consists of solid ripoffs or ports of a ton of 70s arcade games, so at least those are readily accessible.
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