Outrun start screen


By Mark Nobes, chief editor

Before I start my review of the iconic 80s driving video game Out Run, you'll be delighted to know that you can play a free online version furtther down the page. It's easy to play. Simply use your keyboard arrow keys or touch the arrows on the screen to control your Ferrari and avoid colliding into other vehicles.

Created by Yu Suzuki, as far as driving games in the 80s were concerned, this was a 3D masterpiece at the time of its release! Of course, it looks pretty awful now, but back in the 80s, this was the first racing game to feature hills. The game also used the sprite-scaling techniques used in Space Harrier. Believe me, at the time this game looked awesome in the arcades!

What I really liked about the game were the luxurious landscapes. A generous dose of palm trees and sand dunes always make you feel alive (even if they are 8-bit), especially if you live in dull and rainy Great Britain.

Most guys in the 80s could only dream of driving on palm tree lined roads in an open-top Ferrari Testarossa Spider with their blonde girlfriend, so Out Run was the closest they were ever going to get to this fantasy!

The original OutRun game (the sega arcade version) was the first arcade game ever to allow the player to choose the background music. It was first ported to the Sega Master System in 1987, quickly followed by other home computer and consoles conversions.

Out Run Start Screen (arcade version)
The arcade version of out Run is superior in every way to all of the home computer and console ports released during the 1980s. The framerate is excellent and gives a smooth and blindingly fast ride. It's a game that certainly caught the eye, with its lush scenery and jaw-dropping music tracks (composed by Hiroshi Kawaguchi) that sounded incredible at the time. The arcade cabinet featured a hydraulic motion simulator to add to the realism of the driving experience. The dips in the road were also a unique feature at the time, and not seen in any other driving game. It was critically acclaimed and a commercial success. In fact, it was Sega's most successful cabinet game of the 80s.

Free Online Game

In this excellent video, all of the different versions of Out Run are compared, starting with the superior arcade version. Also included are versions for the Sega Master System (1987), ZX Spectrum (1987), Amstrad CPC (1987), Commodore 64 (1988) (U.S. and European versions), MSX (1988), MSX2 (1988), Commodore Amiga (1988), Atari ST (1989), PC DOS (1989), PC Engine (1990), Game Gear (1991), Sega Genesis/Mega Drive (1991), Sega Saturn 91996), Dreamcast (2001), Xbox (2002), Game Boy Advance/ GBA (2003). Other newer released of the game are also included. 

C64 Version

While it looks quite sparse in the graphics department when compared to the more colourful and detailed arcade version, as far as C64 conversions go, it's actually a pretty decent game. The game speed is pretty fast and smooth, with similar sharp bends and hazards to contend with. The music is decent, too, thankfully.
Out Run Stage 2 on C64 - yellow sky background


This version is painfully slow, and with the video running for over 11 minutes, it will take a more patient man than me to sit through the whole clip! The Speccy just wasn't made for this type of game and it should never have been released for the machine. On a more positive note, the music is pretty decent, although it is from the 128k version with the Yamaha soundchip (the 48k Spectrum didn't have a dedicated sound chip, just a built-in beeper) and sounds very similar to that of the Atari ST conversion which I used to play back in the day.
Out Run Stage 4 on ZX Spectrum

Atari ST Version

Sadly, this wasn't the best of conversions, and I remember getting bored pretty quickly with the game. The frame rate and the viewing perspective are awful, and it feels like the gameplay area has been squashed into the bottom third of the screen, which brings on eye strain pretty quickly. A slighly more overhead perspective would have made the game a whole lot nice to play. Personally, I actually preferred the 8-bit Atari driving games such as Pole Position. Even though the graphics were very basic, the gameplay was just more exciting, somehow.
Out Run Atari ST (Stage 1) screenshot

Amiga Version

Visually, this looks pretty similar to the Atari ST version, although the framerates (4fps) are even worse than on the ST. If you were expecting a smoother ride than on the pretty average C64 version, you were going to be bitterly disappointed. It's a terrible conversion, but the music does sound great thanks to the superior Paula soundchip, but there seems to be a sound effects drought, sadly.
Out Run Commodore Amiga Stage 2 screenshot


Well, these are nice, bright graphics, and the frame rate seems pretty decent and smooth, too. A pretty decent conversion overall, but what goddamn awful, irritating music, though - much prefer the 8-bit C64 version myself.

However, for some home computers an extra cassette of music from the original arcade version was included with the actual game due to limited sound chip capabilities, and I just hope it was included for the PC.

Out Run MS Dos version for PC (Stage 1)
OutRun Cabinet on Street
Sega arcade cabinet - Photo credit: Garnet