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The Earliest Example of Story in Racing Games

An online writer who is also an avid geek to automotive, video games, and anime. Have a soft spot for racing games


Like fighting games, racing games often overlooked the storytelling elements. Like, why do we need narratives in a game about cars racing against each other? The thing, however, has changed in recent days with developers starting to add storytelling bits into racing games.

Retrospectively, the earlier attempt of story mode in racing games is the 1998 game R4: Ridge Racer Type 4. An arcade racer from Bandai Namco, it was the fourth entry of the Ridge Racer franchise released on the original PlayStation in 1998.

The game adds a story mode dubbed as Grand Prix. In this mode, you are a driver competing in the fictional “Real Racing Roots ‘99”. At the start of the game, you choose one of four teams welcoming you as a driver for their team and a respective manufacturer.

Each team has different difficulties to play with. The easy difficulty teams were Racing Team Solvalou and R.C. Micro Mouse Mappy. The remaining team, Pac Racing Club and Dig Racing Team possess harder difficulty making them more ideal for intermediate and experienced players.


After you signed a deal, you are greeted by the representative of your chosen team. Each character running the racing team has different backstories.

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What makes R4’s story mode compelling is how the characters interact. Indeed they have a usual “you did a good job” reaction every time you place on the podium. Yet, they still exhibit different tones in how they communicate with you before and after races.

Character development is also present. As you progress the story mode, you will see how they feel their life has changed since they meet you, a rookie who is fresh to the motorsport field. This is noticeable in one storyline which sees the owner turns from a man who demands first place in races into a parental figure who begs you to just race safely.


Overall, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 did a good job in incorporating story elements into a racing game. The story is not outright cheesy, yet it still retains interesting dialogues and keeps bits of emotion plays. The game tries to establish a connection between a newly hired racer with the existing characters and it succeeds.

The attempt was years before big racing franchises such as Need For Speed got it on the act. After R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, the similar approach was soon followed by Bandai Namco’s R:Racing Evolution and Codemasters’ TOCA Race Driver.

R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 is a prime example of storytelling in racing games. And in recent days, the focus on the story aspect has been increased. The release of modern story-focused racing games such as GRID Legends and F1 2021 further emphasizes how narrative storytelling could work with the genre

© 2022 Muhammad Azka Prasetya

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