I was never into racing games as a rule, you know? Until the two-hit combo of Sega Rally hitting the home and me retroactively discovering the original Super Mario Kart, they just didn’t click. Probably because until then they were stupid.
And they were. I mean, we can all agree that Out Run was amazing and charming, but racing games really didn’t differ much from that overall premise, did they? That concept of following the thick, often stripy, strip in the middle of the screen as it twisted left and right. Steer right if the road turns right. Left if it turns left. If you’re drifting the opposite direction, brake. If you’re drifting too much into the corner, steer less. Anything to avoid hitting roadside obstacles and maybe other racers and/or traffic.
I had a nickname for these things, “greyliners”. Mostly because of the grey line one had to follow under the pretense of driving on a road. I get it, the technology necessitated ‘creative’ solutions to mitigate the lack of sophisticated 3D hardware (not that it stopped Hard Drivin’ and its sequel Race Drivin’ — both incredibly threadbare to look at). Horribly boring stuff. Which is why every attempt to mix up the formula usually stuck; Chase HQ‘s vehicular melee through Out Run‘s branched paths to the breakout sprite-trickery of the experimental Power Drift.
Thing is, the greyliner pretty much peaked at Road Rash and very little could be done with it. Didn’t stop Super Hang On being great though. The rub with this particular beauty was that, aside from being Out Run on bikes (sans choice of route at intersections), the player was given a TURBO button to increase their top speed a crazy amount, not too different to the likes of the Burnout series a couple decades later. And actually, the TURBO function makes it. There’s so much fun to be had in pushing the envelope from ‘sane’ to ‘CRASH INEVITABLE BUT FUCK IT, YOLO’ and pursuing that higher score.
Yeah, score. Because you like those points, right? The arcade game delivered there, and the Megadrive versions’s Arcade Mode is a more-than-reasonable facsimile of that — there is an additional Original Mode (as in ‘new to this version’, not ‘this was the version we had tucked in a cupboard somewhere all these years and you’ve been playing a fake’) for people who prefer their racing to be less INSERTCOINSWHOOSHBANGDERPGAMEOVER and more Gran Turismo. Buying parts and whatnot. I actually found this a bit too slow-starting for my tastes, but I admit to liking my games in general to be less D&D and more ‘orgasm during a bungee jump’. Mileage may vary. Oh hey, I made a road pun.
But you know what? All things considered, I think the breakneck TURBO action of Super Hang On maybe elevates it above the original Out Run for me personally. I mean, for a greyliner this is pretty fun and one of the few not-stupid ones.