Final Lap is Namco's "spiritual sequel" to their earlier racing hit Pole Position. As with that game and its contemporaries like OutRun, the camera follows closely behind the player's car and allows them to swerve left and right as turns in the road approach them.
The game uses Formula 1 cars and the player is able to upgrade aspects of the vehicle, such as the engine, tyres and nitro, to give them an edge in the following race. Though the number of points the player may invest in these aspects is limited initially, more unlock as the game progresses.
The arcade game was the first to use Namco's System 2 board, affording much better-looking pseudo-3D graphics that the NES version was unable to emulate.