Ridge Ranker

This is a condensed version of my series of blog posts ranking the games in Namco's Ridge Racer franchise. Any games that are not developed by Namco (such as Ridge Racer 64 or Unbounded) or are made obsolete by later games (Ridge Racer 2 on the PSP is all but literally the same game as the first but with more content, for example) aren't included.

It'd be kind of weird to make a list on this site and not use the built-in list functionality, right?

List items

  • With Ridge Racer 7, the series finishes what Rage Racer started and finally nails the marriage of arcade action with the kind of customization and single-player content you would expect from a traditional console racer. It features some of the best gameplay, music, and visuals in the series (1080p and 60 frames-per-second in 2006 is a hell of a feat), but what keeps you around is the hidden depth that reveals itself as races get more challenging and demand that you think about your choice in vehicle and its parts.

  • The first PSP Ridge Racer is interesting: it's both a nostalgia act and the blueprint for how all future entries would play. It features a roster of courses almost entirely from previous games, but the introduction of the nitrous mechanic casts a brand new light on all of them. Ridge Racer 2 ups the ante by adding more music and every arcade and PlayStation Ridge Racer circuit that was missing from the first game, resulting in not only one of the greatest Ridge Racer games, but possibly the best PSP game.

  • It's not quite the series' finest hour (despite what many fans will tell you), but R4 is easily the coolest the series has ever been. Ridge Racer Type 4's indelibly suave aesthetic oozes charisma through every orifice, making it easy to forget that the game plays pretty damn well, too. The loop of completing the same eight races to unlock new cars can get repetitive, but you'll be too charmed by the unique story-driven Grand Prix mode and entranced by the smooth soundtrack to notice.

  • Unfortunately, the best arcade Ridge Racer never made it to the household. While its racetracks (which rank among some of the most engaging from both a gameplay and visual standpoint) eventually made it into the PSP games, many of the game's unique quirks, such as the "trampling" mechanic that grants a speed boost when landing on top of a rival's car, remain arcade exclusives. Emulators like MAME do a decent job of filling the void, but control and performance issues hinder the experience. At least you can listen to the astonishing, eclectic soundtrack on YouTube without any trouble.

  • Ridge Racer Revolution is a lot like the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2: questionably similar to the original game, but providing a far greater challenge. Thankfully, Revolution fares much better than Nintendo's sequel, throwing in just enough tweaks to the formula to edge out the original. The new tracks are perfect for those that mastered Ridge Racer's two circuits, and the game's various secrets and bonus modes give it a longer shelf life. It's one of the earliest examples of the series' long-running issue of sequels feeling overly familiar, but it's not like it's the Vita game.

  • You can race on the tracks featured in Ridge Racer in plenty of the series' sequels (and even some unrelated Namco games), but they don't quite match the magic of the 1993 original. Like its rival, Daytona USA, there's a brand of arcade vibrancy and corny-yet-earnest enthusiasm that stands out from the edgy attitudes that dominated the games of the 90s. Even today, in an era where racing games ruthlessly fetishize every curve and angle of a McLaren, it's refreshing to play a game that's most excited about the player having a good time.

  • If we're being honest, Ridge Racer 7 doesn't leave you with a whole lot of reasons to play 6. That being said, it isn't quite rendered obsolete, and that's thanks to the soundtrack and the unique structure of the single-player mode. The game's World Xplorer career mode sees you carving your own path through over 200 races, unlocking cars and some goofy features along the way.

  • Beyond its stereoscopic 3D, Ridge Racer 3D doesn't bring a lot of new ideas to the table, but its three new courses are well-designed and colorful enough for it to be worth a look. Plus, it introduces a line of muscle cars named after Lucky & Wild, and Lucky & Wild rules.

  • Ridge Racer V was a decent enough showpiece for a new PlayStation 2 owner, but its recycled content makes it a tedious experience. The core gameplay is fine, but with over half of the tracks being based on the original Ridge Racer's, it outstays its welcome far too soon.

  • Rage Racer pushes the series forward in a lot of ways, but the growing pains of Namco figuring Ridge Racer out in a post-arcade landscape leads to an unconvincingly-aggressive aesthetic, uneven difficulty, and gameplay that outright discourages drifting in spots. It's absolutely vital to the development of the series, but it simply isn't much fun to play.