The Ridge Racer franchise is known for several recurring gameplay mechanics and themes. These signature design aspects exist in the majority of RR titles produced to date.
The drifting mechanic RR has made famous is a snap-to-rail method, reminiscent of slot car toy sets, usually this is handled by the player moving the directional pad (and later left analog stick) while not accelerating which is markebly different from how most racers work which usually require players press the brake pad. The slot car form allows for physics-defying feats such as spinning 360s during tight turns, while the no-brakes methodology of achieving it allows for a heightened sense of speed, More than any other aspect, the drift mechanics have contributed to the arcade-style racing feel that fans of the series enjoy.
Namco Bandai injects its other franchises and properties into many RR games by way of decals, brand names, livery styles, and even vehicle designs. Pac-man is the most commonly seen; others include Soul Calibur, Katamari Damacy, Rally-X, Dig Dug, Galaxian, et al.
3D graphical innovations
The early Ridge Racer titles, which were originally released on the then powerful Namco System 22 arcade hardware, were known for introducing several major advances in 3D polygon graphics. The original Ridge Racer (1993) was the first video game to feature texture-mapped 3D polygons, which was an important breakthrough for 3D polygon graphics in video games, predating Sega's Daytona USA. Ridge Racer was also able to run at a high resolution of 640 x 480, at a full 60 frames per second.
The arcade-only sequel Rave Racer (1995) took it further, as the first video game to make use of high resolution 3D textures. This gave the textures a level of detail that was unrivalled by any home systems until the release of the Sega Dreamcast in 1998. The demo of a planned (but later cancelled) PC port of Rave Racer was also used as a showcase for the PowerVR graphics accelerator card in 1996, demonstrating the potential of 3D graphics cards on the PC platform.
Before being more widely known as a series for consoles closely associated with Playstation, Ridge Racer initially started as an arcade game in 1993, to make use of 3D graphics which were then relatively new.
There were 3 Ridge Racer games released for arcade, if you count all versions of the original Ridge Racer as one game.
- Ridge Racer (The original! There are several versions of Ridge Racer. In fact, one of the revisions was confusingly called Ridge Racer 2, despite being the same game, just with minor updates such as new BGM.)
- Ridge Racer 2 (An upgraded version of Ridge Racer rather than a true sequel.)
- Rave Racer (A true sequel, it was never released outside of the arcades.)
- Ridge Racer V: Arcade Battle (Ironically, the PS2 version came first and the arcade version is just a port.)
Types of Ridge Racer Titles
Traditional Ridge Racers (1993-2000)
These titles use the original drift mechanic, and focus squarely on mastering control of your car. Despite the series's signature mechanic being its drifting, these titles feature both "drift" and "grip" cars. Whereas "drift" cars, as their name implies, must take corners by drifting, "grip" cars forgo the drifting mechanic altogether in exchange for more nimble cornering, especially when you use the brakes.
Ridge Racer V (released for PS2) despite being a traditional Ridge Racer title is actually somewhat of a departure or evolution from the Ridge Racer titles before it, and attempted to make the drifting mechanic more nuanced and realistic. In also made another major addition, by having two versions of the drift mechanic instead of just one.
Nitros era (2004-2012)
The Ridge Racer title released in 2004 for PSP introduced an all-new formula for the series that has been used in every title since, save for Ridge Racer Unbounded. In these Ridge Racer titles, the drifting mechanic is much more forgiving than ever before.
These are also the only Ridge Racer titles with nitros in them, which were never in the series before. Nitros provide a temporary boost of speed for a fixed length of time. Your nitros tank is replenished by drifting, and the higher your speed, the more nitros you replenish in a single drift. Therefore the objective of these games is to find the best time to activate nitros, so that you enter a corner right when the nitros ends.
Ridge Racer titles are consistently among the initial crop of games at a console/handheld launch, showcasing the hardware's framerate, reflections, and environment rendering. In fact from V onward all the mainline entries of the game only appeared at the launch of a new console.
Ridge Racer Accelerated (iOS)
iPhone has received a Ridge Racer title in the form of Ridge Racer Accelerated. There is also an iPad version named Ridge Racer Accelerated HD.
This game is a port of the PSP Ridge Racer titles, but without all the content. Ridge Racer Accelerated includes a selection of courses from Ridge Racer (PSP) and Ridge Racer 2 (PSP). However, there is a leaderboards feature, which the PSP versions did not have.
Ridge Racer Accelerated HD is available for free, but you have access to only one course unless you upgrade to the full version for 11.99 US.