Designed by Tomohiro Nishikado (later known for Gun Fight and Space Invaders) and released by Taito in 1974, Speed Race was an early driving/racing arcade video game. The game was also released under the re-branded titles "Racer" and "Wheels" by Midway in 1975.
Speed Race's innovations included sprite graphics (in contrast to the lines and dots of earlier games like Pong); use of read-only memory; collision detection, where cars could collide with each other; and scrolling, where the cars moved along a vertical scrolling overhead track, with the course width becoming wider or narrower as the player's race car moves up the road. The player races against other rival cars, more of which appear as the score increases. The faster the player's car drives, the more the score increases.
In contrast to the volume-control dials used for Pong machines at the time, Speed Race featured a realistic racing wheel controller, which included an accelerator, gear shift, speedometer, and tachometer. It could be played in either single-player or alternating two-player, where each player attempts to beat the other's score. The game also featured an early example of difficulty levels, giving players an option between "Beginner's race" and "Advanced player's race".
Speed Race was the second Japanese video game (after Taito's Basketball) licensed for release in North America, where Midway released it under the titles "Racer" and "Wheels". Under the re-branded title "Wheels", the game sold more than 7,000 cabinets in the United States, making it a major hit for Taito and Midway in North America, opening the way for Japanese video games in the North American market. In 1976, it was the second highest-grossing arcade game in the region. The game's success led to a lucrative relationship between Taito and Midway, which would later bring over other Taito hits to the US, including Gun Fight in 1975 and especially the blockbuster hit Space Invaders in 1978.