Winning Run, released by Namco in 1988, was the first arcade racing game to use fully 3D polygon graphics. It served as the debut title for the Namco System 21 "Polygonizer" arcade hardware, the first gaming system dedicated to 3D polygon graphics. The music was composed by Hiroyuki Kawada. An updated version, Winning Run: Suzuka Grand Prix, was released in 1989.
The game's use of 3D polygons was a breakthrough that paved the way for 3D arcade racers such as Hard Drivin' a year later and the 3D popularizer Virtua Racing several years later.
Winning Run is in, some ways, a spiritual successor to the 1987 psuedo-3D racer Final Lap. In turn, SimDrive and Ridge Racer, released in 1992 and 1993, respectively, for the succeeding Namco System 22 arcade hardware, are in some ways spiritual successors to Winning Run.
Namco System 21 "Polygonizer" Hardware
Main: Namco System 21
The game's Namco System 21 "Polygonizer" arcade board was one of the first gaming systems dedicated to polygonal 3D graphics, and was the most powerful gaming hardware of the 1980's. Its 3D graphical capabilities would not be surpassed until the release of Sega's Model 1 arcade system in 1992.
A precursor to Ridge Racer's full-scale deluxe cabinet, Winning Run featured a special deluxe cabinet, a full-scale ride-in simulator. It was a hydraulic motion-controlled cabinet, where the entire cabinet moved to match the car's on-screen actions.
The game's revolutionary 3D graphics as well as the gameplay were very well received at the time, with British magazine CVG (Computer & Video Games) in particular writing the following:
"The graphics are simply stunning, with a Polymiser system used to give the most impressive 3D graphics yet seen. There are tunnels, hills, ancoves—and just about everything you'd expect to find on a real race track. The game ‘feels’ incredible too, with superb handling and feedback as you skid, countersteer and bump on the kerbs. Winning Run is easily the best racing game yet seen—it’s thoroughly realistic and totally exhilarating."
It came third place on CVG's list of the top arcade games of 1989.
Winning Run inspired the home computer game Formula 1 3D, developed by Simulmondo in 1990 for the Atari ST, Amiga, PC and Commodore 64 home computers.