Out Run(also stylized as OutRun) is a racing video game released in arcades by Sega in September 1986. It is known for its pioneering hardware and graphics, nonlinear gameplay, and a selectable soundtrack with music composed by Hiroshi Kawaguchi. The goal is to avoid traffic and reach one of five destinations.
The game was designed by Yu Suzuki, who traveled to Europe to gain inspiration for the game's stages. Suzuki had a small team and only ten months to program the game, leaving him to do most of the work himself. The game was a critical and commercial success, becoming one of the best-selling video games of its time and Sega's most successful arcade cabinet of the 1980s. It was ported to numerous video game consoles and home computers and spawned a number of sequels. Out Run has been cited as an influence upon later video games.
Out Run is a 3D driving video game in which the player controls a Ferrari Testarossa Spider from a third-person rear perspective. The camera is placed near the ground, simulating a Ferrari driver's position and limiting the player's view into the distance. The road curves, crests, and dips, which increases the challenge by obscuring upcoming obstacles such as traffic that the player must avoid. The object of the game is to reach the finish line against a timer. The game world is divided into multiple stages that each end in a checkpoint, and reaching the end of a stage provides more time. Near the end of each stage, the track forks to give the player a choice of routes leading to five final destinations. The destinations represent different difficulty levels and each conclude with their own ending scene, among them the Ferrari breaking down or being presented a trophy.
DevelopmentDuring the mid-1980s, Sega experienced success in the arcades with games developed by Yu Suzuki. Hang-On was a good seller and Enduro Racer had been successful enough for Sega to consider a second production run. Both are motorcycle racing games, and Out Run was Suzuki's chance to develop a car racing game. His original concept was to base the game on the American film The Cannonball Run, of which he was a fan. He disliked racing games where cars exploded on impact, and wanted gamers to enjoy the experience of driving and to feel "superior".
Suzuki initially conceived the game's setting across the United States, and he requested to scout various locations there. According to Suzuki's boss, Youji Ishii, Sega president Hayao Nakayama believed the US was too unsafe, and suggested Europe as a safer option. Additionally, Suzuki concluded that the US was too "large and empty" for the game's design. He scouted Europe for two weeks in a BMW 520 for ideas. This tour included Frankfurt, Monaco, Rome, the Swiss Alps, the French Riviera, Florence, and Milan. While in Monaco, Suzuki was inspired to use the Ferrari Testarossa as the playable car in the game, so when he returned to Japan he arranged for his team to find and photograph one.
A small team of four programmers, a sound creator, and five graphic designers developed Out Run. Suzuki had to use only personnel that were available and not assigned to other projects at the time. As a result, Suzuki did most of the programming and planning himself, spending extra hours at the studio to complete development of the game within ten months. Suzuki believed that the most difficult part of developing the game was to make it as fun as possible, which he achieved by emphasizing the design elements of wide roads, buildings, and a radio with soundtrack selection.
Four cabinet designs were released, all of which are equipped with a steering wheel, a stick shift, and acceleration and brake pedals. Two of the cabinet designs are upright, one of which has force feedback in the steering wheel. The other two models are sit-down cabinets that resemble the in-game car and use a drive motor to move the main cabinet—turning and shaking according to the onscreen action. Both models feature stereo speakers mounted behind the driver's head. The arcade system board made specifically for the game is the Sega OutRun, based on the Sega System 16. Suzuki stated that he was often unable to make games based on existing hardware and that Sega would have to create a new board. He said that his "designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D." The game achieves its 3D effects using a sprite-scaling technique called Super-Scaler technology, as used one year earlier in Hang-On. Released in September 1986, Out Runs fast sprite-scaling and 3D motion provide a smoother experience than other contemporary arcade games.
Out Runs original score was composed by Hiroshi Kawaguchi, who had previously composed soundtracks for other games designed by Suzuki, including Hang-On. The soundtrack is similar in style to Latin and Caribbean music. Three selectable tracks are featured: Passing Breeze, Splash Wave, and Magical Sound Shower. An additional track, Last Wave, plays at the final score screen.
Out Runs arcade release received positive reviews and became one of the most popular arcade games of the year. In 1988, it won the Golden Joystick Award for Game of the Year, beating Renegade and The Last Ninja. Out Run received the Arcade Game of the Year award, beating Renegade and Bubble Bobble. By 1994, 30,000 cabinets had been sold worldwide, making it Sega's best selling arcade cabinet of the 1980s.
Clare Edgeley reviewed the arcade game in both Computer and Video Games and in Sinclair User, praising the graphics and the element of danger in the gameplay. A review in Commodore User described it as "a great game for driving enthusiasts" and awarded it a score of 9 out of 10. Gary Penn, writing for Crash called the game "highly polished" and praised the attention to detail. In Your Sinclair, Peter Shaw praised its realism and described it as "the most frighteningly fast road race game I've ever played".
Out Run was ported to numerous home consoles and computers. More than 250,000 copies of the 8-bit computer game ports published by U.S. Gold were sold by Christmas 1987. Out Run became both the fastest-selling and the best-selling computer game in the UK that year. The Sega Master System version was praised. Computer and Video Games concluded that it had "all the thrill power of the arcade version". The Games Machine gave the Master System version a score of 72%, stating that the Master System version came closest to the original coin-op. Reviewers for Dragon described it as a "refreshing" game "that provides hours of entertainment". Computer Gaming World named it as the year's best arcade translation for Sega. The reception for the 8-bit personal computer ports published elsewhere by U.S. Gold was mixed. The ZX Spectrum version received positive scores from Your Sinclair and Sinclair User. Some reviewers at Crash expressed disappointment at the low quality in contrast to the arcade original. The Games Machine gave the Spectrum version a score of 61%, noting the machine's technical limitations in comparison to the Master System and Commodore systems. The Commodore versions received positive to average reviews, though Computer and Video Games described the Commodore 64 port as "rushed". The Amstrad CPC port received a score of 8 out of 40 from Computer and Video Games, which described it as a "travesty", and a 37% score from Amstrad Action where the reviewer considered it one of the worst arcade conversions ever. Reactions to the 16-bit versions were generally positive. The Atari ST version (1988) was described by Computer and Video Games as "far from perfect," but that it came closer to the arcade original than the other ports. The 1991 Sega Genesis version also received positive reviews, scoring 90% from French gaming magazines Joypad and Joystick, as well as an 85% from Swedish magazine Svenska Hemdatornytt.
LegacyOut Run was followed by sequels including Out Run 3-D (1988), Turbo Out Run (1989), Out Run Europa (1991), OutRunners (1992), and Out Run 2. Rad Mobile (1991) is similar to Out Run. The game's name has been adopted by a subgenre of synthwave, based on the game's soundtrack that is selectable in-game. French musician Kavinsky named his debut album OutRun after the game. A conversion of Out Run was under development by Hertz for the Sharp X68000 but according to former Hertz employee Tsunetomo Sugawara, it never released due to company management cancelling its development. A 32X version was also reportedly under development by Sega that never released as well. A port of the arcade game was released for Nintendo Switch on January 9th, 2019.
Out Run is listed among the best games of all time by publications such as Next Generation, Retro Gamer, Stuff, and Time, and by organizations such as G4, NowGamer, and Yahoo!. Writing in 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, Joao Diniz Sanches praised Out Runs "unforgettable design and expertly tuned game balance", describing the game as "the consummate exhibit in an oversubscribed genre" and "one of the purest and most joyous experiences in video gaming". In 2015, Out Run appeared at 4th place on IGN's list of The Top 10 Most Influential Racing Games Ever, behind Pole Position, Gran Turismo and Virtua Racing. According to Luke Reilly, "traces of Out Run DNA can be found in series like Test Drive, Need for Speed, Project Gotham Racing, and Burnout" as well as "modern racers like the Forza Horizon games and DriveClub".
Former Sega arcade director Akira Nagai has credited Out Run and similar games, for Sega's arcade success in the 1980s. According to Nagai, "Out Run, in particular, was really amazing for its time... Suzuki went on to make After Burner and a number of other games, but Out Run is still talked about with a special kind of wonder. With the taikan games, Sega's arcade business, which had been Sega's lowest performer in sales, gradually started to rise... For me personally, Hang-On and Out Run are my most memorable titles. They helped lift the arcade industry out of its slump, and created entirely new genres."