The Truth About Video Game Motorcycles

The Truth About Video Game Motorcycles

A few years ago, I unlocked a real-life achievement: Obtained motorcycle licence.

If my life were an Xbox title, this would be one of those rare, satisfying, 200-point achievements, like when you acquire all weapons in Earth defence Force, despite them being mostly worthless.


Passing my motorcycle test required, surprisingly, more dexterity than manoeuvring the bikes in Mario Kart Wii. My problem was, though I’d always stopped to drool at them whenever they nearly took off my side mirror on the freeway, I’d never actually been on a bike. But grasping the handlebars of that 250cc Honda the first day of my training class felt like the first time I picked up a Nintendo controller: a perfect match.

After getting the motorcycle endorsement stamped on the back of my driver’ s licence and Riverdancing out of the DMV, I could not purchase a sport bike fast enough. I bought an ‘ 06 Suzuki Bandit 600cc, and yes, I gave it a name: Mordecai.

My passion for fast bikes nearly matches my passion for video games. Feathering the clutch, leaning into corners, shifting up to sixth gear to hit a straight stretch going 110mph, or, if you’ re a cop reading this, 60mph… it’ s a downright religious experience.

A close second to nearly killing myself on real highways? Going twice as fast on fake ones. Thankfully, we’ ve seen no shortage of motorcycle-themed video games. Sure, we all remember the classic Excitebike, but how about Road Rash, Hang-On, and Super Hang-On from Sega? How about the arcade cabinets for games like Manx TT Superbike, where you sat on ” real” bikes that swayed from side to side? Innovative, nearly impossible to control, and fun as hell.


When it comes to how motorcycles are portrayed in games nowadays, you could certainly call me nit-picky. The physics differ radically from automobile physics – you have to take into consideration lean angles, brake speed, and the fact that animated motorcycle crashes are way funnier than car crashes.

In my experience, Project Gotham Racing 4 and MotoGP ‘ 06 are the most realistic-feeling bike sims, despite their fairly steep learning curves. PGR4 features subtle details, such as the rider stretching his arms and legs during straightaways, and the MotoGP games let you slide your knee around corners on a Suzuki GSV-R as John Hopkins. No complaints here.

(Pro tip! For fans of the most famous motorcycle race in history, the Isle of Man TT, Suzuki TT Superbikes: Real Road Racing recreated the 37-mile circuit for your digital racing pleasure. I squealed like a Bieber fan the first time I played it.)

The love for two-wheeled, metal beasts doesn’t stop at simulators, however. Fictional games love transforming bikes into oversized, ridiculous death machines. When realism is clearly not the goal, video game bikes recoil from obstacles with ease and often have the ability to jump ten feet in the air: Final Fantasy VII features huge bikes with guns attached, Mad World and Bayonetta both have insane motorcycle racing levels, and do I even need to mention Travis Touchdown’ s giant motorcycle/pimped-out scooter in No More Heroes?


For these type of games, hey, bigger is better. Attach more guns! Throw another engine in there! Somehow involve sharks! But when it comes to games looking to stick closer to reality, it’ s pretty hit or miss in the motorcycle department.

In Tomb Raider: Underworld, as an example of my favourite ” miss,” Lara rides a dual-sport bike through a rainy, slippery Southern Mexico jungle and somehow stays upright. Then we discover her bike can easily bounce off of stone walls, jump across huge chasms, and even go in reverse! How convenient! …seeing as how that’ s not really a thing motorcycles do. By the time she effortlessly drove it on icy, snowy cliffs on Jan Mayen Island, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the thing sprouted wings. Or sharks.

For a game that motion-captured an Olympic gymnast in order to achieve realism, they could have thought twice about giving us an invincible motorcycle, or, dare I say, ” invinca-cycle.” But of course, if I hadn’ t played the game as a motorcyclist, I probably wouldn’ t have cared so much about these details.


Other in-game motorcycles worthy of an eye-roll and a chuckle from gearheads can be found in Just Cause 2, the Grand Theft Auto series, and of course, Ninja Blade, because it’ s so helpful when giant enemies vomit up fully-operating motorbikes that you can then use to kill them. There’ s a great list of all games containing motorcycles.

My rainy state of Oregon prevents me from riding as much as I’d like, so I stick to two dorky habits to keep my inner speed demon satisfied: I visit the Ducati shop to sit on the super bikes, and I play video games with motorcycles. I’ m a girl who will take SBK X over Forza any day – after all, four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul.

Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon’s award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as a graphic designer and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa’s official website.


  • I recently got into GT4 and TOURIST TROPHY on the PS2. I don’t know much about bikes, but I know TOURIST TROPHY is the only game I’ve ever played or seen that actually looks realistic in the way the person moves on the vehicle, especially in the replays. I just wish that the career mode was as extensive as GT4’s. Also, I have to say this – riding bikes in the game is a HELL of a lot harder than it is driving cars (and a lot more fun in some respects).

    I am kind of hoping that POLYPHONY DIGITAL do a TOURIST TROPHY for the PS3 as well. That would be totally awesome!

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!