Rocket League Is Actually A Sequel To A Game Almost No One Played

Rocket League Is Actually A Sequel To A Game Almost No One Played

Rocket League is the surprise hit of the season, one that has plenty thinking “why didn’t anyone think of this before?” The developers of Rocket League did. They released Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars way back in 2008, but it went mostly ignored.

Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars was a footnote in the history of PlayStation Network until Rocket League came along. It came and went for the vast majority of us, only being given a closer look now because Rocket League seemingly came out of “nowhere.”

If you squint, it’s a little hard to tell the difference between Rocket League and Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars because the games are, ultimately, very similar. It’s soccer with cars that can flip, twist, and turbo towards the ball and one another inside an arena.

Here’s Rocket League:

(Good job with that goal, me!)

And here’s Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars:

Similar, yes, but there are key differences. Visually, Rocket League is polished as hell, and the presentation is important for making Rocket League stick, especially for newcomers. But more importantly, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars is a more complicated game.

There are no power-ups in either one, but the few currently available arenas in Rocket League are dead simple: there are goals on each side of the arena. There’s no complexity to the layout, whereas Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars quickly introduced lots of variety.

(I suspect Rocket League will become more complex over time, as the game appears to be mirroring Nintendo’s approach with Splatoon, by introducing new layers of depth after release.)

This pirate stage has multiple levels, which means all sorts of weird ball fights break out.

Set in space, this one has a ramp before the goal, forcing you to rethink close shots.

The trick to this desert map, on the other hand, is dealing with the huge amount of space.

This one might be my favourite, though. It’s extremely tiny, but includes lots of ramps, which means batting the ball around can quickly turn into a game of pinball. It’s entirely possible to send the ball up the side of the wall at the right angle and watch as it comes down into the goal.

Even though many people haven’t heard of Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, the game had a small but dedicated community of players who became hooked early on. The success of Rocket League has even taken them by surprise.

“It’s surreal, to say the least,” said Jonathan ‘Fyshokid’ Taylor, one of Rocket League‘s top-ranked players. “We all knew it had the potential, but I don’t think any of us expected it to blow up like it did. What I find most amusing is how most people talk about how the game ‘came out of nowhere,’ while a lot of us Supersonic vets have been waiting agonizingly long for this game.”

(Rocket League‘s development was announced way back in 2011!)

“I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun playing a video game as I did playing Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars split-screen for the first time,” he continued. “Just three people in the room going nuts whenever a goal is scored. Although I was absolute crap at the game at the time, it was still insanely fun, regardless of whether or not we won or lost.”

Taylor’s highlight reels for Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars used to get a few hundreds views on YouTube; with Rocket League, they’re regularly garnering up to 50,000 views per video. The one below, for example, has more than 150,000 views.

“As my teammate coolcole93 said at some point,” he said, “our little game is all grown up.”

There are still people playing the original game online, of course. When I downloaded it earlier this week, a handful of players were still kicking around.

Even though I spent an hour with Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, I couldn’t put my finger on why it felt…different. So I decided to ask my resident expert, instead.

Rocket League is more accessible, I’d say,” said Taylor. “The Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars physics were quite a bit faster and catered more towards individual skill rather than team play. As a result of this, ranked matches were predominantly played 1v1. Psyonix changed the physics for Rocket League so that proper team play was necessary to really be competitive, which I personally think is a nice change, but created a bit of controversy in the community at the time. That isn’t to say that team play wasn’t present in Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars. It was just a lot harder, due to the pingy nature of the physics.”

In Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, online matches happen via a giant server list. You pick which game you want to join — that’s it. It’s entirely possible to join a game with people who have been playing for thousands of hours. In Rocket League, everything happens via matchmaking, so players of equal skill are (hopefully) pitted against one another online.

“It was never fun for a newcomer to get beaten by 35 goals in their first game,” he said.


(That sounds pretty funny to watch, though!)

While most people will never play Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, it’s important to know and note the game’s legacy. Rocket League couldn’t exist without it.


  • I’d put the success down to it being free on PS Plus last month, nothing more.

      • Once you get some good word of mouth going with one market then things tend to pick up everywhere.

    • Plenty of indie games that have launched on PS Plus/Xbox GWG haven’t taken off like Rocket League has. Being free was a big part of the success, but the game itself has to be pretty good for people to actually want to keep playing and make all this buzz about it.

    • Supersonic blah blah blah was also free on PS Plus back in the day on PS3. Obviously there weren’t as many subscribers back then when it wasn’t required for online play, but it didn’t lead to much success for the game then.

      PS+ isn’t a guarantee of success – you still need to make a good game if you want to sell it to anybody outside of PS+. Even then, people might not bother downloading it even if it is free. I suspect the name of the original game might have put some people off – “stupid name, I won’t bother with it”, and it sinks without trace.

    • No. If that were the case, Massive Chalice would be racking up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. because it was part of Games with Gold (the XBL equivalent).

      • Two entirely different games. I don’t think many people would be going on YouTube to watch montages of turn based strategy highlights.

        IDARB would be a better comparison.

        • My bad, I thought that game was XBL exclusive and decided not to mention it because of this.

    • I agree, to a point, I think the “nothing more” is a bit harsh
      I have been eyeing this one off for a long time as I was a huge fan of Speedball, Speedball II and Projectyle (

      I dare say some older gamers might have been doing the same

      From there, word of mouth about how much fun it is took over

    • And then what about every other game that’s free on ps+, this as far as I can remember is the only super popular game that’s been a part of ps+ on the ps4. It’s not because of that, it’s just a simply good game that’s loads of fun.

    • You are right in a sense but the key is that this is a game that requires players in order to make the experience good, so they have to make a kind of breakthrough. Unless they hit some critical mass at which people are enjoying it and perpetuate the ongoing multiplayer, they will fail.

      Now they have succeeded they can ride this game through expansions or whatever and also a sequel should be much more likely to reach a critical mass on its own merits. They have reached a large audience.

      The key to that is that it is a really good game. How it got to you doesn’t change that.

  • Finally someone worked this out. I haven’t understood the hype for this game. Used to play 4 player split-screen Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars on PS3 with my housemates a uni for the best part of 4 years back in the day.

    • I played it a lot too, I tried to convince friends to get it back when it came out but no one would believe “car soccer” was fun as hell. Glad this one took off at least.

  • This game was mostly ignored due to the majority people not knowing what a good game is

  • It’s a hard sell. My immediate thought when I was recommended Rocket League was soccer with cars, how silly. After a 30 minutes playing, was hooked. 50hrs later.

  • I’m more curious why the UT2K4 mod “carball” never gets a mention.
    Many hours of lanning and online back in 2005.

    Minus the polish/engine rocket league is a near identical clone of carball, except that carball had power ups/weapons. Psyonix did make vehicles for UT2k4 back in the day, but they have denied any connection to the old mod, which I find interesting. Anyway, carball was never retail but just thought it strange it’s gotten no love on articles like this…

  • I think it’s all in the name of the previous game, Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-cars? It sounds like a child came up with the name. They marketed it into the ground with a name like that in my opinion. Rocket league also is around during a time of better social media so Youtube and Reddit are more commonly used therefore gameplay clips are seen. Never underestimate the power of a brand name.

  • This game has quite the following on PC. And its very NOT free on Steam. Still worth the $20 though. Also, I like that they allow cross platform play between PC players and PS4 players.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!