All 12 Mainline Ridge Racer Games, Ranked

All 12 Mainline Ridge Racer Games, Ranked
Contributor: Adam Ismail

Maybe you know it best as a meme, or perhaps you have fond memories of playing it in an arcade 30 years ago. Ridge Racer might be dormant today — the series hasn’t enjoyed a new entry in more than a decade — but it used to be a big deal. For a time, a new one would coincide with the launch of every piece of Sony hardware and, eventually, even Microsoft and Nintendo’s platforms, too. In its earlier days it was one of those system-sellers for the original PlayStation; the kind of racing game that looked and played quite literally dimensions better than anything before it. It really did change everything, and today we’re celebrating it.

Enjoy this list of the 12 mainline Ridge Racer games, ranked worst to best. Let us pray that one day there will be a Ridge Racer 8 to slot into it.

12. Ridge Racer 6

You can pretty much sum up Ridge Racer as a franchise into two eras: the games that came before the launch of the PSP, on the PS1 and PS2, and everything that came after. The games of the before times each tended to be wildly different, with unique progression structures and gameplay. But after Ridge Racers on the PSP, Namco more or less repeatedly iterated upon the same formula until the end. The declining relevance of arcade racers throughout the aughts probably had something to do with that.

Ridge Racer 6 lands at the back of our ranking because it’s easily the least impressive showing of that second act. As a launch title, it couldn’t match the technical showpiece for the Xbox 360 hardware that Project Gotham Racing 3 was. And although its track selection was fresh compared to Ridge Racers on PSP, the car roster wasn’t, and the single player campaign took the form of a thoughtless slog through endless events. None of the world-building that made entries like R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 favourites among fans; no currency to spend or upgrades to dole out on your garage. That wouldn’t be a massive deal if at least the driving was fun, but the series’ handling in the post-PS2 era is roundly flat and unengaging — the cars practically drift themselves. At least this one’s still purchasable and playable on Xbox Series consoles, which counts for something.

11. Ridge Racer (PS Vita)

Much of what’s true about Ridge Racer 6 applies to the most recent entry on our list, 2011’s Ridge Racer on the PlayStation Vita. The game gets a bit of a boost because it was on Sony’s final handheld that was simply too perfect for this world, and introduced fresh designs for some of the series’ classic nameplates like the Gnade Esperanza and Assoluto Promessa and Fatalita, that paid tribute to their original incarnations in Rage Racer and R4. The concept of placing players in factions then pitting them against each other in team-based events was a novel way to promote online multiplayer at the time, too.

Unfortunately, in an act of stunning greed, Bandai Namco attempted to push a free-to-play model with Ridge Racer on Vita, despite the fact it still cost $US30 ($42) at retail. The game launched with three tracks and seven cars — yes, in 2011 — and made players fork over cash for the rest of the content as microtransactions. (To be fair, one of those packs brought Daytona USA’s Hornet, which is the finest DLC any game has or will ever receive.) To make matters worse, it’s not like it really tapped into the Vita’s power, running at 30 frames-per-second when even the PSP iterations achieved 60.

10. Ridge Racer 64/Ridge Racer DS

The thing about Ridge Racer 64 and its DS port a few years later is that they’re pretty much only Ridge Racer games in name only. Sure, much of the content would’ve been familiar to any fan of the series, but these games were developed by Washington-based Nintendo Software Technology, rather than Namco proper.

You can tell. Ridge Racer 64 is a solid game, but it’s not Ridge Racer. Every aspect of it is just a little bit off. The cars feature odd proportions, the tracks are similar in shape but quite unique in scenery, and the soundtrack has none of the frenetic, industrial or jazzy techno that previous entries were celebrated for. RR64 did at least handle much better than the original two games on PlayStation, though the DS version misses out on that praise. For the handheld incarnation, NST attempted to emulate the N64’s analogue stick through a touch-screen steering wheel. It worked about as well in practice as it sounds like it would.

9. Ridge Racer 3D

Look, I’ll level with you — this is the only game on this list I’ve never played, but it’d be wrong to leave it off. You can take this entry with a grain of salt then, but let’s be real, nobody talks about Ridge Racer on the 3DS. I’m sure it’s fine, and against its Vita counterpart you could at least commend it for being a complete title. But once again, we have a mish-mash of cars and tracks from the PSP, 360 and PS3 days with a few platform exclusives thrown in. I’ve never felt the urge to explore it despite being a diehard Ridge Racer fan, which I think says spades.

8. Ridge Racer Revolution

Rather than porting Rave Racer to the original PlayStation — Namco’s true sequel to Ridge Racer exclusive to the arcades — the company decided to release a patch on the original game one year later called Ridge Racer Revolution. “Revolution,” in this case, doing a lot of heavy lifting, because this is really just the first one with new tracks. It handles a smidge better on the original PlayStation pad, but it’s also the kind of sequel that ultimately coasts on the goodwill and legitimate revolution of its predecessor…

7. Ridge Racer/Ridge Racer 2

…which we’ll now discuss! Some will bemoan the original Ridge Racer finishing on the wrong half of this ranking, but it only crosses the line this far down because of how much better things would get. And look, Ridge Racer (and the arcade-only Ridge Racer 2, which doesn’t add much) has plenty to be proud of. Alongside Sega’s Daytona USA in 1994, it changed everything. Suddenly, 3D racing games could be fast, fluid and exhilarating, rather than slow and boring. And the PlayStation port was an absolute marvel, a convincing replica of its arcade source material. I never worked out how to drift using that controller — the physics could’ve definitely used some more tuning for the D-pad — but even then, that gripe doesn’t undermine the legacy here.

6. Rave Racer

Rave Racer is the one we’re all likely to have the least experience with. Until Arcade1Up’s recent home release it was exclusive to arcades. That’s a real shame, because Rave actually feels like a step ahead for the series, with smoother handling, punched-up visuals and a soundtrack that absolutely kicks arse. And we must recognise the soundtrack, because it is that good. Early Ridge Racer music sometimes makes you want to dance and just as often induces a headache, but Rave takes the tunes in a more varied, experimental direction, throwing some jazz and drum-and-bass into the mix as well. It’s all over the place, but in the best possible way.

5. Ridge Racer 7

What a difference a year makes. Just a year after the Xbox 360 launched with Ridge Racer 6, its sequel rung in the PS3’s release with justified fanfare. This is the game 6 should have been, with a serious career mode, plenty of new content and secrets to uncover and a clear reverence for the series’ roots. Also unlike the 360 instalment, Ridge Racer 7 was quite an impressive looking game on the PS3, running at an unwavering 60 frames-per-second and 1080p resolution, practically unheard of for that generation of gaming. In terms of driving experience it was virtually indistinguishable from the previous three games, but at least this one had depth.

4. Ridge Racers/Ridge Racers 2

We’re combining both Ridge Racers games on the PSP into one entry here because they really are quite similar. These days, the sequel’s existence basically invalidates the first — it’s Ridge Racers with more content — but it’s the earlier game you would’ve played on PSP launch day.

And what a launch it was. It’s truly difficult to convey how staggering this game was to behold on a PSP. Seemingly overnight, we went from sprite-scalers and almost-but-not-quite 3D racing games on the Game Boy Advance to a 60 frames-per-second experience that could compete with anything on a home console. We’ll probably never see progress like it in the industry ever again.

On the gameplay side, I’m a little less high on Ridge Racers for reasons already mentioned. This is the game that introduced the sort of handling that would define the series for the rest of its existence, drifting so easy you could do it with your eyes closed in complete confidence the game would carry you through every corner. It’s also the one that introduced nitrous, a facet that added a strategic element in later releases but at the time sort of just felt like a fad, because we were now living in a post-Fast & Furious world and every other racing game had it. It’s worth pointing out that if you’re a PlayStation Plus Premium subscriber, Ridge Racers 2 — which was never officially released in the U.S. for the PSP back in 2006 — is playable today on PS4 and PS5.

3. Rage Racer

Ridge Racer as a series has always had an artistic flair, but Namco didn’t really seize that potential until Rage Racer. This was the first truly ambitious one; the one that swung for the fences with a whole new gritty aesthetic and setting, industrial soundtrack and career structure, at a time when Gran Turismo hadn’t yet arrived to perfect the car-PG formula. It’s a beautiful game that has stood the test of time — stilted handling and evil collision detection aside. Everyone remembers the ’90s in this sort of effervescent, bubble gum, blue skies-type way, but you simply don’t see games that look or sound like Rage Racer anymore, and that really is too bad.

2. R4: Ridge Racer Type 4

If you know of R4’s legend or been lucky enough to play it yourself, you understand why it’s finished this high. Narrative-focused racing games tend to kind of suck, but R4’s world was cinematic and mesmerising. Everything from the menus to the fictional car designs to the music — oh god, the music — was brimming with class, style and polish that really hasn’t been matched in the 25 years (gasp) since the game came out. The boldness and confidence of Namco’s artistic vision with R4, the fluidity of the driving experience and the technical prowess on display (it looks really freakin’ good for a PS1 title) ensure that this one deserves every bit of the praise it continues to receive.

1. Ridge Racer V

It was really hard not handing the No.1 spot to R4, but I’ll tell you why Ridge Racer V, the series’ PS2 debut, edged it here. R4 is special for its high concepts, its visuals and its soundtrack — but Ridge Racer V is a better game to play. In fact, it might just be the greatest pure arcade racer of all time; the one, fleeting moment where driving in Ridge Racer wasn’t unwieldy or mind-numbingly effortless, but just crisp, responsive and dynamic. This is not an easy game, but it’s also certainly beatable — a pain in the arse, but fair about it. And practicing never feels like a chore, because it’s thoroughly rewarding to get to grips with each of the handful of cars on offer. They truly each have their own personalities.

In a perfect world, the best Ridge Racer would’ve blended R4’s grace with Ridge Racer V’s physics. Still, RRV’s plenty charming off-track, too. Namco fleshed out the classic Seaside Route 765 course from the original game into a network of interconnected circuits around Ridge City for this instalment. It’s not quite a match for R4’s narrative ambition, but for longtime fans, it was gratifying nonetheless. Add in the 60 frame-per-second gameplay enabled by the PS2’s cutting-edge hardware, and you have yourself a gem of an arcade racer that can compete with any model example of the genre.

There’s our Ridge Racer ranking. If you’re a fan, be sure let me know what you think of this list in the comments. Happy drifting!

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