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Do you remember “Hard Drivin'” for Sega Genesis?

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Photography by author.

In the blog A brief trip down memory lane with a few vintage Atari 2600 racing video games, posted in October of 2015, I discussed some of my favorite car-based Atari games from my childhood. This blog will be quite different from that one.

The reason being, after the Atari 2600, I bought a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), then a Super NES, followed by Playstation 1 and so on. I never had a Sega Genesis system, but thanks to this year’s local library sale, and the Sega Genesis cartridges my son and I found for a couple dollars, I may start looking for a game console.

Hard Drivin’ was the sole car game in our haul. Originally released by Atari in the late 1980s as a full-size coin-op arcade game, it was advertised as the “the world’s first authentic driving simulation game,” and it offered a 3D driving experience.

Licensed to Tengen, the Sega Genesis 16-bit version of Hard Drivin’ was released around 1990. Hyped in its instruction manual as “the only true driving simulation available,” it was said to provide a “unique three-dimensional view from the driver’s seat of an exotic sports car.” The dash gauge layout is comprehensive and detailed for its time, (though the amp, temp, oil and gas gauge pointers don’t move), but the graphics of the race track and cars are blocky even for the era, and it doesn’t seem very 3D.

Hard Drivin'

This game was purchased at a local library book sale. Crayon Castle is a daycare center.

The player can choose between an automatic or manual transmission, MPH or KM/H for the speedometer readout and speed limit signs, and which side of the road he or she wants to drive on, but only two tracks are available – a stunt track and speed track. You must make each checkpoint in the allotted time to continue to play, while avoiding collisions with other cars, fences, buildings and road embankments or driving off the course. On the stunt track, you also have to negotiate a bridge jump, a “360-degree vertical loop-the-loop” and a banked turn. The points are awarded based on the distance driven.

If you beat the challenge time, Phantom Photon, the Hard Drivin’ Champion calls you out for a challenge lap. The good news is that you can’t crash into him during the race. And if you win, you become the Champion and your score is the one to beat…until you turn off the game. Tips and strategy insights are also provided in the manual.

Gameplay appears to be slow and a bit jittery in the multiple videos I saw of it. If I get a Genesis console, I’ll try it out for myself, but in the meantime I’d like to read your recollections. Were you a Sega Genesis aficionado back in the day? Did you play Hard Drivin’? If so, tell us your thoughts.

Here’s a gameplay video of Hard Drivin’.