I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that arcade racers are enjoying a renaissance right now, but there's definitely some good stuff to choose from out there, like Circuit Superstars and, more recently, Exo Rally Championship. That number will grow by one later this year with the release of New Star GP, a retro-styled open-wheel racing game set in the heyday of Prost, Senna, and Schumacher.
New Star GP's faux-retro graphics are what first caught my eye. I played a lot of old-time racing games way back in the day, and my mind immediately flashed back to the old Payrus sim Indianapolis 500 (which ironically was seen as a great step forward from arcade racers to "realistic" simulators at the time, although I don't recall playing it as such) when I saw this new trailer. It's bright, it's colorful, it looks fast, and the Days of Thunder-style crashin' and banging' pretty clearly indicates that realism is not exactly the priority here.
Along with its stylized retro visuals, New Star GP will also feature cars and races from years long past. At launch into early access, the game will have both a career mode and "championship mode," with 56 individual races in locations around the world including Brisbane, Quebec, and Tokyo. The singleplayer career mode will initially take players through the 1980s and '90s, with future decades planned during early access along with new cars, tracks, and track configurations, while the championship mode has five separate championships to play through either solo or in splitscreen multiplayer for up to four people.
While New Star GP is clearly an arcade racer, developer New Star—whose previous game, the soccer sim New Star Manager, was described to me by our resident football head Rich Stanton as "kinda great"— promises real gameplay depth as well: "While anyone can take the wheel and have success, those who want to truly master the game will want to make use of tyre choice and wear, component reliability, slipstreaming opponents, fuel load, and even pit strategy. Anything can happen in races, from catastrophic component failures and dynamic weather changes, to tyre blowouts and multi-car pileups."
Interestingly, New Star GP isn't expected to be in early access for very long: The developers reckon it will last for just 2-4 months, although obviously that's not carved in stone.
My interest in the racing genre has faded over the years, but I'm looking forward to giving New Star GP a spin. My hope is that it will fill a very specific hole in my heart: A jump-in-and-give 'er game with just enough commitment to fidelity to make me feel supremely competent when I manage to finish a race with my tires still touching the track. We'll see how that works out soon enough: New Star GP doesn't have a solid launch date yet, but it's expected to be out on Steam in a few weeks.