In this49055_front episode of Retro Wednesdays we take a look at the rare NES title Death Race. Maybe for once an expensive game will be expensive because it is really good and not just because it’s rare. 

SPOILER ALERT – It’s not. It’s expensive because it’s rare and a crappy game.

Now if you know me you know I love rare semi-crappy games. I own a boxed Little Red Hood. I play Wisdom Tree/Color Dreams games for fun and in general I enjoy torturing myself with some of the garbage scrapings of the NES library. So it comes as no surprise when Brett found this at a game store I instantly  wanted it. I mean just look at that cartridge:


Just screams quality. So with little expectations of good game design, and playability I popped this into my top loader. Needless to say I was not surprised.

The game has you start out by picking a difficulty level and car. The car menu is insanely confusing at first with options to modify what your car has vs. buy new. Pro Tip: ALWAYS BUY NEW. If you’re interested why just start the game.

You start in a generic city that has green grass and gray buildings. Yes, that is is. Your goal, even through it is never stated anywhere I saw in the game is to drive  your car around, pick up a certain number of flags and get to an exit. All the while people, are running around shooting at you, a helicopter chases you and shoots at you and these tower looking things shoot at you. Really the “death” in Death Race is your own. You instantly get bombarded with attacks and if it is your first time and you don’t know what to do, you’ll very likely end up dead in about 5 minutes.

The other thing you’ll notice once you start Death Race is the car you start with SUCKS. Turning is incredibly slow, you don’t take much damage and once you’re moving it’s hard to slow down. If you are serious about beating this game it’s important that you upgrade your car to all the best stuff very fast. Best tires, Chases and Engine are a must if you want to try to get through the whole game.

Outside of the GTA (original) style and semi violence of running people over Death Race brings little more to the table. You have some really awful controls. I never understood the driving control scheme of pressing up to accelerate. Why not just make it a button? Shooting you have no real way to aim it’s just guesswork which is why you spend more time trying to run people over instead of shooting. The missiles in the game we could not get consistently to work and when they did they move slower than your car, and the music is just awful. It seems to disconnected from the game with happy boisterous tones while you’re building a car to run over people.

Death Race is not a good game. Even though I want to play it again, I only want to because we made it to the end but fell short. It has very little to offer in terms of actual enjoyment and to be honest it’s only value is int he rarity and novelty of owning one game of 3 that the game company released.

And yes before you ask I am going to get those two as well.


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