The Road Rash franchise: hit and run

Road Rash, a classic franchise with lots of fun and fight over two wheels, sadly abandoned by EA.


Especially since the 2000s, we have seen a lot of games having problems with the law due to their violent content. Running over ladies, beating up unarmed people or shooting virtual bullets is considered inappropriate for our young people who don't see any of these ugly things on TV, movies and in the general media.

Even though all of this had been in games for a long time, the graphical improvements had a more intense negative effect than in the days of pixelated sprites. With the exception of sexual content, it was rare for anything to cause problems for the producer; on the Atari 2600, a child being decapitated on Halloween went practically unnoticed.

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But for us, who are already grown up, a good dose of fighting (virtual, of course) can be quite fun, as proven by Road Rash, one of Electronic Arts' super-hits.

It's one of the franchises that entertained me the most, and continues to entertain me to this day, with a very simple and direct plot: an illegal motorcycle competition, which instead of being held on a racetrack, with rules, takes place on roads and streets, full of obstacles – its common occupants, such as cars, traffic signs, police officers and some pedestrians, and others not so common, such as animals.

Road Rash - Mega Drive

More than winning races, it's good to be ready for more "noble" goals like punching, kicking and beating up motorcyclists in various ways, causing accidents and vandalizing the police using your natural resources (feet and hands) and some "tools", such as nunchucks, clubs with nails, electric batons and many other toys.

All this without getting off the bike and without stopping accelerating, and as is the rule in the RR series, always keeping a sharp eye on the cops, who will be alert to the antics of the barbarians on the road, and will also not act exactly within the law.

The first race, we never forget

Road Rash began its career in 1991, on the Mega Drive, quickly becoming a success with its unusual style for racing games. Instead of just fighting for the top positions, you had to literally fight, using "resources" such as beating up rival competitors and knocking them off their bikes.

The environment present dangers. Instead of safe tracks, there are highways and city streets, with signs, trees, buildings and unfortunate pedestrians who ventured to cross your path. The title is quite "appropriate": it refers to the type of injury suffered by those who fall (usually from motorcycles) and have their skin grazed on the asphalt.

Road Rash (Mega Drive) - primeira pistaOver the decade, the franchise had sequels on the Mega Drive (Road Rash 2 and 3, exclusive chapters for the console) and was taken to other platforms, maintaining the same gameplay that keeps anyone engaged for hours.

The first one already featured all the key elements of the franchise: a fast track, with vehicles coming in the opposite direction (in fact, the bikers are the ones who enter the other lane), the possibility of earning money from the races to buy new bikes, the use of bladed weapons to take down rivals (batons and chains). And of course, the traditional police, both in cars and motorcycle patrolmen.

Fight to live

The gameplay is simple: speed up and attack your rivals. At the beginning, your character has no weapon, but if you try to punch at the exact moment an armed rival is attacking you, you'll steal his weapon and can take it to the next races.

Some versions also have weapons on the road. Below the screen, your bike's dashboard appears, and if your energy bar runs out, it's because you've taken enough hits to fall. If your bike's energy runs out (due to too many falls and being run over), your bike explodes, and if you haven't saved up enough money to pay for the repairs, it's game over.

In addition to the race itself, the real fun is in the fights between the bikers. More than kicking your enemy away (to knock him down or throw him in front of a car or other obstacle), you can beat them with clubs full of nails (Nintendo 64), batons, tonfas, electric weapons that paralyze for a few seconds, nunchucks and, of course, your fists. All of this can be done between the troublemakers and also with the police officers, who will come in pursuit as soon as your bike passes by them.

Road Rash (Mega Drive) - após a queda da moto
Knocked down? Run to get your bike and be smart to don't be overrun by other competitor or the cops.

If you knock down the cops, your reputation increases in some versions of the game, earning you more money at the end of the race. But be careful, because the patrolmen are no joke and can do things that you naively wouldn't even imagine the men of the law are capable of.

And if you're unlucky enough to fall near the police, whether the motorcyclist or the patrol car (who usually chases you and knocks everyone down without mercy), you'll go to jail. If you don't have enough money to pay the bail, it's game over.

On the other hand, if you finish the races among the best, you'll be the hero of the gang, earning a little party. If you make it to the end, but do badly, you'll be mocked by your colleagues and rivals, always with an animation (in some versions, there's a video showing what happens).


Some of the multiple faces of Road Rash along the years:

Mega Drive and Sega CD

The old Mega Drive was the beginning of everything. Although the music (especially the one for post-race screens, damn annoying) and the sound effects are not that great, the gameplay is great. Try it at least once in your life if you think you are someone in the Road Rash universe. The scenarios are roads in the United States, passing through deserts, villages and crossing paths with many vehicles, animals and some idiotic pedestrians who get in the way.

Two sequels came, as well as one for Sega CD, with improved sound and video sequences between races, but without changes to the gameplay. With the new versions came new weapons, motorcycles and tracks. In Road Rash 3, the races leave the United States, going to seven new countries (Kenya, England, Germany, Brazil, France, Australia and Japan).

In Road Rash 1, all the tracks were in the state of California; for the 2nd game, races spread to other American states, finally reaching the world in RR3. In this version, the characters were also digitized, instead of traditional pixel art.

3DO, PC and Sega Saturn

In 1996, Panasonic's 3DO had an excellent version of Road Rash, with great graphics, good sound and the traditional gameplay preserved. It was the one I played the most, along with the Mega Drive versions, since some rental stores had 3DOs with Road Rash as one of the flagship games for hourly play.

Check out the game's classic intro, which was the same on all three platforms + Sega CD:

Road Rash no PC
Road Rash on PC-DOS: almost the same for 3DO and Sega Saturn.

Since the 3DO was never very popular, due to its exorbitant price at the time (almost three times that of a SNES or Mega Drive), the Sega Saturn and PC versions gave people more chance to play, with very similar versions. They brought a heavy soundtrack, with grunge and hard rock bands from the 90s like Soundgarden (Rusty Cage plays during the presentation), Hammerbox and Monster Magnet.

For those who like it, a real treat. It's a shame that they only play it on the options screens, giving way to a boring midi-style song during the races. If this was the production team's choice, a big mistake.

The intro shows the cool video above, and there were also videos during the game, between races. The bands Paw (with the song Jessie), and Swervedriver (with Duel) had videos with several scenes from Road Rash included in the game. If you want to see it but don't have the disc and are too lazy to look for it, don't worry, I'm nice and I hunted them down on YouTube.

Below you can check it out:

In these versions, a caricatured style was adopted for the characters in the intermediate scenes. Until the Game Boy Advanced version, Road Rash Jailbreak, this style remained the standard for the franchise.


Road Rash 3d, Playstation

In the wake of 3D generation, 1998, the franchise began to lose prestige. The original PlayStation got its version with Road Rash 3-D, with more elaborate graphics, in a "new millennium" look. When you fall off your bike, an animation plays with your character flying.

The soundtrack is also rock and roll, and the control became much more sensitive, requiring care when leaning the bike and making turns to avoid crashing into the guardrails.

Because it is 3D and therefore has more complicated processing than the old games, the loss of the bikes' sense of speed is clear. The higher graphic quality can be appreciated with much more detail, such as tracks with tunnels. It was indeed a considerable "up" in the franchise's visuals.

The console would later receive the Road Rash Jailbreak version, in 1999, which was very similar in general.

Nintendo 64

Road Rash 64 - lutas entre motoqueiros
Weapons are your best friends while playing the Nintendo 64 version of Road Rash.

Released in 1999, although it kept the same basics, Road Rash 64 had some differences compared to the classic standards, such as the biker not running to get back the bike after falling, and the graphics being very much in the style of the N64 (the typical "Silicon Graphics style", blurry textures that many people hate and others love).

It is probably the slowest game of all, and where controlling the bike is easier. The fighting element were greatly enhanced in RR64; it doesn't mean that the races are boring, quite the opposite.

Although different, it's a great game, very entertaining, with brawling sessions like never seen before. It's almost a fighting game on wheels. The AI bikers beat each other really hard, and will beat you up too, if you do not beat them first.

On some advanced tracks, you will be surrounded by armed rivals and knocked down in a second, with no chance of defense; other times, two motorcycle cops will appear to beat you up, and don't even think about slowing down: a police car could run over everyone at any moment. If you've never played it, give it a try.

It was also the version with the largest variety of bikes to date, including "roadsters", faster but a little harderer to control. Interestingly, Road Rash 64 was not made by EA: the game's production rights remained with THQ. It is certainly not to be overlooked.

Game Boy Advance

Road Rash no GBAIn 2003, Nintendo's handheld received a completely redesigned version – and unfortunately, the last one so far – of the franchise. It's quite difficult, with abrupt changes in the track, a lot of speed, and races in different environments, such as dirt tracks and the seaside.

The small screen and the speed, combined, make it one of the hardest Road Rash ever made. Don't be surprised if in the first few plays you crash into obstacles if you take your eyes off the track for a second. You need to be sharp-eyed and agile.

Of course, since it's a handheld, you can't expect much in terms of graphics, but it's still fun and high-quality.

Where is Road Rash, EA?

From then on, the franchise was inexplicably frozen by EA, which promised more fighting on the new generation consoles, but nothing happened. Some fans dream so much of a sequel, that they even create concept animations for new versions.

Check this one out:

Update: it's not exactly Road Rash, but have you seen Road Redemption? Developed by DarkSeas Games, it promised to be a homage with all references to the EA classic franchise.

Let's hope EA bring back this great franchise someday. Wake up, EA!

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