If you’ve been around the internet long enough — particularly in all the wrong parts of it — you may be familiar with the term creepypasta. Generally speaking, creepypastas are pieces of horror fiction circulated online. They needn’t necessarily involve video games, but many do, like the classic tale of the dude who found a cursed copy of Majora’s Mask at a yard sale that was haunted by the soul of the kid who it once belonged to. I think that’s how that one went. I’m paraphrasing, it’s been like eight years since I read it.
You might be asking why I’m bringing any of this up on a car blog. The picture above probably gives it away. I’m not aware of many car-based creepypastas, and I’d have to imagine creepypastas relating to racing games are an even smaller, underserved niche. But I think this secret race discovered in a beta for the Dreamcast game Sega GT would serve as the perfect basis for a story about someone’s cousin being pulled into a TV by an off-model Luigi and forced to drive a low-poly Mitsubishi Toppo through a featureless canyon for eternity. Or at least until they perish from starvation.
A little background: Sega GT is a largely forgettable 21-year-old racing game. A secret track that didn’t appear in the final version was recently discovered in a prerelease prototype, dated June 15, 2000. This would’ve been four months after Sega GT’s Japanese launch, but two months before its U.S. release. The beta was published online on Saturday by archivist Comby Laurent, who contributed the Sega GT rip to The Deluge Project, a sizable dump of game prototypes organized by game preservation society Hidden Palace.
This race is accessed in the beta by choosing the Internet option from the main menu. In the final release, the Internet menu was where you’d be able to view leaderboards and upload and download ghost car data for time trials. Ghost cars were the closest anyone was getting to direct online competition at the time — this was 2000, don’t forget.
In the beta, though, the Internet menu takes you somewhere else — to a debug menu, where you can select a race on any track in the game, plus two additions. One is called “SonyGT2” and the other “Yura.” SonyGT2 is the track of relevance here, where you find this desolate ribbon of dirt and our green plumber friend on marshal duty.
Luigi stiffly lowers the checkered flag right before the start, which, besides being wrong, is just simply incongruous. What is he doing there, and why is he still there when the player completes a lap, frozen with his head down like some reanimated corpse?
There’s a lot to unpack here that may lead us to an explanation. First, we have the track itself. This is an off-road circuit, which is interesting in Sega GT’s case because the game didn’t include rallying when it was released. It looks the same throughout — a claustrophobic, winding gravel path, uphill until the peak at the midpoint, with lots of bumps and tall, flat textured rock walls. There’s never any variation to the environment, and it appears to be using the skybox and assets of Deep Rock Road, a desert track Sega GT players may remember. All three of us.
The track map makes me feel uneasy. It strongly reminds me of Earthbound’s Devil’s Machine, which sort of looks like a grotesque alien uterus depending on who you ask:
The first time I saw it, I didn’t think much else of it. Then a Twitter reply I happened upon made the origin of the layout abundantly clear, hitting me like a ton of bricks in the process:
Here’s the full Pikes Peak Hill Climb map, if you need a reminder:
What game had that exact same stretch of Pikes Peak around this time? Gran Turismo 2, of course!
That explains the SonyGT2 name, then. But still, why Luigi? My best guess is that the rudimentary, very brown look of this track — which I imagine was modeled only for development purposes only — reminded someone at Sega of Choco Mountain from Mario Kart 64. Or, perhaps those responsible were amused with themselves for already lifting from Sony’s racing game, and decided to fully commit to the bit by riffing on Nintendo too.
Sega GT is more than two decades old at this point. Like Squaresoft’s Driving Emotion Type-S, it was made to cash in on GT’s surprise mainstream popularity. Also much like Type-S, it drove horrendously and has been largely forgotten by most people. With all the time that’s passed since Sega GT’s release, it’s natural to think that if there were any oddities like SonyGT2 lurking in its history, someone would have found them already. Surprises like this one make you wonder what other weird, borderline unnerving secrets are hiding within games lost to time.