Credit: zocker1990 via YouTube

And that brings us to GT4’s other critical addition: real-world circuits, and many of them. This wasn’t the first time real-life tracks appeared in Gran Turismo — Laguna Seca and a section of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb were drivable in GT2. However, GT4 went well-beyond that.


For motorsport fans, GT4’s roster of tracks presented an unending dilemma of where to go next. There was Suzuka, Tsukuba, Fuji and Motegi in Japan, plus Laguna Seca and Infineon (now Sonoma Raceway) in the United States. Europe was represented by three heavy hitters: the Monaco Grand Prix circuit (albeit in unlicensed form; it was known as Côte d’Azur in the game), the Circuit de la Sarthe and, of course, the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

I’m not sure which racing game had the Nordschleife first — it might have been Project Gotham Racing 2, which released a year earlier on the Xbox. But GT4 was easily among the earliest and the Nordschleife’s inclusion elevated GT4’s authenticity more than any other single car or track. This hallowed ground had, again, largely been ignored by game developers, either because they lacked the resources or the technology to render it with any degree of accuracy. Taking a spin around the Nordschleife in the few games that had it in the mid-2000s, none of those representations were particularly accurate—they all widened the track considerably and smoothed out its signature bumps. Well, none of them except GT4's.

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Screenshot: Sony Interactive Entertainment

I was barely a teen when GT4 was released, and I think that was the best possible time to experience it. I’d always loved cars, but GT4 educated me in a way no game had before or likely ever will again. It’s responsible for my undying love for Le Mans prototypes of the late ’80s and early ’90s; it’s the reason why I’ll always lament how Hermann Tilke renovated Fuji Speedway so Formula 1 could go there in the late aughts. I’d get lost in the showrooms, unearth rare finds in the used car dealerships and single out museum classics like the Toyota 7 so I could make sure to win them later. Gran Turismo 4 is intrinsically linked to my concept of automotive wonder and discovery. I probably wouldn’t be at Jalopnik without it.


Today, Gran Turismo is no longer your only option if you have a specific desire to drive something old or rare on a track you recognize, and it certainly isn’t the most realistic tool for the job. But 16 years ago, GT4 was the enthusiast-gamer’s first point of call, and it’ll always rekindle memories — especially for those of us who found cars through games.