The thing about the Nintendo Switch is that it’s a great piece of hardware that regrettably holds extremely limited appeal if a significant portion of what you play is racing games. That’s disappointing, because it’s not like good racers can’t exist on the platform — Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Fast RMX, Grid Autosport and Sega Ages Virtua Racing very much prove otherwise. It’s just that few want to make them. Let it be known, though, that the awful ones are still worth checking out. Especially when they’re on sale for $2.50.
Speedway Racing came out a while back — in February 2020, actually — yet completely slipped under my radar. That’s probably because it’s horrendous. But thanks to a sale still live at the time I’m writing this, it’s been getting a little more attention as of late. Last night I came across gameplay courtesy of YouTuber dgoodin24 and, well, 10 quarters later, here we are.
The thing about Speedway Racing is that it’s terrible, but in an extremely charming way that will make you snort. It has six speedways inspired by real-world venues, but ascribed to erroneous locations. What the game calls “Seattle” is really more like Darlington, for example. It also has vaguely 2000s-era stock cars clad in sponsors that seem authentic at first blush, until you realize every single one’s name has at least two letters transposed in a desperate attempt to dodge legal action. “Flowmaster” is “Flowamster;” “Mobil” is “Mibol;” “Goodyear” is “Godoyear.” It’s wonderful.
But Speedway Racing truly comes alive when you load up on 22 gallons of Suonco race fuel and hit the asphalt. Lunacy is guaranteed. The artificial intelligence exhibits none; computer-controlled cars are also so incredibly slow in a straight line relative to you that they’re impossible to avoid. When you hit them, they fly into the air weightlessly. Even if you do your best to steer clear, they’ll still send each other into the stratosphere. It’s a regular occurrence to blow past AI cars stationary on the apron for no obvious reason; hell, half the time they’ll venture into the grass as soon as the green flag drops.
The physics could be worse I suppose, but they’re so understeery that if you’re not booting rivals, you’re magnetically tethered to the outer wall of every turn. Performance, too, is a strangely mixed bag; there are eye-catching effects, like jet flyovers and dust rolling through the speedways, and the gratuitous motion blur actually looks half nice for a Switch game. But I estimate the frame rate never reaches beyond the low 20s, and the degree of bloom will sear your retinas.
We’ve covered all this and I haven’t even spoken about my favorite awful thing about Speedway Racing: the audio. Not only is it shittily compressed, not only do the engines sound like weedwhackers and haphazardly change pitch (ironically, in the pause menu they persist at the same pitch forever), but everything is loud. Oh god, it’s all so very loud. I damn near blew my PC speakers importing the footage you see above so I could make GIFs.
And then there are the announcers. I counted four different voices. One is a stereotypically American sports commentator dude who calls out the transmission you select — as is customary in all self-respecting arcade racers — and comes over the PA system during the race with calls that would make Al Michaels quiver, like “this is super! Amazing! Excellent!” Then there’s a guy with a totally different voice who says “checkpoint,” and a random British-accented man who chimes in with “game over.”
But then there’s the announcer who tells you you’re going the wrong way. He only says “turn around,” but it’s the inflection with which he says it that sounds eerily similar to how the same command is uttered in Sega Rally Championship. Listening to both back to back, they’re not quite the same; I don’t think Speedway Racing’s developer lifted that sound file, but the resemblance is still uncanny. I guess it all fits, given the stylistic parallels with Daytona USA.
That’s the thing about this game: I feel like it wears its inspiration on its sleeve, but it’s in no way comparable to the GOAT. For me I suppose that means it’s back to Virtua Racing to get my Sega arcade racing fix, then. At least what Speedway Racing lacks in redeeming qualities, it almost makes up for in total absurdity.