Top Gear FI

SNES A Day 49: Top Gear


Approximate Release Date: April 16, 1992
Genre: Racing
Developer: Gremlin Interactive
Publisher: Kemco

No, Top Gear is not based on the British television show.

I suspect many readers will be disappointed by that fact. It’s a beloved TV show that has existed in multiple forms since the 1970s. Well, fans, you dodged a bullet because Top Gear isn’t a game you want associated with the show.

For me, the make-or-break part of any racing game is the sense of speed. If I’m going 140 miles per hour, it better feel like I’m going fast. Top Gear fails so bad at this it’s incredible. The car doesn’t seem like it is moving at all, as if it were on a giant treadmill-road. When I hit the nitro button the game says I’m going much faster but I just can’t tell. This is always a problem that exists in these Rad Racer-type racing games, but the better graphics here exacerbate the issue.

Top Gear follows RPM Racing‘s lead in annoying me by always having the game run in split screen. This was probably done because the game’s developers wanted multiplayer in the game and the easiest way to budget for that in terms of performance was to have the game run in split-screen mode all the time. I get it. It’s commendable that Gremlin Interactive was able to get it working. But having that second screen be a random car in the race is actively wasteful of half the screen. Put something interesting there so I don’t feel so claustrophobic.

Lastly, in the tour of things Top Gear does that drives me crazy, the music is terrible. It’s not quite The Chessmaster level of cacophony, but it’s close. I’m no expert in music, but each song has so many layers that compete with each other. The main menu music has tinkling in the background that distracts from whatever tune the developers were trying for. The song for the second track has at least three separate things going on at once at the same volume. It’s dreadful to sit through.

F-Zero showed how racing games could benefit from better technology. Top Gear is an antique, using NES-era game design when better alternatives exist. At the time, this was probably an okay but forgettable game. I have no idea why you’d want to play this game today.

Tomorrow: It seems fitting that the Super Nintendo’s first same-console sequel would be True Golf Classics: Pebble Beach Golf Links. That’s right, more golf!

11 thoughts on “SNES A Day 49: Top Gear”

    1. That’s a very good question. I guess it’s for left-handed people? Maybe?

      I can’t think of any other games with an upside-down controller option.

  1. Love this post. I think friend had this game — I played it a lot somewhere. Reminds me of the days I had to cram gaming in after school before running home for dinner.

    1. Did you like the game back then?

      I really don’t know how I would have felt about it if I were playing it in 1992. I suspect I would have played it a lot since I was a big fan of Rad Racer.

      1. Rad Racer was the reason I played a lot of racing games back then. I think Iiked (almost) all of the racing games I ever played – even Pole Position on the Atari 2600 (the one where you dodged yellow shopping carts)

  2. I’m sorry but I love the music, especially on that first track. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about because this is a great game.

    1. The music has too much stuff going on in it. I can’t figure out what the melody is supposed to be because there are a thousand different parts attacking my eardrums.

      I don’t think this is a terrible game or anything, it’s just this kind of racing game works better on worse hardware. The Super Nintendo gave us F-Zero and many other great racing games, so I don’t find much appeal here. It’s fine if you like it, though! 🙂

  3. I never really thought about this until reading your complaints about the music being as frantic as it is, but, perhaps the music is compensating for the graphics? With how little the cars themselves move, the music may be hectic to make the player feel like there’s more going on than slight turns of the car and the occasional pit stop.

    Fond memories of this game, though. If only because it felt amazing beating my brother with the bad controller and because Moonbath will always be the best password in any game.

  4. This game is amazing. Music is stunning, i dont understand anything of your review. Classic 16 bit racing game that delivers what we expect from it.

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