Until I first saw Super Cars for the NES at one of my local media resale stores I had never heard it. The label, unashamedly, shows a pair of Nissan 300zx IMSA racing against two other opponents, which made me wondered if this was going to be some kind of Gran Turismo style game for the NES. For the couple of dollars the store was asking I was willing to take the risk to find the answer.
Super Cars was ported to the NES in 1991 by Electro Brain, after Gremlin Graphics released it for many 8-bit computers the previous year. Super Cars is a top-down racing game in much the same ilk of Micro Machines, with a little bit of Super Off Road and R.C. Pro-AM splashed in for good measure. The main goal of the game is to compete against the AI in a series of nine races. If you win all nine races you’ll be elevated to the next level of difficulty.
From the start the player can immediately choose one of nine tracks and start earning money to help maintain and modify there current car, or later in the game purchase a much faster, albeit harder to control, vehicle. Between races you’ll mostly be spending that money to refill your gas, replace your tires or repair your body and engine for the next race to come as if any of these items are completely neglected it’s game over. Modifying your vehicle is always a good idea, if you have money left from doing your repairs. Items such as a High Speed Kit, Power Steering, Turbo Charger and even better brakes are on offer, which do provide a slight bit of improvement on your vehicle, however one very important thing to note is that these upgrades will only last throughout the upcoming race and will need to be purchased again for each and every race. — Yeah, seriously!!
Alongside useful upgrades you can also purchase weapons, which are nothing more than a waste of cash. Front and rear missiles shoot only one projectile out either side of the vehicle and rarely, if ever, actually strike the opponent. Another reason I feel the weapons are useless is because the AI never really pose much of a challenge. They always stay on track and cruise along at a fairly normal pace, meaning as long as you make your turns properly you’ll be able to pass them on any available straight and never have to worry about them again. However, there in lies the problem, those pesky turns can be a bit of a problem at first, but once you’ve gotten a few races in, coupled with the upgrades, you should be perfectly capable of managing to win every race. The only real problems you might face are the occasional water or oil slick on the track, which are usually easy to steer around and miss.
What is a racing game without crashing? Well, Super Cars will tell you! Crashing into anything will merely slow you down, frustrate you for a second or two and it will lower the condition of your body and engine. Otherwise, crashing is just a waste of time. Again, once you’ve got a few races under your belt and you’ve bought the upgrades you really won’t have any reason to crash anyway. Plus, crashing isn’t even satisfying from a sound standpoint. When you crash into things it sounds like someone biting into a stack of Pringles chips. Which is yet another thing, Super Cars doesn’t really offer much in the sound department at all. The crunch of Pringles and a very slight chirp from the tires every time you turn — and I do mean every time — is all you get in terms of sound effects.
What Super Cars lacks in sound effects it more than makes up in Soundtrack. The music on this game is absolutely amazing. I’m not one to really take notice of video game music during the old bit era, but when music is 99% of what you’ve got to hear during a game, it’s all you can notice. The music sounds very much like Micro Machines on the Gameboy. It makes me want to play this game just to hear the music, the best part is that you can actually pause the game and the music still plays! So if you’re like me, you may find yourself booting up Super Cars, starting a race just to pause it and do anything other than actually play the game.
Now I’m not saying Super Cars is a bad game and you’ll never actively want to play it, I find it to be a good time waster in short bursts. Which is nice because it comes with a unique password system where you change the color on a grid of cars. I’m not entirely sure when you obtain a passwords, maybe after beating all nine races and advancing to a new difficulty level now that I think about it. I will say though that five laps per race seems a bit too much, especially considering there are nine tracks to complete. I’m guessing this was their way of extending the playtime of this game.
All things considered Super Cars is fun for short bursts of racing, but I can’t recommend it over anything that it’s styled even remotely like. All the games that it can be compared to are superior and have much more replayability. Super Cars is an interesting game, fun in short bursts and has an amazing music selection. If they had only taken the time to make the AI and tracks a bit more challenging and given the weapons more purpose I think this game could have easily been one of the top racing games on the NES today, and remembered fondly by many people.