Gran Turismo changed everything.
It elevated console-based racing video games from arcade novelties to in-depth simulations. Car enthusiasts from all over the world could buy, tune and race cars that ranged from the ordinary to the extraordinary in a virtual realm that mimicked real life as closely as the current technology would allow, while still being entertaining to the average gamer.
A new sense of realism in terms of vehicle appearance, car control and tuning was ushered in for PlayStation users when Gran Turismo was first released in 1997 – a formula that has been copied extensively ever since. To this day, 10 iterations of Gran Turismo have been released, spanning four platforms and selling more than 76.5 million units worldwide.
But it’s the cars that made Gran Turismo what it is today. In a time before the Internet exploded, gamers were suddenly introduced to hundreds of cars from around the world, complete with in-depth specs and back stories. How many North Americans knew about the Nissan Skyline GT-R prior to 1997?
For a series that has included literally thousands of cars over the years, narrowing them down to just the 10 best cars of all time was not easy. But as someone who has been wasting hour upon hour since the first Gran Turismo came out, here are my picks for the Top 10 Cars of Gran Turismo. Although not necessarily the best, they are the most remembered cars through the franchises history. What would be your picks? Let us know in the comments below.
10. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (C2) ’67
In a time before the Internet and online gaming, people would actually have to leave the house to go over to a friend’s place to race head to head in multiplayer games like the original Gran Turismo. I know. Human interaction and socializing? Gross.
Anyway, in Gran Turismo, there was a car only available in Arcade Mode that was one of the fastest Class A cars, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (C2) ’67. Assuming you could control its tail-happy nature; the Corvette was dominant and made many of us wish it was available in career mode – something that would happen in Gran Turismo 2.
9. Renault Espace F1
The Renault Espace F1 only showed up in one Gran Turismo game, the second one, but it quickly became a fan favorite. To this day, it’s still remembered for its ridiculous awesomeness. Seriously, what’s not to like?
The Espace F1 was essentially a Formula One Renault race car with bodywork attached that closely resembled an Espace minivan. For owners of the game who had ill-informed, unsuspecting friends, there was nothing better than setting up a head-to-head game and stating, “Drive whatever you want, I’m just going to pick this minivan.”
8. Buick Special and HPA Motorsports Stage II R32 Bi Turbo
Starting in 2003 Gran Turismo partnered up with the SEMA to award what the creators of the game deem to be the best car of the show. Part of the prize includes having that award winning car featured in an upcoming edition of Gran Turismo.
In Gran Turismo 4, the first two winners of the SEMA Gran Turismo award were included, the Buick Special and HPA Motorspots Stage II R32 Bi Turbo. Both cars were insane in their own way and started a tradition that continues to this day.
Those unfamiliar with the award were probably curious as to why a 1962 Buick was so damned fast when they first bought Gran Turismo 4.
7. Polyphony F1 Replicas
When Gran Turismo 3 came out, the prayers of GT fans were answered. Open wheel race cars were now included. Instead of buying the rights to various legendary Formula One cars, Gran Turismo instead used replicas with clever vehicle names instead.
Want to drive Ayrton Senna’s MP4/4 McLaren? Then get behind the wheel of the F688/S. Want to take a spin in Damon Hill’s 1994 Williams? Then select the F094/H.
6. Chaparral 2J
When Gran Turismo 4 came out for PlayStation 2, it included the odd looking, built-in-someone’s-backyard-esque Chaparral 2J racecar. It was one of the most technologically advanced, innovative race cars of its era and Gran Turismo gave it a who new generation of fans.
Its dominance on the racetrack (when not suffering from a plethora of mechanical failures) was immense and this translated to the game as well. In an unfortunate twist of uber-realism, the Chaparral 2J was banned from a lot of online racing series, just like it was banned from competition in real life.
Still, in career mode, if there was an advanced race you were having trouble to beat, the 2J was often the solution.
5. Ferrari F2007
After two generations of Gran Turismo that featured faux Formula One cars, Gran Turismo 5 finally included licensed Ferrari F1 cars. Debate is strong as to which one is the superior car, but in my books, the F2007 was the better of the two, as I prefer that generation’s rule package.
Sadly, these cars had limited use in single player mode, but did become a favorite for online racing.
4. Redbull X cars
When Gran Turismo 5 came out, it began a line of fantasy cars that were a departure for the franchise. They were “what if” cars, as in, what if a race car could be created free of any regulations? The answer was the original Red Bull X2010 that was insanely fast and difficult to control. Sorry, your modified FTO will not keep up with this.
Those without a racing wheel would need a lot of skill to master this beast with a PS3 controller. Subsequent versions followed with the X2011, X2014 Standard, X2014 Junior and X2014 Fan Car. The latter being insanely fast and beyond ridiculous.
3. Vision Gran Turismo Series
OK, this is cheating I know, as it’s not one car. Heck, a lot of my answers haven’t been just one car, but Top 38 cars just doesn’t have the same ring as Top 10, does it?
Moving on, when Gran Turismo 6 was released, it featured a section called Vision Gran Turismo where manufacturers were asked to create the brand’s ultimate fantasy sports cars. There have been dozens of great entries that range from modified street cars to insane futuristic race cars powered by lasers.
If I were to pick out a personal favorite, it would have to be the Mazda LM55, since it’s a spiritual successor to my favorite race car of all time, the Mazda 787B.
2. Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak Version
Anyone who’s ever played Gran Turismo knows this car. In Gran Turismo 2, it was dominant and in Gran Turismo 6 it’s still a fan favorite. Need to pass a difficult rally stage? Grab the Escudo!
With two engines and all-wheel drive, the Escudo Pikes Peak Version was Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima’s race car that obliterated the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the mid-1990s. It may not have been Monster’s most successful Pikes Peak car, but it is his most famous.
In fact, it’s safe to say the inclusion of the Escudo Pikes Peak in the Gran Turismo franchise helped introduce the Pikes Peak event and Monster himself to a whole new generation of fans around the world.
1. Nissan Skyline (R32-R34)
As mentioned at the begging of this article, Gran Turismo helped cement the legend of the Skyline around the world. Prior to 1997, only die-hard gear-heads outside of Japan were fully aware of what the Skyline GT-R was and its insane levels of performance. Thanks to the WRC, a lot of us knew about the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru Impreza WRX STI, but the Skyline was a bit more of an unknown.
In the original Gran Turismo, a modified Skyline was a dominant choice and had people all over North America firing up their 56K modems scouring the internet to learn more about this all-wheel drive monster. No other car has had as many variants included in the Gran Turismo franchise than the Skyline and it has become the unofficial poster child for the game.
Would Brian O’Connor have chosen the Skyline as his vehicle of choice had Gran Turismo, and the subsequent video games that came after it, not enlightened kids and teenagers around the world to its potential?
To this day, it’s impossible to not associate Gran Turismo with the R32 to R34 generations of the Skyline.