I played GP Rider over a weekend earlier this month. It’s a motorcycle themed game developed by Sega and released in 1990. It ran on the Sega X board hardware, one of their famous line of ‘Super Scaler’ arcade boards. The original arcade machines were two player ride-on cabinets with tilting replica motorcycles.
It’s a short game consisting of 4 timed laps around the fictional Sega International Course, a track that would also feature in 1991’s F1 Exhaust Note. From my first credit to winning the race took less than two days so it isn’t a difficult game, even for an average player like me.
Despite being quite easy, it has a lot going for it. For a start, the one track featured in the game is very good. Some of the corners and the overpass in particular make me think it was perhaps based on the real-life Suzuka circuit. There is a good series of S-bends that requires a precise line to navigate quickly and a hairpin that feels great to traverse when you get it right. As far as I know this track was only in one another game but I would love to be proven wrong.
You get a choice of automatic or manual gears at the start of the game. I suggest learning to play with the manual option as it makes it so much easier to control your speed in some of the more difficult sections of the track. It sounds like it might be more difficult to use manual gears at first but it’s easy to learn how as the cabinet artwork features a map of the circuit with the suggested gear changes printed on it. With the help of the circuit map you’ll quickly get into the swing of changing gears.
The graphics in GP Rider are excellent, among the best you’ll see on that particular platform. The sprites are detailed and you get a good sense of 3D movement despite the game being entirely 2D. The 3D effect is actually better than some of the more established Sega titles of that period.
This is a short game that doesn’t seem to have much background information about it printed online anywhere but it’s very good and well worth playing. There were home versions for the Master System and Game Gear but they don’t really resemble the arcade in either look or feel. The original works just fine in MAME and can be played with a control pad quite easily.
Bonus Video: I haven’t given you a video in a while so here is one of my 1st place runs of GP Rider. Played in MAME and recorded with Shadowplay.