‘Episode I’ races into spot for video gaming greatness

Esteban Diaz |
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

Editor’s Note: This is an article in our ongoing “Great Video Game” series in which readers and staffers alike are asked to submit a few hundred words about a video game that they consider to be great. This week’s pick is “Star Wars Episode I: Racer.”

By Joshua Madden
A&E Editor

Whether you are the most die-hard “Star Wars” fan or someone who’s barely even seen the films, you are still probably familiar with the work that LucasArts has done in the video gaming world.

With “Battlefront,” “Clone Wars,” “The Force Unleashed,” “Knights of the Old Republic,” and “Rogue Squadron” all having been created by the development company, it’s hard to pick which one might be the best, but “Star Wars Episode I: Racer” definitely qualifies as one of the greatest video games of all time.

On the day that “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” races back into theaters, it seems only fitting to celebrate the game that gave millions of people around the world the chance to enjoy the most awesome part of the movie for themselves: podracing.

According to the 2011 Guinness World Records, “Racer” currently holds the record for the best-selling sci-fi racing game with worldwide sales of 3.12 million. That’s ahead of other notable series like “Wipeout,” “F-Zero” and the notably underrated “Extreme G” series.

Podracing, although only featured in the movie for essentially one scene, has become one of the first things that everyone associates with the “Star Wars” series, and that is in large part due to this game.

When I played this game as a kid, I remember being struck by how fun it was to drive a podracer as Anakin Skywalker. When I rediscovered it by purchasing a used copy for Dreamcast — this time as a pseudo-adult now pursuing an undergraduate degree in New York City — I was struck not by the fact that I could play as Anakin Skywalker, but more the depth that the game brings to something as seemingly simple as podracing.

There’s a lot more to this game than merely being the first to cross the finish line. You can go shopping for parts between races and build up the power of your pod, make differing wagers on the races based on how confident you are in your own ability and purchase pit droids to improve your repair time.

The game is actually really tough, which is something I didn’t appreciate enough as a kid. Memorizing the maps, figuring out what turns to make and what shortcuts to take is knowledge that takes time to build, but it’s worth it to get the most out of “Racer.”

Research into the “Racer” series, specifically its sequel “Star Wars: Racer Revenge” revealed that playing the game can actually improve your hand-eye coordination. Surgeons play “Racer Revenge” to better themselves and decrease the amount of mistakes they make. So consider throwing together a podrace with friends this weekend — it’s actually good for you.

Does reading this article make you think of a video game that you consider great? Please send us an email at lariat@baylor.edu with a suggestion for a “Great Video Game.” Please include a few hundred words on why you consider your game to be great and you just might find your opinion here.