Released on the heels of The Phantom Menace movie, Star Wars Episode 1 Racer brings the podracing event from the movie and turns it into a full-blown videogame, spanning several courses on different planets – including the Tatooine original from the movie, and with a healthy list of podracers to boot!
Released: 17th May 1999
Although released way back in 1999 for retro platforms such as the Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and PCs of the time, the game has been re-released and optimized for modern computers digitally on GOG in 2018, followed by releases for consoles and other PC storefronts.
How does this work?
Star Wars Episode 1 Racer recreates just about every aspect of the extremely dangerous sport and manages to translate them into videogame format. You can reach breakneck speeds of 600mph, sometimes even higher. You can rotate your pod to squeeze through tight, vertical gaps. When colliding with the environment, you either hurry to repair your pod’s engines, or you crash face-first into a wall and totally toast your vehicle – thankfully the game does respawn you. You can boost to get an extra edge in the race but do it too much and your engines will overheat and blow up. The tracks themselves expect you to get acclimated to driving pods, with frequent twisty turns, obstacles, tight gaps and roads, pits of lava or sky, and more.
The main draw of the game is its tournament mode, in which you compete for first place across several events and use your monetary proceeds from each race to upgrade your pod or buy repair droids. There’s also free play, letting you play any of the game’s tracks at your desired difficulty.
It’s not racing, it’s an art form.
With all these mechanics at play, Star Wars Episode 1 Racer isn’t the kind of racing game you just pick up and play, as management and maintenance of your pod mid-race is just as essential as the racing itself. With all that said, the game is for the most part easy to master and get the hang of, since there are plenty of opportunities to improve your driving and plenty of shortcuts to find.
Although the graphics and visuals may not be the best in general, the game makes up for it with its fun, dangerously high-speed action as well as by using The Phantom Menace’s theatrical soundtrack, both of which will put you at the edge of your seat while you wiggle your way out of narrow tunnels and openings.
Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, Episode 1 Racer doesn’t just perfectly capture the intense podracing sequence from The Phantom Menace but also builds an entire game around it that’s pretty fun to play. The racing is perfectly balanced – neither too simple nor too complicated, so even if you can’t just jump in and play, you’ll still get the hang of how to effectively maintain and maneuver your pod. If you’re looking for a sci-fi racer, start here!