This 1982 arcade racer from Namco is a hugely influential video game. Possibly the most influential driving game ever made.
It’s also one of the highest-grossing arcade games of all-time – both in terms of cabinets sold (Pole Position was the top-grossing arcade game of 1983), and also in terms of coin revenues generated per week. It was also one of the first video games to feature product placement (the advertisement boards on the side of the tracks – one being Marlboro cigarettes…), so they probably made some ad money out of it too…
Pole Position is a classic third-person, F1-style racing game with convincing perspective and fast-moving colour graphics. There’s only one track (the real Fuji Speedway) and before racing against rival cars the player must first complete a time trial to qualify.
During the main race, just brushing a rival car will result in an explosion (and lost time), and the same goes for driving into any roadside objects. The car itself is extremely responsive and animates convincingly as it rotates on the road. It’s not entirely easy to keep straight, though. There are also patches of water that can cause the car to spin out, so are best avoided.
Playing it now: Pole Position is still surprisingly good considering its age. It’s a little boring driving on an empty road, and far more interesting when there are other cars around you. Not to mention far more risky… With a bit of practise though you should be weaving around the opposition and setting those high scores with no problems.
Note: a lot of people believe that Pole Position was an Atari game, because Namco licensed it to Atari for sale in North America. The game was a huge hit in America so it is understandable that that might happen. Atari did not create Pole Position though – Namco did.