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Gran Turismo: A Look Back at a Decade of Success

by: Finn Orfano ; edited by: Aaron R. ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

The recent release of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue sold over a million pre-orders in Europe before the game even hit the shelves. Here's a short history of how Polyphony built a video game dynasty and made Gran Turismo the last word in console racing.

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    In the world of racing sims, Gran Turismo is king. Though recent games like the Forza Motorsport series on the Xbox consoles have tried to take the crown away, the veteran Playstation series has thwarted all challengers and sold tens of millions of copies. As the franchise enters its 11th year with Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, it's a good time to look back at Gran Turismo's evolution.

    Gran Turismo (PSX)

    Released: Decenber 1997 (Japan), May 1998 (North America/Europe)

    Popular racing games used to be simple affairs based on arcade games. Gran Turismo changed all that, introducing new game mechanics that added complexity to the genre while still making it easy for new drivers to take the game for a spin. Gran Turismo boasted realistic driving physics, an RPG-like career mode that let you buy real cars like the Toyota Supra and Nissan Skyline, and a comprehensive tweaking and modification system aimed at gearheads. The winning formula sold seven million copies.

    Gran Turismo 2 (PSX)

    Released: December 1999

    Polyphony promised a lot for the next Gran Turismo game, but took two years to make it. When GT2 finally arrived after several delays and dropped features, minor glitches made it clear the game was rushed, leading to a voluntary recall of game discs to fix the problems. But 700 cars, real-life tracks like Laguna Seca, and the addition of rally racing ensured GT2’s success.

    Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec (PS2)

    Released: April 2001 (Japan), July 2001 (North America/Europe)

    With the series now a system seller, Polyphony was under pressure to deliver the same gorgeous graphics and deep, realistic driving experience -- but on an entirely new next-generation console. To deliver the goods, Polyphony trimmed down the scope of the game by drastically reducing the number of cars and including fewer tracks. But the lean, mean Gran Turismo 3 proved the series’ biggest hit, selling 14 million copies to date.

    Gran Turismo 4 (PS2)

    Released: December 2004 (Japan), March 2005 (North America/Europe)

    Like GT2, the initial plan for Gran Turismo 4 was more, more, more: online racing, improved AI, and more realistic physics, as well as tons of new cars and tracks. GT4 ended up eliminating the much-anticipated online play, preferring instead to focus on making the driving experience more realistic. Even with the cuts, GT4 missed its original Christmas 2003 release by such a wide margin that Polyphony released a Prologue edition in Japan to keep fans happy while they waited for the real thing.

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    [inlineImage|sectionimages||Three generations of Skylines, three generations of Gran Turismo.|]
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    Other Great Racing Games

    While Gran Turismo is a classic in several consoles, there are also some other great racing games that you just can't miss out on:

    5 Super PS2 Racing Games That You Can Find On The Bargain Shelf

    Top 10 XBOX Live Games for the XBOX 360

    Game Review for Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli