There once was a time when, if one wanted to experience the thrills of downhill skiing, it meant a considerable investment in equipment, lift tickets and hotel accommodations. This all changed in 1995, when Namco offered a trip to the Alps for the mere price of a quarter or two. And, while playing a video game might seem a pale comparison to the real thing, Alpine Racer boasted a virtual experience that offered thrills on the slopes, without any danger of frostbite or a trip to the emergency room with a broken limb.
Arcade adventurers quickly surmised that Alpine Racer wasn’t your typical video game. Not only was there a 50-inch screen to place the player in the center of the action, but they had to strap their feet into two ski controllers and get a grip on a pair of realistic ski poles. The controls responded appropriately to all of the familiar skiing techniques as players raced their way down a formidable mountain, complete with stereo sound effects to capture every whoosh.
Like plenty of racing games that preceded it, players were racing against the clock as they strove to reach various checkpoints that would add various time bonuses to their downhill quest. And you needed all the help you could get if you hoped to make it to the bottom of the hill.
Alpine Racer allowed any arcade rat to transform into a formidable snow bum or snow bunny, regardless of geographical location. From the Las Vegas desert to the streets of New York, one no longer had to call a travel agent to hit the slopes. The success of the game led to a sequel, Alpine Racer 2, as well as an alternate winter sporting experience with Alpine Surfer, where the skis were replaced with a snowboard. No matter which you preferred, perhaps the nicest aspect was that you could keep the winter jacket hanging in the closet.
Did you head to the virtual slopes of Alpine Racer back in the day? We’d love to hear your recollections of this popular 90s arcade game in our comments section.