When Atari released their first attempt at a racing game in 1974, called Gran Track 10, the response was somewhat underwhelming. Undaunted, they forged forward the following year with the much more ambitious Indy 800. This time around, the game allowed up to eight players to compete simultaneously against each other and the notorious clock. A steady stream of quarters would soon follow, making this one of the most popular racing games of the 70s.
Perhaps the most pleasing and helpful innovation was the discarding of the simple colored plastic overlay, in favor of a game that was actually in color. With each car easily recognizable on the track, thanks to its distinctive hue, it was far easier for players to keep track of their own vehicles amidst the frenzied race. And, with as many as eight vehicles competing at any one time, you already had your hands full without having to try to constantly identify your vehicle during the heat of competition.
The four-sided game featured a pair of steering wheels, gas and brake pedals, and a horn on each side of the machine, with players viewing the track from above. If one couldn’t find seven human counterparts to compete against, the computer was more than happy to provide its own racing foes. Players attempted to complete as many laps as possible before the timer ran out, and were awarded points for each completed lap. Scores routinely flashed on the screen so all involved could easily surmise who was ahead at any point in the game.
As Indy 800 quickly became a favorite in game rooms around the country, Atari followed up two years later with a smaller version, this time with only four steering wheels, called Indy 4. This version was particularly popular in smaller arcades, where space came at a premium. There would be no further sequels to the Indy franchise, which was eventually replaced by the equally popular Sprint series. But fond memories remain for these early days of coin-op racing – when eight adventurous drivers could, for the first time, put the pedal to the metal and compete simultaneously for those coveted arcade bragging rights.
If you drove your fair share of laps on Indy 800, we would love to hear your thoughts and recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this classic arcade driving game from the 70s.