A Retrospective Look at Gran Turismo


GTPlanet Twitter follower jef722 sent me a link to a recent article posted by EDGE Online, and I found its perspective and approach incredibly refreshing. EDGE argues that Yamauchi’s creation is much more than just a racing game – it’s a classic Japanese RPG, played out in hundreds or even thousands of races:gran-turismo-original-poster

While you can extrapolate Gran Turismo’s unusual design forward into the beginnings of customizable, sandbox gaming, you can also trace it back to a much more traditional source. It so drastically expanded the scale and lifespan of the racing game by following a path parallel to that of Japan’s dominant game form, the RPG epic. The arc is the same: from humble beginnings, you incrementally acquire greater power, in order to best new opponents, in order to earn more currency and in order to acquire greater power still. Buying parts and tuning settings to develop car performance is a close analogue of leveling RPG characters, increasing and tweaking their stats by buying them new abilities and equipment. The experience of playing the game is characterized as much by acres of menu downtime, browsing, comparing, fiddling and planning, as by the action itself.

This formula seems commonplace now, but it changed everything back in 1998. These other games, however, fail to emulate the seemingly endless choice of vehicular options in GT, and its open structure gives you no choice but to write your own story. Of course, if you want to write that story, it’s going to take hard work, something which EDGE touched on quite eloquently:

You have to step out of Arcade mode and start on the long road of a Gran Turismo career to get past the immaculate sensory sheen and unearth GT’s radical agenda for racing games. In doing so you step straight into the first round of the infamous license tests, the austere lessons in driving technique that provide access to the various championships and racing events. They’re almost perversely unexciting; the first thing the game asks you to do is drive a small hatchback in a straight line and then stop it. It’s a long way from the seductive rush of the arcade, or even the steep demands of a motorsport simulation. The tests’ purpose is to train, yes, but also, by their very dullness, to imply the deadly seriousness of what’s to follow. This isn’t kids’ stuff, and you can’t just walk into it; Gran Turismo is a privilege that must be earned with graft. Many are put off by them, and it’s almost as if they were meant to be.

gran-turismo-original-screenshotIndeed, if you’re a patient, hard worker, you’re going to find the Gran Turismo experience incredibly rewarding. If you’re just looking for a quick thrill, you’re going to have a more difficult time appreciating what GT really is. Thankfully, for those of us who enjoy the challenge, Yamauchi has kept each major release true to the original, and let’s hope that doesn’t change with GT5. As we look forward to it, we should not forget to appreciate his artistic foresight which has provided us so many great memories over the last decade. Check out the full article right here for more!

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Comments (71)

  1. s3ank1m

    wow now that i think about it, GT is really like an RPG, for instance completing races over and over again to get credits

  2. overdriver

    Hey jordan, just curiosity: how near was i to bringing you the news about gt5 demo? Always wanted to be a part of the community but felt that if you do not have anything new to offer, why joining… that felt like my chance lol maybe next time! :|

  3. takethewall

    @mickle pickle

    Engine swaps and drivetrain swaps are not pure fantasy… No they’re not common, but people do them. Just look at all of the RB swapped 240sx’s and even ls1 swapped civics. Even Full Race sells a kit for the s14 to swap in the entire drivetrain of the R33 gtr.

    I would without a doubt classify the gran turismo games as RPGs. Not a typical rpg, but an rpg nonetheless. I’ve never dumped more hours in to a game than I have on any of the games in the gt series. Always looking for new parts, trying out different tunes, getting new cars. It has all of the elements of an rpg except androgynous spikey haired heros and stories of a rebel group of travelers out to save the world.

  4. STJ

    Look at that picture, there’s a JZX90 Toyota markII from GT2! Thats my favorite car ever i want it so bad in GT5.

  5. S3 Racer

    had the except same problem with FM. the hype was so big that i was thinking of buying an 360 elite FM for 250€!!! Luckily I didn’t. Conclusion of the reviews were that the physics aren’t the best. Saw a pic here somewhere with an Range rover drifting, how realistic is that? And I got the ps3, and gaming rig pc, so the most games for x360 had them on pc. So the hole enterprise was intended to crash.

    like your cowboy – samurai approch! ++

    NFS Porsche was excellent (only played it on pc ) but for me there are two excellent NFS: Prosche and the follower NFS Hot pursuit, I think it was. With Bush, hot action cop,… on the soundtrack. See still remembering the soundtrack. That’s kind of a good sign

    @ all:
    Super commenting here!!!! No one arguing, insulting…. Quite a proper comment section .
    thumbs up.

  6. Red Frog

    Yamauchi has pretty much strayed as far from what the original GT was as he possibly could.
    Horrible tacked on rally game? Duct taped F1 physics? Now we’re adding NASCAR? Sounds like they’re the ones going for quick thrills.

    You people are all sheeple. Except TOLL-Scibba-HRT, like him I’d love to see a graphical overhaul for the original game. Over a decade later it’s still the best driving game around, just a shame the graphics shred like an eye-grater.

  7. Will

    @ 8@No$

    I think the game with the story that you’re thinking of is R4. Possibly the greatest arcade racer of all-time, but not GT. ;)

  8. TeamStig

    I agreed with the article, but I don’t understand why there are some who don’t consider GT a videogame because it’s too niche. Not every videogame is intended for the mass audience, and neither was GT. Kaz has said time and time again that he was shocked when the game caught on as fast as it did. Don’t get me wrong, I welcome newcomers to the series but if you don’t understand or have any interest in racing, you shouldn’t be playing GT. It’s as simple as that. If the game is too “over your head” it’s not Polyphony’s fault – it’s yours. You can’t criticize something you don’t get.

  9. 8@No$

    What’s all this about GT being an rpg? It;s a racing game, more accurately THE racing game.. But seriously, the realism in the tweaking options, the tracks, the licenses, the tasks, the home menus everything in the game gives a real “warm” feeling like playing an rpg but without a character (YOU are the character). In that aspect I understand the term. Oh, and I would like the story option (remember it from GT1 not sure if it went through to the second one) to come back. It is nice to learn the story the technicals the evolution the people behind a machine. These make the machines really come to life. You have a feeling that you buy the car and want to take care of it, learn the story of it, not just drive it.. It is the exact opposite of the “shallow” arcade feeling of games like NFS..(except for the nfs porsche for PC (not PSX version – porsche 2000) which was one of the best games I have played) Anyone agrees?

  10. Vivian

    @ 8@No$

    that was good time!!! playing all day and when it was 11:00 pm, I said: now driving 6 hour of Rome circuit (or 400 km?!?). I must win the race because you don’t wanna start over, so I had the Suzuki escudo pikes speak. golden days!!!

  11. Rens

    @ gt5_pr0

    You do know that is in a month right?
    Because I don’t mind going back for a month.
    By the by I know it’s a lame comment, but your
    comment is even lamer so pls su.

  12. Mickle Pickle

    @ maxpontiac:
    You said: “…to take a stock automobile and turn it into a LeMans racing machine…”

    But that’s NOT realistic… that’s not how it’s properly done in real life…
    That’s too much fantasy… the type of fantasy only reserved to NFS and FM (where you swap engines and even transmission drive type).

    I can see how that would be fun… but not the type of GT philosophy…
    Kaz does not want any digression from the beauty of an original / stock looking setup/configuration. No Chaos in GT. Simply the purity of things.

    Again, it’s all profound and based on each country’s philosophy.

    NFS/FM (American Cowboy) vs. GT (Japan Samurai) … accept it.

  13. maxpontiac

    I believe NFS Shift has a RPG type of leveling system for the cars. You start out with a stock car, and can build it all the way to a Works conversion.

    Problem is, it’s way to easy. Gran Turismo has the slow grind down, but have never been able to take a stock automobile and turn it into a LeMans racing machine.

    Perhaps GT5 will have something that combines the two.

    When 2010 is here next month, my impatience for GT5 will begin to surface. I want the game bad, and I have been ever so willing to show patience in the matter.

    As S3 Racer stated, we all want GT5 now.

  14. Mwpuga

    I know the rod dan was referring too…. Forza Motorsport 2 started in this direction of r.p.g and so he was saying that Kaz and his team has not put enough love in this area of the game like his crew.. I believe turn 10 is on too something but they have a way to go before they can be considered on the level of Kaz and his team at polyphony digital. Forza has the same passion and love for cars just as much as PD. But still gran turismo is way better than forza motorsport.

  15. Mickle Pickle

    @ Femki:
    i had the same impression… … or is it due to the fact that i only have owned the even numbered GT?! I have never tried the odd # GT… i wish i could have.
    But as far as i am concerned… i consider GT5 to be an even # GT caliber… and hopefully the GT6 stays as an “even #” caliber as well.

    @ Black Chamber:
    it would be cool to have “Rain” featured somewhere in the game, but only in GT6… i would not want another single delay for GT5. ;)

    @ S3 Racer:
    FM series have always been attempting to give competition to the GT series…. everyone knows that… but IMO, FM has not yet reached the same level as GT, despite all the original and cool features FM supports and offers, it’s just missing that extra EDGE! (lol)
    FM might be a really good games, (i wish i had the opportunity to try out… )
    and i think if i have started with FM instead of GT, i would have defended FM…

    With the release of FM3, i was really close to give in and buy the “360” just for FM3.
    But a couple of reasons stopped me, 1) The mix-reviews from players 2) my lack of playtime between now and GT5 release and the cost of it being not justified by any real good reviews, and 3) this might sound corny to you, but i just despise Dan G.’s attitude (although i understand he was probably just trying to sell his baby) but it was utterly unnecessary… LET YOUR WORK and Game speak for themselves… Your mouth has cost you your efforts.

    Turn10 did their Best with Fm3, i can only wish that Turn10 work much harder… they have the potential… Sad that their deadline has forced them to release what seems to be a half baked product, i just dont want to get sick, so i will just avoid it. So for now I will be patiently waiting for GT5.

    I think for most people, it would be great if GT and FM becomes a collaboration: we would get the best of both worlds, because i have to admit that each game is missing things that the other game has and vice versa…. But still overall GT is the current winner for the next couple of years.

    As far as RPG, i can see why GT can be seen as one, and why some of us could not agree to that… both point of view are legitimate… whatever it is… GT is awesome and so far its recipe has not been replicated… (GT is a bit boring at times …. just like RPG games)

    The most rewarding satisfaction you get from GT is to be able to push your own limits and see a real improvement in your driving skills. GT offers a platform on which its software physics allow for a competition with your worst enemy: yourself! (…as opposed to FM that babies you and give you lots of FUN!! …so long as you like having training wheels)

  16. atom_ae86

    I was lucky to play gt1 back in 1997 on my uncle’s imported ps1, it started my love for the GT serise, so much so i got my dad to buy the console and jap copy of GT1.
    Good times
    GT the best rpg/racer ever

  17. SecretAgentZero

    @ 8@No$ :

    I feel the same way about the series, except for the part of secretly playing until 6 AM, which I never did.

    Anyway, regarding the article itself, I never thought of the GT games as an RPG of sorts, but I see that differently now.

  18. 8@No$

    Gran Turismo is probably the best game I have ever played (Everyone of them). I remember the 11 year old me going to bed, waiting till everyone was asleep and then rising up secretely, turning on the TV and played GT till 06:00 in the morning.. Glorius days.. I was moved by these screenshots.. GT forever !!

  19. S3 Racer

    Agree on forza. It reminds me when a kid thinks it got a better understanding of the world than a adult. Gt is unbeattable for the moment. only opponant i see is sim racers on pc but only if they would have better graphics, more cars and tracks (looking forward to Rfactor 2).

    Now for the rpg
    I think i will not make friends now:
    I don’t agree totally. Yes it got some aspects of an RPG. But taking evolution of a caracter or object (car) to consider a game as rpg; nearly ervery game would be an rpg. CODMW2 MP, your perks and weapons rise with your level-ups. Arma2 beginnig as troup leader finishing as commander,… . When GT came out in the 90’s, RPG’s were round base, and for me that makes an RPG, if you would pause Gt before a corner, in order to choose the best angle to attack the apex, i would agree.
    RPG is also for the most time, as the name stats a game where you play a role, which is abstract. Gt is not abstract, it’s based on real life concepts.
    Otherwise, our lives would be role playing. So I don’t think RPG applies to Gt because if you want to find rpg attributes in games, you will find them, in all types of games even soduku!!

    On the other side, I understand why they compare it to Rpg (like said above). But I would rather comment on the philosophy and evolution on Gt’series which is super interesting. like Kaz commented on non-damage on cars and why that is good (to not mess up beauties (cars)), the evolution of the physics, the concept of a game between sim and arcarde,…..

    conclusion: GT is not an RPG. GT is a racing Game with simulation inputs.

    Final conclusion: We want GT5.
    (sry for the lenght)

    gran tursimo’ing the world mile by mile

  20. Gnasha

    GT was indeed a big Rocket Propelled Grenade in the car sim pond. Never i bought 3 generations of console for a sole game.

  21. TOLL-Scibba-HRT

    best GranTurismo game every made 1998. i hope they remake GranTurismo 1998 on HD it will be good to see old girl back in style

  22. FDM73

    The thing that irritated me the most in GT3 and 4 must be this RPG part. Put a turbo in your car and be quicker instead of learning better driving skills. With the Performance Points in GT5 this is history, you need racingskills to race.

  23. Razor

    This is a standart career mode, and there is nothing new neither in GT nor in RPG series. Actually RPG has nothing to do with it at all.

  24. Cobraagent90

    Edge magazine… Have you seen their reviews?? I am sure they get paid to write what the write… I mean they find the cons of the game in the dullest place… They have given Ratchet and Clank a 7 while all others gave it a 9…I’m sure they will give GT5 a 9 instead of 10(or 12 if it is possible) because of………… the menus for example

  25. Turbo_3800

    Ahhh the good old days of taking a green & red full race customized 946hp R33 on the test track running 244mph. I couldn’t repeat that feat again on later GTs for some reason lmao. Indeed GT came along way and loved them all. GT a RPG? I guess that’s how some see it. It’s a Interesting concept but I’ll have to give Tokyo Xtreme Racer the runner up for a racing RPG of course under the G.O.A.T..GT!

  26. Tek9[R]

    Wow, it takes GT 13 years to get good press…I’ll remember that for GT5,
    I wonder what Kaz thinks of this? I for one am glad that some one has finaly put into words what i’ve always known.
    (and I second the vote for rain!)

  27. Deveander

    Its funny I compared GT to an RPG in the forums and no one wanted to agree with me… now its front page news LOL

  28. Dan

    Yes, this is what Gran Turismo is about. I completely agree with Mickle Pickle about what Forza has become. Despite its slick graphics, endless customisations and online community (all of which should be praised) it has little heritage, an uncomfortable amount of ‘Gran Turismo culture’ (like cars and cups, but especially tracks) a stale ‘unlock’ system and a lack of general peripheral support that makes it hard not to frown, if not laugh, at Dan Greenwood’s seemingly arrogant claims.

    Gran Turismo’s tremendous efforts in presentation lure you into a World where you and your car are the star. With a simple, sexy, and massively ‘tricked-out’ Japanese sports car you can take on the World! The reward system is, in my opinion, matched by no other game, at least in the genre. You don’t have to keep hammering away with pointless, endless cups to accumulate fantasy points & ‘proof’ of your ability (which invariably is a slow grind to help the life the career mode, but which often feels unrepresentative, laborous and has you looking on the net for ‘cheats’). Show that you’re the dog’s in the licence tests and you’ll have only your limits, and cash, to stop you. Nothing but pure skill will get you those Golds, which is intensely rewarding when achieved. That, among many reasons, is why I like Gran Turismo.

  29. Black Chamber

    Whomever wrote this article really knows the GT series – as well as the Japanese RPG standards the GT series represents.

    I have often thought in the past that the Gran Turismo series was “The RPG of racing games” and now, this guy nails it and hammers that notion home.

    It is a very well written article and insightful as well. Let’s hope that GT5 continues the tradition of well-rounded, easy-in-fast-out gameplay we have all come to cherish for over a decade.

    With that said, I WANT RAIN IN GRAN TURISMO 5!


  30. ICANT55

    @ RK
    Hopefully that part changes,the ps3 should be able to handle this game with ease so lets hope the tracks(new ones) are longer ex( point to point & wrc stages). And as for competition(once again “HOPEFULLY” the online graphics are improve from “Prologue”. That and private party rooms should make the game even better. Now you can race alone to get your cars right and go online and battle other people instead of the ai cars

  31. RK

    I think one of the problems with all racing games, GT series included, is that once you have won everything there isn’t any satisfaction. Even after winning a tough race, it’s quickly over with credits earned. I think the winning experience needs to be prolonged for it to feel like a true role playing game. Otherwise, it’s just a chain of challenges in more powerful cars and difficult tracks, with no character growth or satisfaction. The real satisfaction from racing games comes from online, especially from leaderboards for hot-lapping. I also think that for the GT series to be considered a role playing game, the developers need to add racing drivers/characters to the game, for racing should be about both machine and pilot. The GT series as it stands is all about machines, and that’s really evident from the creation of B-Spec mode, which from what I understand Yamauchi had wanted to create GT3 B-Spec as a standalone game. So I think the GT series has some way to
    go before it could be considered a role playing game.

  32. FlareKR

    GT an RPG?
    What’s next, Cloud driving a GT-R? Maybe an Onion Knight in his Mini Cooper? Sephiroth in his black Ferrari?
    Congratulations, you have won 1st place. You have been awarded 10,000 gil… I mean credits!

  33. ICANT55

    Role Playing Game= My “Role” is to Bust my Opponets A$$ on Any track any day @ any time while “Playing” this “Game!”………………..BEST RPG EVER!

  34. gt5_pr0


    So lame, just crawl back under your rock and stay there until next decade.


    you’re going to find the Gran Turismo experience incredibly rewarding.

    Is has been from the very first GT, the only disappointing thing is that it always got delayed (except for the first one) but you’ll forget about that after 1 hour play time.

  35. femki


    IMO every odd numbered GT was nowhere near as good as the even numbered versions. I’m really looking forward to GT6, but I’ll definitely play GT5 until that time!

  36. Kev

    @ mickle pickle. totally agree. Ive always thought the GT had more value than just another racing game. GT5 should make it easier to convince my mates lol

  37. Azzer09

    I just hope GT5 will have a long challenging carrer, I’m sure it will. Soo can’t wait, really hope it comes out in March in Europe too!

  38. Rick


    nobody cares! i can never put down gt2 (at least now, anyway) it’s clearly my favorite. still, i cant WAIT for gt5! thanks for posting this

  39. T. Lee Jr.

    The Gran Turismo series has been an 11-year influence in how I percieve the automobile world, and I’m thankful of it’s meticulous creator(s). The series spawned my love and excitement for automobiles, and it’s hard to imagine what type of mindset I would of had without the experience within Gran Turismo. An epic RPG indeed.

  40. Mickle Pickle

    For once someone is able to translate and put down in words what we, as GT-series Fans, have been thinking & knowing ever since the first GT came out.

    Hopefully that article will open up the eyes of those who initially didnt grasp the Gran Turismo philosophy from the start ;)

    I dont know what “baton” that Turn 10 Dan G. was referring to… maybe he pulled the wrong rod … you think?

  41. RAugie

    not only is it the best rpg ive ever played, GT5 should be the best game EVER played, if all the right features are put into place…

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