Atari’s first racer, the little-known 1974 game Gran Track 10, wasn’t the hit that everyone had hoped it would be. But rather than abandoning the idea, Atari decided to go bigger and better, and the following year, they released Indy 800, a truly revolutionary improvement on the Gran Track 10 formula.
This game was actually in colour (rather than the coloured plastic overlay shortcut), and Atari gave each car true hues, allowing players to instantly tell one vehicle from another.
The multicolour display was necessary because of one of the game’s other innovations – eight-player simultaneous action.
Two racers could line up on each side of the four sides of the overhead display, each controlling their own steering wheel, brake pedal, gas pedal and even a horn. In the days before linked cabinets and force-feedback steering, this was as good as multi-player racing got, and gamers were elated.
Like most games of its era, Indy 800 was timed, forcing players to get in as many laps as they could before the clock expired.
Points were awarded based on each lap completed, and the leader’s score flashed to let everyone else know who the top dog was.
The game was also playable with 1 to 7 players – but nothing beat the thrill of outracing seven actual humans.
As player support swelled, Atari released a follow-up in 1976. Indy 4 cut the number of players in half, allowing owners of smaller arcades to join in the racing fun as well.
It was the last Indy title produced by Atari, but the game’s spirit lived on in the company’s long-running Sprint series.