Hydro Thunder

Hydro Thunder

Hydro Thunder is a powerboat racing game, originally an arcade game and later released for the Sega Dreamcast in November 1999. It was also released for PlayStation and Nintendo 64 in early 2000. This game is part of Midway's 'Thunder' series of racing games, which includes Offroad Thunder, 4 Wheel Thunder, and Arctic Thunder.


The gameplay of Hydro Thunder consists of racing high-tech speedboats through treacherous environments, from the cold seas of the Arctic Circle, to a post-apocalyptic, flooded version of New York City.


Scattered across the tracks are blue and red boost icons. When touched these icons allow the player who touched them to boost. Red boost icons are more scarce than blue boost icons due to the fact red boost icons give more boost fuel. When a player has boost fuel they may use the boost button to boost, which allows a player's boat to reach speeds much higher than what would normally be possible. Also by boosting a player can knock other boats into the air, a feature described by the game as the Mighty Hull. Another aspect of boosting is the Hydro Jump which is performed by braking and using the boost button. When the Hydro Jump is performed the player's boat is propelled into the air. When combined with the many ramps on the tracks, players can reach short cuts and boost icons that would normally not be accesable otherwise.

Arcade Cabinet

The arcade version of Hydro Thunder utilizes the same basic cabinet as Cruis'n USA and Off-Road Thunder, minus the standard foot pedals and adding a variable position throttle with forward, neutral and reverse directions. The game also has an unusual volume adjustment, where the regular play volume is usually set lower than the feedback volume for the subwoofer in the seat. This places the player "in the game" and makes the person feel like he or she is actually piloting a powerful, high-tech speedboat. Its is also noted this cabinet can also be seen in the Baxter Building in the movie Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer.


The boats in Hydro Thunder are divided into 4 categories: easy, medium, hard and bonus. The easy boats tend to be easy to control but they do not have the speed of other classes. Medium boats are in the middle, and Hard boats are usually very difficult to control but are very fast. Bonus boats are accessible by entering a combination to access the boat. They are also very hard to control. When using hard or bonus boats it is hard to control boats in the arcade version because the steering wheel will rumble and turn itself making it harder for the player to keep control of the boat. In the console versions hard to control boats only serve from side to side if left unchecked.

Easy boats

Easy boats include Damn the Torpedoes, a pink and purple boat, Midway, a white and orange boat named after the developer and Miss Behave, a green boat with a fan instead of a propeller.

Medium boats

Medium boats include Banshee, a green and black boat that looks very similar to the real F1 powerboats. Tidal Blade, a dragster-like boat with flames on its sides and Thresher, a Blue and black boat with shark-like fins. Tidal Blade was the cover boat for the Dreamcast version of Hydro Thunder.

Hard boats

Hard boats include Cutthroat, a purple and yellow boat with a skull on its bow and a jet-like shape; Rad Hazard, a gray UFO-like boat; and Razor Back, a red boat that was depicted on the cover of the Playstation and Nintendo 64 versions of Hydro Thunder. Selecting one of these boats will make the announcer say that "You're crazy!"

Bonus boats

The bonus boats in Hydro Thunder were offbeat when compared to the other boats in the game. The Tinytanic boat was literally a smaller version of the tragic luxury vessel the R.M.S. Titanic (hence the name). The Blowfish boat was a purple and black hovercraft which used two fans instead of propellers. Chumdinger was a grey fishing boat with a dog that would bark at other racers, while Armed Response was a police boat with mounted guns.


The tracks in Hydro Thunder like the boats are divided into 4 classes: easy, medium, hard and bonus. The easy tracks are usually short and easy with the bonus tracks being the longest and hardest. The arcade version of the game had only two bonus tracks: New York Disaster and Nile Adventure, with the console versions adding two more: Catacomb and Castle Von Dandy, making four in all (except for the MAT3 version, which do not include the CATACOMB track, making three).

Easy tracks

Thunder Park was a three lap race around a waterlogged theme park. (Thunder Park, Hydro Speedway, Catacombs and Castle Von Dandy were the only tracks to have more than one lap) Lost Island was a race through a tropical Island. The Arctic Circle track featured a trip around the Arctic Circle, complete with large oil tankers and polar bears.

Medium tracks

The Greek Isles track took players through parts of Greece, while the Lake Powell track had players race through a lake in the middle of a desert in Utah. Finally The Far East was a track that had players race through China.

Hard tracks

The Ship Graveyard course was a race through a sea of sunken ships, the Venice Canals course was a winding track that went through the city of Venice, finally the New York Disaster track was a race through a post-apocalyptic flooded New York.

Bonus tracks

The Castle Von Dandy track was a race through a Cathedral like castle. The Nile Adventure track was the longest Track in the game and has many sharp turns that the player must overcome as he or she races through the Nile River. The Catacombs track was a race through an underground cavern. And the Hydro Speedway was a race through a park, similar to Thunder Park.

Difference amongst versions

Besides the original arcade version, Hydro Thunder has been ported over to several home consoles. The PlayStation version of the game included a career mode not found in the other versions. The Dreamcast version of the game had graphics that were more detailed and closer to the arcade version than the other console versions. The Dreamcast version of the game was included in Midway Arcade Treasures 3, a compilation of Midway's many racing games. A PC version was also released in Europe.

The Dreamcast port became one of the few Sega All Stars titles.

Hydro Thunder 2

Midway had plans to create a sequel for Hydro Thunder, however the project was soon scrapped and never recreated.


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