Road Head

Out Run

(also spelled OutRun and Outrun) is a 1986 arcade game designed by Yu Suzuki and Sega-AM2. The game was a major hit with arcade-goers and is notable for its innovative hardware (including a moving cabinet), pioneering graphics and music, a choice in both soundtrack and route, and its strong theme of luxury and relaxation. In retrospective interviews, Yu Suzuki has classified Out Run not as a racing game, but as a "driving" game.


The player controls a man driving a car with his girlfriend in the passenger seat. The car is popularly perceived to be a Ferrari Testarossa convertible; however, this game did not have an official Ferrari license (unlike its sequel Out Run 2, released 17 years later). Starting at a coastal area, the player must pass through four checkpoints between five laps within a set time limit.

There are five other types of car encountered on the roads in this game:

The game featured many innovations of both technology and gameplay. At the time of its release, the game was unique in that it was possible to choose the stages in which the race took place, save for the initial one. Before every checkpoint, there was a fork in the road, allowing the player to enter one of two different environments. (A similar branching system had been used once before in the 1983 Atari/Tatsumi racer TX-1.)


Out Run was one of the first arcade games to give the player a genuine feeling of speed, achieving its 3D effects using a sprite-scaling technique called 'Super-Scaler' technology (first used one year earlier in Hang-On and Space Harrier). This allowed a large number of sprites to be moved around screen at a very fast framerate, giving players the sensation of fast 3D movement. This also allowed for a more immersive viewpoint of the game: while many previous racing games had stuck to using a bird's eye view (to avoid landscapes looking barren through lack of sprites), Out Run had great amounts of roadside detail and a "camera" that appeared to travel along the road with the car, passing through the action rather than merely observing it.

Technical specifications

There were a total of four cabinet designs (two upright and two sit-down). All the cabinets were equipped with a steering wheel and stick shift plus acceleration and brake pedals. The steering wheel also featured the first ever use of force feedback in an arcade driving game, creating resistance in the wheel to simulate a real road surface and shaking the wheel violently when the player hit a car or drove off the road.

The upright cabinet came in two versions: Normal and Mini. The sit-down cabinets looked roughly like a Ferrari Testarossa and used a drive motor to move the main cabinet — turning and shaking according to the action onscreen, much like Sega's After Burner II. There were two versions of the sit down: the Deluxe featured a 26-inch color monitor and a custom molded seat, while the Standard featured a 20-inch color monitor with a more simplified design.

The price arcade operators charged for a credit highlights the significance of the advancements in technology at the time. Out Run was one of the first games to cost more per play than other arcade games, often requiring three or more tokens.


Another innovation was the ability to choose the background music for the game. The gameplay was backed up by a soundtrack of both laid-back beach music (very similar in style and tone to the popular '70s/'80s Japanese jazz fusion band Casiopea), and some Miami Sound Machine-styled Latin/Caribbean beats. Three selectable tracks were featured in all and were broadcast through imaginary FM Radio stations received by the radio receiver in the Testarossa.

The music was composed by Hiroshi Miyauchi. Miyauchi composed soundtracks for other Sega games and was part of Sega's official band at the time, the S.S.T. Band, who have recorded soundtrack albums based on many of Sega's popular games, including Out Run itself.

The tracks were called:

  • Splash Wave (FM 80.3)
  • Magical Sound Shower (FM 69.2)
  • Passing Breeze (FM 74.6)
  • Last Wave (high-score music)

Additionally, the Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis port featured an extra track entitled Step On Beat and the Sega Master System Out Run 3D contained the additional Shining Wind and Midnight Highway.

The home computer versions of Out Run (for Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Atari ST) came bundled with a bonus cassette tape featuring the original arcade versions of these tunes, the idea being that the player could listen to the true versions while playing rather than the limited home computer renditions, if available at all.

Route names

Overseas Layout

Stage Number Goal name
1 2 3 4 5
Vineyard A
Desert Death Valley B
Gateway Old Capital
Coconut Beach Alps Desolation Hill C
Devil's Canyon Wheat Field
Cloudy Mountain Autobahn D
Seaside Town
Lakeside E

Japan Layout

Stage Number Goal name
1 2 3 4 5
Vineyard A
Desert Death Valley B
Wheat Field Old Capital
Coconut Beach Alps Desolation Hill C
Cloudy Mountain Gateway
Devil's Canyon Autobahn D
Seaside Town
Lakeside E

Note: In the Japan Layout, Devil's Canyon stage is called “Walls”, Gateway is called “Big Gate”, Desolation Hill is called “Stone Hill” and Autobahn is called “Dual Way”.

End Animations

Goal Animation
A Driver is thrown in the air by the crowd, but ends up falling to the ground when crowdsmen are distracted by a woman in a bikini.
B Car falls to pieces and driver shrugs it off.
C Driver wins a magic lantern and after he rubs it, a harem appears surrounding him, and his passenger becomes angry.
D Gold cup is given to passenger, instead of driver.
E Driver wins a gold cup, and passenger wants it.

Other Info

A total of sixteen route variations is possible. The most time-efficient route is via Coconut Beach, Devil's Canyon, Alps, Wheat Field and Autobahn, completing the game at goal D. The five goals have different finishing animations to encourage players to attempt different routes.

As can be seen from the properties of Pascal's Triangle, if a route through the game is chosen at random, the player is most likely to end up at goal C ("Desolation Hill", 3/8 probability); "Death Valley" (goal B) and "Autobahn" (goal D) each have a probability of 1/4; whilst "Vineyard" (goal A) and "Lakeside" (goal E) each have a 1/16 probability.

In the PC-DOS version, the route that scores the most possible points (about 76.5 million) is Coconut Beach-Gateway-Desert-Old Capital-Desolation Hill.


In the video game Shenmue II you can discover an Out Run arcade machine, which is faithfully reproduced, aside from minor changes to the sound samples and the car graphics (the original game didn't possess an official Ferrari licence).

The original Out Run is hidden inside the Xbox game Out Run 2 and can be accessed by using the code NINETEEN86 and also by completing all routes in arcade mode. However, the original arcade had sprites with one translucent color, used for shadows, which is not replicated in this emulation. The emulated version renders this color opaque.


In the arcades, Out Run was followed up in 1989 by Turbo Out Run. Turbo Out Run was a checkpoint racer in which the player drove from New York City to Los Angeles in 16 stages. It also featured a rock-infused soundtrack. As with all Out Run games aside from OutRun 2, this is named by Yu Suzuki as an unofficial sequel.

Another unofficial sequel came in 1992 with OutRunners, returning the game to its roots by bringing back the forks in the road. Head-to-head support appeared in the game for the first time, and if arcade cabinets were linked, up to eight drivers could race against each other. The game also featured eight different cars for people to drive in. It was the most successful game released for Sega's System Multi 32 hardware, and one of the last successful 2D games released by Sega.

Out Run benefited from 3D graphics in the game's first official sequel in 2003, when OutRun 2 (featuring actual licensed vehicles from Ferrari, including a Testarossa) was released to the arcades. Yu Suzuki, the creator of the original game, was on hand to bring his vision up to date, and to great critical acclaim. The game was later ported to the Xbox with added features such as new cars, new audio tracks and even a fully-playable version of the original OutRun.

An updated version of OutRun 2 was released in arcades in 2004 entitled "OutRun 2 SP". This expanded upon the original by offering a plethora of tracks to drive through, including the original map. It also improved on graphics and added more tunes to listen to while driving. It featured the 512 BB and 250 GTO, which were also featured in the Xbox version of the original OutRun 2.

In turn, OutRun 2 was succeeded by OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, developed for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Xbox and Microsoft Windows. The game combines all the courses from OutRun 2 and OutRun 2 SP while adding additional features of its own, such as special car models, new game modes and more audio tracks. It also contains an OutRun 2 SP mode, which offers an exact arcade port of OutRun 2 SP.

There are two other unofficial Out Run sequels that were only released for home systems: OutRun Europa, Battle Out Run, and Out Run 2019. On the Sega Master System, there is also a special version of Out Run which makes use of the 3D glasses add-on.

Pop culture

An MTV public service announcement against drunk driving shown in the mid '90s shows a gamer playing Out Run while under the influence of alcohol, and cuts to each point where the gamer crashes until the end of game.

Coconut Beach, the first stage in OutRun will be making an appearance in Sega Superstars Tennis as a playable court.

External links

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