Road Rash

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This article is about the Road Rash video game series. For the medical condition, see road rash.
Road Rash
Publishers Electronic Arts
First release Road Rash

Road Rash is the name of a motorcycle-racing video game series by Electronic Arts in which the player participates in violent, illegal street races. The series started on the Mega Drive and made its way to various other systems over the years. The game's title is based on the slang term for the severe friction burns that can occur in a motorcycle fall where skin comes into contact with the ground at high speed.

Six different games were released from 1991 to 1999, and an alternate version of one game was developed for the Game Boy Advance. The Mega Drive trilogy wound up in EA Replay.


Basic gameplay is similar to Sega's Hang-On. The player competes in illegal road races and must finish in either 3rd or 4th place (game specific) and up in every race of a "level" in order to proceed to the next. As these levels progress, the opponents ride faster and fight harder, and the tracks are longer and more dangerous. Placing in each race gives a certain amount of money, with higher-level races offering higher payouts. This money allows the player to buy faster bikes and parts, which are needed to stay competitive, pay for repairs if the motorcycle is wrecked, or pay for fines if one is arrested by the police. The game is truly over if the player is unable to pay for these repairs or fines.


Screenshot of the original Road Rash.

In an attempt to improve on the basic Hang-On concept, where the player's vehicle remains on the same horizontal plane and turns are essentially a matter of moving left or right, Road Rash requires that players contend with various grade changes. The physics reflect the act of going up or down a hill, as well as turning while climbing; this results in the ability to launch one's motorcycle great distances, resulting in crashes (and their animations). Aside from this, Road Rash has a standard system of obstacles including street signs, trees, poles, and livestock;[1] and taking from OutRun, active traffic while racing against other bikers.

What Road Rash really brings to the table is "brawling"; the player can fight other bikers with a variety of hand weapons or simple punches and kicks. The player initially starts off with just those basics, but can grab a weapon from another rider by timing a punch correctly. The list of weapons has grown with the games, starting from the clubs in the first Road Rash, and eventually including things like crowbars, nunchaku, and cattle prods. Whatever the weapon, successful attacks damage an opponent's stamina, and depleting this stamina will cause a biker to wipeout which can also damage the bike; this functions much like hitting a car or other major obstacle, and it all applies to you as much as to other racers (though in most of the games, you have more stamina than opponents).

As mentioned before, the last and most major obstacle are cops. The motorcycle police officers fight the player as another opponent and serve as gameplay enforcers by culling players who fall too far behind or choose to explore the world rather than race in it. Losing a fight with an officer or being caught by one while off one's motorcycle causes the player to be Busted, ending the race.


Road Rash[edit]

Road Rash
Cover art for the US release.
Developer(s) Electronic Arts, Papyrus Design Group
Publisher(s) Electronic Arts
Designer(s) Randy Breen, Dan Geisler
Programmer(s) Dan Geisler, Walter Stein, Carl Mey, Samuel Black
Composer(s) Michael Bartlow
Rob Hubbard
Platform(s) Sega Mega Drive, Commodore Amiga, Sega Master System, Game Boy, Game Gear, 3DO, Windows 95
Release date(s) 1991
Genre(s) Arcade Racing
Mode(s) One- or two-player

The first Road Rash debuted on the Mega Drive in 1991. The game takes place in California, on progressively longer two-lane roads. While the game has a two-player mode, it is a take-turns system that only allows one person to play at a time. There are 14 other opponents in a race. A port of the game wound up on the Commodore Amiga, and various scaled-down versions were made for the Game Gear and Master System plus the Game Boy. The Game Boy version is one of just two officially licensed games that is incompatible with the Game Boy Color and newer consoles in the line.


The tracks depict California State Routes on highway shields as the player travels through the level. The levels are, from start and pressing right on the selection screen:

  • Sierra Nevada (CA 89)
  • Pacific Coast (CA 1)
  • Redwood Forest (no highway shields)
  • Palm Desert (CA 74)
  • Grass Valley (CA 49)

This initial game has only eight bikes to acquire, and only the club as an alternate weapon. Progress requires 4th or better.


Review scores
Publication Score
Famitsu 27 / 40 (3DO)[2]
MegaTech 92%[3]

MegaTech magazine said "Lots of races, lots of bikes, and plenty of thrills 'n' spills make this the best racer on the Megadrive!" Mega placed the game at #8 on their Top Mega Drive Games of All Time.[4] Game Informer ranked it as the 88th best game ever made in their 100th issue in 2001. The staff praised its more violent take on motorcycle video games.[5]

Road Rash II[edit]

Main article: Road Rash II

Road Rash II was released in 1992, again for the Mega Drive; the only known port or conversion is a Game Boy Color version titled Road Rash. II took the engine and sprites from the first game and added more content. The biggest addition was proper two-player modes: "Split Screen" versus the other computer opponents, and the duel mode "Mano A Mano". The races now take place all across the United States: Alaska, Hawaii, Tennessee, Arizona, and Vermont. The list of bikes has been increased to fifteen (separated into three classes, with the later ones featuring nitro boosts), and a chain was added to supplement the club. Progress now requires 3rd or better. Other details include the navigation of the menu screens being considerably easier; and more manageable passwords, being less than half the size of the first game's.

Road Rash (3DO)[edit]

In a move somewhat similar to Sonic the Hedgehog CD, the 3DO game known as Road Rash is something of a remake of the first game made for a CD-based platform, separate from its own sequel. It features a number of changes over II, such as the ability to choose characters (with various starting cashpiles and bikes, some even have starting weapons) before playing, fleshed-out reputation and gossip systems, and even full-motion video sequences to advance a plot. It was eventually ported to PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Microsoft Windows; and a scaled-down conversion for the Sega CD (partly based on the Genesis/Mega Drive games) exists, featuring digitized sprites that would reappear in Road Rash 3. There was even a version planned for the SNES, but this was eventually canceled.[citation needed]

Per the semi-remake nature, the game once again features all-California locales: The City, The Peninsula, Pacific Coast Highway, Sierra Nevada, and Napa Valley. The roads themselves now feature brief divided road sections.

GamePro gave the 3DO version a perfect score. Citing improvements such as the five new tracks, six lane roads, branching routes, digitized backgrounds, humorous full motion video sequences, and new rock soundtrack, they concluded that "this souped-up Road Rash will knock the socks off experienced rashers and new racers alike." Their one criticism was the lack of a multiplayer option.[6] The two sports reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the 3DO version scores of 83% and 85%, declaring it a vast improvement over the Genesis Road Rash games due to the advanced graphics, high playability, and "the coolest music in gaming". However, one of them also criticized that the gameplay eventually becomes repetitive.[7] GamePro gave the Sega CD version a mostly positive review, remarking that though it is a major letdown compared to the 3DO version, it is impressive compared to other Genesis/Sega CD racers.[8]

Road Rash (Windows 95)[edit]

In 1995, Electronic Arts contracted with Papyrus Design Group to develop a PC version of Road Rash based on the 3DO version. This was one of the first action games released on the platform, one of the first to use DirectX, as well as one of the first to require a 2x CD-ROM in order to stream the course data. The PC version could be run in single-player mode or multiplayer (called Mano-a-Mano) over a LAN or modem. The developers added their own touches to the game by updating some of the 3DO billboards with their own artwork and photographs.


The 3DO and PC game's soundtracks contained 14 music tracks from A&M Records artists Soundgarden, Paw, Hammerbox, Therapy?, Monster Magnet, and Swervedriver.[9][10] Months before Road Rash was even released, it received 3DO's 1994 "Soundtrack of the Year" award.


This Road Rash received a very favorable review in Mean Machines magazine. It received a final score of 91% and was praised for its music, graphics and gameplay.[11] The Commodore Amiga release of Road Rash received moderately high ratings, including 84% from Amiga Format[12] and 81% from CU Amiga.[13] The release received worse reviews from Amiga Power, who rated the game 70%.[14] It won several awards from Electronic Gaming Monthly in their 1994 video game awards, including Best Driving Game, Best Music in a CD-Based Game, and Best 3DO Game of 1994 by Electronic Gaming Monthly.[15] The PC version was also a top-seller in its first year of release.

Road Rash 3: Tour De Force[edit]

The final installment of Road Rash on the Mega Drive, Road Rash 3: Tour De Force was released in 1995. For the most part, this entry is separate from the earlier games.

Races now take place across the world, each level featuring five of seven total locales: Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Australia, and Japan. In addition to the now standard fifteen bikes, four part upgrades are available for each. Eight weapons are available, and this game introduces the player's ability to hold on to weapons between races and the ability to accumulate multiple weapons.

GamePro gave the game a generally positive review, voicing approval for the way the bike's control changes in response to upgrades, the new weapons, the greater emphasis on fighting other racers, and the graphics, though they criticized the "annoyingly peppy" music. They concluded that "With its greatly expanded features, RR 3 has enough depth to keep your pedal to the metal."[16]

Road Rash 3D[edit]

Main article: Road Rash 3D

After the various ports of the 3DO game released after 3, a brand new Road Rash 3D was released in 1998 for the PlayStation. As the title implies, the game is no longer based on sprites, for the most part. The race courses in this game were pieced together from an interconnected series of roads. The game has less emphasis on combat in exchange for a stronger emphasis on the racing.

Road Rash 64[edit]

Main article: Road Rash 64

Road Rash 64 for the Nintendo 64 was released in 1999. Electronic Arts did not design or publish it; the intellectual property rights were licensed to THQ, which in turn had its own Pacific Coast Power & Light (founded by former EA employee Don Traeger) develop the game. Accordingly, it has no relation to either 3D or the later Jailbreak.

Road Rash Jailbreak[edit]

Road Rash Jailbreak was also released in 1999 for the PlayStation,[17] as a followup to 3D. In 2003, a game based on it was released for the Game Boy Advance with the same title.[18][19] New features include an interconnected road system and two-player cooperative play with a sidecar.

Road Rash: Jail Break for the Game Boy Advance scored mixed reviews with critics, gaining a score of 67% on Metacritic.[20]


The Mega Drive trilogy featured music by EA composers Rob Hubbard (1 and II), Michael Bartlow (1), Tony Berkeley (II), and Don Veca (II and 3).[21] Later entries were among the first video games to include licensed music tracks from major recording artists in gameplay.[22]

The series's future[edit]

Criterion Games has considered a Road Rash multiple times, potentially even a Burnout Versus Road Rash,[23][24] but nothing has come of this so far; they have also expressed a desire to move away from racing games in particular.[25] Dan Geisler, main programmer and co-designer of the Mega Drive trilogy, was working on a new title along with a number of the original Road Rash staff members, then named Hard Rider: Back in the Saddle; he first announced it via a Reddit thread and frequently mentioned progress on his Twitter. However, he was unable to find funding for it[26] and dropped the idea. Also, an unrelated game called Road Redemption, largely based on Road Rash is being developed by a DarkSeas Games[27] and has so far gotten Steam Greenlight[28] and a successful Kickstarter.[29]


  1. ^ Road Rash Sega Game Gear Manual. U.S. Gold. 1991. p. 12. 
  2. ^ 3DO GAMES CROSS REVIEW: ロードラッシュ. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.330. Pg.77. 14 April 1995.
  3. ^ MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 5, May 1992
  4. ^ Mega magazine issue 1, page 76, Future Publishing, Oct 1992
  5. ^ Cork, Jeff (2009-11-16). "Game Informer's Top 100 Games of All Time (Circa Issue 100)". Game Informer. Retrieved 2013-11-30. 
  6. ^ "ProReview: Road Rash". GamePro (IDG) (64): 172. November 1994. 
  7. ^ "Team EGM: Road Rash". Electronic Gaming Monthly (Ziff Davis) (63): 158. October 1994. 
  8. ^ "ProReview: Road Rash". GamePro (IDG) (70): 54. May 1995. 
  9. ^ Brown, Matt. "Road Rash: Review by Matt Brown". ibiblio. Retrieved 2007-12-26. 
  10. ^ "Electronic Arts and Atlantic Records Sign Licensing Agreement for Road Rash 3D". Business Wire. 1998-03-10. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  11. ^ Rignall, Julian (September 1991), "Road Rash Review from Mean Machines", Mean Machines (EMAP) 
  12. ^ "Road Rash Review from Amiga Format author=Jackson, Neil", Amiga Format (Future Publishing), December 1992 
  13. ^ "Road Rash Review from CU Amiga", CU Amiga (EMAP), November 1992 
  14. ^ Campbell, Stuart (July 1992), "Road Rash review from Amiga Power", Amiga Power 
  15. ^ "Electronic Gaming Monthly's Buyer's Guide". 1995. 
  16. ^ "ProReview: Road Rash 3". GamePro (IDG) (69): 40. April 1995. 
  17. ^ "Road Rash: Jailbreak". GameFAQs: PlayStation. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  18. ^ "Road Rash: Jailbreak (Game Boy Advance)". GameFAQs: Game Boy Advance. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  19. ^ "Road Rash: Jailbreak (Game Boy Advance)". IGN: Gameboy. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  20. ^ "Road Rash Jailbreak Review". Metacritic. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  21. ^ "Road Rash Technical Details". GameSpot. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  22. ^ "Electronic Arts and BAM Magazine Announce the Road Rash Music Search". Business Wire. 1999-05-28. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
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