Grand Prix (video game)

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Grand Prix
Grand Prix Atari 2600 cover.jpg
Box art
Designer(s)David Crane[1]
Platform(s)Atari 2600

Grand Prix is a Formula One Grand Prix motor racing-themed video game. It was designed and programmed by David Crane for the Atari 2600 and published by Activision in 1982.[1]


Gameplay screenshot

The player drives a Formula One car in a time trial on one of four race tracks,[2] each of which has a different difficulty level. Difficulty is gauged by the length of the course, the number of cars and oil slicks on the track, and the number of bridges to cross.

The player views the race from a top-down perspective, and the screen scrolls from right to left.[2] The player's car maneuvers only on a vertical axis, and loses a little speed when it does so. The joystick's button is the throttle: Depressing it accelerates, and releasing it decelerates.[3] Pressing the joystick leftward applies the brake. The transmission audibly shifts as the player's car accelerates and decelerates.

Grand Prix is a time trial, and the competing cars are obstacles rather than competition for the finish line. The player's car can easily outpace the other cars, but if it collides with one, its speed drops lower than that of the impacted car.[3] Driving over an oil slick causes the player's car to skid slightly sideways, but does not slow it down. Once every scale mile, the player crosses a narrow bridge over blue water. Colliding with any wall of the bridge stops the car, and the player must slowly gain speed to continue. A patch of oil slicks precedes a bridge.[3] This both forewarns the player, and presents a hazard while trying to steer onto the bridge.

Competing cars do not cross bridges nor the finish line; if they are about to approach either one, they stop suddenly.


Each of the game's four race tracks is a straight lined with trees. The shortest, simplest course is Watkins Glen. Brands Hatch is about twice as long as Watkins Glen, and has one bridge. Le Mans is about three times as long as Watkins Glen, and has two bridges. Monaco is about five times as long as Watkins Glen, and has three bridges.

The tracks in Grand Prix are named after real Formula One circuits. Watkins Glen International, near Watkins Glen, New York, was the site of the United States Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980. Brands Hatch, near the English town of Swanley, hosted the British Grand Prix in even-numbered years from 1964 through 1986. The city of Le Mans is the site of the Bugatti Circuit, which hosted the French Grand Prix in 1967. Circuit de Monaco, a street circuit in Monte Carlo, first hosted the Monaco Grand Prix in 1950. After four years of Formula Two races, the annual F1 Monaco Grand Prix resumed, and has returned each year since 1955.

Although the race tracks in Grand Prix are named after these circuits, they are not reproductions of them.


When David Crane developed a technique for painting large, multicolored sprites on the 2600, he made a color pattern that reminded him of Grand Prix racing stripes. This inspired him to design a Grand Prix racing game to apply his new technique.[4]


Richard A. Edwards reviewed Grand Prix in The Space Gamer No. 54.[5] Edwards commented that "All in all, the graphics and required skill make Grand Prix a game worth purchasing."[5] Computer and Video Games rated the game 80% in 1989.[6]


In 1995, Activision included the game in the anthology Activision's Atari 2600 Action Pack for Windows 95.[7]


  1. ^ a b Hague, James. "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers".
  2. ^ a b Weiss, Brett (2007). Classic Home Video Games, 1972–1984: A Complete Reference Guide. Jefferson: McFarland & Company. p. 66. ISBN 9780786432264. OCLC 124036221. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Grand Prix Instructions. Activision. 1982. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  4. ^ Bartimo, Jim (1984). "Q&A: David Crane". InfoWorld. IDG. 6 (11): 84. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
  5. ^ a b Edwards, Richard A. (August 1982). "Capsule Reviews". The Space Gamer. Steve Jackson Games (54): 28.
  6. ^ "Complete Games Guide" (PDF). Computer and Video Games (Complete Guide to Consoles): 46–77. 16 October 1989.
  7. ^ "Activision's Atari 2600 Action Pack for Windows 95". IGN. Ziff Davis Media. Retrieved 31 May 2013.