Winning Run

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Winning Run
Winning Run flyer.jpg
Japanese arcade flyer.
Composer(s)Hiroyuki Kawada
SeriesWinning Run
  • JP: December 1988
  • EU: January 1989
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
Arcade systemNamco System 21

Winning Run[a] is a first-person racing arcade game developed and released by Namco in late December 1988 in Japan, followed by a January 1989 release in Europe. The player pilots a Formula One racer, with the objective being to complete each race in first place, all while avoiding opponents and other obstacles, such as flood-hit tunnels, pits and steep chambers. It was the very first game to run on the Namco System 21 arcade hardware, capable of 3D shaded polygons.

Development of the game began in 1986, taking three years to complete. Upon release, Winning Run received a favorable critical reception, many complementing its impressive 3D graphics for the time period, alongside its realism to Formula One racing. It is considered a milestone in 3D polygonal graphics technology, being able to draw 60,000 individual polygons per second. Winning Run would go on to receive numerous awards from gaming publications, and be followed up by two arcade sequels; Winning Run Suzuka GP (1989) and Winning Run '91 (1991). A similar arcade game, Driver's Eyes, was released in 1990.


Arcade version screenshot.

Winning Run is a first-person racing video game. The player controls a Formula One racer, with the objective being to make it to the end of each race while in first place.[1] Two gameplay modes are present – Easy and Technical, both of which affect the speed of the player's car.[2] The player will need to first complete a "qualifying lap" in order to begin the final race, which will have the player pitted against twelve opponent vehicles.[2][1] Common obstacles include pits, flood-hit tunnels and steep chambers.[2]

The game is housed in an "environmental" arcade cabinet, capable of twisting and moving according to the player's direction input in the game itself.[2] Unlike previous cabinets of its type, which commonly used hydraulics, Winning Run instead used a series of electric rams and runners to make the machine move, which has been cited as giving off a more realistic sense of driving.[1] A steering wheel is provided for input, as is staple for racing arcade games.[2]

Development and release[edit]

Development of Winning Run officially began in 1986 – it was being developed for the Namco System 21 arcade board, later nicknamed "Polygonizer",[1][3] which allowed for 3D shaded graphics and ability to draw a total of 60,000 individual polygons per second, considered a milestone for its time[3]Winning Run would become the first game to use the hardware.[1] Music for the game was composed by Hiroyuki Kawada, who previously composed the original score for Galaga '88.[4] It was officially released in Japan late in December 1988[5] and later in Europe in January 1989, where it was presented at the Amusement Trades Exhibition International trade show in London.[3]


Review score
Advanced Computer Entertainment5/5 stars
GamestBest Graphics

Winning Run received critical acclaim from gaming publications, with critics applauding its realism and 3D graphics, considered revolutionary for its time period. Famitsu placed the game at the top of their arcade earnings chart for August 1989[6] – in September, it was instead placed at number two, with Sega's racer Super Monaco GP placing at the top.[7] In October 1989, it was relegated to the third spot, just under Super Monaco GP and Sega's arcade release of Tetris.[8] It would be nominated for "Best Graphics" in the 1989 Gamest awards, losing to Taito's shooter Darius II.[5]

The European release was also acclaimed. In the March 1989 issue of Computer and Video Games, both Clare Edgeley and Julian Rignall would give it a positive review, favorably comparing it to Atari's Hard Drivin' – they would label the game's graphics as "simply stunning", concluding that it is "easily the best racing game yet seen – it's thoroughly realistic and totally exhilarating."[2] The Games Machine was also positive in their review, calling it one of the most impressive arcade games of the era, referring it as "an astonishing coin-op". Praise was also given to its sense of realism to Formula One racing.[9] The September 1989 issue of Commodore User claimed the game was "flooding" arcade centers across Europe, labeling its gameplay and graphics as "literally breathtaking" – much like Computer and Video Games, it was positively compared to Hard Drivin'.[1]

Advanced Computer Entertainment labeled it as superior to Hard Drivin', stating it usurps the title's graphics and gameplay, concluding it was one of the best racing arcade games in the market.[3] Despite applauding the game's technical capabilities, and listing it as one of the five best arcade games of the year, the March 1989 issue of Your Sinclair would claim that it was not as enjoyable as Atari's game, stating the lack of a stunt course had "diminished the appeal somewhat".[10]


The success of Winning Run would lead to the release of two follow-up games – Winning Run Suzuka GP was released in 1989 exclusively in Japan – as its title suggests, this game is centered around the Suzuka Circuit. This game instead used a sit-down cabinet as opposed to the one used in the original Winning Run, bearing a resemblance to the ones used for Namco's own Final Lap three years prior.[11] The second, Winning Run '91, was released in 1991, again exclusive to Japan, using the same arcade cabinet the original game had.[12] A similar 3D racing game, Driver's Eyes, was released for Japan in 1990 – using a newly-built arcade cabinet, it used a set of three panoramic monitors to give a more open view in the game.[13] The soundtrack for the game was released by Victor Entertainment on July 21, 1989, compiling it with music from Splatterhouse and Metal Hawk.[4]


  1. ^ Japanese: ウィニングラン Hepburn: U~iningu Ran?


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Commodore User Magazine Issue 72". Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Winning Run" (March 1989). Computer and Video Games. 1 March 1989.
  3. ^ a b c d "Winning Run". Advanced Computer Entertainment. 1 October 1989.
  4. ^ a b Namco G.S.M. 2 – Winning Run. Promotional booklet. 21 July 1989.
  5. ^ a b Gamest, The Best Game 2: Gamest Book Vol. 112, pp. 6–26
  6. ^ Famicom Tsūshin, issue 17 (August 1989)
  7. ^ Famicom Tsūshin, issue 19 (September 15, 1989)
  8. ^ Famicom Tsūshin, issue 22 (October 27, 1989)
  9. ^ "The Games Machine Magazine Issue 16". Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Your Sinclair's Top of the Slots '89". Your Sinclair. 1 March 1989.
  11. ^ "Winning Run Suzuka Grand Prix". Killer List of Video Games. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Winning Run '91". Killer List of Video Games. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Driver's Eyes". Killer List of Video Games. Retrieved 15 May 2019.