Road Rash is a motorcycle-racing video game series by Electronic Arts in which the player participates in violent, illegal street races. The series started on the Sega Genesis 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.
Road Rash debuted on the Sega Genesis 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 Amiga, and various scaled-down versions were made for Master System, Sega Game Gear and 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. There was even a version planned for the SNES, but this was eventually canceled.
An updated version of the first game was made for a CD-based platforms such as Sega CD, 3DO, PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows. It features a number of changes 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. The updated version 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.
Road Rash II was released in 1992 exclusively for the Sega Genesis. The sequel 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 3 was released in 1995 exclusively for the Sega Genesis. 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.
Road Rash 3D was released in 1998 exclusively 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 was released in 1999 exclusively for the Nintendo 64. 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.
Road Rash: Jailbreak was released in 2000 for the PlayStation, with a handheld port released in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance with the same title. New features include an interconnected road system and two-player cooperative play with a sidecar.
The Sega Genesis trilogy featured music by EA composers Rob Hubbard (1 and II), Michael Bartlow (1), Tony Berkeley (II), and Don Veca (II and 3). Later entries were among the first video games to include licensed music tracks from major recording artists in gameplay.
Criterion Games has considered a Road Rash multiple times, potentially even a Burnout Versus Road Rash, but nothing has come of this at all; they have also expressed a desire to move away from racing games in particular. Dan Geisler, main programmer and co-designer of the Sega Genesis 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 account. However, he was unable to find funding for it and dropped the idea.
Two unrelated games in the motorcycle combat genre are currently in development. Road Redemption, largely based on Road Rash, is being developed by a DarkSeas Games and has so far gotten Steam Greenlight and a successful Kickstarter. Road Rage, set in the fictional city of Ashen, is a story-based game centered on the newest member of an outlaw motorcycle club. The title has been released to PS4, Xbox One, and PC via developer Team6 and published by Maximum Games.
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