Original version: Hang-On, released in 1985 for arcade
Following in the footsteps of Pole Position, Sega’s racing game Hang-On gave the player a high-speed over-the-shoulder (or more accurately, behind-the-car) racing game with sharp turns and endless AI opponents. Hang-On added something new to the mix, though. The player sat on a motorcycle-shaped seat that they had to tilt to the left or right in order to steer in-game.
There was also a regular standing cabinet, but why would anyone bother with that thing when you could tilt and hang-off and feel like you’re riding a real motorcycle? The name, by the way, was taken from an actual motorcycle turn. The designer Suzuki Yuu later learned that in America the term is called “hang-off,” because the rider is hanging off the bike, but Suzuki decided to keep the name for the North American release. The ability to hang off the seat while playing really adds much to the feeling of playing the game. Taking the sharp turns already feels much better than similar turns in Pole Position or TX-1, but for the player to physically lean into the turn makes it all the more intense. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you experience when you’ve made it to top speed and you just fly past the signposts and other bikers at breakneck speed.
Hang-On had a reasonable difficulty level. My usual procedure when recording these videos is to keep playing until I fail, but I actually made it all the way through the run, so here’s an unsuccessful attempt:
I ended with an explosion, and I was only a few hundred feet from the finish line. That’s not enough of a slap to the face. I wish that as the timer ran out, I had also been attacked by a pack of wolves and dumped by my girlfriend. That would have completed the humiliation.
Anyway, Hang-On was a good game, albeit rough. Just like Enduro, it features changing scenery, but also just like Enduro the scenery changes abruptly, the same way each time. And once you successfully dodge the other riders and make it through the turns, what else is there to do? The gameplay is novel and good for a few minutes, but it’s not a timeless classic–it’s more influential than it is classic. The tilting mechanic had a big impact on many other racing titles over the years. And the style of Hang-On was refined in the following year’s Outrun, which was also designed by Suzuki Yuu. There was a 1991 follow-up called Super Hang-On, which basically makes this game obsolete in every way. But I’ll discuss that later.
If you own a Hang-On arcade cabinet you can download a rom here and run it with MAME.