F1 Video Games 1991 – 90s Video Games, Episode 12

F1 Video Games 1991

F1 Video Games of 1991 – In this post I take a closer look at the formula one games released back in 1991. As you can see from the following list, there were quite a many F1 games produced in 1991, some are better some are worse.

Formula 1 games in no specific order:

  • F1 Circus 91 (PC Engine)
  • F1 Circus MD (Sega Mega Drive)
  • Fastest 1 (Sega Mega Drive)
  • F1 Exhaust Note (Arcade)
  • F-1 Grand Prix (Arcade)
  • F1 Grand Prix: Satoru Nakajima (Sega Genesis)
  • Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero 2 (NES)
  • Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero GB World Championship ’91 (Game Boy)
  • Al Unser Jr.’s Turbo Racing (NES)
  • Formula One Grand Prix / World Circuit (Amiga / Atari ST By MicroProse)
  • Super Grand Prix (Amiga, Atari ST)
  • Formula 1 3D: F1 Manager II (C64)

Release date: 1991

Platforms: Nintendo NES, Game Boy, PC Engine, Arcade, Mega Drive/Genesis, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64

F1 Circus 91 (PC Engine)

F1 Circus 91 (PC Engine) is the second formula 1 racing game in F1 Circus series that started in 1990. None of the games in the series was released outside Japan, however most of the games are partly in english and therefore fully playable to non-japanese speakers.

The game is presented from the overhead/top-down view and continues the high speed gameplay of its predecessor.

The series did not yet have an official license, and so just like the first game it only features teams and drivers with similar spelling and looks. The game itself plays much like the original, and focuses on car tuning and damage.

The World Championship mode has of course returned, though the managerial Constructors mode is no longer present. 

There is also a Free Attack mode, where any course can be freely practiced; a Training mode, where special training courses can be raced on to learn the ins and outs of the game; and a Watch mode, where the player can choose a course and watch a demonstration race.

F1 Circus MD (Sega Mega Drive)

F1 Circus MD (Sega Mega Drive) is the third formula 1 racing game in F1 Circus series, and the first on Sega Mega Drive. The game is essentially a port of the F1 Circus 91 on PC Engine with minor changes. First of all, there is a nice addition that makes this game so much more playable – they added a small map on the side.
A North American release appears to have been planned, with a prototype of the localised version, simply titled F1 Circus since being leaked onto the internet.
The “Circus” part of the title is actually a mistranslation of the word Circuit.
Career mode only permits racers to race up to eight seasons; retirement is mandatory after the eighth season.
Preparing for each and every individual race requires setting up the right racing parts for the individual demands of that particular course. Team Lotus is considered to be the official co-sponsor of this video game along with its publisher Nichibutsu.

Fastest 1 (Sega Mega Drive)

Fastest 1 (Sega Mega Drive) is a a Sega Mega Drive F1 racing game, also released exclusively in Japan.

While most of F1 games at the time were poor simulations of the races, Fastest One proved to be one of the most realistic of the era. The game once again featured team and driver names similar to the real life namesakes. A choice of up to 18 playable vehicles could be used in every mode provided.

The game is presented from the more traditional, from the behind of the car view.

A player could participate in as many seasons as desired the championship mode. The player started out the first season with a least desirable team. Only by winning races did the player get promoted to the more desirable teams. A player could modify the steering, gear box, tires, wings, and color of their chosen racing vehicle.

Fastest 1 emphasized simulated Formula One action over arcade-style gameplay. The cornering was harsher that most games released at that time and the player had to shift from neutral, even in cars with automatic transmission, in order for the vehicle to start moving.

Talking about reality – You actually had to manage your tires throughout the race. And what I like the most about this game was the car handling and cornering, which was a whole another level compared.

What I didn’t like was the sound of the car and graphics were not that impressive either.

F1 Exhaust Note (Arcade)

F1 Exhaust Note (Arcade) is a two-player f1 racing arcade game that has a standard dual racing cabinet setup. Each player station has a 25-inch monitor, steering controls, shift controls, pedals, and a decorative seat. The sound originates from the back of the seat giving the player surround sound effect.

The game was developed for the Sega System 32 hardware that was used for its sequel F1 Super Lap and Capcom’s 1995 title Slip Stream. Because it also didn’t have an FIA license, all of the cars and tracks were mainly original. 

It was also one of Sega’s first sit-down twin cabinets with link-up compatibility, and the first arcade game ever to have a special attract screen taking up both monitors when neither side of the cabinet was being used. 

You race a Formula 1 car, which closely resembles the Williams/McLaren F1 machines that were used at that time

Although it wasn’t a fully licensed F1 game, it had an excellent sense of speed, great handling and silky smooth framerate. The slim but rocking soundtrack along with the audible car sounds add to the experience. 

Graphically it looks good among other Super Scaler titles like Power Drift, Rad Mobile and GP Rider.

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F-1 Grand Prix (Arcade)

F-1 Grand Prix (Arcade) is a top-down viewed F1 racing game first released on the arcades and then ported to Super Famicom the following year. It’s the first game in Video System’s licensed F-1 Grand Prix series, based on the seasonal television series by Fuji Television and FOCA.

Unlike most of the other F1 games at the time, it features real teams and drivers. There are only 6 teams in the arcade game, later Super Famicom port provided complete lineup with 34 drivers and 18 teams.

The game features various options for manual car tuning and has a damage system: collisions cause the components to weaken. In order to avoid a fast race end, a pit stop is advised to repair damages. 

You may think, it’s another top-down racing game like F1 Circus, however it’s very different. Unlike any other top-down racing game, your F1 car in fact stands still on the screen and in corners the environment rotates around the car. 

One of the cool features in this game is a map that shows the location of your closest opponent.

Available playing options are the whole Grand Prix, a single race and a best lap competition.

F1 Grand Prix: Satoru Nakajima (Sega Genesis)

F1 Grand Prix: Satoru Nakajima (Sega Genesis) is a top-down viewed F1 racing game based on the career of Satoru Nakajima, the first full-time Japanese racer in the history of Formula One.

The game was released only in Japan and was the first on Sega console that was approved by and featured legendary and popular Satoru Nakajima. The game is partly in japanese but mostly playable to english speakers.
In the season mode, the player first chooses a name of his character. Then he must audition for a team and qualify for all of his races on time. If the player fails to qualify for a race, he automatically receives zero points and sees a picture of himself looking at the night time sky. Each teams has requirements and if they are not met, the player is fired.
Depending on how good a player qualifies, either many or few teams will be offering a contract. Different teams have different requirements in order to stay employed. Unlike its sequel F1 Super License: Nakajima Satoru, going to the pit stop is needed to do repairs on the car. Repairing the car can either be set to automatic or manual on the setup menu.
As the game does not have an official F1 license, it only features teams and drivers with similar spelling and looks. 
Like in F1 Circus MD, it has a map on the screen that makes this game so much more playable.

Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero 2 (NES)

Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero 2 (NES) is an F1 racing game, a sequel to Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero. Unlike the first game, it was only released in Japan. The game is presented in from the behind of the car view.

The game features three game modes. The Warming Up mode lets the player practice five laps on one of the sixteen tracks. Battle mode lets the player compete against another player or a computer controlled driver in a split-screen race (Players can also watch a race between two computer controlled drivers). Grand Prix mode is the game’s career mode.
In battle mode, it’s not possible to collide with your opponent as you seemingly see only the shadow of your opponent.
Interestingly enough, in this game, only the top four fastest qualifying results are the ones that are chosen to compete.
There are four F-1 cars that are available to drive. Three have manual transmissions (requires shifting of gears while racing) while one is automatic. They each have individual ratings in power, acceleration, and traction.
I don’t know if this game actually had a license but it featured real F1 drivers and team names.

Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero GB World Championship '91 (Game Boy)

Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero GB World Championship ’91 (Game Boy) is a Japan-exclusive Game Boy Formula One video game published by Varie, endorsed by Satoru Nakajima.

Apart from Nakajima, the actual names of the drivers are not used due to licensing arrangements.
There are 16 rounds and 8 difficulty levels. Each level has a special rival to beat.
A sequel was released in the following year: Nakajima Satoru: F-1 Hero GB ’92: The Graded Driver. This game would be published by Ubisoft in North America and Europe as F1 Pole Position, otherwise unrelated to the SNES game.

See more: Wikipedia

Al Unser Jr.'s Turbo Racing (NES)

Al Unser Jr.’s Turbo Racing (NES) is an F1 racing video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System console. The game remains based on the Formula 1 World Championship, despite Unser having never competed in it.

It features a season mode and two time trial modes. In season mode the player uses either Al Unser Jr. or make their own driver. In game, turbo boosts can be used by the player when necessary, but must be refuelled when empty. Hazards such as signposts and other cars must be avoided. Qualifying is held prior to each race, only one lap is given.
Versions released outside North America were simply titled Turbo Racing with all references to Unser removed.
People consider this game pretty good, criticizing lack of on screen maps and corners coming out of nowhere.

Formula One Grand Prix / World Circuit (Amiga / Atari ST By MicroProse)

Formula One Grand Prix / World Circuit (Amiga / Atari ST By MicroProse) is an F1 racing simulator released at Christmas 1991 by MicroProse and was created by game designer Geoff Crammond.

Unlike any other F1 game at the time, this was a real simulation of Formula One racing and was noted for its 3D graphics, remarkably high framerate (25 fps) and attention to detail, in particular the player’s ability to edit the teams and drivers and set up their car to their own personal specifications.
Although the game did not have official license from the FIA or any Formula One drivers, team liveries and driver helmets were accurate to represent the 1991 season, but the names were fictional. However, you could modify everything in this game starting with creating completely new teams and drivers lineups.
It was one of the very first (along with more basic Indy 500 simulator released in 1989) to implement something that resembled “real world” racing physics, accurate track modelling and car handling that required skills somewhat similar to real-world driving skills to perform well.
You can play with gear ratios, tyre compounds and wing settings, and in this game it makes an actual difference when driving. You can use functional rearview mirrors and an “instant replay” system with a wide range of adjustable camera settings not seen in other games of the era.
You could play this game online, in fact it was among the first wave of games that had a busy online community.
Despite the sheer age of the game and the fact that it is both technically and graphically inferior to modern racing simulators, F1GP still has a small community and on-going developments relating to the game.

Super Grand Prix (Amiga, Atari ST)

Super Grand Prix (Amiga, Atari ST) is an overhead racer, essentially an updated 16-bit version of Codemasters’ Grand Prix Simulator. As before, the basic gameplay resembles Super Sprint, with an overhead view of simple tracks incorporating hairpins, oil slicks and underpasses.

The game now features 4 modes of play – Formula 1 cars, motorbikes, drag racers, and a mode featuring a variety of vehicles. These include those 3 as well as police cars, go-karts and a tank, which is too slow to be competitive but allows you to shoot out the other cars, and can be a blockade as you try to lap it.

Formula 1 3D: F1 Manager II (C64)

Formula 1 3D: F1 Manager II (C64) is an F1 simulation game.

In this game the player manages a Formula 1 team, starting with a certain budget of $6,000,000. The gameplay includes the economical and technical management, simulation of qualification driving of Formula 1 car on the famous circuits, and management of the pilot’s actions during the race.
The game contains 3 phases. 
In adjustment phase you should select one of rookie or pro racers from around the world (such legends as A. Senna, A. Prost, or N. Mansell, etc. are present) to enlist and select one of the cars to buy. The enlistment bonus price of racers differs based on their position and skills described by three parameters: Courage, Ability, Tactics. The price of car differs based on its parts selected and adjusted. Starting with the rookie pilots you will eventually progress to a professionals.
In simulation phase you should accelerate/decelerate the car, shift the gears, correctly go into bends, and finish the lap as fast as possible to get a better starting position.
In management phase you should keep an eye on the race progress and messages from the commentator, give guidelines to the pilot on when to accelerate/decelerate, examine the car’s state, and win the race to earn the points.


In 1991, lots of F1 video games were released. Some of them were better, and some ot them, let’s say, not so good. But it was definitely worth to try them all!

First of all, the first proper F1 simulation game (
Formula One Grand Prix, also released as World Circuitwas released on various home computers. And it was something that was never seen before. That started completely new area in F1 video games.

Also, on the arcades, two amazing games were released. One of them looked better than anything before, viewed from behind of the racing machine. The other one, however, was an amazing arcade style action viewed from the top-down view.

On Commodore 64 you could enjoy am amazing F1 manager.

Mega Drive did a pretty good job with a decent port/addition to the F1 Circus series and also, Fastest 1 was one of the more realistic games in terms of car handling and tire managing for example. F1 Circus 91 on PC Engine on the other hand, was average.

Talking about stars, if you didn’t know who Satoru Nakajima is, then as many as three games featuring Satoru were released on various platforms, including Mega Drive, NES and Game Boy. Another racing star from the 90s, Al Unser also got his own game.

And some of the F1 games were quite bad, specifically I am talking about Super Grand Prix, which was released on the Amiga and Atari ST.

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