Gran Turismo turns 23: Happy birthday to the original driving simulator

The game that kicked off a true revolution in racing games launched on this day in 1997.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
Gran Turismo

A legend.

Polyphony Digital

Twenty-three years ago today, Gran Turismo cemented itself as a legend among racing game enthusiasts. Sure, Need For Speed and others came before it, but nothing quite like Gran Turismo had ever existed. Developer Polyphony Digital, celebrating the anniversary today on social media, worked not just to create another arcade racer, but sweated the details.

That hard work paid off more than it likely imagined as Gran Turismo topped the charts, becoming the best-selling game released for the original Sony PlayStation console, with just under 11 million copies sold (only a handful of games for the PlayStation 4 sold more than that, for context). That was unheard of in a games industry dominated until then by platformers and roleplaying games.

But what made Gran Turismo such a star? The passion and, as the kids say, "grind" of lead developer and now CEO of Polyphony Digital Kazunori Yamauchi is certainly one factor. GT didn't only play well, it immersed car enthusiasts young and old in copious amounts of manufacturer data, zippy soundtracks and real competition with, for the time, highly advanced artificial intelligence and downright unbelievable graphics.

The Need For Speed franchise only touched on the magic of baking in details, performance specifications and a certain charm. GT took this approach to a whole new level as players flipped into various car showrooms around the globe to learn the most obscure facts about a Nissan Skyline . Or maybe it was the sheer amazement as borders dissolved and gamers got the chance to dive into oddball Japanese, European and US vehicles, and race them on real tracks around the world. In every aspect, the game changed the course of racing games.

Today, 23 years later, GT is still kicking with six numbered entries in the series plus GT Sport -- an offshoot focused on motorsport and competition. The legacy will live on with GT 7, likely coming next year on Sony's shiny new hardware, the PlayStation 5. Competitors and copycats have all come and gone, and perhaps some franchises execute racing simulators better. But, at the end of the day, they may not exist if it weren't for Gran Turismo itself.

Read moreiRacing: 5 games to ease your way into the banner sim racing title

The Roadshow Mazda Roadster on the track in Japan

See all photos
Watch this: Getting real with Gran Turismo in Japan