Gran Turismo: From One To Six

The original.

TheSixthAxis has always been behind the Gran Turismo brand, and our community has embraced the series of late, focusing on the PlayStation 3 Gran Turismo 5 with its fancy graphics and solid online multiplayer. The game might have released to a mildly luke-warm reception when everyone expected it to launch in a state of perfection, but over the months following it’s hard to argue that GT5 hasn’t become the premier video game racer.

The truth is, though, looking back, that the series has always been at the pinnacle of what has been possible on admittedly limited hardware. From the very first game back in 1997 through to the wildly ambitious PSP game in 2009, Polyphony Digital have continued to put realistic physics and visuals at the forefront of what they do. For driving enthusiasts, Gran Turismo is the one game to own.

When the first game released in 1997, it boasted just 140 cars and a surprisingly low 11 tracks. Those numbers seem limited compared to the sprawling behemoth we have today, but remember that just seven people worked on the game, although that number doubled at points during development. Gran Turismo, for the original PlayStation, introduced some series staples like License Tests, car tuning and upgrades and some courses that are still being renovated for use in the most recent games.

Gran Turismo

Exclusive to PlayStation platforms, and is a massive seller in Europe

First game was in 1997, scoring 96% on Metacritic

GT6, the next game, is expected to be released on PS3

GT3 sold 15 million copies

GT Academy, a scheme set up by Sony based on GT, has produced top class real life drivers

It was, in terms of production, massive. It features a cute car wash option, different music for each car manufacturer, a menu system that – at the time – was utterly beautiful and, if you can remember that far back, a fancy new mode (dubbed Hi-Fi) that was limited to just the Special Stage Route 5 courses and just one car, but ran at 60 frames per second. It was dreamy.

The PlayStation was also host to a second Gran Turismo game, a routine that would perpetuate over the next two PlayStation consoles. Gran Turismo 2, released in 1999, not only came with a scratch and sniff disk (at least here in Europe) but featured the first real world track – Laguna Sega – and marked the introduction of rally courses. Spread over two disks (GT, the main campaign, and Arcade) Gran Turismo 2 was bigger and better than the first in every way you could think of.

In terms of cars, the number was staggering: 650 vehicles in total, and now you could change wheel rims and the Race Modified versions with distinct body kits and liveries were fantastic. The game also featured 27 courses, lots more licensed vehicle types (like SuperGT, DTM and some Le Mans prototypes) and even came with an Event Synthesizer, which creates races for you based on your car selections. Title track The Cardigans’ My Favourite Game, taken from their album Gran Turismo, cemented the deal.

Gran Turismo 3’s trailer.

In 2001 the series moved onto the PlayStation 2, and with it came the shift to a much smoother 60fps as standard, which made a massive different to the handling as well as the visuals. Gran Turismo 3 was the first game to support 6 player local races, force feedback on the wheels and even – if you were ballsy enough to set it up – a three screen affair. It was technically ambitious, to say the least.

Sadly, the increased fidelity meant a shortfall in the number of cars (just 180) even though the game now boasted a wet track and snow. Sony’s cinema advertising for the game relished in the visuals though, with a mountain-top road showing off the vistas, and a lone Aston Martin, parked, admiring the view. Various ‘Concept’ games followed, including one focused around the wonderfully cute Toyota Pods, until Gran Turismo 4 Prologue launched in 2003.

The full Gran Turismo 4 would appear another two years later, but this was the big one, and marked the series out as being the ultimate choice for petrolheads. 700 cars and 51 tracks dwarved everything else, and the improved physics meant that, in some countries, Sony actually issued a 200 page book with the game showing people how to drive. Gran Turismo 4 was huge, and featured photo mode for the first time along with a number of now-staple tracks like Suzuka.

The move towards an RPG-esque points system (dubbed A-Spec) provided grounding and short term goals, but there was so much structure in GT4 that it was easy to get totally caught up in the game for months. 24 hour races and Formula GT were new feature highlights, but the B-Spec semi-management system was neat too, and provided another angle for gamers that the competition simply couldn’t match up to.

When the PlayStation 3 came around, it was GT HD, at the launch of the console in 2006, that showed what might be possible on the new hardware. Just one track (Eiger) featured, but there were online leaderboards and a clever drift mode, along with a smattering of cars. The game ran at 60fps in 1080p, and was free to download. It looked beautiful, despite its obvious limitations, and opened up the road for Gran Turismo 5 Prologue two years later.

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was an impressively fully featured package. It boasted a full online mode, in-car cockpits, 16 cars on track, the introduction of Ferrari (including a properly licensed F1 car) and the Daytona track. It was also used to showcase new (real world) car launches, with carefully timed in-game reveals showing off brand new Japanese vehicles as they were launched at trade shows. Everyone remembers the cover drape animation, right?

Masdas around Monza, our community plays GT5.

And then, finally, in 2010 (after numerous delays) Gran Turismo 5 launched. The game was the first to feature damage, although it didn’t really work at launch, and reportedly cost $80 million to develop. New features included 5 screen support (yes, really), time changes, weather, new tracks (including Spa and Monza) and individual race suits and helmets. It also brought in DLC (as you’ll no doubt be aware) and could boast 81 tracks, although that figure includes variations, as it’s always done.

There were issues though – a lot of the cars were pulled from Gran Turismo 4 and Gran Turismo PSP (itself an ambitious, if not structurally flawed game) and so jarred massively with the so-called Premium vehicles that were modeled especially for GT5. Some of the tracks looked ‘last gen’ too, although the new ones were frequently gorgeous to race around. The much touted Top Gear license also didn’t really amount to much, and the menu system was a mess. Long loading times also spoiled the package.

Gran Turismo 6

Likely just for PS3

PS4 version possible in the future

Silverstone track included

Announced later today

Much of what was problematic with Gran Turismo 5 was gradually patched out, of course, and it’s now a vastly improved experience, although the sheer amount of downloads and installs to get it to that stage are bewildering. It did some good things, though – online was great, the introduction of the GT Academy has worked wonders for both Sony and the drivers involved, and the photo mode has produced some of this gen’s prettiest screenshots.

And so, onto Gran Turismo 6. Set to be revealed today at a media event in Silverstone, little is known about what Polyphony have been doing since Gran Turismo 5 although hopes are high that both developer and publisher have learned from the slip ups with the last game. With a substantially bolstered staff list (now at over 100 employees) we’re hoping for more Premium cars, better looking tracks, a smarter UI and a more stable frame rate.

Most assume the game will stick to PlayStation 3. That ties with the usual ‘two per console’ schedule we’ve had in the past and it’s evident enough why the brand won’t be appearing on PlayStation 4 any time soon. We’d love a Vita version of something though – that kind of scope on a handheld won’t be easy to pull off but Polyphony seem to know how to get the best out of Sony’s hardware, even the portables. If nothing else, today could be very interesting indeed for racing fans.

We’ll see soon enough…

Thanks to James McCaughern for his assistance with this article.



  1. Loved all the GT games, it must be the most played series on PS consoles for me.
    Can’t wait for the next instalment.

  2. Cannot wait. GT5 is probably the most underrated release of the current generation. Was far better than many reviewers reported.

  3. One of the best things GT introduced to me (I’ve always assumed it was the first to do it but am prepared to be corrected) was using proper camera angles for replays rather than just “in-car” reproduction of what you had just played. It made watching replays of your own and, in later versions, from other drivers much more enjoyable.

    I found GT5 all a bit much. Too many cars and options for my taste and I found it all a little overwhelming tbh.

    • Sega Rally had proper camera angles for replays.
      Not sure if it’s the first though. There may well be a racing game before Sega Rally that introduced it.

  4. Aaaaah, the memories that this article has sparked. But not just the hours spent playing Gran Turismo over the years, I’m still reminiscing about last Monday’s #TGMEM! If anyone has read this and feels like firing up GT5, come join the TSA gang every Monday eve from 7pm. We’re friendly really….

  5. That first video… first time I ever saw the game was that vid, the nostalgia!

    Really was a life changing game for me.

  6. I’m more excited for GRiD 2. I enjoyed GT5 to a point but i’m just no good at it. Probably still get it though! if just for the TSA meets

    • Same for me. My driving style is far more suited to grid than gt :p

      • Does have a bloody annoying bloke talking to you all the time… Hate that in Shift 2 & another series I can’t remember, might be Dirt

  7. Races them all, just a great series of games. Really looking forward to the next one :)

  8. Bought 1, 2, 3 and 4 then lost interest. Realised that I was growing tired of the genre and that GT was losing my interest as it was so stilted and sterilised when others were looking at good damage physics and textures that showed vehicles off in a more realistic fashion (even if they were technically inferior still). I wonder if the franchise will ever win me back. Regardless, it’s great to see another iteration for the masses and a huge feather in Sony’s cap.

  9. Bought 1,2 and 3. Tried the Prologues but didn’t like any after that. 1 and 2 were the most impressive I think. The came out and everyone was stunned by the graphics and gameplay. I loved it. After the 3rd it became samey and boring and I left it.

    It would be good if something new and different came to the game.

  10. GT3 was my favourite, although I can’t pin down why that is exactly.

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