The original Road Rash – which released in 1991 – gave audiences a taste of a debauchery-fueled racing game could be like. Players work their way up the ranks of an illegal street motorcycle racing circuit, earning money for upgrades while attempting to evade injury and police officers along the way. The permitted use of punching, kicking, and clubbing enhances the no holds barred sensation as racers tear through various courses in an attempt to beat out (and beat up) the competition.
Altough the second entry in the series – Road Rash II – doesn’t stray far from the original formula, it managed to refine it in way that is both fresh and familiar. Developed by Electronic Arts and released for the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) in 1992, Road Rash II is – in many ways – exactly what a game sequel should be. Built off the same engine as its predecessor, players who enjoyed the first title will feel right at home. All of the gameplay from the previous is left intact, but the new additions make it the most memorable entry for many.
While the original Road Rash takes place entirely in California, courses in Road Rash II are set in locations across the United States, ranging from the green hills of Vermont to the volcanic terrain of Hawaii. And while the change in scenery is a welcome one, it’s the gameplay changes that make this an absolute standout Genesis title. Most notably, the addition of a split screen 2-player mode allows users to compete head-to-head in real time, something that the original sorely lacked. Certain bikes that can be purchased in-game also have a new feature in the way of nitrous oxide charges, giving players a short speed boost when they need it. But perhaps the most satisfyingly fun new addition is a simple one: a chain. Ths inclusion of this one extra weapon (in addition to the baton) elevates the on-road combat drastically. The sensation of swinging around a metal chain, sending oppohnents flying off their bikes with a couple of good whacks is an indescribable feeling.
By playing it safe and sticking to a similar but improved approach, Electronic Arts created an acclaimed and highly replayable racing game. Even though the series went on to spawn additional sequels, many regard Road Rash II as the pinnacle of the franchise. It was included on 2006’s EA Replay for the PlayStation Portable, a collection of classic EA games. The title also found its way onto the Sega Genesis Mini in 2019 alongside some of the most celebrated titles to be released for the console.