Death Rally: an old-school top down racing game


Death Rally is an old school top down racing game. It’s a fast paced, challenging, forgotten classic.

You don’t see many games like Death Rally anymore. I thought these sort of games died off in the late ninety’s, but this title has gotten a second wind. Death Rally was originally published in 1996, and it’s surprising how well its aged.

This title was recently ported to run on modern operating systems and released as freeware.

  • Gameplay: Death Rally is a largely straight forward, fast paced game. It can be played as a straight forward racer, or a combat/racer hybrid. If you’ve enabled weapons, you slightly complicate the gameplay by adding projectiles and mines. No matter what mode you play, the track will be littered with power-ups and power-downs. These drops include: repair kits, speed boosts, ammo, player dropped mines, and mushrooms. The mines and the mushrooms can really wreck a players day. Mines do significant damage and stop the car cold, and mushrooms make the entire screen go wonky. Civilians line the track waiting to be crushed. Try not to do that, it’s mean, and it slows down your ride. The old dos version of Death Rally supported multiplayer, unfortunately the modern ported version does not.



  • Controls: The game’s controls are very responsive and can take some time to get used to. You only need the arrow and shift keys in a regular race, and just a few extra keys in a combat race. Death Rally is the first PC game I’ve played in a long time to make me miss game pad’s. Keyboard controls work fine, but USB controller would enhance the experience.
  • Sound: Audio is not all that great. The music has not aged well, and the sound effects for collision and weapon fire are both very low fidelity. It’s better to mute the game and play something angry from your music collection.
  • Graphics: By today’s standards Death Rally isn’t great looking. The levels and the cars look highly pixellated at first glance. But considering it’s more than a decade old, it’s pretty enough. In fact, I’m surprised by how quickly I adjusted to the graphics, and started concentrating on the gameplay. For what it is, and for the type of gameplay the graphics support, it looks good enough.
  • Replayability: Death Rally offers a few good reasons to keep playing. Most obviously are the significant differences between the pure race and combat racing modes. Both play very differently, even though they share tracks and vehicles. The different vehicles allow different degrees of upgrading, access to higher difficulty tracks and more challenging opponents. The difference from vehicle to vehicle in terms of speed and handling is enormous. Also, upgrades to you’re engine, tires, and armor have a huge impact. There is a good range of cars, but not enough tracks. Death Rally would have benefited from multiplayer.

The Verdict: Fans of the genre have a lot to enjoy here. So will players looking for a taste of retro racing. Death Rally offers extremely fast paced gameplay from the starting line, so it’s good for an adrenaline fix or two. The option to play with or without weapons spices things up, and both modes are challenging without being frustrating. The visuals are unimpressive by modern standards, but it takes all of four minutes to get over that. Death Rally is worth taking for a spin.

Version tested: 1.0

Compatibility: any windows system from XP through Windows 7, including 64 bit versions

Go to the game download page to download (approx 42 megs).