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Pole Position is a racing game released by Namco in 1982 (and published by Atari in the United States the same year). Your goal is to drive your Formula One race car around the Fuji Speedway while avoiding crashing into other cars. The game is broken up into two segments: a qualifying round, where you try to complete a lap of the course for positioning and points; and a race segment, where you have to complete four laps around the track before time runs out. Crossing the start/finish line gives you a time bonus.

Pole Position became the most popular arcade game in 1983 due to its realistic-for-the-time graphics, and was one of the pioneers of the pseudo-3D "rear-view racer" format, though Sega's Turbo beat it by one year.note 

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A sequel, Pole Position II, was released in 1983. It added somewhat improved graphics and the ability to choose from one of four courses, including the Fuji Circuit from the original game, and the famous Suzuka International Racing Course (by far the hardest of the four). It also adds wheel spin, making the game slightly harder. It was also available in a deluxe sit-down cabinet configuration, using three monitors to give a panoramic view.

The 1984 cartoon of the same name has nothing to do with the games, even though DiC Entertainment did in fact pay Namco to use the name.


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Pole Position contains examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: The Namco Museum versions feature references to at least one game that didn't exist in 1982 (original game) or 1983 (second game): The Tower of Druaga.
  • Driving Game
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Your car explodes spectacularly when you so much as touch another car or billboard, costing you time.note  Though apparently your driver is invincible or something. (This went on to be a common trope for Atari, NES and Genesis-era racing games.)
  • Fanfare: In both games, after putting in a coin (and selecting a course in the second game), it cuts to the title screen where this plays before the qualifying laps starts.note 
    • There's also two that play when the actual race starts: a special one for starting the race in the pole position, and a standard one for starting in any other position.
  • Game Over: Played straight in the first game, but the second game simply displays the title instead (although it still says "game over" during the Attract Mode).
  • Nintendo Hard: Even just qualifying successfully is a feat in and of itself, as you have to finish the course within the qualifying time which is not shown in-game and is lower than the time limit, going off-course risks slamming into a sign and blowing your car up into a million pieces making you wait several seconds to respawn, and so much as a fender-bender will also blow your car up. Then you get to the actual race and depending on how well you did in qualifying, you may have to contend with racers in front of you at the start.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: If you fail to fulfill the qualifying time, the game will not move on to race mode. You'll just keep driving until the time runs out.
  • Product Placement: Seen on the billboards in certain versions.note 
  • Timed Mission: You have to finish the course before time runs out in the qualifying round to even make it to the actual race.
  • Title Drop: Just like in real auto races, if you can get a fast enough qualifying time, you'll get the "pole position" and start the race in first place.note 

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