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"Welcome to life in the fast lane."
Back cover of Test Drive (1987)

Test Drive is a Driving Game series that has seen races across the globe, in almost anything with wheels. It's a Long Runner, as the series has been around since 1987, beginning under Accolade and continuing under Infogrames and Atari SA and has since been followed by several sequels and spin-offs as well as three reboots, with the last game being released in 2012.

The series began in 1987, when Accolade published Test Drive as a computer game worldwide, developed by Distinctive Software, with the quality of the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and DOS ports differing from each other; the Amiga version featured detailed visuals and realistic audio, and the Commodore 64 and DOS ports were of similar quality to the Amiga version, while its Atari ST counterpart used simplified graphics and sound effects. Electronic Arts released the game in the United Kingdom (more on that later).

Test Drive was a commercial success, with sales having surpassed 250,000 copies by November 1989, and received generally positive reviews from video game critics, and as such it began to spawn several sequels and spin-offs. Distinctive developed its 1989 sequel, The Duel: Test Drive II, using several software libraries. Most infamously, Distinctive used the software libraries for an MS-DOS port of OutRun (as Unlimited Software, Inc.), resulting in the Accolade v. Distinctive lawsuit; Distinctive Software won, so the rights to make the Test Drive games without the source code transferred to Accolade. Another sequel, Test Drive III: The Passion, was developed and published by Accolade in 1990.

After Test Drive III, the franchise fell in dormancy a few years, during which old partner Electronic Arts got bitten by the bug of racing games threw their hat in the ring with their Need for Speed series, the first of which was clearly made in the style of the first three Test Drive games.note  This led Accolade to revive the franchise in 1997 and reinvent it with brand new titles, the first of which was Test Drive: Off-Road, an off-road truck racing spinoff, and Test Drive 4, the first video game developed by Pitbull Syndicate. In 1998, Pitbull Syndicate developed two further Test Drive titles, Test Drive 4X4 (also known as Test Drive Off-Road 2), a sequel to the Test Drive: Off-Road spinoff, and Test Drive 5, though the former was also co-developed by Accolade's in-house team.

The latter two games would end up being the two last entries in the series to be published by Accolade, as in April 1999, Accolade was acquired by French video game company Infogrames and was renamed Infogrames North America. As a result, Test Drive 6 was the first game in the series to be published by the newly named Infogrames North America in 1999, and an in-house team at Infogrames North America would go on to develop Test Drive Off-Road 3 in 1999.

In 2000, due to copyright issues between Infogrames North America and Infogrames Multimedia over the Test Drive trademark, Cryo Interactive picked up publishing rights to Test Drive 6 in Europe for a May 2000 release, while Infogrames Multimedia released Test Drive Off-Road 3 under the name of 4x4 World Trophy in April 2000. Around this time, Infogrames North America released Le Mans 24 Hours and the Dreamcast version of V-Rally 2 under the localised names of Test Drive Le Mans and Test Drive V-Rally respectively.

In November 2001, the last entry in the Off-Road subseries — Test Drive Off-Road Wide Open, known in Europe simply as Off-Road Wide Open — was released on the PlayStation 2, being developed by Angel Studios. An Xbox port was released a year later with additional content and graphic improvements.

In May 2002, Infogrames released an attempted reboot of the series titled TD Overdrive: The Brotherhood of Speed (released as simply Test Drive in North America) and was the last entry in the series to be developed by Pitbull Syndicate. It was also the first entry in the series to feature a storyline, which has the protagonist Dennis Black competing against opponents in order to reveal the kingpin behind the local street racing scene. The next game in the series, Test Drive: Eve of Destruction, was developed by Monster Games in 2003, and was released in 2004. The game was released in Europe under the name Driven to Destruction.

In 2006, Eden Games released Test Drive Unlimited, a complete reboot of the entire series featuring an open world that set players loose on the island of Oʻahu; its sequel Test Drive Unlimited 2 was released in 2011 and includes both Oʻahu and the Spanish island of Ibiza. Ferrari Racing Legends on the other hand is a track-based racer developed by Slightly Mad Studios (of Need for Speed: Shift fame) with collections of classic layouts of famous racing tracks and, as the name suggests, it only features Ferraris, in celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Italian sports car manufacturer.

A new Test Drive title in the Unlimited continuity is currently in development by Kylotonn that will be published by Nacon (formerly Bigben Interactive), who acquired the Test Drive franchise from Atari SA in 2016. After a teaser video clip was revealed on July 3, 2020, a teaser trailer revealed at Nacon Connect on July 7, 2020, announced that the next game will be called Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown. That game will take place on Hong Kong Island and will be released in 2024.

Games in the series include:

  • Main games
    • Original series (1987–2002)
      • Test Drive (1987)
      • The Duel: Test Drive II (1989)
      • Test Drive III: The Passion (1990)
      • Test Drive 4 (1997)
      • Test Drive 5 (1998)
      • Test Drive 6 (1999)
      • Test Drive 2001 (2000): A Mission-Pack Sequel to the Game Boy Color version of Test Drive 6.
      • TD Overdrive: The Brotherhood of Speed / Test Drive in North America (2002)
    • Test Drive Unlimited series (2006–present)
      • Test Drive Unlimited (2006)
      • Test Drive Unlimited 2 (2011)
      • Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown (2024)
  • Off-Road sub-series (1997–2001)
  • Other games
    • Test Drive Le Mans (2000): A rebrand of Le Mans 24 Hours in North America except for the PlayStation 2 and second PC versions
    • Test Drive V-Rally (2000): A rebrand of V-Rally 2 (the second entry of an unrelated rally racing game series) in North America for the Dreamcast versionnote 
    • Michelin Rally Masters: Race of Champions (2000)note 
    • Test Drive Cycles (2000): A motorcycle spin-off.
    • Test Drive: Eve of Destruction / Driven to Destruction in Europe and Australia (2004)
    • Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends (2012)

Tropes in the series:

Tropes for the Test Drive Unlimited games go on that sub-series' page.
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  • Artificial Stupidity: Much like Overdrive (see below), the 5th-generation era is pretty notorious for having inept AI that tends to run into obstacles or traffic, sometimes giving the player a chance to lead.
  • Bigger Stick: The acquisition of new and better vehicles, or upgrades for vehicles you already possess, like in any other case, is an invocation of this trope.
  • Blood Sport: The Duel began this trope in the franchise, if not the racing game genre, and the franchise didn't look back; there's a reason why one of the later entries is subtitled Eve of Destruction.
  • Cool Bike: Cycles has the players ride on motorcycles instead of cars. This aspect was brought back with the Unlimited reboot.
  • Genre Shift: Not as exaggerated as Need for Speed, but every Test Drive game is different. The early ones (including the Off-Road spinoffs) are classic arcade racers, Overdrive puts storyline into the mix, Unlimited goes Wide-Open Sandbox (and invoking Continuity Reboot at the same time), and Ferrari Racing Legends is a simulator.
  • Hummer Dinger: The trope namer appears in the Off-Road spinoffs as one of the playable cars (and also as the cover car in the trilogy).
  • Product Placement: 6 featured ads for MotorWeek, including footage from the show as scenes for the game's intro.
  • Improbably Cool Car: The Nissan Skyline GTR R33 (in 5) and R34, along with the Subaru Impreza 22B are these in 6 and Overdrive, considering that they weren't sold in America and Europe.
  • Rule of Three: Circuit races in 6 and Overdrive have three laps.
  • Shown Their Work: Unlike the fifth-generation console games, Overdrive features somehow accurate car models, and features correct police liveries on some of the tracks (albeit not their sirens).
  • Stock Footage: Used in the introduction movies of 5 and 6 as well as the Off-Road series.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The fifth generation console games, mainly 4 and 5, border between this and Artificial Stupidity, often being ahead of the player.
  • World Tour: The game features racing tracks from different cities and countries all over the world.

    Test Drive (1987), The Duel: Test Drive II (1989), and Test Drive III: The Passion (1990) 
  • Blood Sport: While the first game has you simply navigating your car through the streets, The Duel adds in the option to battle the computer-controlled opponent, while also trying to evade police cars.
  • Cool Car: Test Drive features the coolest sports cars of its time: the Chevrolet Corvette (C4), the Porsche 930 Turbo, the Ferrari Testarossa, the Lamborghini Countach, and the Lotus Esprit Turbo.
  • Copy Protection: Multiple forms:
  • Critical Existence Failure: Contact with vehicles, cars, or anything else instantly causes the car to crash - as does redlining the engine. Also, you actually have to stop at the gas stations at the end of each track, lest you run out of gas and lose a life. So there's no flying past the finish line like in all other racing games.
  • Diegetic Interface: The game does not use a HUD; instead it uses the cockpits and dashboards of the car(s). Naturally, some Interface Screw can occur with the windshield.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: Used by cops to catch speeders. You can detect its use, but it can also mean there's an incoming truck.
  • Expansion Pack:
    • Most likely due to the base version of The Duel: Test Drive II only giving the option of choosing between two vehicles (a Ferrari F40 or a Porsche 959; the console version gives three by adding the Lamborghini Diablo), for non-console versions Accolade later released two data disks, which included more playable cars. These were released on many platforms:
      • The "Supercars" car disk included five cars similar to those in the original Test Drive, most of them in newer and faster versions: a Lotus Esprit Turbo, a Ferrari Testarossa, a Ruf Twin Turbo, a Lamborghini Countach and a Chevrolet Corvette (C4) ZR1.
      • The "Muscle Cars" car disk included five muscle cars from the 1960s: a 1963 Corvette Stingray, 1969 Camaro ZL-1 COPO, 1968 Mustang Shelby GT500, 1967 Pontiac GTO and a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. The muscle cars were noticeably slower than the supercars, however, and this expansion did not change the police cars as well, meaning that the player had practically no chance of outrunning a police car when caught speeding.
    • Later, two "scenery disks" were released for Test Drive II, each containing an additional course:
      • "California Challenge", which included seven stages, each representing a section of a southbound crossing of the state of California.
      • "European Challenge", which allowed players to travel through six different European countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Spain.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Downplayed, in as much as "sexy" content a late '80s racing game could get. Some versions of the first Test Drive had a male voice reading "Accolade presents" at the start of the game, which would be replaced in The Duel: Test Drive II with a sultry female voice reading both the "Accolade presents" and the game's title.note  Test Drive II also features a female cop with whom the male player character would try to flirt with, which would always inevitably result in her handcuffing him.
  • Level Goal: The way to mark the end to the levels in the first two games is to stop at a gas station.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: If you tried to outrun the police, they would get ahead of you and block the road with their car to force you to stop. If you chose to ram their car, that was an automatic game over as the manual states doing this gets you arrested and imprisoned.
  • Sequel: The Original Title: The sequel of Test Drive is titled The Duel: Test Drive II. Subverted with the third entry, which would be titled Test Drive III: The Passion.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: The track is made of vector graphics without textures, everything else from the interior of the player's car to all other cars on the road (non-scaling sprites at various fixed scales drawn from ahead and behind) to the non-race screens are pixel graphics.
  • Suddenly Voiced: The player character in the SNES version of The Duel: Test Drive II is voiced, in two specific circumstances: being chased by a police unit, or when evading one.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Despite being based on ordinary Malaise-era American sedans, notorious in real life for having woefully underpowered engines, the police cars will easily breeze by your sports car at speeds in excess of 130 miles per hour to pull you over.
  • Timed Mission: Timer is not displayed, and going too slow causes a loss at the next checkpoint. In fact, the clock is the only opponent you have in the first game. Actual races weren't possible before The Duel: Test Drive II.
  • Wraparound Background: The setting is a cliffside, but aside from turns, it's rather monotonous. It's similar to making the background go in a loop for a side-scrolling 2D game.

    TD Overdrive: Brotherhood of Speed (2002) 
  • Ace Custom: Reese's Camaro and Skeeter's Chevelle and GTO.
  • Action Girl: Several female opponents such as Marie Ling, Lisa Lux and Rei Ozawa.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Some opponents give Dennis nicknames. Marie, for example, nicknames him "Grandpa." Hamada, on the other hand, calls him "Dennis-san."
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: The final race series combines all of the previously raced course layouts as final-exam tracks for each city.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Most races excluding Duel Boss races has the Practice mode where the players can test their skills before the actual race.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Some opponents can even understeer and bump into traffic cars or walls. Even bosses can do that to trick the player.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The TVR Cerbera Speed 12 is the most powerful car in the game next to the 2000 Viper Concept, but it handles like a greased pig.
  • Big Bad: Vasily, the leader of underground street racing empire. Donald becomes this after Dennis defeated Vasily.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Miguel, a Latin-European.
  • Cliffhanger: Ends on an unresolved one only in the PlayStation 2 version, and it's unknown what happened to Dennis Black.
  • Darker and Edgier: The storylines and the graphic styles are much grittier than the previous installments. To be fair, it is the darkest entry in the entire series.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: Dennis managed to defeat Vasily only because Donald was injured in attempt to race him.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Donald, The Mole who manipulated Dennis all along.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Donald's injury is explained by Nells saying that his Viper crashed into and wrapped itself around a tree during the race against Vasily. Yet if you try to replicate that accident with any car, Viper included, in-game it will harmlessly bounce off the tree without so much as a dent.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Some opponents are jealous of Dennis' victory.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Exploited. Not many people like Donald, which is the main cause of his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Police Are Useless: Downplayed. Some police cars do notify of races but they won't catch if the racers got too far.
  • Rubber-Band A.I.: If you stay in first place long enough, the opponents will either get a super speed boost or teleport right behind you.
  • Sequential Boss: Vasily (as well as Donald) races Dennis in a series of one-on-one races throughout four different cities.
  • Serious Business: The entire tone of this game. Lampshaded by Donald during Dennis' encounter against Vasily.
  • The Stinger: After Dennis defeated Donald in the final race followed by the credits, Donald tells Hail to steal back his car off-screen.

    Test Drive: Eve of Destruction (2004) 
  • Blood Sport: More so than any other installment to date.
  • Fauxrrari: All of the drivable vehicles are real-world cars with the badges removed and a different name slapped on.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Orbital and Rocket are the fastest cars in the game and have very high handling. Their durability on the other hand isn't anything to write home about.
    • In general, cars with high speed and/or handling will get torn up in derbies and the more destructive races.
  • Genre Shift: Even in a series with a penchant for doing something different, this one is a standout. Eschewing flashy high-end rides for hoopties and old muscle cars, having an emphasis on Vehicular Combat, and being set in rural America.
  • Large-Ham Announcer: The unnamed announcer provides some positively boisterous commentary for events, courtesy of Monster Games producer John Schneider (no, not that one).
    "OH MY... GOD, WHAT A HIT!"
  • Lightning Bruiser: Some cars provide good acceleration and handling without sacrificing durability. Examples include the Durand, the Gladiator, and the Hearse.
  • Maximum HP Reduction: In Career Mode, your car will suffer irreparable damage as it receives and inflicts punishment, which reduces its maximum condition, lowers the money you receive from selling it or trading it in, and encourages you to get rid of beat-up rides in order to stay competitive. Additionally, repairing your car at an Eve, on top of it being more expensive than repairing it at home, also increases the amount of permanent damage sustained, so reserve it for emergencies.
  • Mighty Glacier: Cars with a "=D=" symbol denote high durability. As a rule of thumb, they'll thrive in derbies and do poorly elsewhere.
  • No Antagonist: You have an owner of a junkyard/used-car dealership and a garage (Sweeny), an unseen owner of a diner and malt shop (TJ), a top-ranked local running an illegal racing circuit (Troy Harder), a lively announcer, and over a hundred competitors. None of them are going out of their way to sabotage your career.
  • Tuckerization: Several of the AI-controlled racers were named after Monster Games staff. Troy Harder in particular shares his name with the game's car artist.
  • Vehicular Combat: Being a racing game that's based off of demolition derbies, especially the Crash-A-Rama events in the Floridan city of Orlando, it should come as no surprise that this game rewards aggressive behavior.
  • What the Hell, Player?: If you're doing anything stupid or the announcer is unimpressed with your performance, he'll let you know.
  • Where It All Began: The final eve ("Destruction Championship") takes place in your unnamed home town.
  • With This Herring: You start the Career Mode with a Top, an unremarkable hatchback you inherited from your now-deceased grandmother. The tutorial makes multiple suggestions to trade it in for another car.

    Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends (2012) 
  • Anachronism Stew: Since the circuit lineup features historic versions of certain race tracks, the game doesn't mind you bringing a modern car to it. Enjoy taking an Enzo Ferrari around the 1958 version of Monza or blaze around Silverstone 1959 in Kimi Räikkönen's 2007 winning F1 car, the F2007.
  • Genre Shift: Breaks the tradition of the series test driving happening on public roads. Also, it is much less arcade and more simulation, given the developers of this game being of Need for Speed: Shift fame.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The Riviera track's Monte Grande layout that blatantly resembles the Circuit de Monaco makes a return in Shift 2: Unleashed. Oddly in the previous game, TD Overdrive one of the Monte Carlo tracks shows a near-accurate representation of the Monaco GP circuit, albeit that you can actually cut the Nouvelle chicane.
  • Non-Linear Sequel: Despite released after Unlimited 2, the game isn't part of Unlimited continuity.
  • Product Placement: Being licensed by Ferrari, the entire roster is full of their cars. Also doubles as Everybody Owns a Ford as you take a wild guess of what brand of cars you get to drive.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The realistic driving physics when all aids are turned off are often called unrealistic because the cars appear to drift and spin so quickly.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: As the three campaigns each are strictly sequential, necessary to unlock cars and tracks and each mission varying widely in difficulty, players who flew through a campaign can suddenly hit a (metaphorical) wall and have to retry again and again.

Alternative Title(s): Test Drive 6, Test Drive 1987, The Duel Test Drive II, Test Drive II The Duel, Test Drive III The Passion