Catalogue of Arcade Emulation Software - the Absolute Reference

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!

Large CAESAR Logo

Pole Position

Pole Position (c) 09/1982 Namco.

A single player races a Formula One car on the twisting, demanding 'Fuji Speedway' racetrack in Japan, over either three or four laps (depending on chosen DIP settings), attempting to record the fastest time possible. As well as 'Accelerator' and 'Brake', the car also comes equipped with a 'Hi' and 'Low' gear.

A legendary and groundbreaking racing game that was, graphically at least, incredibly advanced for its time. While Pole Position wasn't the world's FIRST sprite-scaling racing game (that accolade belongs to Sega's "Turbo", released a year earlier), it was the first to offer such flawlessly smooth and detailed graphics. The gameplay was incredibly demanding, with the car's low traction meaning that every corner demanded total concentration. Collision with either track-side objects or rival drivers would see the player's car explode in a ball of flame.

Better driving games would surely follow, but Pole Position's influence on its genre cannot be under-estimated.


Game ID : PP

Main CPU : Z80 (also drives the sound), Z8002 (x2)

Sound Chips : Namco 6-channel stereo WSG, DAC (engine sound), discrete circuitry (crash and skid sounds), custom DAC (speech)

Screen orientation : Horizontal

Video resolution : 256 x 224 pixels

Screen refresh : 60.61 Hz

Palette colors : 128

Players : 1

Controls : Steering wheel, gear shifter (Hi and Low)

Pedals : Accelerator and Brake


This game was one of the choices presented to Bally/Midway from Namco for sub-licensing. Bally/Midway chose Mappy while Atari was left with Pole Position. Pole Position went on to become the biggest game of 1983

Also licensed to Atari for US manufacture and distribution (11/1982). Approximately 20,400 units were produced by Atari (~17,250 Uprights and ~3,150 Cockpits).

When Pole Position was introduced in 1982, players lined up in arcades around the world to grip the steering wheel and stomp on the gas pedal of a driving game so realistic that the players -- just like their cars -- were swerving around the corners. Pole Position was a 14-carat contribution to the golden age of video games. Pole Position started the trend for photo-realism in video game graphics. In addition to great graphics, it had great game play and it was a huge success, dominated game charts for almost about 2 years.

This was the first driving game to be based on a real circuit : The action takes place at Fuji Speedway in Japan. The snow-capped Mt. Fuji appears in the background.

* A place in video game history : "Pole Position stands out as the racing game that really appealed to the general public," said Chris Lindsey, director of the National Video Game and Coin-Op Museum in St. Louis. "It went into arcades across the nation, where it can still be found. Pole Position machines were placed everywhere -- even in gas stations!". The popularity of Pole Position was based on its realism. Players felt as if they were actually in the driver's seat. "Racing games before Pole Position tended to have a top-down perspective in which you floated over the course, which wasn't terribly realistic," Lindsey said. "Pole Position's eye-level point of view gave it a great deal of realism, and this point of view became a standard for racing games that followed. In addition, it provided a lot of peripheral cues. You saw lots of things zipping by on the side of the screen and this really added to the excitement of the game. Pole Position also had great sound. You could hear the gears winding out in the stretches. As you zipped by another car, you could hear that car's engine. All of these details added to the overall effect. Pole Position was, and still is, an awfully nice game.".

* The great 25-cent escape : Chris Lindsey believes that a big reason why Pole Position has remained such a timeless classic is that it has always appealed to women, in addition to men. "I think there are quite a few game developers who would like to figure out why some games appeal to females," Lindsey said. "Perhaps this is just pop psychology, but I've seen two types of games women will take to : racing games, and games in which the character, or your representation on screen, is doing something besides destroying bad guys. I don't know if that's the correct way to describe it, but that is what I've seen. I've had occasion to work in different types of entertainment facilities, large and small, very modern and, of course, the museum. Without fail I see women take to "Pac-Man", and I see them take to racing games, almost regardless of what the racing game is.".

Lindsey said the comparative lack of violence in Pole Position and other racing games might explain their popularity with women -- as well as with men. "I think violence in games is fairly thoughtless for men, and for some women, the violence in a video game may stick out," Lindsey said. "Violence in gaming is not an experience that most people seek even though they like video games. When those people find games that are engaging, and that offer outstanding game play, there is a desire on their part to dive into it. These racing games really offer that.".

* Namco notes : The engineers who created Pole Position knew they had created something special when a steering wheel was first connected to the prototype game in their lab. Later, when Pole Position was released, engineers visiting the arcades found that the waiting lines were so long that they curled back and forth within the arcade and then extended out the door.

The upright version of Pole Position came in a standard Atari cabinet (similar to the "Asteroids"/"Lunar Lander" cabinet), with an altered control panel area. The sideart consisted of red, white, blue, and grey striped paint job, with an Atari logo, and a square sticker showing a race scene.While the marquee had a Pole Position logo superimposed over a view of several race cars coming directly for you. The control panel was done up in the same colors as the side, and featured an analog steering wheel, and a two position shifter.

There was also a cockpit version of this game. It (thankfully), shipped in two pieces that were screwed together on location. It had little in the way of decoration inside, but the white exterior was covered in detailed race car scenes that were much more attractive than those on the upright. The cockpit Pole Position cabinet had both a gas pedal and a brake pedal, while the upright cabinets had only a gas pedal.

Pole Position is widely cursed by collectors as having the worst hardware design of any arcade game released in the 1980s. Internal documents that have recently surfaced bear this fact out. The circuit board underwent a large number of modifications and design changes that, while finally allowing the game to function, made the boards fragile. Proof can be found by the piles of Pole Position video PCBs with burnt edge connectors sitting on collectors' workbenches :). Working replacement Pole Position PCBs are very hard to find these days, and almost all of the known repair shops won't even look at them, much less attempt to fix them.

Les Lagier holds the official record for this game with 67,310 points.

A bootleg of this game is known as "Top Racer".

A Pole Position unit appears in the 1983 movie 'Joysticks'.

A Pole Position upright cabinet appears in the Judas Priest music video 'Freewheel Burning'. The gameplay shows the head of Rob Halford (lead singer) in the player's car :)

Parkers Brothers released a boardgame based on this videogame (same name) : Players put various movement cards (move 5, move 4, move rookie/move 2, move 2/shift track) in an attempt to be the first car around the track.


Differences between the Namco and the Atari version :

* On the title screen, Namco's original version say '1LAP 4359M', Atari's version convert this in : '1LAP 2. 709mi.'

* At the start of the game, a Goodyear blimp carries the white banner across the screen in the Namco version while a blimp with the word 'Atari' carries the white banner across the screen.

* The white banner that flies across the screen in the Namco version says 'Yosen Start!' on it accompanied by a woman's voice that says 'Yosen Start desu'. It means 'Preliminary Start'. The Atari version has the white banner and a woman's voice say 'PREPARE TO QUALIFY'.

* There are billboards for "Dig Dug" and "Centipede" in Atari's version, instead of 'Marlboro' and 'Pepsi' in Namco's version.


* Easter Egg :

1) Enter service mode.

2) Turn wheel to 04; Change the shifter from LO to HI.

3) Turn wheel to 45; Change the shifter from LO to HI.

4) Turn wheel to 55; Change the shifter from LO to HI.

5) Turn wheel to 56; Change the shifter from LO to HI.

6) Turn wheel to 91; Change the shifter from LO to HI.

'(c) 1982 NAMCO LTD.' will appear on the screen.


1. Pole Position (1982)

2. Pole Position II (1983)

3. Final Lap (1987)

4. Final Lap UR (1988)

5. Final Lap Twin (1989, NEC PC-Engine)

6. Final Lap 2 (1990)

7. Final Lap 3 (1992)

8. Final Lap R (1993)

9. Final Lap 2000 (2000, Bandai WonderSwan)

10. Final Lap Special (2001, Bandai WonderSwan Color)


Sound : Nobuyuki Ohnogi


* Consoles :

Atari 2600 (1983)

Atari 5200 (1983)

GCE Vectrex (1983)

Atari XEGS

Mattel Intellivision (1987)

Atari 7800 (1989)

Sony PlayStation (1995, "Namco Museum Vol.1")

Nintendo 64 (1999, "Namco Museum 64")

Sega Dreamcast (1999, "Namco Museum")

Sony PlayStation 2 (2001, "Namco Museum")

Nintendo GameCube (2002, "Namco Museum")

Microsoft XBOX (2002, "Namco Museum")

Sony PlayStation 2 (2005, "Namco Museum 50th Anniversary")

Microsoft XBOX (2005, "Namco Museum 50th Anniversary")

Nintendo GameCube (2005,"Namco Museum 50th Anniversary")

* Computers :

Atari 800 (1983)

Commodore VIC-20 (1983)

Commodore C64 (1983)

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (1983)

Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1984)

Amstrad CPC (1985)

PC [MS-DOS] (1986)

PC [MS Windows 95, 3.5''] (1995, "Microsoft Return of Arcade")

PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (2000, "Microsoft Return of Arcade 20th Anniversary")

PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (2005, "Namco Museum 50th Anniversary")

* Others :

Ms. Pac-Man TV Game (2004 - Jakk's Pacific)

Ms. Pac-Man TV Game Wireless Version (2005 - Jakk's Pacific)