Death Race Video Game Controversy

Long before Grand Theft Auto was freaking everyone out, we had the Death Race Video Game Controversy. Death Race is till a controversial arcade game. It was released by Exidy in the United States in 1976 and they only made about 500 of these cabinets. This makes this infamous game a difficult one to find. I was lucky enough to be able to play it at the Musée Mécanique in San Francisco.

Death Race was controversial because it appeared to promote vehicular violence. Even though Exidy took great pains to describe the human stick figures you are running over a “gremlins”, people were not buying it. The media lashed out. It did not help that the game’s working title was Pedestrian and appeared to be inspired by the 1975 cult film Death Race 2000.

Here is an example of the media reaction at the time in the form of a newspaper article. It hangs right next to the machine at the Musée Mécanique.

death race video game article

Controversial, maybe. But did it contribute to an increase in violence? No. It also did not do so well for Exidy. This was probably partly due to the backlash.

As you might guess from the year of its release, the game does not have anything resembling modern video game violence. By today’s standards, it is quite tame. Here is some game-play footage. I hope it does not turn your stomach or worse, turn you into a homicidal maniac.

Death Race Game-play Video

I played a couple of games of Death Race. It handled pretty well and was kind of fun. You won’t find many of these games out in the wild, but if you are at one of their know locations, make sure you drop a few quarters into one. According to online sources you can find Death Race machines at Musée Mécanique in San Francisco, the Galloping Ghost Arcade in Illinois, and Fun Spot in New Hampshire.

If you do play, I would love to hear about your experience. At least share how well you did. According to the game, I am an Expert Drive. So try and beat that.

death race scoring

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I played this when it came out. It was in the arcade of the Park City Mall in Lancaster, PA.

  2. From all the comments I have gotten today in various places, we have identified where 2% of all the original Death Race games originally landed.

  3. We had one at the Goldmine in the Almeda Mall in Houston Texas.

  4. One of these popped up at my big city mall in Montreal, QC during that period.

    I had recently caught Corman’s surreal car action/horror flick at the drive-in and was DR2000-mad – drawing the cars, asploding them and mashing imaginery people using Matchbox theater of the mind.

    This arcade game was ‘better-than-life’ and only stayed at that mall for one or two visits.
    I’m pretty sure I got good at it fast, cuz I went back to it a few times, even in that short a time-span.
    Gremlin-Hunter quite possibly, as I wanted to impress my dad with my driving skills.

    eh…maybe that’s why it took a few extra years to get my driver’s permit, later on.

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