Top 100 Games of All-Time: #41

Midnight Club II

Release Date: April 9, 2003

Platform Played On: PS2

2018 Placement: #34 (-7)

What It Is:

A straightforward arcade racer from back in the day when Rockstar made games that weren’t GTAV or RDR2. I never played the original Midnight Club, but its sequel is an absolute delight of a racing game. It is a street racing game and gives you unobstructed streets to drive through for each race. You find your opponents and challenge them in the city, and while there are checkpoints you have to go through, it’s up to you to find the best way to hit all of them as you drive through each of the three cities.

This game is a little more grounded in its arcade racing aspect: the later editions of the game added car-based superpowers which made the game a little more game-y. This focuses more on the typical skills you find in racing games: slipstream and the like. And it is missing the customization that is available in more modern games. But working your way through opponents to finally race each city’s champion still feels good and the actual gameplay of the racing makes this one my favorite of the series.

Why It’s Important To Me:

I’ve never been a huge realistic racing game fan – games like Gran Turismo I could just never get into. And more arcade-style games like Burnout 3 and Spilt/Second I do enjoy playing, but the feel of the racing tends to come second to the excitement of smashy-crashy. Midnight Club II finds the right balance of what I love about in-game video driving without going too balls-to-the-wall.

It also has an absolutely stellar licensed soundtrack, which is unfortunately why it’s not available digitally since Rockstar didn’t want to continue to pay for a lot of the songs’ use. I somewhat credit this game for unlocking my interest in techno and trance music as it has several songs that I would listen to over and over as I cruised through the cities. From Rococco by Kansai to Stealth by Art of Trance, the trance music in this game was legendary.

My Strongest Memory:

I beat every racer but the very last champion in the entire game. While I definitely enjoyed Midnight Club 3 and Los Angeles, both of them, much like other racing games, got harder and harder as you progressed in the game to the point where to succeed against the AI you had to be near perfect. And this was before you got to the fun cars. At least in Midnight Club II, the near perfect race was only required for the final boss of the game. And yeah some of the later races were difficult but it felt manageable.

It was really frustrating to see my completion percentage on my save file be that close to 100% and not being able to beat the last race, but it’s the closest I’ve ever come to completing a full racing game. And that’s another reason why I love this game – it felt manageable in a way a lot of other games didn’t due to how racing AI tends to work.

Why It’s #41:

I love driving to techno/trance music. It’s one of the best ways for me to relax, even if it’s in a high-tension racing scenario. Just navigating the cities to Rococco was a great way for me to find my zen place, so I’ll always rank this particular racer highly.