Have You Played… Midtown Madness?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

I installed Midtown Madness because I thought it looked like Crazy Taxi. But it wasn’t anywhere near as good.

I still got my kicks out of it though, and wasn’t totally disappointed when I finally ejected the free disc that came with the family’s new computer. You got to drive a Volkswagon Beetle around a open world Chicago and bash into cars with uncharacteristic strength, all according to some bonkers and adjustable physics.

Years later Burnout would finally perfect the ridiculous premise of being a personless car in the big city, and thank god, because if Midtown Madness had gotten as far as a fourth sequel I’m not certain how much nostalgic fondness for it would remain.


  1. Gothnak says:

    Back in the day everyone in the office had this installed, the cops and robbers mode was awesome.

    Motorbike Madness was longer lasting though, as was Powerslide… Ah the late 1990’s…

    • Uberwolfe says:

      Motocross Madness 2 was a beast of a game

      • grandstander says:

        God, was that the one with the sandbox mode that gave you acres of dirt hills to trick off of? Top-notch stuff

      • Gothnak says:

        Motocross, that’s the one.. (stupid brain).

  2. Seafoam says:

    I had no GTA’s as a kid, so this was my go to game for recless driving, running from cops and stunt jumping.
    Me and my friend always tried to recreate Blues Brothers scenes in it
    Had an absolute blast, i can still completely recall the maps from memory.

    I don’t know if it holds up by todays standards, but it is a good game nevertheless.

  3. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Oh my god, yes! I loved this game. Must have been the first open world 3D driving game I came across, as it’s clearly sub-par compared to Burnouts and GTAs, but at the time I’d never played anything like it. You could create your own short cuts! There were people and other road users to avoid! Amazing.

    Played again and again and again. I can still picture the shininess of the cars.

    • LexW1 says:

      In 1999 it was something pretty special, even if games soon after it were better. Plus it was on PC, and yeah those cars were so, so shiny. I remember smashing into a lot of objects, too. I feel like the visuals were almost emblematic of a certain look that existed, perhaps exclusively in PC games (I think Dreamcast had some that looked that way too), for just a year or three, but that was kind of cool.

  4. UppityTeapot says:

    Ah, Midtown Madness. This game and its sequel were incredibly major parts of my childhood, and probably held back my understanding of real-world physics by several years. :p

    Obviously the game was terrible, but as a kid-friendly open-world smash-’em-up, it was a winner.

    • Treners says:

      Yes! Wee me whiled away several hours driving around its Chicago (I think it was Chicago) with no greater purpose.

  5. gwop_the_derailer says:

    Midtown Madness still has some of the best open world racing to this day. Sprint races were truly open-ended, and sometimes completely chaotic with your opponents taking whatever routes they fancied. And unlike your Burnouts and Needs for Speed, no rubberbanding AI and you can actually spin out your opponents.

    I remember having difficulty completing a particularly tricky circuit race once, and in the end resorted to taking a big truck, blocking off choke points with it, and ramming my opponents to bits after they crashed into me. Finished the rest of the race at my leisure.

  6. Da5e says:

    J Nash’s review of this is worth a read, and is still up on his sadly-dormant Or Something site.

  7. 4004 says:

    oh yeah, considered a classic by some. I think there was a mobile version as well

  8. GameOverMan says:

    Midtown Madness on the MSN Gaming Zone and Unreal Tournament were my first online multiplayer experiences. The sequel was a better game but the car handling was worse in my opinion.

  9. Beefenstein says:

    LGR (link to youtube.com) likes it. That’s good enough for me!

  10. Stingy McDuck says:

    I remember playing a demo of it and thinking that it was pretty cool, because it was a game that allowed you could drive a car with “realistic” handling around a “realistic” city (take in mind that I was a kid back then and always dreamed of finally being able to drive).

    But being honest, I have fonder memories of a game with a similar premise: Test Drive III, the first 3D open world racing game I’ve ever played. That game was just too cool (even if it was very clunky), because you could drive anywhere in each map and every level just seemed infinite in extension. Actually I feel like loading it up again, just to see the extent of each level.

  11. Parrilla says:

    Midtown Madness 2 was the first PC game I ever played. Great memories of it. Felt great finally unlocking the Aston Martin.

  12. Curg says:

    Whilst we’re reminiscing about the “Madness” games, what about Monster Truck Madness?! That was one of my childhood favourites.

  13. skorpeyon says:

    We used to play this at LAN parties, a group of 4 of us. It was a ton of fun, especially once we started modding it with ridiculously designed maps and cars that could go up to 300mph.

  14. Ham Solo says:

    I loved that game, so amazing.

  15. bill says:

    I remember Midtown Madness 1 being awesome.
    Proper ‘real’ cities to drive around that actually looked/felt like the real places.
    The first proper open-world racer (that I know of).

    I was really hyped for Midtown Madness 2, but they made some minor tweaks to the physics and suddenly instead if smashing through that trash can and sending paper flying, it’d bring you crashing to a halt.
    So sad.

    I think number 1 deserves more recognition than it gets though.