Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
Trackmania Nations Forever was, I guess, a free-to-play version of the multiplayer stunt racer. I say “I guess” because I never spent any money on it and don’t even remember seeing things you could spend money on.
Trackmania is Trackmania is Trackmania, but if you don’t know: there’s a car, it goes fast; there’s a track, it has holes and jumps and turbo pads and loops; and you compete online or in leaderboards to get the fastest time. It’s the kind of racing game you can comfortably play using your keyboard’s arrow keys without feeling as if you’re betraying some underlying physics system. You’ll crash a lot, banging into corners and falling off the track, but restarts and resets are instant.
In Nations Forever, I spent hundreds of hours incrementally learning tracks till I could finish them, and then continued to lower my times hundreds more. The reward for this was the kinetic pleasure of mastering the tracks, but also climbing the regional leaderboards. I’d work on finishing tracks faster till I was high up the rankings for the south west of England. Buoyed with pride, I’d look at the leaderboard for the entire country or even for Europe, and instantly scurry back to the regional leaderboards.
Trackmania is Trackmania is Trackmania, but Nations Forever was the only Trackmania that was free. It’s made me a lifelong fan.