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Super Hang-On Review Rewind

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On 08/02/2022 at 09:00 AM by Jamie Alston

A Winning Run

Despite its sluggish controls and an arduous career mode, the fun factor of superbike racing still rings true here.

When I was a wee lad in the arcades, motorcycle racers were not often a priority for me to spend my quarters. I was too busy playing After Burner, Galaga, or Ms. Pac-Man. But one day, I saw something that stood out from the usual bunch- Sega’s Super Hang-On, initially released in 1987. As I hopped on the mechanical bike and blasted around that first corner, I knew it was worth every quarter spent. I was one with the road- until I crashed seconds later. While I never won the race or played it in the arcade again, I always remembered how much fun it was. Thankfully, most of the traits that made the coin-op version fun translated well on the Sega Genesis.

At the outset, you can select either the Arcade or Original mode. Each of the four courses in Arcade Mode- America, Europe, Africa, Asia- corresponds to a difficulty setting with an increasing number of checkpoints, or “stages.” Africa is the easiest and shortest course with six stages. Europe is the most challenging course spanning 18 checkpoints. As in the first game, the goal is to beat the clock by racing from checkpoint to checkpoint as quickly as possible until you reach the end of the course.

You’ll want to avoid the signs, bushes, and rocks on the side of the road, lest you get thrown from your bike, which eats up precious seconds needed to reach the next checkpoint. Naturally, you’ll compete with other bikers for space on the road. The good news is that, should you bump into the other guy, your bike won't get blown to kingdom come like it did in the last game. But you will lose significant speed if you habitually clip them. So watch where you point those wheels. Unfortunately, they habitually get in the way at the worst time on steep turns.

New in this game is the ability to use your bike's supercharger after reaching its standard top speed. If you liked using the turbo boost in Rad Racer, you'd like it here just as much. Also, certain sections of the courses have straightaways that you’d do well to take advantage of to shave seconds off your time to reach the next checkpoint. The caveat to the more difficult stages is the increasing series of steep bends and s-curves dampening opportunities to build up enough speed to use the supercharger.

The other half of Super Hang-On is the original mode- best described as a tacked-on career mode. Here, you play as a racer competing against a rival for cash. The races are a lapped section of locations from the Arcade Mode. You win by getting a better lap time than your unseen rival. You also have a sponsor that will fork up the cash for every race you win (or lose) and a mechanic that helps to keep your bike in working order and tells you when you need to change your parts. But this is also where things get a bit tedious.

Repeatedly colliding with other riders or other hazards can become quite costly. It caught me by surprise the first time I experienced being forced to forfeit the race due to the frame on my bike becoming too damaged to ride. Even if you never crash, you’ll still be tasked with routine maintenance purchases like new tires, replacing oil, brakes, etc. Keeping your bike in proper working order severely drains the meager funds you initially have. As a result, this mode’s difficulty feels front-loaded. Granted, it gets easier once you can afford better parts, but some might see it as too slow and arduous of a process to be worth the time.

It’s worth noting that you can also import your career mode bike into the arcade mode via password entry. If your bike is equipped with top-tier parts, you can sense the difference when you activate the supercharger or take on turns at high speeds while maintaining more traction on the road than possible on the standard arcade setup. It almost feels like cheating- and you’ll love it. Most importantly, it’s a decent incentive to spend the time necessary to purchase the best equipment in original mode. 

The graphics were as good as possible for an early arcade-to-Genesis conversion. One of the most significant differences in the Genesis version is the game's speed. It isn't nearly as fast as the arcade version, which becomes quite evident upon starting the race. However, the game still runs at a decent speed after you adjust to the difference in performance. But starting the game in original mode with a bare-bones bike is painful, as it performs significantly slower than in the arcade mode. On the other hand, everything else about the game is very accurate to the arcade version.

The controls are also a little sluggish in response. It’s especially noticeable when attempting to drift through a corner or apply the brakes to avoid crashing into a hazard. In the arcade version, easing off the accelerator feels silky smooth, and you can easily navigate sharp turns. But here on the Genesis, there seems to be about a half-second lag between releasing the button and the bike reacting to slow down. This adds an extra layer of caution, requiring you to anticipate the curve's steepness so that you can give the bike enough time to respond to the controller input, making the navigating of hairpin turns and repeated s-curves quite daunting on the more challenging courses.

Super Hang-On, much like OutRun, has a soundtrack reminiscent of the synth-rock music of the 80s. One of four songs can be selected before starting the race- Outride a Crisis, Sprinter, Winning Run, and Hard Road. While I enjoy all of the selections, my favorite two are Winning Run and Hard Road. The compositions are somewhat dramatically inclined. Not what I initially would have expected, but it still works for the game.

Super Hang-On ranks pretty high with most Sega fans as an early Genesis port that delivered the goods. While the system couldn't reproduce the same sense of speed or the pixel scaling of its arcade counterpart, it got everything else right. In addition, the original mode makes it worth looking into for anyone curious enough to get their feet wet with some simulation-style gameplay elements.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

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Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Cary Woodham

08/02/2022 at 09:56 AM

I didn't play Super Hang On in arcades much but I certainly saw it everywhere.  But more than that, I heard it everywhere because for some reason they always had the volume turned up super loud no matter which arcade I went to.  So I'd always hear that little 'dong...dong....donggg.." title screen diddy no matter where I was in the arcade.

Super Step Contributing Writer

08/02/2022 at 11:24 AM

When I fire up what I think is the arcade version in Yakuza, I always wish that actual kiosk was there for me to ride. 


08/02/2022 at 11:14 PM

I definitely remember this one in arcades. It looked pretty neat. Sega probably did the most graphically advanced arcade games of any company.

The SNES got a port of Namco's Suzuka 8 Hours, which utilized Mode 7. It had split-screen racing and was pretty smooth.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

08/15/2022 at 04:46 PM

I've always enjoyed Sega arcade games of the 80s. It was such a watershed moment for gaming at the time.


03/31/2023 at 03:46 PM

I only ever played this on the Sega Genesis, it was on a cartridge with a couple of other games late in the Genesis lifecycle. I loved it, though. Enough so that I bought it when they ported it onto the PS3. I suck at it, but it's still fun.

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