In the 1990s, developers created a racing game for the original Nintendo NES based on the legendary movie ‘Days of Thunder’. The game was not known about its existence because it was never published. Now, three decades later, enthusiasts have managed to retrieve it, rebuild it, and publish it.
Chris Oberth, one of the co-authors of the title and known to be responsible for great Commodore 64 games, passed away in 2012. Much of the hardware he owned and documents related to video games were donated earlier this year to Video Game History Foundation.
Foundation archivists soon began investigating all of that material. Among the floppy disks, backups, and other stuff, they found a video game concept that Oberth had worked on but was never made public.
It was under the name of ‘NINTENDO: HOT ROD TAXI, FINAL’ and it was a game for the NES based on ‘Days of Thunder’. There began the adventure to recover the video game.
In a stack of dozens of floppy disks of the time, the archivists came up with the backup of the real game and not just the proof of concept. The copy was divided into a total of 21 5.25 “floppy disks containing some ‘Days of Thunder’ related files. The problem? Recovering them was not as easy as the backup recovery program was not running correctly in the archivist’s emulator.
The Challenge To Rebuild the Game
As they tell in an article published in Game History, they found a volunteer who had an old computer capable of running the PCTools restoration program in native MS-DOS. This is how they managed to extract much of the video game’s source code. Much and not the whole, as some parts were distributed in other areas of the backup.
They comment from the foundation that the game has been compiled and works correctly. It is a racing game with perspective games to create a 3D effect. It doesn’t have all the features it was designed for yet, but they do indicate that in-game you can qualify for the race and compete smoothly. All this in glorious 8 bits and with a Tom Cruise raising the glass at the end of the race (if you win, of course).
Available on GitHub and plans for a cartridge version
As part of the foundation project, the game will be free to use and available on GitHub both to download and play and to modify it. They hope to be able to upload the ROM in the next few days for anyone to download and play on an emulator. If someone wants to modify or improve it, the tools with which they managed to recover and rebuild it will also come up.
Finally, they indicate that there are plans to create a physical cartridge version for the NES. The idea is to sell these cartridges and donate the money raised to the wife of Chris Oberth, co-author of the title three decades ago.
Retro games continue to stir passions even decades after their original release. Some have survived exceptionally well and are still playing today. The drive to bring the ‘Days of Thunder‘ game back to the original NES is further proof of that.