Codex Gamicus

Hang-On (ハングオン Hangu On?) is a racing arcade game developed by Sega AM2, designed by Yu Suzuki, and released by Sega in 1985. It is the world's first full-body-experience video game.[5] In the game, the player controls a motorcycle against time and other computer-controlled bikes. It was one of the first arcade games to use 16-bit graphics and Sega's "Super Scaler" technology that allowed pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates.[6] The game was also built into some versions of the Sega Master System. The title is derived from when the biker is turning and has to "hang on" to the bike while the bike is leaning, which Suzuki had read in a Japanese bike magazine, though Suzuki learned later the technique was called "hang off" in North America. Nevertheless, he chose to keep the former name.[7]

The pseudo-3D sprite/tile scaling was handled in a similar manner to textures in later texture-mapped polygonal 3D games of the 1990s.[8] Designed by Sega AM2's Yu Suzuki, he stated that his "designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D."[9] The original arcade version was controlled using a cabinet resembling a motorbike, which the player moved with their body. This began the "Taikan" trend, the use of motion-controlled hydraulic arcade cabinets in many arcade games of the late 1980s, two decades before motion controls became popular on video game consoles.[10]

The game ran on the Sega Hang-On arcade system board, which later ran Space Harrier and Enduro Racer. Hang-On was ported to the Sega SG-1000 and Master System home consoles and the MSX home computer. It was followed by a sequel, Super Hang-On, released in 1987.


The title "Hang-On" was inspired by a turning technique of the same name used by motorbike racers that series creator Yu Suzuki found in a motorcycle magazine. Suzuki later learned that the technique in English is referred to as "hang off"; nevertheless, the name "Hang-On" stuck.

The arcade game was a popular Grand Prix style rear-view motorbike racer, considered the first full-body-experience video game, and was regarded as the first motorbike simulator for its realism at the time, in both the handling of the player's motorbike and the artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled motorcyclists. It used force feedback technology and was also one of the first arcade games to use 16-bit graphics. It introduced Sega's "Super Scaler" technology, which allowed rapid pseudo-3D sprite-scaling at high frame rates. In addition, the Yamaha YM2203 sound chip also introduced the use of digitized drums to the chiptune music.

Hang-On paved the way for Sega's subsequent "Super Scaler" arcade hits, such as Space Harrier, OutRun, After Burner, Thunder Blade, and Galaxy Force.


File:Hang-on arcade.png

in-game screenshot

Using a behind the motorcycle perspective, the player races a linear race track divided into several stages within a limited time. Reaching a checkpoint at the end of each stage extends the time limit. The game ends if the time runs out.

The arcade game contains in-game billboards for Bridgestone (and their Desert Dueler tires), Shell, Garelli Motorcycles, TAG, John Player Special cigarettes, Forum cigarettes, and for "Marbor," an obvious parody of Marlboro cigarettes. There would be a controversy over cigarette ads in games marketed to children upon the release of another Sega racing game, Super Monaco GP in 1989.

Arcade cabinet[]

There were three arcade cabinet designs—the usual upright machine only with a handlebar and brake levers (instead of a joystick and buttons), the upright machine with the addition of a seat, and a third version which looked roughly like a real motorcycle. To steer, the player leaned to tilt the bike, which then steered the in-game bike. The screen was mounted into the windshield area of the bike.


Arcade version[]

Upon release, the arcade game was critically acclaimed. It was reviewed by Clare Edgeley in the December 1985 issue of Computer and Video Games. She stated that Hang-On "is the most realistic racing game to hit the arcades for a long while." She described it as a "fantastic" and "thrilling ride" on a motor bike "you have to sit on" that is "life size" with "the throttle and brake" where "they would be on a real machine." She criticized the "expensive" price of 50 pence per play (equivalent to £1.37 or $2.09 in 2022) but noted, "with practice you will be able to stretch it for miles." She stated "the most unique feature is the act of cornering" where "you have to physically lean the bike over" and the "bike on screen follows suit" while not doing so has the bike "career straight off the track" but noted it requires "a bit of muscle power". She concluded that it combines "superb graphics" with "the physical act of riding a bike" and is "great."[11]

The arcade game also received a positive review in the February 1987 issue of Sinclair User, where it was reviewed again by Clare Edgeley, retrospectively. She stated that Hang-On "launched on an unsuspecting world" with a "totally new dimension of gaming", a "motor cycle which you could sit on and tilt from side to side to corner the bends." She described this as "Amazing" and "Such a simple idea" that she was "surprised someone didn't come up with it earlier." She noted that, when "cornering, the angle you need to tilt the bike corresponds to your speed", where "the faster you take a bend, the greater the angle you have to tilt the bike, and then remember to bring it back to the level for the straight", and the need to "dodge hazards and other bikers" by tilting "the bike slightly" to "slide out in that direction." She also noted that, since its release, Sega "seems to have cornered the market" for "bike simulations" with Hang-On and Enduro Racer.[12]

Master System version[]

 Reception (Master System)
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
Sega Retro 80% (5 reviews)[13]
Review scores
Publication Score
MicroMania 80%[14]
Sega Power 80%[15]
Sega Pro 78%[16]

The Master System port was also well received, with an average aggregate score of 80% at Sega Retro based on five reviews.[13] The September 1987 issue of Computer and Video Games gave the Master System version ratings of 8 for graphics and 8 for sound, with an overall score of 9 out of 10 for playability. The reviewer Paul described it as "head to head, high speed action" that "comes free when you" buy "the Sega System." He noted each "course is four kilometres long" and "the distance remaining is displayed at the top right-hand corner of the screen." He stated he was "wrong" to think it "would just be the bike version of World Grand Prix" and concluded, "Speed merchants who fancy a head to head challenge against the clock, go for Hang On."[17]

The January 1992 issue of Sega Pro gave the Master System version a generally positive retrospective review, giving it a 78% score. The praised the "fast moving action" where "you race around tracks trying to knock up record times." They criticized it, however, for lacking "some of the nice touches of the Mega Drive version," but concluded that Hang-On for the Master System is "still a damn fine racing game" and "very playable."[16]

Sequels and ports[]

In 1987, it was followed by a sequel Super Hang-On for arcade, and later for a range of platforms including the Sega Genesis, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga and Atari ST. A polygon based sequel, developed by Genki, was released for the Sega Saturn, named variously Hang-On GP '95 (Japan), Hang-On GP (USA) and Hang-On GP '96 (Europe). It also appeared for the Game Boy Advance as part of the compilation Sega Arcade Gallery.

In Power Drift, the motorcycle is a hidden vehicle and can only be accessed by finishing first place for all five tracks on courses A, C, and E. It is only playable in the Extra Stage.

In Sonic Riders, there is an unlockable Gear called the "Hang-On", which plays the song from this game during use. Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity has this gear as an unlockable (in the form of the sit-down arcade cabinet), however, collecting 100 rings and pressing a button during a race changes the gear (and main music) to the sequel's sit-down arcade cabinet and Outride a Crisis from said game.

The Dreamcast games Shenmue and Shenmue II both feature "Hang-On" as a mini-game as well as the ability to win miniature toy versions of the bikes from gashapon machines.

In Daytona USA, if "H.O" is entered on the high score table, a clip of the main theme from Hang-On will play.

Notes and references[]

External links[]