Lost In Translation/Pole Position

From ExoticA
Out Run (Arcade version)
Out Run (Sinclair ZX Spectrum version)

This page is a stub for arcade games that are part of the Lost In Translation series using information based on MAME (version 0.113u2).
For an example of preferred content and layout please refer to Out Run or The Ninja Warriors.

Pole Position
Pole Position marquee.
No screen shot.
Pole Position control panel.
Manufacturer Namco
Released 1982
1 Button(s)
Main CPU Z80 (@ 3.072 MHz)
(2x) Z8002 (@ 3.072 MHz)
MB8844 (@ 256.000 kHz)
Sound CPU Stereo
Namco (@ 48.000 kHz)
Namco 52XX (@ 1.536 MHz)
Raster (Horizontal)
256 x 224 pixels
60.61 Hz
3,840 Palette colours
Screens 1
ROM Info 44 ROMs
201,280 bytes (196.56 KiB)
MAME ID polepos · polepos1 · poleposa · topracer · topracra · topracrb

About The Game

Pole Position is a chase-view racing arcade video game.

The game action takes place at Fuji Speedway in Japan. The country around the speedway consists of green meadows, hills, and snow-capped Mt. Fuji.

The player drives a Formula-1 race car on the Fuji Speedway. The object of the game is to finish the qualifying lap as quickly as possible. If the player beats the clock, he qualifies for the Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway; if not, he drives out the remainder of his time along the qualifying course.

As a qualifier, the driver is ranked according to his qualifying lap time, from position one (the pole position) to position eight. The player then races against the clock and other cars to finish the specified number of laps ('Nr. of Laps' dip switch setting; 3 laps is the default) of the race as fast as possible and to achieve the highest score possible. The player earns points for passing cars, driving on the track, and finishing the race with time remaining. He is rewarded with an extended-play lap for completing the first lap within a certain amount of time (depending on the 'Extended Rank' dip switch setting).

The game starts with the player's car behind the starting line and a certain amount of time, in seconds, on the clock ('Game Time' dip switch setting; the default is 90 seconds). The car must finish the qualifying lap within a certain amount of time (which varies depending on the 'Practice Rank' dip switch setting) to be in the race. If the player does not qualify, his car continues on the track until the time is used up.

The starting lights flash from red to green, and the race begins. Racing hazards are other racing cars, sharp turns, road signs, and water puddles. (All of these hazards are also present on the qualifying lap with the exception of water puddles.) As the race progresses, more cars appear on the track. If the driver's car hits another car or a road sign, the driver's car is destroyed in an explosion. The driver's car reappears in a few seconds and the race continues. Driving through water puddles or off the track slows down the driver's car.

Racing into the first turn, the driver must let up on the accelerator slightly to make the corner. Road signs flash along the side of the track. Depending on how well the player manipulates the controls, he can either roar through the hairpin turns like a champion or spin out in a flaming crash. He jockeys for position with the other racers, while keeping his eye on the clock at the top of the screen. When his time runs out, the race is over.

The top score achieved by a player appears at the top of the screen. The time allotted for the lap is displayed under the top score. Increasing lap time (in seconds and hundredths of a second) and the speed of the car appears last.


Released in September 1982.

Also released as "Pole Position [Cockpit model]".

Also licensed to Atari for US manufacture and distribution (November 1982). Approximately 20,400 units were produced by Atari (~17,250 Uprights and ~3,150 Cockpits).

This game was one of the choices presented to Bally/Midway from Namco for sub-licensing. Bally/Midway chose "Mappy" while Atari was left with Pole Position. Pole Position went on to become the biggest game of 1983.

When Pole Position was introduced in 1982, players lined up in arcades around the world to grip the steering wheel and stomp on the gas pedal of a driving game so realistic that the players -- just like their cars -- were swerving around the corners. Pole Position was a 14-carat contribution to the golden age of video games. Pole Position started the trend for photo-realism in video game graphics. In addition to great graphics, it had great game play and it was a huge success, dominated game charts for almost about 2 years.

This was the first driving game to be based on a real circuit : The action takes place at Fuji Speedway in Japan. The snow-capped Mt. Fuji appears in the background.

A Place In Video Game History

"Pole Position stands out as the racing game that really appealed to the general public," said Chris Lindsey, director of the National Video Game and Coin-Op Museum in St. Louis. "It went into arcades across the nation, where it can still be found. Pole Position machines were placed everywhere -- even in gas stations!". The popularity of Pole Position was based on its realism. Players felt as if they were actually in the driver's seat. "Racing games before Pole Position tended to have a top-down perspective in which you floated over the course, which wasn't terribly realistic," Lindsey said. "Pole Position's eye-level point of view gave it a great deal of realism, and this point of view became a standard for racing games that followed. In addition, it provided a lot of peripheral cues. You saw lots of things zipping by on the side of the screen and this really added to the excitement of the game. Pole Position also had great sound. You could hear the gears winding out in the stretches. As you zipped by another car, you could hear that car's engine. All of these details added to the overall effect. Pole Position was, and still is, an awfully nice game.".

The Great 25-cent Escape

Chris Lindsey believes that a big reason why Pole Position has remained such a timeless classic is that it has always appealed to women, in addition to men. "I think there are quite a few game developers who would like to figure out why some games appeal to females," Lindsey said. "Perhaps this is just pop psychology, but I've seen two types of games women will take to : racing games, and games in which the character, or your representation on screen, is doing something besides destroying bad guys. I don't know if that's the correct way to describe it, but that is what I've seen. I've had occasion to work in different types of entertainment facilities, large and small, very modern and, of course, the museum. Without fail I see women take to "Pac-Man", and I see them take to racing games, almost regardless of what the racing game is.".

Lindsey said the comparative lack of violence in Pole Position and other racing games might explain their popularity with women -- as well as with men. "I think violence in games is fairly thoughtless for men, and for some women, the violence in a video game may stick out," Lindsey said. "Violence in gaming is not an experience that most people seek even though they like video games. When those people find games that are engaging, and that offer outstanding game play, there is a desire on their part to dive into it. These racing games really offer that.".

Namco Notes

The engineers who created Pole Position knew they had created something special when a steering wheel was first connected to the prototype game in their lab. Later, when Pole Position was released, engineers visiting the arcades found that the waiting lines were so long that they curled back and forth within the arcade and then extended out the door.

Pole Position is widely cursed by collectors as having the worst hardware design of any arcade game released in the 1980s. Internal documents that have recently surfaced bear this fact out. The circuit board underwent a large number of modifications and design changes that, while finally allowing the game to function, made the boards fragile. Proof can be found by the piles of Pole Position video PCBs with burnt edge connectors sitting on collectors' workbenches :). Working replacement Pole Position PCBs are very hard to find these days, and almost all of the known repair shops won't even look at them, much less attempt to fix them.

Les Lagier holds the official record for this game with 67,310 points.

A bootleg of this game is known as "Top Racer".

A Pole Position unit appears in the 1983 movie 'Joysticks'.

A Pole Position upright cabinet appears in the Judas Priest music video 'Freewheel Burning'. The game-play shows the head of Rob Halford (lead singer) in the player's car :)

Parker Brothers released a board game based on this video game (same name) : Players put various movement cards (move 5, move 4, move rookie/move 2, move 2/shift track) in an attempt to be the first car around the track.


Differences between the Namco and the Atari version :

  • The Atari version has an extra dip switch setting ('Speed Unit') that allows the user to toggle between using the English system and the Metric system to measure the distance of one lap around the track (as shown on the title screen) and the speed of the player's car (as shown on the upper-right corner of the screen during game play). By default, the game uses the Metric system. Namco's original version does not have this dip and exclusively uses the Metric system.
  • On the title screen, the distance of one complete lap around the track is displayed. Namco's original version gives this distance in meters ('1LAP 4359M'). In Atari's version, if the 'Speed Unit' dip is set to 'km/h', the distance is expressed in kilometers and thousandths of a kilometer (1 LAP 4.359 km); if it is set to "mph" the distance is expressed in miles and thousandths of a mile (1LAP 2.709mi.').
  • At the start of the game, a Goodyear blimp carries the white banner across the screen in the Namco version while a blimp with the word 'Atari' carries the white banner across the screen in the Atari version.
  • If the player qualifies for the race in the Atari version, the white banner's message reads 'PREPARE TO RACE' while the voice can be heard saying, 'Nice driving--you've qualified for the race!'


  • Points are scored for every foot of track driven.
  • At the end of the game, 50 points are scored for each car the driver passed.
  • Finishing the game awards 200 points for each second left on the timer.

Qualifying Lap Placement Bonus (Qualifying times listed below assume the 'Practice Rank' dip is at its default setting) :

Time Position Points
58.50 1st place 4,000
60.00 2nd place 2,000
62.00 3rd place 1,400
64.00 4th place 1,000
66.00 5th place 800
68.00 6th place 600
70.00 7th place 400
73.00 8th place 200

Tips and tricks

Hints for Game Play

  1. Avoid puddles and the sides of the track because these slow you down.
  2. Accelerate and stay ahead of other racers.
  3. Stick to the inside of the track to make the corners.
  4. Successful completion of a turn depends on braking skill.
  5. When sliding, steer into the skid.
  • Instead of pressing down on the gas pedal for acceleration, placing your foot underneath the gas pedal and lifting the pedal up with your instep caused the car to go even faster.

Easter Egg

  1. Enter service mode.
  2. Turn wheel to 04; Change the shifter from LO to HI.
  3. Turn wheel to 45; Change the shifter from LO to HI.
  4. Turn wheel to 55; Change the shifter from LO to HI.
  5. Turn wheel to 56; Change the shifter from LO to HI.
  6. Turn wheel to 91; Change the shifter from LO to HI.

'(c) 1982 NAMCO LTD.' will appear on the screen.


  1. Pole Position [Upright model] (1982)
    Pole Position [Cockpit model] (1982)
  2. Pole Position II (1983)
  3. Final Lap (1987)
  4. Final Lap UR (1988)
  5. Final Lap Twin (1989, NEC PC-Engine)
  6. Final Lap 2 (1990)
  7. Final Lap 3 (1992)
  8. Final Lap R (1993)
  9. Final Lap 2000 (2000, Bandai WonderSwan)
  10. Final Lap Special (2001, Bandai WonderSwan Color)


Nobuyuki Ohnogi

Cabinet and Artwork


Atari 2600 (1983)
Atari 5200 (1983)
GCE Vectrex (1983)
Atari XEGS
Mattel Intellivision (1987)
Atari 7800 (1989)
Sony PlayStation (1995, "Namco Museum Vol.1")
Nintendo 64 (1999, "Namco Museum 64")
Sega Dreamcast (1999, "Namco Museum")
Sony PlayStation 2 (2001, "Namco Museum")
Nintendo GameCube (2002, "Namco Museum")
Microsoft XBOX (2002, "Namco Museum")
Sony PlayStation 2 (2005, "Namco Museum 50th Anniversary")
Microsoft XBOX (2005, "Namco Museum 50th Anniversary")
Nintendo GameCube (2005, "Namco Museum 50th Anniversary")
Atari 800 (1983)
Commodore VIC-20 (1983)
Commodore C64 (1983)
Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (1983)
Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1984)
Amstrad CPC (1985)
PC [MS-DOS] (1986)
PC [MS Windows 95, 3.5"] (1995, "Microsoft Return of Arcade")
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (2000, "Microsoft Return of Arcade 20th Anniversary")
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (2005, "Namco Museum 50th Anniversary")
Ms. Pac-Man TV Game (2004 - Jakk's Pacific)
Ms. Pac-Man TV Game Wireless Version (2005 - Jakk's Pacific)

Soundtrack Releases

Album Name Catalogue No. Released Publisher Comments
Video Game Music YLR-20003[1] 1984-04-25 Alfa Vinyl version.
The Best of Video Game Music 32XA-66[2] 1986-04-25 Alfa CD version.
Video Game Music YLC-20003[3] 1984-04-25 Alfa Cassette version.
Video Game Music SCDC-00003[4] 2001-03-23 Scitron Digital Content, Inc. CD version.
Super Famicom Magazine Volume 3 - New Game Sound Museum TIM-SFC03[5] 1992-01-01 Tokuma Shoten Publishing CD version.
Arcade Ambiance 1983 N/A[6] 2003-01-01 Andy Hofle Digital download only.

External Links


The contents of this page are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The sources used include MAME (version 0.113u2) and history.dat (revision 1.28 - 2008-10-18).
Please see http://www.arcade-history.com for credits.