Death Race, also known as Death Race 2000 is a controversial arcade game, released by Exidy in the United States in 1976. Approximately 500 copies of the game were made. The game is inspired by the 1975 cult film Death Race 2000. It continued Exidy’s series of chase and crash games, following Destruction Derby from 1975.
In the game one or two players control an on-screen car with a steering wheel and an acceleration pedal. The object is to run down “gremlins” who are fleeing the vehicle. As the player hits them, they scream or squeal and are replaced on-screen by tombstones. This increases the challenge of the game as the screen clutters up and the player has to avoid the tombstones. The game was designed by Howell Ivy.
The cabinet is black with white graphics of a muscle car racing through a cemetery with a vulture in a tree looking on. The marquee and monitor bezel are colorful. A limited number had white sides with the artwork in black, instead of the reverse. It was in an upright standard style. GameSpot writes, “Web lore claims only 500 copies of the game were made with only several known to exist by the late 1980s.
Although the graphics are primitive and monochrome, the “gremlins” resemble stick figures, and the game’s working title had been Pedestrian. In spite of Exidy president Pete Kaufman’s denial that the intent of the game was to promote violence, Death Race provoked media criticism. The National Safety Council called it “gross”. The CBS news program 60 Minutes broadcast an investigation into the psychological impact of video games, and the game was covered on NBC’s Weekend news show, and in the National Enquirer. Death Race is rated on several “most controversial video game” lists.