The First Vehicular Combat Video Game Was?
Answer: Crashing Race
There’s a first for everything, including being the first company to put out a video game that involves unrepentant destruction of automobiles in pursuit of greatness. In this matter, Taito’s 1976 arcade release of the aptly named Crashing Race put it on the map as the creator of the first game in the “vehicular combat” genre.
Later games like the popular Mario Kart and Twisted Metal franchise games would greatly refine (and in the process define) the genre, but Crashing Race had all the key elements. The game, inside a hulking dual-steering wheel arcade cabinet, featured monochromatic race cars, a start and finish line, and, critical to the genre, it rewarded you for smashing the crap out of your competitors via vehicle-on-vehicle combat.
Alas, if you wanted to try it out and compare the fun factor against modern games (or even not so modern offerings from the 1980s), you’d be hard pressed to do so—the game is considered “lost” due to there being no known surviving cabinets or original game code.
Image courtesy of Taito.