Like other Sega arcade racers, Indy 500 offers no choice of cars and only three tracks. Players can choose either automatic or manual transmission and switch between three different camera viewpoints while driving. The game is notable for simulating real world racing mechanics like drafting and tire wear. As the tires on the car wear down, the vehicle's grip decreases and it becomes more prone to sliding out of control. This can be remedied by driving through the pit lane on each track.
Indy 500 is a relatively faithful interpretation of the real Indianapolis 500 race track. As is the case in Daytona USA's easy track, Indy 500 has you merely drive around in circles turning left.
Indy 500's history is an odd one, having once been tipped for release on Sega Model 3 hardware, before being downgraded to the Model 2 platform after a series of delays with the hardware. As a product it is not too dissimilar to the earlier Daytona USA with similar rules and features (and has a real-world track license), although unlike Daytona USA, Indy 500 never saw the same levels of success.
Many Virtua Formula cabinets (i.e. enhanced versions of Virtua Racing) were converted into linked eight-player Indy 500 ones. These deluxe, full-motion simulators required an operator to run and were found at Sega World, Joypolis, and GameWorks venues.
As such, Indy 500 in its original form has never been ported to a home console, although was available in the form of a vastly simplified LCD game and for the Tiger R-Zone. The Game.com game Indy 500 is also said to be a loose interpretation of the arcade release - the situation is currently unclear, as despite sharing artwork, Sega did not lend their name to the product in any way.
Sega's Indy 500 should not be confused with the 1977 Atari 2600 Indy 500, or the 1997 PlayStationIndy 500 developed by Tomy.