To many, cars are simply a way of getting from point A to point B. But to gamers they are a way of doing so as quickly as possible, while leaving opponents trailing in your wake. The racing genre’s grid has always been full of fierce competitors. And there’s no indication that this will change any time soon with Gran Turismo 6 taking to the start/finish straight and next-gen exclusives such as Driveclub and The Crew.
And yet, we took it upon ourselves to compile the Top 10 Racing Games of all time. No easy feat let us tell you. If you have a favourite racing game, let us know in the comments, on Facebook or via Twitter.
10. Project Gotham Racing 4
While 2007’s PGR4 wasn’t a huge departure from the acclaimed Project Gotham Racing 3, it added a few key components. The most prominent addition was weather, which affected not only the look of the game, but the feel of the vehicle. And to keep people on their toes, the weather could change mid-race! The game featured 130 vehicles, including motorcycles for the first time, and added five new tracks to the series’ line-up of iconic tracks. The chances of a new Project Gotham Racing game are slim, but at least we’ll always have the memories of open-world Bulldog.
9. Gran Turismo 2
Gran Turismo 2 holds fond memories for me. Not only did I whittle away hours securing various licences and buying many of the whopping 650 cars, but it was the source of endless hours of competitive multiplayer action. With tire wear in effect, it was a careful balancing act between pushing all out and managing your tires. Just a tip, if you are going to try to go an extra lap longer, you may want to adjust your driving style or you’ll end up on the pit radio sounding like Lewis Hamilton!
8. Grand Prix 2
In the 1990s, F1 fans were well serviced, but the definitive game at the time was Grand Prix2. It included the full complement of circuits, teams and drivers along with liveries that reflected real life with tobacco sponsorships being replaced for certain races. The game catered for hardcore racing enthusiasts and casual racers thanks to its range of driving assists (which could be turned on and off as required). It also accommodated those who wanted a quick burst of action with its Quick Race mode and those who wanted to chase the glory of a Driver’s Championship. And heartbreak could set in at any time thanks to mechanical failures! Those were the days…
7. Forza Motorsport 3
Forza Motorsport 3 was one of the early releases on the Xbox 360 and acted as a statement of intent as to what Turn 10 Studios would be capable of. The game featured an extensive personalised single player season that included more than 200 events, more than 400 cars and more than 100 race track variations. One thing is for certain; it wasn’t possible to be bored while playing Forza 3! But racing wasn’t the only attraction, as players could capture and edit videos, tune the extensive range of vehicles, and even get kudos for their artistic skills.
While designer Yu Suzuki has retrospectively said that Out Run is a driving game, rather than a racing game, we’ll agree to disagree. Out Run is one of those legendary games that we felt had to be featured on a list involving motorsports and vehicles. It had a straightforward premise – get to the end of a stage before the timer ran out, while trying to keep yourself and your travelling companion in the car and avoid traffic along the way – and an enjoyable soundtrack. And there’s nothing like the feeling of hitting a checkpoint with the timer in single digits!
Blur was essentially Mario Kart for grownups. It featured real world cars and locales that made for interesting racetracks, arcade style handling and, most notably, weaponry. The single player offered a career mode of sorts with players earning ‘fan points’ for completing challenges, performing stunts and using the power-ups scattered throughout the racetrack. But the multiplayer is really what made Blur appealing. Four-player split screen races were a fantastic experience, as we’ve covered before, while online multiplayer catered for up to 20 players across a variety of game modes, including the often-overlooked Team Race.
4. Need for Speed: Most Wanted
2005’s Need for Speed: Most Wanted took many of the lessons and mechanics that EA had learned and developed over the course of the Need for Speed franchise and packaged them up into one neat experience. The career mode was compelling with 15 rivals to take down and an overarching story that was a little cheesy, but still fun. Driving was intense and fast-paced, but most importantly, it was fun. Rockport was an interesting area to drive around, the cars on offer were appealing, and the Milestone challenges were pretty diverse.
3. Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament
Ah, it was a simpler time; when everyday locations and objects such as the kitchen table became the race track for miniature toys. And yet, Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament was such a compelling experience. If you were good at the game, it was easy to get a lead, but the further ahead you got, and therefore the closer you were to earning a point, the more challenging it became as visibility of the race track ahead got shorter. With up to 8-player multiplayer, is really was gaming at its most chaotic and fun.
Grid made it into our prestigious Games of the Generation list and earns another accolade here. With handling that straddled the line between simulation and arcade, competitive AI, and a good mix of race modes, Grid was a fun racing game that tested players and ensured that every race meant something. Plus, if you play any racing game now, you’ll see the impact of Grid. Practically all have implemented a rewind or flashback mechanic, so that players aren’t mercilessly punished for a mistake.
1. Super Mario Kart
No list would be complete without an entry from the Mario Kart series. Who would have thought that a racing spinoff featuring characters from the platforming series would stand the test of time and earn a place in most living rooms? It’s one of the few games practically everyone has had some experience of (the others being solitaire, snake, and minesweeper of course), and one of the rare games in which everyone has “never been beaten at.” The formula hasn’t changed much since its initial outing, but as the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”