The 15 Best Racing Games
Out of all the various genres, racing games have an extremely difficult job in separating themselves from the pack. In older days, the high end of the genre belonged to arcade types like Crusin' USA or OutRun, while console games had decidedly fewer thrills. Now, heavyweights like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport continually up the ante with better graphics, hundreds of cars, and endless customization options, like kart racers and others turn to smaller systems.
If you're not sure which racers are currently at the head of the pack, we've broken down the 15 essential titles that you should be playing. For the most detailed-minded gearheads to Nintendo fans looking for quick laps, there's a little bit of everything for your personal speed. Let's roll up to the starting line.
Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed and its predecessor Need for Speed: Shift are both parts of a branch of the main racing series, a franchise that EA decided to split up into different directions in an attempt to reach out to more racing game fans. The Shift games are considered the "simulation" branch because they offer up a much more realistic experience of driving cars.
Even though they are racing sims, the Shift games are much different than the twin-headed behemoth of Forza and Gran Turismo -- namely because the developers attempted to go deeper into the simulation's realism not in terms of the car, but in terms of the driver. In Shift and Shift 2, you'll feel the effects of going fast, from the tunnel vision you get at high speeds, to the disorientation you might feel after smacking off a wall. The Shift games have a unique enough take on what it means to simulate racing to set them apart from those other sim monsters.
14 | Motorstorm
Sony’s MotorStorm franchise proves that you don’t need to shoot for photorealistic visuals, or feature pristine, $100,000+ showroom vehicles, to pull off an exhilarating racing experience.
One of the biggest ways MotorStorm mixes things up is by allowing players to race in a large array of vehicles, including ATVs, rally cars, motorcycles, buggies, trucks, and others. Having this range of vehicle sizes, speeds, and handling styles is largely what sets the series apart from the Gran Turismos and Forzas of the world, and is what makes the core racing experience so fun and chaotic. And while the off-road series spawned several other games, such as the somewhat underwhelming, end-of-the-world-themed, MotorStorm: Apocalypse, we regard the original MotorStorm to be the best in the series.
13 | F1 2011
While F1 racing isn't particularly popular in the US, it's hugely popular everywhere else. And if you want to see what the fuss is all about, this game has it all. It's a fantastic simulation of the fastest racing on the planet, and enables you to run realistic-feeling seasons as a star driver.
F1 2011's graphics, effects and sound are top-notch, and the racing is fast. Very, very fast. It takes a while to get used to that speed, especially if you've played a lot of car-oriented games. Plus many of the tracks featured in this game aren't available in other games, also adding to the learning curve. But if you spend time with it, F1 2011 is a highly rewarding, technical racing game that's a must have for true, died-in-the-wool hardcore racing fanatics.