August 2, 2021

The 20 best racing games to play in 2021 • Eurogamer.net

About a decade ago, racing games seemed to be a genre on their way out – arcade racers like Blur and Split/Second weren’t selling, great studios were closing and even mainstream series like Need for Speed were struggling to get the attention they once had. Outside of a Mario Kart or a Gran Turismo, it seemed the days of the big-ticket racing game, and of the genre as an exciting mass-market draw, were over.

Happily for racing fans, things now look much better. Forza Horizon made driving games cool again, indie studios have resurrected the joys of the 90s-style arcade racer, the PC simulation racing scene is more competitive than it’s ever been, and Codemasters has ridden a successful stint on the Formula One licence all the way to an incredible $1.2 billion acquisition by EA, which shows just how highly racing games are valued now.

Here we present our picks of the best racing games to play right now – mostly modern, because this is a genre that tends to improve with technology, but with a classic or two that has stood the test of time thrown in. As usual, we’re focusing on games that are easy to find and play on current hardware. To break things up a bit, we’ve divided out list four sub-genres: open-world racing games that combine racing and exploration over a large map; arcade racing games which are all about immediacy and fun, and less about realism; motorsport games based on licensed real-world sports; and sim racing games which concentrate on the authenticity of the driving experience.

THE BEST OPEN-WORLD RACING GAMES

Forza Horizon 4

Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

It started out as a spin-off from the Forza Motorsport circuit-racing series, but Forza Horizon has now become the main event: a beautiful, uplifting series of racing games for everyone set across huge, real-world-inspired maps. Horizon 4 – which also features in our lists of best Game Pass games and best Xbox Series X/S games – brings the formula to the UK, home of developer Playground Games, in a loving package that includes the sprawling campaign, knockabout multiplayer, moreish car collection and festival good vibes we expect from Horizon games. New to this edition, and a sign of things to come, are a fully persistent multiplayer map and a weekly schedule of new activities to keep you engaged. Put simply, it’s the complete modern racing game.

Ian is silly in Forza Horizon 4.

Want to read more? See our full Forza Horizon 4 review and buy it now from Amazon.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch

Given that the series would soon return to its familiar slump, it’s easy to forget that, for a brief period with Criterion at the reins, the Need for Speed games served up some of the best driving experiences around. Hot Pursuit’s crunchy combat and wide-open roads drilled into everything that makes Need for Speed great, and this remaster only reinforces the impression that this was a high watermark for the series. We await Criterion’s fresh stint at the helm with baited breath.

Digital Foundry looks at the next-gen upgrades for Hot Pursuit.

Want to read more? See our full Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered interview and buy it now from Amazon.

Burnout Paradise Remastered

PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Before Criterion took over Need for Speed, it created the legendary arcade racing series Burnout, which took the elegant boosting and drifting of 90s classics like Ridge Racer and Daytona and reframed them for the 00s as a grimy contact sport – all screen shake, sideswipes and twisted metal. 2008’s Burnout Paradise was even more of a trailblazer, with its open-world map and completely open gameplay framework. It’s not surprising that such a daringly modern game should age so well, as it has in this lovely remaster. (Now remaster Burnouts 2 and 3 as well please!)

Just how good is Burnout Paradise on Switch? DF investigates.

Want to read more? See our full Burnout Paradise Remastered review and buy it now from Amazon.

THE BEST ARCADE RACING GAMES

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Switch

You can gather a few friends and play any Mario Kart game, right back to the 1992 Super Nintendo original, and be guaranteed a good time. Every game in the series boasts refined arcade handling, tricksy courses, a lovable cast of characters and a capricious cruel streak that can turn any race on its head. No wonder these are the best-selling racing games ever. The latest, Mario Kart 8 – the Deluxe version of which features in our list of the best Switch games – might be the best Mario Kart since the very first, with superb local and online multiplayer, a rewarding solo game, deep customisation, luscious visuals and a banging live-band soundtrack.

Want to read more? See our full Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review and buy it now from Amazon.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled

PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Crash Team Racing is what happens when a bandwagon-jumping, off-brand cover version of a supposedly inimitable hit – Mario Kart, of course – is made by one of the most talented studios in the world, Naughty Dog. It doesn’t deviate far from the source material at all, but it gets everything exactly right, and the end result is hugely entertaining. All the same things can be said of this faultless, better-than-you-remember-it remake by Beenox. If you’re not playing on Switch, or if you just love Crash, Nitro-Fueled can’t be beat for local multiplayer fun.

The video team plays a bit of CTR.

Want to read more? See our full Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled review and buy it now from Amazon.

Inertial Drift

PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Some modern arcade racers can be a little too betrothed to their iconic predecessors, and while, yes, Inertial Drift does take several leaves out of Ridge Racer Type 4’s book, it emerges as entirely its own thing. Thank the unique twin-stick drift mechanic for that, one that takes the slightest acclimatisation – but once you’ve got your head and your fingers around it, there’s nothing quite like it.

Inertial Drift car powerslides at night

Want to read more? See our full Inertial Drift review.

Art of Rally

PC

There are plenty of retro racers around that play like cover versions of past classics, but Art of Rally is something a bit more subtle and original than that. It pays tribute to the golden age of rallying with its toylike, unlicensed car designs, and to a lost era of racing games like Micro Machines with its unusual top-down camera. It’s definitely an aesthetic, and a very stylish one at that. But what makes the game so fun is the surprisingly deep handling model that makes it a better recreation of the sport than you have any right to expect.

Some Art of Rally gameplay.

Want to read more? See our full Art of Rally review.

Wreckfest

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

This wonderful banger-racer – which, just like Art of Rally, boasts many iconic and completely unlicensed cars (shhh, don’t tell the manufacturers) – channels the classic Destruction Derby, as well as the fondly remembered Flatout. That’s not surprising, as it’s by the original Flatout studio Bugbear. It’s a simple formula, but has everything that you need: old cars with weighty, wallowing handling that lurch and smash and lunch each other’s bodywork convincingly thanks to a brilliant physics engine. Simple pleasures.

Wreckfest’s console release trailer.

Want to read more? See our full Wreckfest review and buy it now from Amazon.

TrackMania Turbo

PC, PS4, Xbox One

TrackMania is one of those odd little corners of gaming that is almost its own genre: a brutally fast and difficult stunt-driving time-trial game with hugely exaggerated physics that allow for impossible feats of what you can only call airborne car ballet. The PC games have a fantastic, dedicated community, but are bewilderingly fussy in their structure and business models, and last year’s reboot, simply called TrackMania, is no different. So allow us to direct you instead to this fantastic 2016 primer in all things Trackmania, made for consoles but also available on PC. It’s far more accessible while sacrificing none of the series’ legendary, just-one-more-restart, obsessive edge.

Cars race up vertical track in TrackMania Turbo

Want to read more? See our full TrackMania Turbo review and buy it now from Amazon.

Wipeout Omega Collection

PS4

This lush package is currently the best way to play the iconic, futuristic PlayStation racing series – the original ultra-fast anti-grav racer, and still the best, even if the PS3 and Vita entries remastered here (HD, Fury and 2048) are not quite of the blistering calibre of the original PlayStation games from the mid-90s. They are still gloriously slick, fast and beautiful, retaining the clean and cool sci-fi aesthetic that has always set the series apart from its brasher competitors.

Digital Foundry look at Wipeout Omega Collection running on PS4 Pro.

Want to read more? See our full Wipeout Omega Collection review and buy it now from Amazon.

SEGA AGES Out Run

3DS, Switch

We usually favour recent releases over retro classics in our best-of lists, but a handful of oldies play as fresh now as they ever did, and that goes for this blast of summer breeze from 1986. Sega’s stone-cold classic of free-wheeling road racing is available on Switch in this lovely version by the remaster artists at M2 – although, if you still have a 3DS, it’s even better on that machine, with the stereoscopic visuals. It’s just you against the clock, the traffic and a branching route, drifting forever in a topless Testarossa. Bliss. (It’s a crying shame, though, that OutRun 2 and its superb mid-00s console versions are no longer available.)

Sitting on the start line in the classic Out Run

Want to read more? Find out why OutRun is still the pinnacle of driving games.

THE BEST SIM RACING GAMES

Dirt Rally 2.0

PC, PS4, Xbox One

With all due respect to the excellent WRC 9, Dirt Rally 2.0 is the best off-road driving simulation around. In fact, it’s probably the best there has ever been. While it may not be a perfectly rounded package, its handling model is second-to-none and the driving experience is as purely gripping as anything else in any of these categories. It’s hard, and best experienced with a good wheel, but for communicating the sheer thrill and challenge of a car and a course, there’s nothing better.

Ian tries out Dirt Rally 2.0’s VR update.

Want to read more? See our full Dirt Rally 2.0 review and buy it now from Amazon.

Gran Turismo Sport

PS4

While many don’t consider it to be a “full” Gran Turismo game, the series’ sole PS4 entry (which also features in our best PS4 games list) has expanded substantially over time and now boasts many of the solo campaign events and license tests fans love, as well as an impressive car and track list. But it remains Polyphony Digital’s most focused piece of work, and that’s not at all a bad thing. The handling is a sublime balance of accessibility and sim-like bite, and the extremely well designed online multiplayer brings the clear rulesets and competitive edge of serious PC titles like iRacing to a more casual and welcoming setting. In short, it’s still a GT game, as well as being the best and fairest online multiplayer experience on console – by a long chalk.

McLaren leads field of GT cars in Gran Turismo Sport

Want to read more? See our full Gran Turismo Sport review and buy it now from Amazon.

iRacing

PC

Even if you’re new to sims, you’ll probably know a little about iRacing: that it’s expensive, time consuming, tough. It is also, if you allow it, an all-encompassing take on some of the very best aspects of motorsport. Work your way through the ranks and earn a slot in a team endurance event and you’ll be witness to all the camaraderie, excitement – and, yes, crushing disappointment – of the real thing. There’s no doubt that some aspects of iRacing are getting a little long in the tooth – and there are certainly better-looking sims out there – but with all those years of experience since the service rolled out well over ten years ago comes a competence that you can’t find elsewhere.

Two Porsche GT cars race side by side in iRacing

Want to read more? Find out what makes iRacing the ultimate driving sim.

Assetto Corsa / Assetto Corsa Competizione

PC, PS4, Xbox One

Kunos Simulazioni offers up two very different experiences – though they’re both so good we’ve cheated and included both. The original Assetto Corsa might be getting a little long in the tooth, but with a handful of the right mods it can still be the best pure driving game on PC, while Competizione – after a handful of welcome updates – now offers a purebred racing experience that’s the measure of iRacing. When it comes to GT racing – perhaps the healthiest and most diverse form of motorsport right now – it’s pretty much peerless.

A cockpit view on a rainy track in Assetto Corsa Competizione

Want to read more? See our full Assetto Corsa Competizione review and buy it now from Amazon.

rFactor 2

PC

There’s still the sense that rFactor 2 has yet to reach its potential, and that it might be some time until it properly does so – Motorsport Games’ acquisition of developer Studio 397 combined with mouthwatering licences such as BTCC and WEC suggests there’s plenty to get excited about in the future. For now, though, and for all its little faults, there’s no denying the authenticity of rFactor 2’s handling, serving up a simulation model like no other. If you’ve any interest in pretend race cars, you at least need to take this one out for a spin.

A Formula E car in rFactor 2

Want to read more? Find out how rFactor 2 hosted the Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual in 2020.

THE BEST MOTORSPORT GAMES

F1 2020

PC, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia

Although in some ways this is an odd pick – while not quite the season that never was, F1 in 2020 did not play out as it does in the game – there is no doubt that Codemasters’ F1 series demands a spot on this list, nor that it has been so carefully iterated and improved that the latest entry is always the best. Precious few licensed sports games can claim that. For fans of the sport it’s an authentic portrayal of F1’s somewhat bizarre current ruleset, but beyond that, there’s stuff here that any racing game fan can delight in: tight racing, great dynamic weather and track features, and a deep and substantial career mode.

A trailer breaking down the new features in F1 2020.

Want to read more? See our full F1 2020 review and buy it now from Amazon.

WRC 9

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch

Codemasters will take over the licence for the world’s preeminent rallying series from 2023, which should be interesting – but don’t think for a minute that it’s because the current KT Racing games are substandard. They have the goods where it counts: a beautiful, detailed, hard-edged handling model that is not mucking around and ensures this demanding sport makes for a challenging game, as it should do. With smart use of the WRC licence and some forward-thinking next-gen features too – the feedback from a PS5 DualSense pad is wonderful, earning it a spot on our best PS5 games list – WRC 9 is KT’s best effort to date.

WRC 9 running on PS5.

Want to read more? Find out why WRC 9’s PS5 update shows the DualSense is a revelation for racing games and buy it now from Amazon.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2

PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Some other games have attempted to replicate the madness and majesty of the Isle of Man’s 37.73 mile long road course – who can forget riding on the back of a sheep in Sega’s characterful if clumsy 90s arcade effort? – but none have lent into it with quite the sense of purpose of Ride on the Edge. KT Racing smoothed out some of the bumps for this sequel, while importantly staying true to the bumps and bends of the course itself, making for a racing experience that stands alone and manages to do justice to the great event.

A trailer for Ride on the Edge 2.

Want to read more? See our full TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2 review and buy it now from Amazon.

MotoGP 21

PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch

It doesn’t get a lot of attention or serve up the same sense of drama as Ride on the Edge, but Milestone’s long-running licence based on the premier motorcycle racing series is a well-sorted motorsport sim all the same. The Italian developer has more experience with bike racing than any other developer, and it shows in the fine-tuned handling. The sport itself remains a perfect inspiration for video games, with a sense of precariousness and danger that modern car racing has largely lost.

A rider runs back to his bike after a crash in MotoGP 21

Buy it now from Amazon.

Source link