From beloved classics like Outrun to recent hits like Project CARS, racing games have covered a huge variety of styles over the years, with arcade-like titles and realistic simulations alike catering to all tastes.
A good racing game gives you plenty to enjoy – a sense of speed, a nice selection of vehicles, numerous tracks to master, and, of course, competitive multiplayer modes.
Of the many, many racing games to hit the market in the past few decades, some have been forgotten while others are regarded as stone-cold classics …
Wipeout HD Fury
Since it first came along in 1995, Wipeout has been one of the most distinctive racing series on consoles. Designed to appeal to 90s gamers with a love of clubbing, trippy dance music, and addictive multiplayer experiences, Wipeout embraced a different concept and aesthetic to most racers.
Instead of cars, tarmac, and modern-day settings, Wipeout is set in a neon-soaked futuristic world, in which anti-gravity vehicles provide a faster, airborne thrill. Wipeout HD was released in 2008, and featured stunning visuals and a huge range of modes to enjoy. The far-future feel was beautifully preserved, too, helping the game feel more immersive than ever.
Fury was a 2009 expansion, which added new tracks, vehicles, and game modes, making it the definitive update of a great franchise.
Ridge Racer Type 4
In the days of the PS1, Ridge Racer was one of the best racing series around. Ridge Racer Type 4 is still perhaps the best of the entire run, featuring gorgeous graphics, high-speed arcade-style gameplay, and a fun, laid-back feel.
Powersliding played a huge part in the game, and mastering the technique was essential for good cornering. Customisation also played a large part, with players able to design their own decals and decorate their car with a unique logo.
Gran Turismo 6
Gran Turismo has always been one of the most realistic racing games on the market, offering an in-depth simulation experience preferred by many serious car-lovers.
Gran Turismo 6 is a mammoth game, with over one thousand cars available, plenty of challenges and such incredible effects as tyre-smoke that really make you feel as if you’re in the game, rather than just watching.
Street, rally, and pro races ensure there’s something for everyone – and even seasoned Gran Turismo veterans have lots to master.
Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 remains one of the most beloved games for Nintendo’s classic console (up there with GoldenEye), and is still a total blast today.
While the single-player mode was fun, the real power lay in the multiplayer option. With up to four players able to compete on the same screen, Mario Kart 64’s fast, fun, simple mechanics offered an accessible experience for players of all levels. Mario, Luigi, Bowser, and other favourite characters from Nintendo’s iconic world are up for grabs, and the power-ups are as essential to the fun as the karts themselves.
Road Rash 3
Picking a favourite from the Road Rash series isn’t easy, but the third pips it due to the greater variety of weapons and the improved visuals that create a smoother, faster experience.
The Road Rash games were set apart from other racers by their combat element. Players were able to pull up alongside other bikers at full pelt and attack them, either with fists or objects like clubs or chains. While this gave you a chance to take them out of the running, it also put you at risk of losing your own place.
Of course, falling too far behind also increases your chances of being grabbed by the cops. Still, it was hard to resist throwing a punch or two at a fellow racer as you overtook them, so dusting the police became a familiar chore.
Micro Machines Turbo Tournament ’96
Racing tiny cars across desks never gets old!
Obviously, the visuals in this 16-bit game simply cannot compete with the likes of Wipeout HD or Gran Turismo 6. However, the gameplay is as fast, furious, and addictive as ever.
Micro Machines Turbo Tournament ’96 was an updated version of the 1994 game, adding a track-building mode and more tracks. The J-Cart also revolutionised multiplayer gameplay, with two controller ports embedded in the top half of the extended cartridge. Combined with the pad-sharing function (infuriating though it sounds), the J-Cart allowed as many as eight players to enjoy the fun.
Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition
The Midnight Club series is all about fast-paced thrills and speed – ideal for fans of arced-style racing. Unlike most racers, Midnight Club 3 allows players to climb aboard a huge variety of vehicles, including bikes and SUVs.
Customisation is a key part of the game’s appeal, with new paint-jobs, bumpers, spoilers, neon additions, engine-parts, and more all up for tweaking. For players hungry to try a fast, wild ride, Midnight Club 3 is the perfect choice, and the graphics still stand up even 10 years on.
Another open-world racer, Burnout Paradise incorporated online multiplayer modes such as Cops and Robbers, and the awesome Showtime feature expanded on Crash Mode, offering players the chance to create a huge crash, racking up more points the longer you can keep bouncing afterwards,
Players can also follow any path to reach their target location throughout races, and the massive range of options ensures there’s always something to do. The game also creates a beautiful sense of speed, with the mechanics clearly dynamic and well-crafted.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
With the first Need for Speed released waaaay back in 1994, there have been many sequels and spin-offs, and 2012’s Most Wanted is easily one of the best.
Unlike traditional racing games, Most Wanted features an open world to race within. Players can take part in a variety of activities, including: Sprints (speeding from one area of the game’s city to another in the best time); Circuits (beating others in a set number of laps); and Speeds (set around racing a course as quickly as you can).
One of the game’s highlights? Ambush races, in which players find themselves cornered by cops and need to escape as fast as they can. It’s not easy, but is an absolute thrill from start to finish.
Forza Motorsport 4
Forza 4 put huge emphasis on realism, with cars made to look and handle as close to their real-world counterparts as possible. More than 500 cars were included, and a partnership with the hit TV series Top Gear meant former host Jeremy Clarkson provided commentary in the game’s Autovista mode (which gives players the chance to explore certain cars’ key parts).
While some fans felt it didn’t quite bring enough innovation after Forza 3, Forza 4 was praised for the adaptive difficulty that changed as players progressed, the huge amount of content, and the stunning graphics. It’s still well worth checking out today!
Which are your favourite racing games of all time? Let us know!