It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t play racing games the unadulterated thrill you can get from sitting in front of your TV/Monitor, controller in hand, as you belt around some of the most famous tracks in the world, or some of the wackiest ones ever created depending on what game you’re playing.
Racing games have been around for decades and remain popular today. Any game that nails the feeling of adrenaline or can create a proper competitive environment has an excellent chance to be fondly remembered by racing fans. Here are the games that incorporate the best-racing mechanics, controls, and feel on the track to be the best of the best, whether focused on simulation driving or an arcade driven experience.
When Mario Kart 8 released for the Wii U, it was already an excellent racing game, like most Mario Kart games are. It was the jump to the Nintendo Switch, though that stands apart from the rest of the series. It fixed the biggest issue with the Wii U version, bringing a proper battle mode to the game as well as a new 200cc mode. For the first time since Double Dash, you could hold two items at a time as well. The big feature introduced in Mario Kart 8 was anti-gravity sections where the track would twist and turn upside down. It made tracks more interesting and unique. You will not find another racing game with the same combination of fun gameplay anyone can enjoy and twisty, turning track design.
The Forza games are the pinnacle of current racing games and easily Microsoft’s most successful exclusives of the current generation when it comes to critical and fans reception. Every time one comes out, people are treated to the best simulation racing experience. Forza 7 features over 700 cars and more than 200 different track configurations to race on across 32 locations. It was also specifically made to take advantage of the Xbox One X, so if you have the current most powerful console in the world and a 4K TV, be sure to check out the gorgeous graphics. If you consider yourself a racing fan, you can’t go wrong with any of the Forza games, but Forza Motorsport 7 is the best of the pure simulation racers.
Sticking with the Forza series, let’s take a look at its spinoff series with Forza Horizon 3. This game takes place in Australia and sees you race across the outback, beaches, and forests in the country. Where the Motorsport series stays confined to the track, Horizon goes everywhere. Forza Horizon 3 is a little easier of a game for the average person to get into and enjoy while holding onto the great mechanics of the series. For DLC, a Hit Wheels expansion was added that lets you race across giant Hot Wheels tracks and its pure nostalgic joy for anyone who grew up playing with the toy cars as a kid.
Burnout 3: Takedown was the height of the unfortunately forgotten about series (come on EA! Bring it back!). As with other games in the series, the goal is to win races by being the riskiest, most dangerous driver on the track. You gain boost by driving on the wrong side of the road, near misses, and causing your opponents to wreck. While it didn’t make its debut here, Crash Mode was improved and perfected in the third entry, and Road Rage was a new mode completely dedicated to the idea of crashing other racers. Burnout 3: Takedown was one of the best games to appear on the original Xbox and PlayStation 2, as well as one of the best racing games of all time.
While it may be a shell of what it used to be, the Need for Speed franchise is still one of the most iconic racing game series of all time. With the Underground sequel, you continue to tune the 29 cars in the game for street races. This was the first Need for Speed game to feature an open world where you could drive wherever you wanted, and multiple new race modes were added. The big change this time around was the customization of your car. Numerous aspects of your vehicle could be changed, including the stereo, wheels, undergrow neon, and so much more.
We go from racing through the midnight life to evading the cops. The main draw of these games are trying to win races before the cops can make you immobile. While escaping the law is fun on its own, you are also able to take a trip in their shoes. You can attempt to take down speedsters by ramming into them and calling in back up via spike traps, helicopters, and more. The GameCube, PS2, and Xbox days were the golden era for Need for Speed games, and along with Underground 2, Hot Pursuit 2 remains one of the best.
Daytona USA is one of the most successful arcade games of all time and with good reason. In this game, you are racing against both other cars and the time limit. The drifting mechanic in this classic game was crucial for anyone looking to finish near the front of the pack. When making the game, Sega was dedicated to making a top-of-the-lime racing game for the time. They used satellite imagery to rebuild Daytona International Speedway completely, and the game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second. Daytona USA is one of the most influential racing games ever made and still feels great to play to this day.
Sticking with arcade games, Cruis’n USA is another great game from the 90s that feels great to play today. You race through various tracks inspired by American locations, including Washington D.C. and San Francisco, while avoiding different hazards. Like Daytona USA, you are under a strict time limit that can be prolonged by reaching checkpoints in time. The high-speed tension of Cruis’n USA helps it remain one of the best games to play at an arcade with a friend.
When talking high-speed racing games, F-Zero has to be mentioned. F-Zero GX is the last game in the series released in 2003 and is a big reason fans are clamoring for Nintendo to return to the series. As with previous games, your reflexes and memory are going to be vital to survive these races. 30 drivers cloud these winding, challenging tracks. Of all Nintendo’s iconic franchises, the F-Zero games deserve a comeback, at the very least, a remaster for F-Zero GX.
Finishing up our list is the iconic racing arcade game OutRun, which was released in 1986. This game is gorgeous for the time that it was released in. You are driving a Ferrari to one of five locations. Which one you go to is decided in-game as you reach a fork in the road at the end of each track. Out Run wasn’t just a racing game. At the time it came out, this game was its own adventure and went on to influence so many other racing games.
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