Gaming genres fall in and out of favor, but racing games are one definite constant throughout the different gaming generations. Whether solo or in multiplayer, nothing quite gets the heart racing like a fast drive through an amazing environment, or a hectic race through bustling city streets. Today we’re going over our top 10 list of awesome racing games.
Everyone, start your engines!
Top 10: Racing Games Series
10. Ridge Racer
The first on our top 10 list of racing games is the iconic Ridge Racer. Namco’s drift-dependent series has endured a massive dip in performance over the years, but its early victories must be recognized. This arcade racer, released on the original PlayStation, is an extremely unique game and the only entrant on this list to have a truly Japanese feel. Setting a new graphical benchmark in its 1994 home release, Ridge Racer featured thrilling 12-car road races.
The only title on this racing games list that doesn’t feature cars, Wipeout was a futuristic ship racer that always guaranteed fast, frantic fun. Also known for its use of electronic music, Wipeout features gravity-defying tracks with loops and speed pads a-plenty. Adding a tactical element to this game are both offensive and defensive weapons, which can be alternatively be used to replenish shields.
Though Psygnosis’ racers did appear on Nintendo and Sega platforms in the early days, WipEout will always be associated with the PlayStation, after the studio became SCE Studio Liverpool in 2001. In fact, Wipeout was a launch title on the original PlayStation, PS2, PSP and Vita. The latest title, Wipeout 2048, is one of the best titles on the current handheld, and includes cross-play, with HD Fury, on PS3.
8. Project Gotham Racing
This forgotten series was short-lived, but provided some of the best racing ever seen on the Xbox platforms. Spawning from Metropolis Street Racing on Dreamcast, Project Gotham Racing gave us a slightly more arcade-like road racing experience, with plenty of character. It didn’t rely on customization options, instead injecting some new ideas into a crowded racing games genre.
The best of Bizarre Creations’ ideas was the Kudos system, variations of which have now become commonplace. Kudos were awarded to drivers throughout every single event for anything noteworthy, such as drifting or overtaking. Cat and Mouse was a unique multiplayer mode, seeing various fast cars trying to catch a single, slower one.
7. Midnight Club
When Rockstar makes a driving game (or any game for that matter), you can guarantee it’s going to be damn good. Midnight Club is a pimped out street racer which matches anything else in the world of racing games. It doesn’t quite have the iconic name, the longevity, or the quantity of iterations to feature higher in this grid, but the performance of this game is spectacular. Fans of the series are clamoring for a fifth game from the San Diego arm of Rockstar, which will hopefully arrive on PS4 and Xbox One fairly soon.
While the early entries, and the more recent Midnight Club: Los Angeles, are fantastic, the high point was undoubtedly Midnight Club III: DUB Edition. In many ways, it epitomized the mid-2000s time period and the undoubted heyday of street racing games. The melding of amazing customization, gameplay, and setting with a killer soundtrack (stacked with R&B, hip-hop and rap) was practically perfect.
SEGA’s classic arcade title drifts onto our racing games list due to its timelessly fun gameplay. This race against the clock game has five stages per run and near the end of each stage,players have to make a decision. They can either turn left (for an easy next stage) or right (for a hard one) at a fork in the road. This unique freedom allowed players to choose their own driving route on-the-fly.
Outrun is all about the dream experience. It exclusively offers Ferraris as your choice of car, there’s a cute girl in the passenger seat, the music is wonderful, and the stages are very pretty. The core game hasn’t moved on too much over the years, but the recent entries – Outrun 2 on Xbox, Coast2Coast on PSP, and Online Arcade on Xbox 360 – have all been excellent upgrades.
This is a name in racing games which may never hit the asphalt again, but still managed to go out revving with the masterpiece that was Burnout Paradise. It was an outstanding, frenetic racing experience that had more charm and soul than many racing games on this list. Aside from its brilliant environment and gameplay, Burnout Paradise was a beacon of hope in the dark world of DLC, as Criterion provided a huge update completely free of charge.
The rest of the series was also brilliant. The first three games (all on PS2, Xbox and GameCube) were all hugely successful in Europe, before US gamers adopted the franchise on Xbox 360 and PSP. Unlike most racing games, Burnout made crashing a good thing. There’s barely a more satisfying feeling in gaming than a perfectly-executed takedown in Burnout.
4. Need for Speed
It’s a series that has stagnated, and has been rebooted more times than most gamers would care to admit, but no definitive racing list is complete without Need for Speed. EA’s long-standing IP is a cash cow of the highest order, getting annual releases until very recently, and even a movie.
Since its debut over two decades ago, Need for Speed has had multiple paint jobs. From the street racing of Need For Speed: Underground, to the cops and robbers of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, this series is always finding new routes to the finish line. Love or hate what it has become, there’s no doubt this franchise has left in an indelible mark on the industry.
3. Forza Motorsport
Turn 10 have claimed third place on our podium of racing games. This is the newest of the franchises taking to the track, but consistent best-in-class performances have seen Forza rapidly climb the rankings. The realistic circuit racer admittedly hasn’t injected many new ideas into the genre, but has certainly come close to mastering its craft. Now spanning three generations, this driving sim never fails to impress.
The sheer breadth of tracks and cars, along with the depth of the customization and career mode, makes each iteration a winner. Forza’s visuals are also gorgeous, while the gameplay is not overly hardcore or ultra-realistic, so it remains fun for the average gamer.
2. Gran Turismo
Just edging out Microsoft’s premier racer is Gran Turismo, the PlayStation behemoth which reinvigorated the driving genre in the ‘90s. The series, developed by Polyphony, has always been known for the incredible realism in the physics and handling of cars, as well as the audio and visual aspects. The number of licensed vehicles is impressive too; the last three releases (on PSP and PS3) have a combined total of 3,145 cars.
More recently, Gran Turismo has lost some of its luster, mainly due to the botched launch of Gran Turismo 5 during the PS3’s decline, but its successor is arguably the most complete racing sim in years. It’s an underrated, but superb, game which should have fans salivating for the inevitable PS4 follow-up.
1. Mario Kart
How can this madcap ensemble racer not claim the gold? Mario Kart continues to go from strength to strength, with Nintendo continually improving on a phenomenal multiplayer racer.
The addition of new characters and courses is always welcome, but Miyamoto and his pit crew do so much more than that. The constant shift-ups in gameplay have transformed the series, without sacrificing its soul. Of course, the true beauty of Mario Kart is the way it connects generations of gamers. The ridiculously easy pick-up-and-play nature, the weapons system, and the course layout combine to make an amazing racing game that spans multiple generations.
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There are many racing games that we left off this list, but good driving games are plentiful, so only the quickest around the track can keep apace alongside the racing royalty we’ve selected. With the current success of Mario Kart 8, along with new upcoming releases for Forza, Need for Speed, and Gran Turismo just around the corner, the racing games scene is about to get immensely better.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any racing games that didn’t make the cut, but are your personal favorites, feel free to tell us in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time, gamers.