Anyone with a love of cars and motor racing that grew up with a console or PC will no doubt have a personal list of their best driving games.
Whether your allegiances were towards the Playstation, Xbox, PC or another machine, there was always a defined split between those who found the most fun in an arcade racer and those who drifted towards a full-on simulation.
A definitive list will always be impossible to compile as a result of so many great racing games to choose from, but here is our own personal best driving games ever. Feel free to let us know your own thoughts.
Starting with an arcade classic, the fourth Ridge Racer instalment took the racing series to new heights in regards to both graphics and gameplay. Utilising the then latest in Playstation polygon technology, Namco made RR Type 4 look simply beautiful for its time, even visually eclipsing the much revered Gran Turismo.
While many will prefer the original N64 version, the innovative manner in which the Wii version is played constantly brought people together to have mass multi-player sessions. Mario Kart Wii was both a thoroughly exciting and massively frustrating game to play, but it always had you coming back for more.
The Colin McRae series was hugely popular and quickly became one of the best rally franchises of its time. Its Dirt successor found further popularity with a younger audience and is arguably the more technically accomplished game, but the third Colin McRae title was the pinnacle of the more iconic franchise.
When it comes to racing game purists, almost each and every one will give a knowing nod whenever Grand Prix 2 is mentioned. Possibly the first proper driving simulator, Grand Prix 2 utilised an early but incredibly realistic physics engine coupled with the latest in 3D graphics technology and as a result was one of the hardest racing games in history. However, it has a massive cult following and a huge modding community still exists today.
Another cult hero, Micro Machines V3 was a racing game that anybody could enjoy, whether they were interested in motor racing or not. It was also a game for those who’d always wanted to see their toy cars come to life and race them around the dining table. The Mario Kart-esque power-ups added a further enjoyable element to the genre.
Codemasters, revered creators of the Colin McRae Rally and TOCA franchises, made a return to tarmac racing in tremendous style with their Formula 1 game in 2011. Their 2013 iteration saw the racing physics honed, the graphics brought to glistening perfection and the introduction of Classic mode where gamers could race in cars from the most iconic years of the sport.
Not quite your typical driving game, Burnout 3 evolved the recipe of the series; aggressive racing style and rewarded players for being both the fastest and most ruthless on the road. The games impressive crashes brought an extra sense of fun to the genre and showed that racing cars wasn’t all about hitting apexes and smashing lap times.
While the Grand Theft Auto games are known more for their controversial missions and general misdemeanour, there’s no getting away from the fact that ever since the original game, driving has been a massive factor when playing a GTA title. The latest instalment is arguably the best and its driving element has never been better; with more cars, fabulous environments and addictive car chases, it’s impossible not to just go for a drive on GTA 5.
Many cast the Gran Turismo franchise as the best in the business thanks to its driving physics, selection of cars and track. The sixth incarnation of the now 15 year old series is regarded as the most definitive version of the game and it’s never looked or driven better; but it misses out on the top spot in our list of the best driving games because of its lack of attention in other areas. Yes, it’s great to be able to choose from over 1,000 cars, but when 20 of them are slightly different variations of the Mazda MX-5 or 15 different Nissan Skylines, it becomes a little tedious. The fact that only a small percentage of cars get full interior views is also more than a little frustrating, while graphics on standard cars can look a bit Gran Turismo 4.
With Gran Turismo 6 focusing on giving us numerous models of the same car, the Forza series has always looked to give us a smaller yet more comprehensive list of cars to thrash around some of the world’s best circuits, as well as some of Turn 10’s finest original tracks of their own. Forza 5, one of the Xbox One’s biggest exclusive launch titles, brings to the table plenty of motor sport goodness that includes manufacturers such as Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin, as well as a much more visceral feel to virtual racing than its Playstation counterpart.
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