If you enjoy the throttling of engines, the timber of exhausts and you have a need for dangerous speeds, then here are the 19 best racing games of the last 2 decades.
The Best Racing Games You Can Play Now
The one word that floats around a lot when we discuss iRacing is commitment. A commitment towards sim racing, an investment into the live service aspect of the game, and a sacrifice of the better known and appreciated pillars of a racing game, such as a single-player storyline and a set of training wheels.
In fact, right off the bat, iRacing throws you into the deep end and expects you to hit pole position with the flair resembling the late Ayrton Senna if you wish to make sense of what makes this racing sim fun and different from the rest of the chasing pack.
Perhaps the best argument that can be made in favor of the philosophy behind iRacing is that professional race drivers and hardcore enthusiasts both swear by it, making it the most professional tool for someone who is into sim racing and one of the best racing games of all time.
iRacing was developed by iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations and was released on August 26, 2008.
A forgotten game from a forgotten era, Ballistics aimed to recreate the intensely exhilarating feeling of a Wipeout and marry that with a first-person camera angle.
While it may have succeeded in generating the kind of excitement that we would expect from this underappreciated subgenre, there is no doubt that Ballistics was held back by the technology of its time. Back then though, this was one of the best racing games you could play.
The visuals of this futuristic bobsled simulator are of course, heavily dated, and going back to it seems like a post-GameCube fever dream that I never wanted to be in in the first place.
Everything from the menu screens to the announcer and the presentation screams Y2K, and Ballistics was not afraid to over stylize itself in a way that most games will never attempt today.
In between all that, this is a fantastic hidden and forgotten gem that we think you should give a chance before reminiscing about the heydays of futuristic cyberpunk racers and lamenting their absence in today’s market.
Ballistics was published by Grin and released on October 19, 2001.
If there is one thing British developers Codemasters are good at, it is combining the best elements of arcade and sim racing and presenting them with style.
GRID is the best example of this, and undoubtedly the magnum opus coming out of this studio.
What makes GRID one of the best racing games to play is respect for the roots while not forgetting that the best thing about a racer is unbridled speed, a combination of thrill and fear of the consequences of taking a wrong turn.
GRID also does not lack flair on the visual front, as the improved engine Codemasters first implemented in Colin McRae’s DIRT has been pushed to the limits here, with day and night racing, largely improved vehicle models and textures, lighting, and highly-detailed damage modeling.
A testament to how good Codemasters’ engine was even back then is the fact that it is still in use today, helping make their current titles, with little tweaks and improvements every installment.
Race Driver: GRID was developed by Codemasters and released on 30 May 2008.
As you can infer from the name itself, Wreckfest is a game less about racing and more about unchained destruction.
Turning your opponent’s ride from a functional vehicle to wreckage more resembling a dumpster fire has been turned into an art form, harkening back to the Demolition Derby era, and we’re all for it.
There isn’t much of a narrative in Wreckfest, and you are certainly in the wrong neighborhood if you came here expecting one.
Don’t be fooled by the nonchalant premise of this game though, as this one is a gem underneath all the metal mayhem and is reminiscent of the brilliant FlatOut series, and more than a spiritual successor to it.
WreckFest is technically sound and visually outstanding.
WreckFest invites you to be a part of the chaos, and although it does not quite aim for Twisted Metal levels of insane, this is fun that you do not want to miss out on under any circumstances.
WreckFest was developed by BugBear Entertainment and released on June 14, 2018.
After releasing one of the best racing games of the last twenty years in NFS Most Wanted, some felt that EA’s succeeding titles did not carry the same oomph and that the series was headed for a relatively early grave.
But all of that changed in 2010, with Criterion Games at the helm, and we got Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit.
Deviating from the tone that had been set in previous games was a mountainous task, but one look at the lush open roads of Hot Pursuit will convince you that this was the best direction to take the series into in a long time.
Personally, even after pouring over 200 hours into this masterpiece on my old PS3 slim, I felt like the game had more to offer on each corner turned and after each bout of trading paint.
A generational game, Hot Pursuit has since been remastered with improved vehicle models, physics, and textures. But the thrill is still the same.
This still is one of the best racing games on PC today.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered was developed by Criterion Games and released on November 6, 2020.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes everything that was great about the Wii U original, and gives it the next-gen treatment, making it one of the greatest racing games of all time even better with the inclusion of better visual fidelity, more tracks, and even more characters.
The original Mario Kart 8 already had great courses, and the traditionally kooky in-game power-ups and traps felt just as satisfying as the N64 predecessor.
Although you will still experience a frame cut from full 60 to 30 fps while playing split-screen with 4 friends on a single Switch, that does nothing to nullify the experience of enjoying Mario Kart together on a couch session.
The colorful and vibrant world of Mario Kart does enough to keep you hooked for just one more race.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was developed by Nintendo EAD and released on April 28, 2017.
PlayStation users have long been spoiled when it comes to itching their sim racing scratch, and GT Sport continues to be one of the best racing games on the platform and builds on the foundation of the many iterations that came before.
Although GT Sport now focuses entirely on the online side of sim racing, with it being more of a live service than a standalone single-player experience, it should take nothing away from the fact that it is fantastically well rounded and complete sim.
With perfectly recreated real-life tracks and cars, GT Sport takes full advantage of the powerful PS4 to deliver stunning visuals along with the signature technical polish that we have come to expect from all of Sony’s first-party libraries.
Once you pick up your copy of GT Sport, you will be compelled to explore all facets of this quality racer, from your first solo track all the way to the online championships.
Despite being one of the best racing games for PS4, we recommend getting the right gaming accessories and gears for online races!
GranTurismo Sport was developed by Polyphony Digital and released on October 17, 2017.
Dirt 5 holds a rare distinction; being the first next-gen racing game on Sony and Microsoft’s groundbreaking new consoles, and it manages to live up to the hype in quite a stellar fashion.
This is the best Dirt game to date, and it is absolutely no surprise that it comes from the house of Codemasters, who are savants of the genre.
The visuals have obviously never been better, and the course physics, collision physics, textures, lighting, and shadows have all been revamped.
This just goes to show the pedigree of Codemasters, and sometimes I think they are indeed just flexing on us all with their expertise of various subgenres of racing. No doubt one of the finest racing games ever made.
Dirt 5 was developed by Codemasters and released on 6 November 2020.
A criminally underrated diamond in the rough, it is truly a shame that the underlying concept behind Blur was never further expanded upon and perfected with a sequel or a spiritual successor.
The best thing about Blur is that it never allows you to slam the brakes, the action is so relentless that every second you are not hammering your foot on the pedal is a second spent losing the race.
The number of power-ups ranging from landmines to turbo boosts all serve to expand and multiply the chaos that you are now a part of, and that is both the challenge and reward in itself.
While it would have been great to see the ideas implemented in Blur taken to some better heights, for now, you can go and take your spot for a frenetic joyride whenever you pick up the controller in Blur.
Blur was developed by Bizarre Creations and released on May 25, 2010.
Another rare heartthrob of the seventh console gen, Split/Second went so painfully under the radar that it ended up killing the company that developed it, and the concept explored in the game never went any further forward in fear of lightning strike again.
The best thing that I found about Split/Second was the sense of speed, which did not let you stop and stare for even a moment; put your foot on the pedal or die.
More than that, Split/Second revels in the fact that most of the interactions in the game are a Michael Bay wet dream, with the world falling apart around you, and his signature yellow/orange filter.
The game requires you to always be prepared and plan your next route around your anticipation of what the opponent is going to do, and what they are going to unleash upon you.
Split/Second was as much a visual work of art as it was a failed prototype. But it is among the most exhilarating car racing games you can play today.
Split/Second was developed by BlackRock Studios, now defunct, and released on May 18, 2010.
Six years later, Assetto Corsa has matured like a fine Italian wine. Still, one of the best racing games on PC, this sim from Kunos Simulazioni offers a lot, and whatever it does, is best in class.
As is the norm with most simulation racers, Assetto Corsa boasts an extremely varied range of cars and real-life tracks, everything from muscle classics to Formula 1 beasts, and all of this is complemented by the excellent physics engine that still holds up today.
Assetto Corsa is also class-leading in all of the other departments such as a more than functional AI, excellent sound design, and of course, online replayability.
If you want to get into sim racing and you feel confident with your G29, this is one of the best games to start your digital career with.
Assetto Corsa was developed by Kunos Simulazioni and was released on December 19, 2014.
Well, actually a collection of the three best WipeOuts from the generations gone by, but still very well recreated for the modern eye.
Do yourself a favor and go see for yourself why I kept roving about it in such a worshipful manner, and you might just see the years of evolution and constant search for perfection behind a fresh coat of PS4 paint.
Wipeout Omega Collection was developed by XDev and released on June 6, 2017.
Project CARS 2 tries to be a lot of things all at once, and lucky for us manages to pull them off and nail them to the wall one after the other.
This racing sim comes from another great British developer, Slightly Mad Studios, who aim to make you feel contact on every trough, through every corner, and on every bump.
And this is not just figurative, it is literal. Even without a dedicated gaming device for this purpose, like a wheel, Project CARS 2 aims to feel just as good in the hands of a serial controller user, with the force feedback implementation being one of the best I have ever seen in recent history.
More than that, PC2 boasts a list of some of the most extravagant, enthusiastic vehicles in the world, and recreates a lot of real-life tracks in photorealistic fashion.
Whether you are new to sim racing, or just want to try a new and different thing out of sheer boredom, you could do a lot worse than this, definitely one of the best racing games to play today.
Project CARS 2 was developed by Slightly Mad Studios and released on September 22, 2017.
The MotoGP series has been around for quite a while now, and I remember my earlier days playing them not numbered by the year of release, but rather in sequence.
Nevertheless, the latest iteration of this sleeper success has carried over more than 15 years of continued sensitive development.
If you thought that it does not match the levels of an F1 series offering or any other dedicated sim, throw that thought out the window and approach this one with an open mind.
MotoGP 21 is just as challenging, technical, and visually appealing as its four-wheeled counterparts and aims to provide the same experience as you would get once you hopped on for a session of Assetto Corsa, on 2 wheels.
With a number of additions, tweaks, and improvements, MotoGP is quickly garnering an even wider audience for itself, and we’re all for it. If you don’t mind the 50% cut down on wheels, this is the best racing game right now.
MotoGP 21 was developed by Milestone and released on April 22, 2021.
Right from the intro/tutorial section, Forza Motorsport 7 tries to keep you absolutely hooked. After all, that is the minimum that we have come to expect from full-blown big-budget AAA titles, but this one is much more than just a AAA title.
Forza is the racing series from Microsoft that alternates between a highly technical but still accessible sim racer, and the generally better received visceral arcade racer.
Notice how I didn’t identify one of them with ‘fun’?
Yep, it is because they both are. And while Forza Motorsport might not be as detailed as an iRacing because of the differing philosophies behind the games, it offers almost just as much immersion and realism as say, a Project CARS.
Featuring the best-in-class progression system that we all now know and love, Forza Motorsport 7 is a breath of fresh air in the wide world of sim racing, and perhaps the best PS5 racing game we’ve played so far.
Forza Motorsport 7 was developed by Turn 10 Studios and released on October 3, 2017.
Ah, now we can comfortably discuss arguably the more celebrated cousin of the franchise, Forza Horizon 4.
Marketed as an ‘experience’, we can comfortably say that it is no gimmick, as FH4 is entertaining right from when you press Start and never does cease to be so.
Along with a new setting in the English countryside, which has been beautifully and precisely recreated, Horizon 4 learns from the minor shortcomings of its predecessor to provide an extremely seamless online and offline experience to players worldwide.
With more than 300 officially licensed cars, wide-open tracks with lush forests and snowy mountainous tracks, even down to the fully functional and voiced radio stations, Horizon maintains that perfect balance between being an open-world entertainer and a thrilling arcade racer.
Truly one of the absolute best open-world racing games today and to date, Horizon 4 proves just how much trailblazing Microsoft has managed since the release of the original Xbox.
Forza Horizon 4 was developed by Playground Games and released on October 2, 2018.
At first glance, WRC 9 might feel like the previous offering with a fresh coat of paint, but for newer players and the levelheaded returning veteran, it will be easier to understand why this is the best rally sim racing game in the market right now.
Understandably, WRC 9’s controls with regards to the menus and other interfaces might feel a little sluggish, well truth be told they have always been sluggish, but they get the job done.
So, it’s on the same British platform.
The nuance of this game and most of the attention of the developers has clearly gone towards perfecting the on-field aspect of it, and that is quite respectable.
Ignoring the minor chinks in their armor, Kylotonn has time and again shown that they are quite comfortable in their design philosophy, and that resonates with most rally racing fans like me, who I’m sure to find the patience required to master this game quite the reward at the end of the day.
Although they are losing the official license to EA and Codemasters come 2023, there is no doubt about the quality of WRC and the people behind it, and I am most certain that WRC, or whatever the new name is for their next installment, will continue pulling enthusiasts of the off-road subgenre.
WRC 9 was developed by Kylotonn and released on September 3, 2020.
Arcade or sim, racing games is an evergreen genre, and speed’s relative to adrenaline. Audiovisual experiences are far more corporeal and as long as we still are limited to internal combustion engines, the best racing games will persist as well-established franchises or at least fresh starts.
If you were looking for the best racing games for PC, here they are. Most of them are on consoles too.
Thank us later!
What is the best racing game right now?
There is a lot of difference and nuance within the subgenres of racing, and that is why we presented a list of the best racing video games, picking from different subgenres of the house of racing. Read to find out!
What’s better GranTurismo or Forza?
They both bring different experiences and different qualities to the table. While GranTurismo is an all-out sim with great visuals, Forza matches the visuals with a taste for classic arcade fun, not taking itself too seriously. It is a question of personal preference at the end of the day.
What is the best free racing game?
Some of the best free racing games that you can find are Vector, Inertial Drift, and SKYE.