The Best Driving Games of All Time
As you step into your garage, you face a difficult decision: Do you drive the Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Aventador, Mercedes-McLaren SLR, BMW M6 or Nissan GT-R to work this morning? For most of us car lovers, this impossible decision is a fantasy. For a lucky few, it’s a reality. For the rest of us, however, driving games fill the void and let us step inside cars worth more than the average person’s house, even if only virtually.
From Gran Turismo to Need for Speed, some driving series are legendary for their seemingly endless sequels and inventories of thousands of vehicles. But which of these mega-popular racing series is the best of all time?
While we couldn’t choose a number one driving game of all time, we’ve picked out what we believe are the ten best racing games – from Nintendo 64 and PlayStation classics to modern hits – of all time.
Race Driver: Grid
Released simply as Grid in the United States, Race Driver: Grid hit store shelves in 2008 and was an immediate hit. The game gives you access to a wide selection of competitive racing options in Europe, the United States and Japan.
From the great selection of cars to the awesome graphics – Grid was released over six years ago but still looks great today – Race Driver: Grid’s combination of exciting racing championships and highly tuned vehicles makes it a fan favourite.
Available for: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, Mac OS X
Gran Turismo 2
Some games are so popular they enter the pop culture canon, becoming must-haves for their respective console. Gran Turismo 2 is one of those games. Released in 1999, Gran Turismo 2 (known as GT2) for fans, made the PlayStation a must-have console.
With a selection of almost 650 different cars, ranging from inexpensive Toyotas to customized RUF Porsche supercars, Gran Turismo 2 gave gamers access to a bigger garage than any game before it.
Available for: PlayStation
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Some driving games put you on a track and pit you against your opponents. Others, like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, put you in the driver’s seat on a public highway and challenge you to outrun the authorities.
Hot Pursuit has been released three times: once for the PC and PlayStation in 1998, again in 2002 for the PlayStation 2 and most recently in 2010. The 2010 version is the one to choose if you’re new to gaming; its graphics and gameplay are top notch.
Available for: PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, Windows
Forza Motorsport 4
The Forza Motorsport series is legendary amongst Xbox users, and the fourth game, which game out in 2011, is widely regarded as the series’ magnum opus. Released to total critical acclaim, it included a cockpit view for the ultimate in driving realism.
As well as the innovative cockpit view, Forza Motorsport 4 included a partnership with the mega-popular BBC show Top Gear that saw host Jeremy Clarkson provide commentary as gamers made their way around the game’s selection of tracks.
Available for: Xbox 360
Mario Kart 8
Although it’s only a few months old, Mario Kart 8 is already regarded as one of the best racing games ever released on a Nintendo platform. Featuring more courses, items and obstacles than any game in the series, it’s a party gaming favourite.
For the most part, Mario Kart 8 is more of the same for people who’ve followed the ultra-popular gaming series for a while. However, the game’s 12-player racing has made it an online favourite and a top-seller for Nintendo’s Wii-U console.
Mario Kart 8 also includes a popular (possibly unintentional) feature: a menacing “death stare” from Luigi that’s occasionally visible during instant replays of shell hits and other in-game takedowns.
Available for: Nintendo Wii-U
Need for Speed: Underground
Need for Speed: Underground wasn’t the first game to let you customize your car – that was something the Gran Turismo series had been offering for years – but its level of customization went beyond anything offered by other driving games.
From spoilers to skirts, paint jobs to vinyl graphics, Need for Speed: Underground capitalized on the success of The Fast and The Furious and produced a street racing experience unmatched by any other driving game.
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Windows
Grand Theft Auto V
Although it’s technically not a pure driving game, Grand Theft Auto V offers some of the best driving experiences on any console. Find a car you like, jump inside it and lead the police on chase at 100 miles per hour… all on the wrong side of the road.
From the awesome missions to the engaging story, the Grand Theft Auto games are always packed with interesting content. Sure, the driving is a little to arcade-style to appeal to purists, but the engaging open world gameplay sure makes up for it.
Available for: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows
— GTA Always News (@GTAalways) July 13, 2013
Gran Turismo 6
What’s this? Two Gran Turismo games on our list!? While Gran Turismo 2 put the series – and the PlayStation, in many ways – on the map, it wasn’t until the sixth instalment in the series that the formula was truly perfected.
Gran Turismo 6 features 33 different tracks laid out in over 70 combinations, an inventory of over 1,200 cars, graphics that push the PlayStation 3 to its absolute limit and a level of car customization that makes other games look childlike.
Available for: PlayStation 3
One of the few racing games available exclusively on the PC, GTR 2 – FIA GT Racing Game is an ultra-realistic racing simulator. Players take part in the 2003-2004 FIA GT Championship series and compete on hundreds of real-world racing tracks.
From Monza to the Nürburgring, GTR 2’s massive inventory of tracks has made it a favourite for years. Since it’s available on the PC, it’s been heavily modified by fans and enthusiasts to include hundreds of additional cars and Grand Prix races.
Available for: PC
Some racing games focus on realism, putting you inside the cockpit of a real racing car that looks, feels and responds like the real thing. Others put you in the driver’s seat of a plasma-powered hover car competing in an intergalactic Grand Prix race.
F-Zero X is patently ridiculous, but it’s also really fun. Your character, the hilariously named Captain Falcon, races through corkscrews, over jumps and around corners at speeds of up to 1,500 km/h. It might be old, but F-Zero X is still seriously fun to play.
Available for: Nintendo 64
F-Zero X Expansion kit allows you to design courses courses with streamlined dev tools and a crazy, crazy N64 add-on. pic.twitter.com/YecirBmK9k
— Samuel_IGN (@Samuel_IGN) August 28, 2014
What’s your favourite driving game?
Everyone has a different favourite driving game, whether it’s the ultra-realistic Gran Turismo series or the fun and quirky Mario Kart. Did your game make our list? If not, let us know your favourite driving game in the comments.