Video games often overpromise and underdeliver, and racing games are no exception. Overhyping a game nearly always leads to disappointment and failed fan expectations. Likewise, critics don’t always get it right and can overpraise racing games in popular franchises.
Racing games are often graphically impressive, but this makes it easy to overlook their flaws from poor car handling to repetitive campaigns.
Remove your rose-tinted glasses as we look back at five of the most overrated racing games.
Mario Kart Wii
With over 37 million sales, Mario Kart Wii is the second best-selling game in the franchise, coming second to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Mario Kart’s Wii debut was praised for introducing motorcycles, motion controls, and online multiplayer. But it’s also one of the most overrated Mario Kart games.
The Wii Wheel bundled with the game effectively showcased the console’s motion technology and made the game more accessible, but it dumbed down the controls. Using a Wii Wheel was fun for the family, but it lacked precision.
If you thought the AI rubber banding in past Mario Kart games was frustrating, MK Wii took it to another level. The AI difficulty is brutal in 1500cc mode is brutal while the overuse of powerups makes the races too chaotic. It’s a frustrating experience as the unbalanced powerups system makes it impossible to defend yourself from attacks. Getting taken out with Blue Shells every lap simply isn’t fun.
Even the graphics are a step-down. Double Dash looks dazzling and vibrant on the GameCube, but Mario Kart Wii’s graphics are bland and blurry. Mario Kart Wii may have sold by the bucketload, but don't forget the game was sold as a bundle with the Wii Console, which arguably inflated sales.
When The Crew was announced in 2013 with a cinematic CGI trailer, the hype was enormous. With former Test Drive Unlimited developers on the team, The Crew promised an epic racing experience with a large open-world recreation of the United States to explore and an RPG-style customisation system.
But while The Crew’s open-world is an impressive technical achievement, it overshadows the game’s flaws. The map's massive size means it takes roughly 45 minutes to drive coast to coast, but it feels empty and the scale compromises the visuals.
Forming crews and cruising with friends is fun, but rubber-banding AI opponents that get speed boosts near the end of events make the offline races feel like a chore.
Even though Ubisoft Reflections, the developer of Driver San Francisco, helped develop the game, the car handling is loose and unsatisfying. And the less said about The Crew’s storyline, the better. Despite these flaws and mixed reviews, The Crew has a loyal fanbase and Ubisoft still supports the sequel with updates, helping it become one of the most popular games of the last generation.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Released in 2005, Need for Speed Most Wanted is one of the most fabled NFS games, with many fans regarding it as the best in the series’ history. Granted, the police chases are heart-poundingly intense and the car list is excellent. But the career mode is underwhelming.
In Most Wanted, you play as a rookie racer on a mission to retrieve your modified BMW M3 GTR, one of the most iconic NFS games, stolen by a gang of notorious street racers known as the Blacklist after losing the introductory race. Career events require you to defeat all 15 Blacklist racers, but this system gets repetitive quickly, with repeated tracks, challenges, and race types.
Combine this with cringe-worthy dialogue, a dull open world, limited customisation options compared to Underground, and frustrating AI rubber banding, and cracks start to form. NFS Most Wanted is not a bad game by any means, but its flaws shouldn’t be overlooked.
Forza Horizon 5
There’s no denying that Forza Horizon 5 is a technical triumph. With crisp 4K graphics, a silky-smooth performance, and photorealistic environments, FH5 is a visual treat. The fact that Playground Games managed to scale the game to the ancient Xbox One hardware with little compromise is a testament to the team’s talent.
FH5 is one of the highest-rated racing games of all time - but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless. Despite the diverse range of environments, the open-world map of Mexico is empty and lifeless. Forza Horizon games have followed the same formula for years now, and FH5 is no exception with its repetitive events and copy-and-paste Festival Playlists.
FH has a huge roster of cars, but they never feel earned. Wheelspins hand players the most expensive cars with no effort, removing the sense of reward. Exploring the open-world environment is fun at first, but connection issues still plague the multiplayer convoy system nine months after release.
Aside from the graphics, FH5 does little to improve on FH4, with no new modes or event types. This lack of innovation hasn’t gone unnoticed either, as players have been leaving in droves. The upcoming expansions will hopefully help reinvigorate FH5, but Forza Horizon 6 needs to shake up the formula.
Gran Turismo 7
As the first mainline Gran Turismo game in nearly a decade, Gran Turismo 7 was one of the most hyped racing games of the last few years. Whereas GT Sport shunned single-player in favour of competitive online multiplayer sanctioned by the FIA, GT7 looked like it was going to be a return to form with a substantial single-player campaign harking back to the original games.
GT7 received glowing reviews, with critics praising the game’s graphics and car handling. But its reputation was nearly tarnished soon after launch when a post-release update nerfed the in-game economy. This made it harder to afford the most expensive games, tempting players to resort to microtransactions. Thankfully, recent updates have fixed this, but GT7 still has some glaring issues.
Chiefly, campaign progress is hindered by the mandatory GT Café Menu Books that feel like glorified tutorials. After completing the Café Menu Books, license tests, and driving missions, there isn’t much to do in the campaign to keep you coming back. GT7 has some great cars, but there aren’t enough events to race them with. Previous Gran Turismo campaigns kept players hooked for hundreds of hours, but GT7’s campaign feels undercooked.
It’s a shame because the driving experience is best-in-class, especially after the recent physics update. GT7 is still a great game overall, but it’s not quite the return to glory we hoped for after such a long wait.