2023 was a bittersweet year for racing game fans. On the one hand, it’s been one of the most hectic years yet for the genre, with Forza Motorsport and WRC reboots, a new Forza Horizon challenger and a surprise sequel to one of the most popular arcade racers.
On the other hand, many of our most-anticipated racing games were let down by quality control issues, launching with game-breaking bugs and glitches. Speaking of anticipated racing games, Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown was delayed to 2024. Remember when it was supposed to come out in September 2022?
Despite a few disappointments, racing game fans still have lots to celebrate this year. Here are our picks for the best racing games of 2023 in no particular order.
The Crew Motorfest
When The Crew Motorfest was first announced, many wrote it off as a shameless Forza Horizon clone. While the car-focused festival won’t win any prizes for originality, Motorfest surpasses its main rival in several ways.
Themed playlists offer a more focused experience celebrating car culture, and the vehicle variety is unrivalled, from Japanese tuners to electric supercars. You aren’t restricted to cars either, as you can switch between boats and planes on the fly.
Motorfest takes place on the beautiful island of Oahu in Hawaii, abandoning the enormous US setting in the first two games. It's no coincidence that this new setting evokes memories of Test Drive Unlimited, as Ivory Tower’s founders worked on the original TDU. Motorfest’s map is smaller but denser, with a wide variety of terrain to explore, from sandy beaches to lush jungles and volcano slopes.
Vastly improved vehicle handling and visuals, combined with a vibrant open world, make Motorfest one of 2023’s best racing games and a considerable improvement over The Crew 2. It gives Forza Horizon some much-needed competition. After Season 2 brought Hoonigan to Hawaii, we look forward to seeing how Motorfest evolves in 2024.
After Gran Turismo 7 stole the spotlight last year, 2023 saw the long-awaited return of Forza Motorsport. After a six-year hiatus, expectations were high. Frustratingly, Forza Motorsport was plagued with serious bugs and glitches at launch, prompting a severe community backlash when it won the Best Sports / Racing category at The Game Awards 2023.
Bugs aside, Forza Motorsport is a return to form with stunning visuals, a vast car list, and improved driving physics. But it’s the revamped career and multiplayer modes that shine.
We wish the career events had more variety, but the new Car Mastery system for unlocking upgrades gives a better sense of progression, while the new multiplayer driver ratings and featured events provide some of the best online racing on console.
With the Forza Horizon series becoming increasingly formulaic, we’re happy to see Forza return to the racetrack. Forza Motorsport is the gold standard if you’re looking for a more approachable track racer than Assetto Corsa Competizione on Xbox.
EA Sports WRC
EA Sports WRC sees Codemasters, famous for creating Colin McRae Rally and the notoriously difficult DIRT Rally games, return to its rally roots, taking over the reins from previous licence holders KT Racing and Neon.
By ditching its in-house EGO engine in favour of Unreal Engine 4, Codemasters has crafted the series's longest and most challenging stages, including the new European Central Rally added in Season 2.
With a diverse mix of classic and modern cars, the car roster is a rally fan’s dream. In a first for rally games, you can even build your own rally car from scratch. Coupled with authentic yet approachable handling and a new Moments mode letting you relive real WRC scenarios, EA Sports WRC is the best rally game since DIRT Rally 2.0.
Whereas F1 22’s cars drove like boats, F1 23’s handling has been refined in the paddock. Welcome changes to acceleration, braking, torque, and traction control make the cars easier and more enjoyable to drive at the limit, whether playing on a controller or racing wheel.
F1 23 also introduces F1 World, a new mode aimed at casual players featuring daily and weekly challenges inspired by the 2023 calendar as you unlock upgrades for your F1 World car.
EA's focus on live service updates hasn't gone down well, but F1 World enriches F1 23 with a regular supply of new content from Pro Challenges featuring F1 drivers challenging you to beat their lap times to special car liveries.
Outside the official 2023 championship, Braking Point returns with a new story that picks up where F1 2021 left off. This time, Aiden Jackson and his nemesis Devon Butler race together as teammates for the fictional Konnersport team. Joining them is a new female driver, Callie Mayer.
TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3
Motorcycle racing fans were spoiled for choice this year, with Milestone releasing RIDE 5, MotoGP 23, and Monster Energy Supercross 6. But TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3 stands above them all on the podium.
Based on the iconic Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, Ride on the Edge 3 shakes up the series by introducing an open world connecting the whole experience. As you freely ride around the roads of the Isle of Man, you’ll discover challenges, enter race championships, and even learn about the island's illustrious history.
This helps you prepare for the Tourist Trophy, the most dangerous race in the world where brave bikers race on narrow country roads at suicidal speeds. Despite improvements to the physics, Ride on the Edge 3 is tough to master. But for players who take the time to master it, Ride on the Edge 3 is a constant adrenline rush with a thrilling sense of speed and danger.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged proves that arcade racing isn’t dead. The original Hot Wheels Unleashed was a surprise hit for Milestone, and the sequel takes it to new heights. The child-friendly, comic-book-style storyline is forgettable, but the racing is more fun and frantic than ever.
Bikes and ATVs expand the vehicle roster, while the ability to upgrade vehicles in the new Skills System adds a surprising amount of depth and customisation.
Whereas the original was confined to indoor tracks, Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 brings new outdoor environments from a garden to a mini golf course, bringing some much-needed variety. New jump and dash moves also give new ways to discover shortcuts and defend against opponents. When it comes to high-octane arcade racing, Hot Wheels leads the way.
LEGO 2K Drive
LEGO 2K Drive lets you roam around the colourful world of Bricklandia, where you can enter races, complete fetch quests, or have mischievous fun smashing up the scenery.
In the lighthearted story mode, you play as a rookie racer competing in the Sky Cup, with crazy characters and plenty of puns giving the game that trademark LEGO charm. While it’s easy to write off LEGO 2K Drive as a disposable kids' game, the driving is tight and responsive, and the car builder is best-in-class.
LEGO 2K Drive is a fun, family-friendly racer that everyone can enjoy, yet it flew under most players' radars. PS5 and PS5 players have no excuse now because the LEGO racer is free for PS Plus Essential subscribers this month. It also has split-screen multiplayer, making LEGO 2K Drive the perfect family-friendly racer to play this Christmas if you're bored of Mario Kart.
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