2022 was a great year for racing games.
With the triumphant return of Gran Turismo and Need for Speed, KT Racing’s final WRC game, and the first official F1 Manager game in over 20 years.
There are too many games to choose from, but these are our picks for the best racing games of 2022.
Gran Turismo 7
Given how long they take to come out, a new Gran Turismo game always feels like an event. Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Sony’s best-selling PlayStation franchise, Gran Turismo 7 is the first numbered entry in the series for nearly ten years.
Whereas GT Sport alienated long-time fans with its focus on esports and online multiplayer, GT7 takes the series back to its roots with a proper single-player campaign focusing on car collecting and customisation.
Polyphony would also probably rather forget when GT7 was unplayable for over 24 hours after the servers went down due to the online requirement, and the single-player campaign feels unfinished, lacking events or endurance races once you complete the GT Café Menu books.
But with hundreds of cars, photorealistic graphics and remarkably realistic yet intuitive driving physics, GT7 is the king of console racers and the best Gran Turismo game since GT4.
Need for Speed Unbound
With Burnout Paradise developer Criterion Games back in the driving seat, Need for Speed Unbound has revitalised the arcade racer. At a time when racing games look visually identical, NFS Unbound’s unique and striking art style stands out from the crowd.
Combining comic book-style effects with photorealistic cars and environments, this new direction is proving divisive but it’s very refreshing. Beneath the stylish visuals, NFS Unbound’s gameplay loop is admittedly familiar if you played 2019’s NFS Heat – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Thrilling cop chases where you can lose all your money if you get busted, deeper customisation options, and satisfying progression that makes you work to earn money before you can buy your favourite cars make Unbound the best NFS game in a long time.
Since WRC 5 skidded onto PC and consoles in 2015, KT Racing has made tremendous progress with the annual WRC games. With Codemasters’ taking over the WRC game license next year, WRC Generations is a culmination of the French studio’s terrific work and commitment.
With 85 cars and 165 stages spread across 21 countries, WRC Generations combines fan-favourite locations from past games with new and updated stages and more classic rally cars than ever into a generous package. Put simply, it’s the biggest WRC game ever.
The real highlight, however, is the new-generation Rally1 cars. Making their debut in the 2022 WRC season, these cars boast hybrid powertrains that make them significantly more powerful and thrilling to drive, while the selectable boost system adds an element of strategy to stages.
The new online Leagues mode also keeps you coming back and the stage designs are second to none. WRC Generations is a glorious end to an era that sets the bar high for WRC 23.
F1 Manager 2022
F1 fans had not one but two officially licensed F1 games to enjoy in 2022. Codemasters’ annual F1 franchise returned with F1 22 adding driveable supercars, a superfluous F1 Life mode nobody asked for, and revamped handling reflecting the 2022 season changes.
But it was overtaken by F1 Manager 2022.
The first official F1 management game in over 20 years, you play the role of Team Principal managing an F1 team. It's your job to make tough decisions both on and off the track from hiring the right staff and drivers to managing pit stop strategies and managing finances to keep the board happy.
Authentic broadcast-style presentation also elevates the experience. Unlike most management games, races are depicted in 3D with TV-style cameras, live commentary from David Croft and Karun Chandhok, and accurately modelled circuits immersing you into the world of F1 like no other game before it.
F1 Manager 2022 launched with a few issues, but Frontier has responded to community feedback diligently and fixed reported issues in regular updates.
Considering this is the studio’s first attempt at a motorsport management game, F1 Manager 2022 is a strong debut that sets a strong foundation for the franchise's future.
Codemasters' underappreciated arcade racer is a great game released at the wrong time, arriving just one week after Gran Turismo 7. That’s a shame because many players missed out on one of this year’s best racers.
Story modes are usually forgettable in racing games, and while the Driven to Glory story mode in GRID Legends won’t win any awards for storytelling or character development, it’s slickly produced.
Not only does it contextualise the racing and make you feel like you're racing against real people rather than anonymous drivers, but it utilises the same virtual production technology as The Mandalorian, combining live actors with CGI backgrounds.
Out on the track, the racing action is fast and furious. As part of the upgraded Nemesis system, AI opponents hold grudges if you trade paint with them. This makes for some exciting door-to-door battles and unexpected incidents that make GT7’s races seem dull by comparison as opponents actively block you, deliberately take you out, and spin off the track.
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