It's hard to believe, but Need for Speed is approaching 30 years since its first game was released in 1994. NFS is not only one of the most iconic racing series of all time, but also video games as a whole. There are 24 main releases in total, with more secondary and spin-off games as well.
That's a lot to get through, but it's a shame that we have to wait until at least 2022 for the next instalment in the NFS series. So, with all that in mind, which are the best NFS games ever? Here are our five picks!
#5 - Carbon
You'll be hard-pressed to find a gamer that doesn't think that the peak of NFS was in the mid-2000s. 2006's Need for Speed Carbon was the last hurrah of this period. While it's not the best from this time, it is a great game in its own right.
Picking up directly from where the last game kicked off, Carbon thrusts you into the action from the off. You lose everything you once had and are out for revenge. To do this, you need to take over Palmont City from the gangs that control its four districts.
The events you take part in are refreshing and fun. The cars available are extensive and the modifications on offer are some of the best the series has seen. The police chases too are arguably the best in the NFS series. The Canyon battles are a particular highlight as well, these are real challenges.
Plus, the game being set solely at night gave us vibes from some of the previous NFS entries...
#4 - Underground
Need for Speed had been around for almost ten years by the time of NFS Underground's release in 2003. This though was the title that propelled NFS into the video gaming stratosphere. This was a time when The Fast and the Furious had just been released in theatres and street racing was the "in" thing.
This was also the first NFS title where customisation really got off the ground. Everything from over-the-top spoilers, to vinyl and neon lights, are on offer here. Underground is also where we got to see drag racing in its most technical form as well, as shifting gear and timing your NOS boosts were key to success.
Other events like drifting, knockout and the standard race format made up the variety of missions on offer.
#3 - Hot Pursuit (2010)
The most recently released entry on this list is 2010's Pursuit. Hot Pursuit built upon the gameplay first trialled in the two previous Hot Pursuit games from the late 90s and early 2000s, but it perfected it. This is one of the few NFS titles where you play as both the police and the racers depending on which mission you were completing.
Hot Pursuit has aged extremely well too, as has been highlighted with its recent remaster. The setting of the West Coast of the US is a beautiful one too and one which rewards the bravest racers. Everything from the sound to the lighting and graphics and even the handling shows this is a well-crafted game.
It's a shame that we've had to wait over a decade since for a truly great NFS title, but with Criterion back onboard, we've got hope.
#2 - Underground 2
Underground may have introduced the customisation options we all associate with NFS, but Underground 2 took them to a whole new level. It's rare that a direct sequel is truly better than the original, but this is the case with Underground 2.
Pimp My Ride was one of the most popular shows on MTV at this time and Underground 2 clearly took some inspiration. The level to which you could customise your car is still yet to be matched here. It got downright ridiculous at times, but Underground 2 was all the better for it.
This game is a serious nostalgia-fest, and if there's one game in the NFS catalogue that deserves a remaster, it's probably this one.
As for the gameplay, it's the arcadey fun that we all know and love that is complemented by one of the best soundtracks in racing games. Olympic City is also a brilliant setting and arguably the best the series has ever seen.
#1 - Most Wanted (2005)
It couldn't have been anything else. Need for Speed Most Wanted is still the best NFS game of all time.
The plot is a simple one. After being cheated during a pink slips race, you lose your prized car, the BMW M3 GTR that the game has become synonymous with. You then need to climb the ladder and beat the 15 drivers on “The Blacklist” to win your ride back and beat your arch-rival Razor.
This is all while trying to evade the cops too, who are prominent throughout the game. In fact, this is where the cops became a real force for the first time. RAM units, helicopters and roadblocks are used against you if you anger them enough.
There aren't many cutscenes in this game, but they're live-action so still hold up today. They're some of the cheesiest you'll ever see, but that makes them all the better. Your ally Mia and secondary antagonist Cross are also solid characters.
The soundtrack is iconic, debatably better than the Undergrounds’, but definitely up there. Customisation is nothing to shake a stick at either, simple yet effective in this title.