This time of the year was when we were meant to be building up to the next Need for Speed game. However, a delay in progress has put us back until at least 2022, as EA and Criterion focus on other games.
NFS has been on the go since 1994 and when the next game is released, making it one of the oldest racing series still going. The next NFS will also be the 25th main series instalment in the franchise.
So, with all that in mind, which games stand above the rest in terms of fan and critical ratings? We've already given you our five picks for the best NFS games ever, but now we're turning to the public and the professionals. We've collated every review score for every NFS game and aggregated them into this ranking. Enjoy!
How the ranking has been achieved
We've sieved through every main series game in the NFS catalogue to collect both the critical and fan average review score for each console it was released on. For example, the latest NFS games have had their fans and critics PS4, Xbox One and PC scores all averaged together to make an overall score.
Table of Contents
- How the ranking has been achieved
- #24 - Payback - 51%
- #23 - World - 60%
- #22 - Undercover - 60%
- #21 - No Limits - 62%
- #20 - Rivals - 65%
- #19 - The Run - 65%
- #18 - Need for Speed (2015) - 66%
- #17 - Heat - 67%
- #16 - Most Wanted (2012) - 68%
- #15 - Nitro - 69%
- #14 - Prostreet - 69%
- #13 - Need for Speed II - 72%
- #12 - Shift 2: Unleashed - 73%
- #11 - Shift - 74%
- #10 - Carbon - 74%
- #9 - Hot Pursuit 2 - 79%
- #8 - Hot Pursuit (2010) - 80%
- #7 - The Need for Speed - 80%
- #6 - Porsche Unleashed - 82%
- #5 - Underground 2 - 83%
- #4 - Underground - 84%
- #3 - High Stakes - 85%
- #2 - Most Wanted - 85%
- #1 - Hot Pursuit (1998) - 87%
Metacritic is the go-to when it comes to average review scores for a video game, as it has the most reviews for this kind of media. So, let's get into the rankings!
#24 - Payback - 51%
Fans were left wanting their money back after purchasing 2017's Payback. This is comfortably the lowest scorer on our list and it's little wonder why. Unrealistic damage, a forgettable story, poor handling and the pay-to-succeed in-game currency rubbed gamers up the wrong way.
#23 - World - 60%
Kudos to EA for trying something different with NFS, but this attempt didn't work out. NFS: World was released in 2010 and was a free-to-play MMO racing game. World is a game before its time, as free-roaming racing games like Forza Horizon are popular, as are free-to-play games like Fortnite.
World's issues were that its world was lacklustre and felt as though it was a half-baked attempt at a true sandbox racer.
#22 - Undercover - 60%
NFS wasn't exactly on the most solid of ground at the time, but 2008's Undercover signalled the real decline of the series. Undercover was trying to be Most Wanted on the next-gen consoles but fell way short of that. The game was too easy, the missions were extremely repetitive, and the world was made up of poor textures. In between all of this were nonsensical and poorly acted cutscenes to boot.
#21 - No Limits - 62%
EA decided to give a free-to-play NFS another go after the failure of World and once again, they fell short of the mark. 2015's No Limits was a mobile-exclusive that had good graphics, gameplay and visuals.
However, the irony of a game that's titled "No Limits" having plenty of limitations on it isn't lost on anybody. If you wanted to succeed, you had to fork out, something that would become all too common in EA titles going forward.
#20 - Rivals - 65%
Another recent entry to NFS's catalogue is 2013's Rivals, but it's another forgettable game. Surprisingly, critics did like this title upon release, but the fan reviews are what drags it down to 20th place. Rivals was glitchier than a Bethesda game and had servers that made online competition near-impossible post-launch.
Cops would often chase players for no reason and there was no pause button in the game either. To its credit though, the visuals and audio were good, for the most part.
#19 - The Run - 65%
A game where your sole mission is to drive from San Francisco to New York has massive potential, but EA failed with this one. The graphical glitches from Undercover rears its ugly head again, while the 3,000-mile-long route goes by far too quickly.
Not much happens during that time either, giving Run no replayability value. The driving itself though, and the variety of real-world environments on offer, do give Run some redeeming features.
#18 - Need for Speed (2015) - 66%
Harkening back to the series' roots (in name only) isn't a sure-fire way to improve your fortunes. Need for Speed looks and feels good when driving, but the issue is with a lack of content. The story is forgettable and short, there's no drag racing and no pause button (again!).
#17 - Heat - 67%
At the time of writing, 2019's Heat is still the most recent NFS title in the series. Heat was definitely a step in the right direction for the series, but it still has some way to go to recapture its former glory. The racing was fun, the customisation great, but the cops and the story were poor and verging on infuriating at times.
The game looked great though, as Palm City looked great in both the day and night, something that was new to NFS.
#16 - Most Wanted (2012) - 68%
Another title that the fans and critics can't agree on is the 2012 version of Most Wanted. Critics loved the handling model, Autolog multiplayer features, and the world you were allowed to roam. Fans lamented the poor story, bad controls, and lack of customisation.
Definitely not the worst NFS title, but one that lived up to its name.
#15 - Nitro - 69%
A Nintendo exclusive, Nitro certainly wasn't a bad effort by EA, but it isn't one that lives long in the memory. Some say it's one of the best racing games on the Wii and that its innovative changing level design makes it a solid entry. Others dislike the lacklustre multiplayer and lack of content. Either way, it sits comfortably in midtable in this list.
#14 - Prostreet - 69%
Players that had bought the previous instalments of NFS would've been confused when they tried Prostreet for the first time in 2007. For the first time ever, NFS focussed on circuit racing rather than street racing and it went fairly well. Prostreet wasn't close to NFS' best effort, but it was a solid racing game.
However, no open world to explore and no cops to chase you down didn't exactly do NFS any favours. However, great graphics, a solid handling model and impressive online features helped Prostreet's cause.
#13 - Need for Speed II - 72%
We are going a long way into the past for this one, but unluckily 13 on our list is the second NFS ever made. Launched three years after the original in 1997, NFS II was praised for its graphics and large car and track selection. It also felt fun, something that NFS would become synonymous with in later years.
The issue was that it was buggy. Both the PlayStation and PC versions suffered with awkward texture pop-ins that ruined the immersion more than we'd like.
#12 - Shift 2: Unleashed - 73%
NFS' third foray into track racing in this era, Shift 2 was another solid circuit racer in the series. Shift 2 built upon the features from the first game while making great use of the series; Autolog multiplayer capabilities. Fans were less impressed though, as the handling model and unpredictable AI did make it too much of a challenge to drive competitively at times.
#11 - Shift - 74%
You can't argue that the Shift games aren't consistent. The original just beats the sequel here though. Before Gran Turismo 5 and Forza 3 launched, Shift provided a solid sim racer that justified NFS' change in gear to becoming partially circuit racing.
The problems lay with its skittish handling model and over-the-top advancement when it came to progress. However, the graphics, sound and car library was up there with the best at the time.
#10 - Carbon - 74%
Now we're getting into the big boys. NFS Carbon didn't hit the heights of its predecessors, but it was a solid and fun game. The setting of Palmont City was an excellent one and the return to night-time racing was also welcome. The "Own the City" gameplay was also a nice addition.
Where Carbon fell down slightly was its repetitiveness, annoying boss battles and failing to use the police as much as it easily could've done.
#9 - Hot Pursuit 2 - 79%
Another classic of the PS2 era was Hot Pursuit 2. While it didn't quite hit the heights of the original Hot Pursuit, this was an excellent title in its own right. The police were back for the first time in years and the game was all the better for it.
The wide array of cars, exciting racing and excellent graphics for the time made Hot Pursuit 2 a great game. This title also laid the foundations for the classics that would follow, which you'll read about very soon.
#8 - Hot Pursuit (2010) - 80%
Many old-school NFS fans will agree that this is still the last great Need for Speed to date. It's hard to argue with that either and, in truth, we're surprised it's not rated even higher. There aren't many NFS titles where you're able to play as both the cops and robbers, but that's what you have here.
The gameplay was, and still is, thrilling. The sense of speed, graphics, sound and weapons choices are all brilliant. Multiplayer got revamped as well, thanks to the innovative Autolog feature. Hot Pursuit also got a remaster for its ten-year anniversary last year too, which showed how well it had aged over the past decade.
#7 - The Need for Speed - 80%
The original. While it's not the best, the first Need for Speed back in 1994 was a great game and one that secured the series' future for years to come. The Need for Speed had brilliant graphics, sound and handling, all of which rendered it to both critics and fans.
Released originally on the 3DO, NFS also made great use of the console's ability to play video in-game, something that was revolutionary at the time. This was in a time before Gran Turismo or even the PlayStation itself, so NFS was well ahead of its time.
#6 - Porsche Unleashed - 82%
The final NFS title to be released on the original PlayStation sent the series out on a high on that console. The elephant in the room is that the game focuses on Porsche, rather than a plethora of car manufacturers. If you can look past that though, Porsche Unleashed is an excellent game.
The handling may have been on the arcadey side for some, but the graphics, car models, and sound set it above the competition at the time.
#5 - Underground 2 - 83%
This is bound to ruffle some feathers, but Underground 2 is just beaten out by the original in the Metacritic rankings. Olympic City is an excellent setting, and the graphics and car models were top-notch for the time. It's the customisation that really makes Underground 2 a great, though, arguably still being the best to this day.
You want air-shock suspension? "Go for it". Neon lights under the car? "Why not?" The possibilities are endless. Moreover, Underground is so much fun and something that we can still pick up and enjoy to this day.
#4 - Underground - 84%
While we personally don't think that Underground is better than its sequel, it is undeniably great. We even believe it's deserving of a remaster for its 20th anniversary which is coming up soon. Street racing was back and for the first time ever it was at night too.
The gameplay, graphics and sound created a brilliant environment to race in and those races were always fun too. The AI may not have been the best, but we're willing to let that one slide.
#3 - High Stakes - 85%
Another classic from the PS1 era and the only one that makes it onto the podium is High Stakes. High Stakes built upon the foundations laid in the previous title and provided a brilliant racing game. Fans and critics loved High Stakes, the racing, AI and graphics were some of the best of this gaming generation.
Although it couldn't compete with the likes of GT and Ridge Racer at the time, taking High Stakes into isolation makes you appreciate how impressive it was.
#2 - Most Wanted - 85%
The game that we named as our number one NFS title ever makes it to second on the all-time Metacritic rankings. The fans love Most Wanted, scoring a massive 8.9 out of 10 from the players on PS2. This game oozes nostalgia is not only the greatest NFS ever in many people's eyes, but also one of the best arcade racers ever too.
Rockport is a brilliant setting and its characters and story, although cheesy, is iconic and effective. The whole revenge storyline is brilliant and climbing the blacklist to achieve redemption is a great way to go about progression in the game. We can't forget about the soundtrack nor the customisation options either, both of which are some of the best we've seen in NFS.
#1 - Hot Pursuit (1998) - 87%
The game that made NFS a household name was Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit. It's impressive how this is still the highest-rated game from both the fans and critics over 20 years on. What makes it so great though? Well, it introduced the one element that we associate with NFS more than anything else, the cops.
The controls, the graphics, sound, gameplay and even weather effects were all fantastic at the time. Escaping the police was fun, yet challenging, something that NFS has really struggled with in recent times. The car collection on offer was expansive, and more than anything, it was so fun and addictive to play.
Basically, there's not anything that you can look at and think it's not good enough with this title. Hot Pursuit is as close to a masterpiece as NFS has ever gotten.