When you think of the true greats of arcade racing, the Need for Speed games are always in the reckoning. Which NFS title is your favourite is down to personal taste, but for us, there is only one contender.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted turns 16 years old this year, but if anything, it's got better and more iconic with age. So much so that we named it as one of the best racing games of all-time.
Why exactly is 2005's Most Wanted the best-ever NFS? Allow us to explain.
A Product of its Time
To fully appreciate Most Wanted, you have to put yourself into the time period when it was made.
2005 was when The Fast and Furious films were beginning to get going and shows like Pimp My Ride were extremely popular. Most Wanted fitted perfectly into this era.
The story is a simple one, you wrongfully lose your car (the iconic BMW M3 GTR GT on the cover) and need to achieve redemption by climbing to the top of the Blacklist.
The Blacklist are as scary as they sound, as these are the 15 racers that rule the streets of Rockport. To get your Beemer back, you'll need to best all of them and challenge Razor to a showdown.
You could argue that the challenges and races were somewhat repetitive, but that's an issue that a lot of racing games still suffer with today. The racing itself is brilliant, its high-speed nature makes it thrilling from start to finish.
What sets Most Wanted apart from many games though, is that there's a real sense of progression. From the first race you compete in, you have a clear goal; to beat Razor, no matter what the cost is.
While they don't look like anything special now, the graphics were top-notch for the time. The same goes to the sound and handling model, only Gran Turismo was better at the time.
Don't forget about the soundtrack either! There were some absolute bangers in there, this still ranks as one of NFS' best all these years later.
It was over-the-top and heavily stylised, but it was always entertaining. Now, it's iconic and oozing with nostalgia.
This is the closest you'll see to CSI: Miami in a video game, complete with one-liners, dramatic taking off of sunglasses and smug characters like Cross.
The acting wasn't exactly Oscar-worthy, but it did its job, you hated the antagonists and empathised with your character and Mia.
Speaking of cutscenes, those were live action as well, meaning they look as good now as they did 15 years ago. If you want to re-live them too, we've found an amazing compilation video for your enjoyment below:
While the customisation wasn't the best in the series' history (more on that later) the number of options open to you was very impressive. You could still put a massively over-the-top spoiler and huge blown exhaust on a Fiat Punto, if you wanted.
Cops v Robbers
We've got to talk about the cops too, because those chases were legendary. If you wanted a real challenge, trying to escape from a high Heat level was always exciting and difficult.
Cop chases would start relatively innocently with patrol cars hunting you down. Eventually though, roadblocks, spike strips, a helicopter and even SUV rammers would all be on your tail.
The Rockport PD didn't mess around, there was a real sense of fear when the SUV rammers and Corvette chasers got deployed.
Most Wanted wasn't the only great NFS created during this period, there are some other contenders for that crown. Underground and Underground 2 were released in 2003 and 2004, respectably and complete the triple crown of NFS titles.
While the customisation in the Underground games is arguably better, there is a big omission from these titles. The police were taken out of these games, removing an element from the story and the gameplay.
No police does have the benefit of meaning you can do whatever you want around Olympic City. Not having the opportunity to take on the law though, is something that we really miss in NFS and we're glad it's back now.
The Underground titles are solid 9/10 games at least, but Most Wanted is the full package, it has everything that makes NFS great included inside.
Still the Creme de la Creme
Like any series, Need for Speed's quality has varied over the decades. Nobody will debate the fact that the series peaked in the early to mid-2000s and that Most Wanted is the most iconic of this period.
It's still the Gold Standard of NFS. When a new NFS gets announced, one of the first questions gamers ask is "will it be as good as Most Wanted?". So far, the answer to that question has always been "no".
NFS: Hot Pursuit (2010) was recently remastered, so we could see Most Wanted: Remastered in the near future too. But for now, the original Xbox and PS2 game is what we have to treasure and enjoy.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Need for Speed and Opinion page.