The question of which is the best ever racing game is a very difficult one to answer, as there are so many sub-genres. What we can do though, is isolate specific sub-genres to figure out what's the best.
When it comes to Formula 1 games, nothing matches Grand Prix Legends. The classic title from the 1990s is still popular today thanks to its dedicated modding community and its timeless gameplay.
Here's exactly why it has a special place in racing games history!
The most realistic racing sim
Grand Prix Legends centres around the 1967 Formula 1 season and is inspired by the 1966 film Grand Prix. GPL simulates every race that year, including non-championship events.
The level of accuracy GPL goes into isn't matched by many titles even today.
If, for example, Graham Hill didn't race in specific grands prix that year, he won't in GPL either. The same goes for the cars and the upgrades, it perfectly replicates how the teams developed and replaced their cars in '67.
While the graphics of the surroundings are lacking by today's standards, this game is over 20 years old. If you were to compare it to F1 98 (a game that came out in the same year as GPL), GPL is leagues above.
GPL's handling model is still considered to be one of the most difficult and rewarding to master out of all the racing sims.
Likewise, its damage model is also one of the most realistic, as cars can retire for any number of reasons, not just collisions and engine failures.
Racing at its purest
Playing old video games is nostalgic but when they're also set in a classic era such as the 1960s, it's extra special.
This is also an era when a lot of the technology we see in racing today simply didn't exist.
You want to talk to your pit crew? Too bad, radios aren't in these cars.
You want to know how many laps are left or what position you're in? Look at your pit board when you pass the pits.
Change the engine mode while you're in the car? No chance.
This might sound limiting, but what it does it make you focus on the driving and only the driving. It makes the competition between yourself and the AI more equal, as strategy doesn't factor into the end result as much as today.
GPL is definitely a game that will help hone your raw skills as a racing driver as the cars are beasts to drive.
No downforce, no power steering, tyres are very difficult to heat up and primitive brakes make the 1967 F1 cars a mammoth challenge to master.
Massive modding community
Like a lot of titles such as iRacing, GPL's lifespan has been significantly elongated by its incredible online community. Thanks to the fandom, more seasons, drivers, cars and circuits have been added to the game.
Thanks to this, you could start your Formula 1 career all the way back in the 1950s racing against Moss and Fangio and retire in the 70s with the likes of Peterson and Fittipaldi on track.
Yes, F1 2020 has ten seasons available and driver transfers and retirements are included, which is good. However, you'll never see new drivers enter the talent pool, nor new teams, nor new cars.
While the graphics aren't as impressive as new games, they certainly aren't bad thanks to the HD textures that are available now. And if you compare them to games like F1 98, it's a world apart.
When talking about the best F1 game ever, there isn't a consensus for which titles should be considered. However, GPL, F1 2020 and F1 Championship Edition (2006) are the three that are most commonly mentioned.
The issue with F1 2020 and 2006 CE though is that they're based solely around one season of F1 racing. While they both do this excellently and are rightfully revered,
Yes, there are mods where the drivers and the teams have been updated to emulate different seasons for both these games. However, these aren't as convincing as GPL, but why is this?
It most likely boils down to how complete of a game GPL was and how simple it also is. When it comes to altering things within the game, the better the vanilla version is, the easier it is to change the code.
GPL obviously was built rock-solid, as new tracks, competitions and seasons are being added all the time. There's little sign this will stop anytime soon, either.
That's what sim racers want, realism and Grand Prix Legends is as pure as you can get.
There are far too many mods within GPL to list them all, but this video shows the most impressive available: