The best racing games of all-time

We’ve compiled a list of the most impressive titles from this genre from arcade to sim racers.

179290097 168489101828607 1228396287122330352 n by George Howson
iRacing Dallara TN

Racing games have been around almost as long as video games themselves. They’re extremely varied but usually fit into the category of either simulation or arcade racers.

As we await the arrival of Gran Turismo 7 and Forza Motorsport, we figured why not gauge their competition!

We’ve thought long and hard about our choices and we’ve found our picks for the best seven racing games of all-time.

The only rule is that we can only have a maximum of one game per series, otherwise a certain PlayStation sim racer would dominate the list. Here are our magnificent seven!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Everybody loves Mario Kart! It really does appeal to every type of racing gamer. Casual gamers enjoy its fun atmosphere and crazy maps and power-ups.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Switch
IT DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS: Switch’s Mario Kart is the best the series has produced

The more serious racers are also kept happy, as they can compete against the dev times and be challenged by the 200cc AI.

MK goes all the way back to the SNES, but we believe that the best ever Mario Kart is the most recent main series entry, 8 Deluxe. This entry is the HD remaster of the Wii U Mario Kart and it’s drop-dead gorgeous to look at.

The original Super Nintendo, Wii and DS titles are all true greats, but 8 Deluxe on Switch is the pinnacle of Mario Kart. We should also commend Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for doing something completely novel too.

The new circuits are challenging, and Nintendo made great choices when picking the classic tracks. You can play this game for hours and it never gets old, it’s like a fine wine.

We can’t wait to see what the next-gen Mario Kart will be like, even if Nintendo’s next home console won’t be released for at least a few years.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005)

Need for Speed has been going for over 25 years now and the series peaked in the mid-2000s. NFS: Most Wanted is still the best the series has produced and is absolutely timeless.

nfs most wanted
PEDAL TO THE METAL: Waiting around simply wasn’t an option in NFS Most Wanted

Great cars, fantastic customisation, an iconic soundtrack and that classic cheesy storyline filled with over-the-top cutscenes. Some would argue that it’s simplistic, but that’s what makes it so special, it’s a pure arcade racer.

In most fans’ estimations, the Underground games are the only two which come close to Most Wanted and it’s hard to disagree with that.

If NFS can return to these glory days, it will become one of the best series out there again, there’s no question about that.

iRacing

It’s hard to believe that a game that’s approaching 15 years old is still as popular today as when it launched. Ever since hitting the market in 2008, iRacing has been in constant development and is always improving.

iRacing Rookie 1
LONGEVITY: iRacing is one of the longest-lasting sim racers out there

The fact that iRacing was chosen by motorsport series like Formula E to hold its virtual races on speaks volumes about its quality.

The array of circuits and cars available is second to none, it’s incredible.

The only con that stops it being higher than fifth on our list is that iRacing isn’t as accessible as some other racing sims.

Daytona USA

Chances are that if you’re a millennial, you will have played this classic on an arcade machine at some point. In fact, even the Gen-Z children can enjoy Daytona USA as it’s still one of the most common racing games in arcades.

Daytona usa arcade racer
TIME EXTENSION: Daytona USA is arguably the greatest arcade racer of all-time

Having been around since 1994, you’d think that this game would have aged horribly, but you’d be wrong. Yes, the graphics and sound do look dated, but it’s just as fun now as it was in the 90s.

You race stock cars around ovals for as long as you can in a classic time attack mode. 10p a go? Don’t mind if we do!

Speaking of money, this game holds the world record for the most coins sunk into it, which speaks volumes about its quality.

Burnout 3: Takedown

The highest-ranked arcade racer on our list is from a series we wish was still going. Burnout produced some of the best arcade racers ever, and we believe that 3: Takedown is the best of the sub-genre.

burnout 3 takedown
ICONIC: Nobody does it quite like Burnout did

Burnout 3 transformed the franchise from a racer to the iconic and unique style which the series is known best for. You could now “Takedown” your opponents, meaning that it wasn’t just racing anymore, but survival.

Hours upon hours were spent playing this classic and not one of them was wasted. Just like most EA games from the mid-2000s, the soundtrack is also a classic.

Even to this day, the crunching noises the cars make as they fly up into the air and split into a thousand pieces hits harder than any game has since.

Grand Prix Legends

Long before Codemasters took over the reins of the Formula 1 game, there was an F1 game which all were compared to. Grand Prix Legends was released back in 1998 and like iRacing, it still receives updates.

Grand Prix Legends game
LEGEND BY NAME, LEGEND BY NATURE: This game was a true classic

These aren’t updates via the developers, but rather the modding community. This has polished and tweaked the game to make it appear almost brand-new despite being over 20 years old.

Grand Prix Legends is often called the most realistic racing game ever, and it’s easy to see why. GPL’s damage and handling models are still extremely impressive despite their age.

GPL is very challenging and genuinely terrifying at times. Flying up the old Eau Rouge or around the Monza banking in 1960s F1 cars is something you won’t forget in a hurry!

Honourable Mentions

There are so many greats to choose from that it feels cruel to leave some truly great titles out.

Some that didn’t quite make the cut include F1 2020, Gran Turismo, Forza Horizon 3, Colin McRae Rally, Wreckfest, and Assetto Corsa.

Gran Turismo 3

In truth, Gran Turismo 1-4 all could’ve made this list, so it’s no surprise we’ve chosen a GT title to top this magnificent seven.

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was the first GT on the PS2, and Polyphony made perfect use of the new hardware. This is still the best-selling game in the series’ history too, shipping over 15 million copies worldwide!

gran turismo 3 a spec

GT3 has a handling model that some games today cannot match. The car collection was huge for the time, 180 cars in total. While not as high as its predecessor, the detail in the car models was unparalleled.

The level of detail that was also put into the game’s single player mode was incredible too. You really did feel as though you were a real driver, not someone controlling a computer-generated racer.

Maybe we’ve got nostalgia goggles on, but the graphics don’t look bad at all, especially considering this game came out in 2001. So, quality definitely won against quantity.

GT3 was so accessible too, something the upcoming GT7 could learn a lot from.

George Howson

Currently playing F1 2021, Gran Turismo Sport and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

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