LAST UPDATED: September 18, 2019
Best Racing Games: Unlimited Speed and Power
Race around as your favorite characters or in your dream cars with these top-rated racing games
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON September 18, 2019
From Mario to real-life hypercars, there is a racing game for just about anybody. They let you visit fantastical, made-up lands or cruise around the real-life Nürburgring in the car of your dreams. You can zip around in a go-kart built for two or drive a hybrid supercar designed for speed and power. Here are the top-rated racing games to consider.
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Benefits of Racing Games
- Entertainment. The best racing games will leave you entertained for hours on end. They allow you to become another person and drive any car imaginable.
- Choice. One of the best things about a driving game is there is a wide variety of them. You don’t have to stick with playing the same level or game forever. If you want a more wacky and colorful game, there are ones featuring famous characters and quirky vehicles. Or you could go the more realistic route and choose a game that allows you to get behind the wheel of an actual car.
- Relieve stress. After a long day at work or school, coming home to wind down with a video game is a great way to destress. You can forget about anything that may be troubling you for a while and get lost in another world.
- Fellowship. Racing games can help bring people together who enjoy the racing experience. Hobbyists can play for fun, while gamers who are up for a challenge can work to outrace their friends.
Types of Racing Games
A simulator racing game is one that is based on realism. They include a selection of cars, trucks, SUVs, and more vehicles from everyday life. They also feature NASCAR, Grand Prix racing, and Formula One cars. You are able to choose between manual or automatic driving styles and a number of braking systems, and you can customize the look and style of your car.
Kart-style racing games feature zany and cartoonish graphics and effects. You choose a character such as Luigi from Super Mario Bros. and control a customizable go-kart around a number of tracks. The karts can also fly, be submersible, drive off-road, or go into space or some other impossible place.
An arcade racer combines elements of the two others and is its own unique style. While typically featured in arcades, bowling alleys, and bars and popularized by Sega, there are many arcade racing games you can play at home. They will feature more realistic cars but focus more on unrealistic stunts and gameplay. You can corner at high speeds or jump great distances after hitting a boost.
Racing Games Pricing
- $30 to $60: Here you will find racing games that have either been out for a while or are at a bargain price. Handheld racing games generally start on the lower end, while ones designed for consoles tend to be more expensive.
- $60 and up: The standard price for a brand-new video game will typically be around $60. However, there will be times when a game will be released at a higher price and feature extra bonuses, such as in-game items, statues, and other collectibles.
One top feature of a racing game is the ability to customize the car you are driving. Many, if not all, should allow you to change the paint, improve the look, and enhance the engine for better performance. You may even be able to customize the levels and characters. Racing sims even give you the option to turn on damage to your vehicle, so if you collide with a wall at 80 mph, it will more than likely be totaled.
A racing game gives you the option to go back and replay any level or track you desire. This means you can practice with a certain car or vehicle until you learn the course enough to beat old records or set new ones. Many arcade and kart style games also feature hidden areas you can find to get ahead of the rest of the players.
If you want to, you can join your friends and other racers online to challenge them. This is one way to meet new people that share the same interest or play with friends who may live far away. Many racing games also allow you to drive around in familiar settings and locations in an open world scenario without ever having to leave your home.
Downloaded content, or DLC, is an aspect of nearly every video game out today. It can range from entirely new features for the game, different areas to explore, or enhanced cars. You may have to pay extra for it, or you can buy it with the original game and download it when it becomes available.
- Extra Components: You can buy extra components to enhance the racing game experience. These can include an actual stick shift, pedals, and steering wheel.
- Data Usage: Today, the majority of gaming consoles require you to be online to download and play a video game. If you are on a fixed data plan, downloading a game can be time-consuming and use a lot of data. The game can also use a lot of data when it is up and running. If you have it on your Android or Apple smartphone, then you will either need a data plan or a Wi-Fi signal to ensure it functions properly. However, if you are on a Wi-Fi signal, then this does not apply to you at all.
- File Size: You will want to consider the size of the racing game before you download it to your system. The larger the file the more space it will take on the hard drive. Depending on the size and the manner in which you download it (Wi-Fi versus data), it could take a while before the download is complete.
Best Racing Games Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Perhaps one of the most entertaining and lovable racing games in existence, Mario Kart is a staple in the genre. The eighth installment of the Nintendo series features 42 unique playable characters, their karts, and 48 levels to explore. Plus, you can challenge your friends to races and battles online or next to them on the couch. It’s also quite pleasing to look at and runs at 1080p.
One of the best benefits of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is it is user-friendly and extra accommodating to new players. It features a smart steering option that will help keep your kart on the track. It also comes with five battle game modes and 12 race options that vary in challenge and length. Since it is on the Nintendo Switch, it has the extra convenience of being portable.
A downside is that it doesn’t really add a lot of new features that make it stand out from previous titles. It’s also a direct port from the Wii U version with some added levels and characters. Plus, it feels as if the game may be trying to help the player too much. There are a lot of added options that control the kart for you and take away the feeling that you are in full control.
The Forza series has been around since 2005 and always releases a breathtaking look into the world of racing. For the sixth installment of the game, the cars look beautiful in 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. There are more than 450 unique cars to race around in, and each one can be fully customized to your specific liking. Some of the vehicles include the 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia, the 2014 Lamborghini Hurácan, and the 2013 McLaren P1.
One feature we like is the ability to play two-player split-screen with a friend on the couch, a feature that seems to be slowly disappearing, or you can connect online to play with friends and 23 other players anywhere in the world. The single-player mode for Forza 6 brings back the Drivatar (driving avatar) feature that learns from your playstyle to create computer-controlled opponents for you to race against. Basically, the system uses data from every player’s driving record to create a unique version of themselves you can challenge. You can also tour 26 world-famous locations, such as Daytona and Le Mans.
You will need access to Xbox Live in order to play this game online, and that will cost you a monthly payment. Plus, in two-player split-screen mode, you can only race against the other player and not computer-controlled opponents. Another downside is a few cars are only unlockable after paying for the DLC. It also doesn’t really add a whole lot of new features to the series other than new cars and is only available for Microsoft systems.
Sony fans will be happy to know they have another way to live out their racing game dreams. Project Cars includes more than 65 vehicles, including supercars, GT, Le Mans Prototypes, and karts. You can race on more than 60 tracks with your choice of closed circuits or point-to-point locations. The game also features a day and night cycle with ever-changing weather and 1080p resolution.
One of the more engaging aspects of Project Cars is the ability to create your own customizable racer and live out a career mode campaign. You can even set custom public or private race weekends for friends to join or connect to any other race around the globe in the online mode. Project Cars also features time trial challenges and a season of content to compete against other players.
Project Cars does not feature offline multiplayer, so you can’t play with friends on the couch. Another drawback is playing with the PlayStation controller will take some getting used to. The game is optimized to run with a racing wheel system. There are options in the settings to change to a controller, but they can be confusing and difficult to manage.
If you’re a fan of wacky antics, incredibly fast speeds, and the characters from “Sonic the Hedgehog,” then this is the racing game for you. “Sonic Team Racing” is rather similar to “Mario Kart.” Each character has their own custom go-kart they can use to compete in a number of different levels. Sure, Sonic’s motto is “Gotta go fast,” but he’s even faster in a kart. It doesn’t make sense, but just run with it.
“Sonic Team Racing” includes online multiplayer mode, so you and 12 friends or players can race against one another. Or you can even play split-screen four-player couch co-op offline if you so choose. Having the ability to play at home with friends is something sorely missing from a lot of games released today.
Players can race as a team or individually, and you can even upgrade the look of your vehicle. There’s even a story mode and 15 playable characters.
The one major downside is “Sonic Team Racing” does not include cross-platform gaming. So if you have it on Xbox, you are unable to race against friends who own it on the PS4, PC, or Nintendo Switch. Another thing is it can use more tracks.
“Crash Team Racing” is another classic example of excellent go-kart style racing games. It features the cast of characters from the “Crash Bandicoot” series, so it’s thrilling, silly, and highly entertaining. The game is also available for a number of consoles including PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
“Crash Team Racing” also has an online mode so you can race against friends. You can race against up to eight players online and four on your own screen at home. “Crash Team Racing” features 56 characters, 40 tracks, and 40 vehicles to choose from. All in all, the game did end up taking home some awards after its release in 2019. The Video Game Awards presented it with the Best Sports/Racing game of 2019.
But like “Team Sonic Racing,” you are unable to crossplay with anyone who owns a different system than you. Also, you may notice a dip in graphic quality when playing online or with multiple people on your console.
If you’re a fan of ludicrous speed and power, high-speed police chases, and destructible environments, then we strongly consider “Need for Speed: Rivals.” It isn’t your typical racing game. You’ll spend the majority of time dodging the law in hypercars while you rack up points by destroying light posts and more.
It is one of the most realistic looking racing games to release in the last few years as well. It hit stores in 2013 and for that time period, the graphics weren’t too bad. You can even play online against friends and try to beat their high scores. You’ll also likely find your dream car or a fan favorite among the many cars featured in the game. It is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.
However, there are some drawbacks with “Rivals.” It is so similar to its predecessor that many new mechanics have been added to the game. You cannot play multiplayer on a single console. Like our other choices, there is no crossplay between consoles.
Arguably, “Forza Horizon 4” for the Xbox One is perhaps one of the greatest racing experiences to date. Unlike “Forza Motorsports,” “Horizon” forgoes the traditional racing venues and real world tracks and instead opts for the British countryside. You are free to roam the open world and experience the country in all four seasons. You will race in snow, ice, rain, and summertime heat.
The majority of “Horizons” will have you racing against AI in numerous events as you try to raise your player level. Increasing your level unlocks more events, cars, and cash. The cash you earn can be used to buy homes, clothes, and, of course, new and more exotic supercars and hypercars. You can also find vehicles in the world that you can unlock and use to cruise the streets or off-road trails.
If we’re getting picky about what not to like about it, there are a few things. For one, if you want to play online, you will have to pay a monthly subscription fee for Xbox Live. Another downside is the game does not include every car ever made. There are also a few known glitches that may have your car warp through the ground or give you millions of credits for no reason.
Originally released in 2008, “Burnout Paradise” was one of the best racing games of its time. The remastered version, released in June 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Like “Need for Speed: Rivals,” “Paradise” focuses on outrageous speeds and high octane action rather than realistic racing mechanics.
“Burnout” includes 130 plus vehicles and plenty of areas to explore in its open world. It, too, features online multiplayer with hundreds of challenges, stunts, and races. You earn points by drifting, racing, and destroying the environment in your path.
However, at least for the Nintendo Switch version, the game can run a little behind and the graphics aren’t the best. Also, you are unable to play cross-platform with other console owners.
- You may be able to find a Game of the Year edition that has the majority of the DLC cars included in the game. This will save you money and time downloading the content.
- To get a better feel for racing games, consider connecting a racing wheel and pedals to the system. This makes it feel as if you are driving an actual car.
- For all online racing games, ensure you have fast internet for the best possible connection. If you have multiple people connected to the Wi-Fi at the same time, you may experience lag or loss of connection
Q: Can I cross-play from one console to another?
A: This largely depends on the racing game. While many video games allow you to play against friends with an Xbox and PS4, others will not. Check with the maker of the game to see if they enable cross-play.
Q: If I have two consoles, do I have to buy two copies of the game?
A: In some cases, yes, you will have to buy two copies of the game. For instance, if you have two Nintendo Switches, then you will need two copies of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. However, if you have two Xbox Ones, you may not need separate copies. Microsoft has set up a system that connects one Xbox to another to allow both to play digital games owner by either owner.
Q: Do all racing games support a racing wheel?
A: No, not all racing games will support the connection of a racing wheel. The majority of PC games will work with one. Xbox, PS4, and Nintendo games may enable the use of one, but you should check with the system you own to see if there is a wheel that works with them.
For one of the best racing games to play with friends and one that is perfect for any age, consider Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
For a more realistic racing game with a lot of custom cars and real-life tracks, check out Forza Motorsport 6.