There's no thrill quite like getting behind the wheel of a specially tuned racing machine.
But if you don't have access to a track and race car, car video games might be the perfect alternative. Of course, not all video games are created equal. So we've taken the initiative of reviewing some of the leading brands and franchises. Keep reading for an overview of the landscape. And note that the best doesn't mean the latest. We won't recommend anything on an obsolete system that would be hard to play in modern times. But they also won't all be from the very latest technology or systems. We'll get into what we look for in our recommendations below. But suffice it to say that we think the car racing games below are as close to the real thing as possible.
The Best Car Racing Games Have a Few Things In Common
Most notably, they all put the player right in the driver's seat. Even from the earliest examples, there were some auto racing games that dominated others. These were the ones that offered the most reality in the experience. Whether it's the rumble of the engine or the view of the track, you felt like you were actually racing.
In fact, this is the hallmark of most great video games. They are meant to be a diversion. It's more fun if you temporarily forget that you're holding a joystick or controller. And this is even more obvious when you're piloting a hugely powerful race car around the track. Here are a few of the games we think have shown us how it should be done.
1. V Rally
Love rally car racing? We'll start with one of the car video games that is likely right up your alley. V Rally 4 is incredible on an array of systems. But we particularly like it on the Nintendo Switch. It remains vibrant and immersive, which is rare on smaller screens. And the actual game play experience remains engaging throughout.
You can continue to upgrade and advance your autos as you get better in the circuits. Plus, there are more than 50 different models of cars to collect and drive. Each one has its own feel and performance, giving you a range of cockpit feelings as you progress. Advance your career, race for fun, or get online and really show off your skills.
Keep rising in the ranks and end up in the master class of racers. Here you'll be able to prove yourself in the most demanding environments. These off road races and other challenging tracks put every racing instinct to the test. Kylotonn Racing Games set a new standard for rally car video games with the release of this one. And whether it's on the Switch or another platform, we think it's worth checking out.
2. Cars 3: Driven To Win
We said the best car video games should be thrilling and immersive. That doesn't mean they have to be realistic. Here's one that's definitely geared toward the younger crowd. But we think racing fans of all ages will appreciate the attention to detail. Graphics are detailed and vivid while the races themselves are designed well.
Plus, there's the unabashed fun factor. You get to catch a lot of air and perform some really incredible tricks with your karts. Maybe you've played other karting games, but this one is a bit different. You can race with and against your favorite characters from the "Cars" franchise.
Love to bash things up? Well, this game has also got you covered. Get points for knocking other karts out of commission. Get power ups to keep your own vehicle going strong. Then you can perform barrel rolls and other tricks to get an even higher score. It's easy to take to the course against other challengers. You might be surprised how addictive it becomes.
3. Forza Motorsport 6
You're in control of some of the most powerful racing machines ever invented for this experience. And with 60 frames per second of pulse pounding action, it's a real thrill ride. You'll really feel like you're whipping around corners and taking over competitors. And you'll do it all from the driver's seat of more than 450 different cars.
We like it in the It's tons of fun no matter which mode you prefer to play. Take on your friends in the two player version. Get your experience against realistic computer challengers. They even become more responsive and more like human drivers the longer you play.
Then move over to the Xbox Live cloud to track your experience. It all unfolds in 1080p high definition. You might just feel like you're watching an actual high speed race as your competitions play out. But be careful, it's also realistic in the amount of damage your car can sustain. Get too rough with your machine and it'll take it's toll on performance.
4. WRC 5
We're back with another rally car video game with this installment. It's available on all the major platforms. We find it especially well paired with the Playstation 4. But whichever version you choose, it will include more than 20 cars. You can also choose from different teams and rallies as you proceed through a career.
There are also multiple modes to your game play experience. Choose the hot seat perspective, online or multiplayer options. And your car will be yours in almost every sense. Not only will you perform maintenance and try to avoid damage, you can also tune it up.
Get the engine that's perfect for your driving style to take you through a range of incredible tracks. There's more than 250 miles of race, all with unique and interesting scenery. Explore 65 stages and travel to more than a dozen nations as your career unfolds.
5. Need for Speed Rivals
You might be familiar with the Need for Speed franchise. In this version, the stakes are higher than ever. Each player is responsible for his or her own destiny. You race against your rivals and can engage in heart racing chase scenes. While you're racing against other competitors, it's also a constant race to stay ahead of police.
Collect points along the way for added benefits throughout your career. And if you enjoy playing online, this one provides easy integration. Xbox One gives a great platform for the game, but it's a fun time however you prefer to play.
Every car, every racer and every race is a unique experience in a wide world to explore. And you can race in a variety of settings, putting to use all the skills you gain along the way. Plus, with officers employing every trick in their bag, you always have to watch your back. There's never a dull moment, no matter which of the modes you enjoy most.
6. Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing
One of our favorite racing games for the Nintendo DS calls back some classic Sega characters. First of all, there are lots of new tracks and courses to explore. We like racing in the Blizzard Castle, Curien Mansion, Sonic Seaside Hill and other locations. Find lots of new obstacles and great backgrounds for your breakneck speeds.
Mixing the scenery of city streets and deep wooded areas, you'll get a chance to race everywhere. And with lots of competitors ready to go, you'll always have a new rivalry to chase down. Get online and make your career really count.
No matter how you like to play, you can play as some of the most beloved characters from the Sonic franchise. Or explore some new characters, new vehicles and of course the new terrain. Maybe you love all new car video games. Or perhaps you just want a fun game to help you unwind. Either way, we think you'll find something to love in this game.
7. Gear Club Unlimited
Nintendo Switch is a fun platform, and we think this racing game shines on it. You can choose from different types of racing. Go for the Test Drive Unlimited for a fun way to get used to each of the vehicles. And then move over to V Rally and other modes of racing. And the cars themselves are the real stars of this game.
Sure, not all of the best car video games are realistic. But the ones that are going for that effect need to make sure they get it right. And Eden Games did exactly that with the Ger Club Unlimited installment.
Plus, the choices you have in playing this game are among the best we've reviewed. Pick from more than 30 of the most sought after cars in the world. Then take them for a spin or a trial through hundreds of race courses. You can plan with a friend in an easy to follow split screen display.
8. HTR+ Slot Car Simulation
Maybe you just want a fun game to pass some time on your computer. Here's one that isn't especially realistic, but that's kind of the point. Slot cars have always been a big part of hobby auto racing. And as it turns out, car video games can even bring that pastime to virtual life.
The simulation is easy to start exploring. Then when you start digging in, you might find it's even more fun than the real thing. Choose your favorite way to race and the best environment for your slot car career. All it takes is an online redemption code to get started. This game could become one of your favorites even without some of the high tech features of its competitors.
Car video games have been part of our lives for generations.
Though the graphics might be better these days, today's games build on that long tradition. We hope we've been able to spotlight some that we think deserve added attention.
If you found our guide helpful, share it with the gamers in your life. And leave us a comment below if you have any final thoughts or questions.
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