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Ryan Darby

Ryan Darby

Ryan takes the lead on all things 'wordy'. With a sports media background, a true passion for cars, and a LOT of driving experience under his belt, he'll make sure you have all the information you need, when you need it.

Read time of 5 minutes.

What is the best car racing game of all time?

The car racing genre is one of the most competitive gaming categories around. Franchises like Gran Turismo, Need for Speed and Forza have dominated the industry, releasing countless epic titles year after year.

Creating a compelling and gripping racing simulator is no mean feat, but when done right, it can result in millions of sales and a special place in history for car game fanatics.

Between the big names franchises, there is a racing simulator for every type of fan.

As we approach the release date of Forza Motorsport 8, which is due to hit our shelves in October 2023, we’re rolling back the years to relive some of the best car and racing games from the past two decades.

Mario Kart Wii (2008)

Available on: Nintendo Wii

Mario Kart is one of the iconic racing video games and it’s enjoyed many different formats across different platforms.

However, it was in 2008, following the release of the Nintendo Wii that things took a whole new turn.

The Nintendo Wii may never have taken off as expected, but Mario Kart captured the hearts and imaginations of millions – over 37 million to be precise. It’s the franchise’s second best-selling title and the second best-selling Nintendo Wii game.

It offers fun for all ages and abilities with some of our favourite Super Mario characters.

In no other racing category is it acceptable behaviour to throw a banana peel at another car, but you try telling Yoshi that as you fly around Coconut Mall in first place.

Need for Speed Underground 2 (2004)

Available on: GameCube, PS2, Xbox

Need for Speed Underground 2 raised the bar for car racing games to a whole new level.

A sequel to the first Need for Speed Underground, this title is often cited as the best in the entire franchise. Not bad for a game that was released nearly 20 years ago.

It has developed an iconic status among car racers for the groundbreaking levels of customisation it offered.

Need for Speed Underground 2 was also the first game to feature an open world that players could roam through, complimented by the game’s fantastic soundtrack.

Quality can often be overinflated when reminiscing about older titles, but Underground 2 paved the way for the future of open world car games.

Gran Turismo 4 (2004)

Available on: PlayStation 2

Remembered with fond memories, Gran Turismo 4 is among the most popular titles in the series.

Hailed for the depth of the single player career mode, it was a game that set a high precedent for future releases to follow.

It offered improved racing with a wide range of real-life tracks, including the Nürburgring.

For a 2004 release, its graphics were far ahead of its time.

It was also the first Gran Turismo to feature Photo Mode, an addition that allowed gamers to capture their favourite vehicles in some stunning backdrops. This would go on to become a key feature of future games, with the franchise developing a huge following among aspirational car photographers.

Such is the success of the series, it has been transformed into cinema, with Gran Turismo, the movie, one of our recommended car movies to watch. Based on a true story, it shows the journey of an aspirational gamer, who brings the game to life in his efforts to make as a professional. We wouldn’t recommend trying to replicate Gran Turismo – or any of these games – in your new car lease though.

Forza Horizon 5 (2021)

Available on: Windows & Xbox

Forza is one of the biggest names in the car video game scene and its franchise can be divided into two segments: Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon.

We’re focusing on the latter, specifically Forza Horizon 5. It’s the most recent release in the Horizon genre and it wasted no time in establishing itself as one of, if not the best game in the franchise.

The open world, set in Mexico, offers stunning visuals and a new level of car gaming experience.

The list of cars available, including the Mercedes-Benz AMG Project One, is just as impressive and it doesn’t take you long to see why Forza Horizon 5 was named IGNs Game of the Year in the year of its release.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005)

Available on: Xbox, PlayStation and Windows

With over 20 titles to their name, Need for Speed is a franchise that cannot be overlooked as one of the most popular car racing series of the past two decades.

Among their most popular sellers is Need for Speed Most Wanted, the follow up to the aforementioned Need for Speed Underground 2.

The franchise was in their heyday in the early 2000s, with Most Wanted still, to this day, revered as one of the best releases.

An open-world racing simulator tasked players with becoming the ‘most wanted’ street racer, with gripping police pursuits and vast multiplayer options, it is remembered with fondness in what was a great era for street racing games.

Driver (1999)

Available on: PlayStation, Windows and Game Boy Colour

Reportedly the fourth best-selling car racing game franchise on the market, topped only by Mario Kart, Need for Speed and Gran Turismo.

Driver is very much of its time when it comes to gameplay and visuals, but its story line of an undercover NYPD detective had people hooked.

As a franchise, it went on to release several titles following the 1999 debut, but sometimes, you can’t beat an original.

Five of the most famous car stunts in movie history