Top 10 driving games of all time

Tyler Heatley

12 Nov 2021

The ultimate escape for petrolheads.

We’d all love to own a limited edition Lamborghini or smoke the rear tyres off an Ariel Atom, but the majority of us live in a thing called reality. The closest many will get to driving their automotive heroes will be virtually, and as a result, video games have become the ultimate way to explore that fantasy for petrolheads.

Over the decades there have been some real classics, but here are our top 10 driving games of all time.

Sega Rally Championship

It’s the rally classic that ate all of your pocket money as a kid… Sega Rally Championship is an icon of arcades all over the country, with many still retaining the original of 1994. Sure, by today’s photorealistic standards of next-gen consoles its pixelated graphics date it, but you can’t beat the thrill of adjusting the seat before slamming through the gears in a Lancia Delta.

Gran Turismo 4

There are newer GT games, there are also potentially more loved GT games like Gran Turismo 2, but no title moved things on like Gran Turismo 4. Utilising the then-new PlayStation 2, GT4 introduced an incredible physics engine that immediately made this the ultimate driving simulator of its day.

Factor in impressive graphics, not to mention a lengthy roster of cars, and you have a definitive game for an entire generation.

Forza Motorsport 2

PlayStation loyalists will always celebrate Gran Turismo – rightly so – but the titan of driving simulations got some real competition when Forza Motorsport 2 arrived on Xbox 360. This game took driving physics to the next level, and its extensive range of car modifications really added something.

The ability to create unique liveries and sell them in an online auction house is something that Gran Turismo could only copy in later incarnations.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and spiteful turtle shells are still blue. Mario Kart 8 brings together everything that was good and great about this much-loved series, adds some modern-day polish, and sets up shop on the latest Nintendo console.

This remains the most approachable, yet competitive, driving game out there. ‘Here we go!’

Forza Horizon 4

While the Forza Motorsport series focused on realism, the Horizon games were a much more approachable entry point for players. Based around a music festival, this arcade-style game allowed players to embrace car culture while exploring vast open worlds. Horizon 4 was a particular highlight with its changeable seasons and British setting.

Will Forza Horizon 5 live up to the reputation of its predecessor?

Colin McRae Rally 2.0

Colin McRae was the star of WRC thanks to his boisterous driving style, so it is no surprise that he lent his name to a rally sim. McRae Rally 2.0 featured an impressive roster of cars and stages set around the world.

In many respects, this was the Sega Rally of the PS1 generation.

WRC II Extreme

This game was effectively what Gran Turismo was for track racing simulations. Thanks to having the official blessing of the World Rally Championship, WRC II Extreme harnessed the PS2’s processing power to produce the most realistic rally experience at that point.

Its damage rendering was also a big step forward for rally games that typically saw players bump off objects without consequence.

Burnout 3: Takedown

If you’re looking for realism, look elsewhere. Burnout 3 Takedown was all about over the top crashes and slow-motion devastation. In addition to the racing, there was a mode specifically designed to measure how much damage you could do during a crash.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

A gaming high watermark that helped cement the E46 M3 as a cultural icon in minds of gamers. Your task was to take down a series of Black List racers and dethrone your ultimate rival who effetely stole your car. Some epic police chases and intoxicating scoring system mean the replay value of Most Wanted was huge.

F1 2009

Since the dawn of time, there has been an official F1 game, but many were huge disappointments. When Codemasters gained the licence and produced the masterpiece that was F1 2009, we never looked back.

Realistic and stunning to look at, this was a paradigm shift for grand prix games.  

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Tyler Heatley

12 Nov 2021