The Racing genre has existed on PC since the inception of video gaming (not quite right at the start, but a little bit past Pong), and always offered a diverse set of disciplines and gameplay types. This genre covers about every racing discipline taken from the real world, ranging from illegal street racing to tough-as-nails Spa 24 hours competition, and beyond that, there are many futuristic and other creative titles to make the genre as widely available as possible. Now you can even play car soccer in Rocket League, or drive massive 18-wheelers in likes of Euro Truck Simulator 2 – the genre has it all for everyone. Among the endless games and disciplines, however, the racing genre can be quite overwhelming with hundreds of games to select from, although only the very few make it among the best racing titles: those that focus particularly good on the specific thing they do. I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorite picks that are completely worth gamers’ time and money investment, and these titles represent the best in video game driving and competition. Here are my best picks for the best racing titles on the PC platform.
Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box/Remastered
Burnout Paradise is an incredibly fun racing playground that doesn’t hold players back through endless cutscenes. I really enjoyed its free world design, as instead of endless sub menus, Burnout Paradise does everything directly in-game. As the series was already popular and known for its high-speed racing and spectacular crashes that Criterion Games are so good at, setting Paradise in an open world with diverse sets of events and collectibles created one of the best open-world designs at the time of its release (2009). Burnout Paradise was unique for those elements, and very few if none racing releases have offered gamers anything similar to the charm of blasting through Paradise City to then get taken down or crash into a wall you failed to see seconds before. With high-speed cars and intense fun, Burnout Paradise continues to shine to this day as one of the best racing games. On PC, The Ultimate Box edition still holds up really well with high-res textures and stellar framerates, now we just have to wait for the Remastered version to pop up on Origin. From what I’ve read so far from PS4/XOne reviews, Criterion have nailed the remaster perfectly, and I can’t wait to see how the PC version shapes up.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)
If you want to experience high-speed chases between racers and the police, 2010’s NFS Hot Pursuit is your best game to go for. Sorry NfS Rivals, but you simply didn’t live up to the promise despite your Frostbite 3 engine. Hot Pursuit still holds up really well too, and Criterion’s signature crashes are more spectacular than ever in this title more so than in their other releases. Hot Pursuit offers two separate single player modes, however there is no story to be found here, which worked excellently as NFS games tend to be bad with plot anyways. With wild police chases across the gorgeous Seacrest county, you’re always guaranteed to have fun, and Criterion Games’ signature crashes are still spectacular to this day. Within the two career paths available, the map is dotted with racing events, and packing a diverse set of cars, Hot Pursuit still holds as my favorite in the series so far. The Seacrest county police department are insanely equipped with most exotic cars, which always brings fun to race events, and not only would players get to use them, but also go up against them in pursuits. NfS Hot Pursuit is still spectacular, and it is a shame it’s open world is completely void of activities, however for the single player, it is absolutely worth getting.
Trackmania Turbo appeals to a certain niche of racing game fans, particularly those who enjoy competition and actively engage in the modding community, and Ubisoft’s racing series has developed a steady fan following. While I haven’t played any game prior to Turbo, its refined experience and unique design offers something new to those seeking a more challenging racer than their Forza or GranTurismo. Trackmania Turbo is all about racing against the clock on tough tracks, and only after I’ve transitioned to the more difficult levels, did I discover just how painfully challenging this game can be. Finishing just within a split second past the gold medal can and will be infuriating, especially after 20 or so prior tries, however Trackmania enables quick restart at a press of a single button. It doesn’t offer a traditional racing experience, but don’t be quick to dismiss the game for a bad racer. For those who enjoy competition against the clock and their friends’ times more so than the single player AI, I’ll definitely recommend picking Trackmania Turbo up.
Trials Fusion is not a conventional racing game in a sense, although I’ve enjoyed it far more than most games out of this list. RedLynx’s motocross racer (if it can even be called that) is a unique blend of fast-paced racing and increasingly complex difficulty curve, which has always been a staple of the series in the past. Fusion is not only the best looking game in the series, but also its most refined and complete experience yet. Set in a futuristic dystopia, Trials Fusion has a surprisingly interesting plot, and while the background dialogue is limited at its best, it fleshes out more about the events in the world. Along with that comes some of the best visual design I’ve seen in gaming in general, and by that I don’t mean the graphics, but rather the excellent art design the team over at RedLynx created. To add, Fusion features a brand new trick system for the series, as well as diverse motorcycles and even a quad bike, and its DLC content is an excellent addition to the basic tracks available. With lots of challenge, but also fun to be had, Trials Fusion shines, and while the studio had a large misstep when they released Trials of the Blood Dragon (see what they did there?), I hope the studio comes back strong with a better successor for the series.
Project CARS 2
For motorsport purists, Project CARS 2 offers one of the most authentic racing experiences in video gaming, and with about 30 licensed tracks and 150+ cars, there is lots of challenge to be found. While it doesn’t have a straightforward career mode, Project CARS 2 gives players opportunities to create their own racing seasons spread across multiple racing disciplines. It isn’t a juggernaut of Forza Motorsport, but the quality of production Slightly Mad Studios came up with is spectacular, and don’t forget the studio has dabbled in EA’s NfS Shift games in the past. Project CARS 2 also has more option for steering and handling than most could handle, but that’s the beauty of it – you can make the experience as easy or hardcore as you like, although I’d still recommend playing it with a steering wheel setup rather than a controller. All in all, Project CARS 2 is a worthy contender to likes of Forza and GranTurismo, and offers racing fans something a little more extensive than 800+ car lists, and succeeds on those merits as with fewer cars, it is more focused on individual handling and the racing experience.
For those who can’t handle the serious racing model of Project CARS but still want to enjoy a competitive motorsport experience, GRID Autosport is the next best thing and offers a slightly less complicated ride. With Codemasters’ expertise in arcade-style sims, GRID Autosport delivers a fun racing experience spread across 5 distinct racing disciplines, some of which aren’t featured in racing sims far too often, and of course, GRID still offers closed street tracks. With a diverse selection of cars, GRID Autosport is a very accessible racer with competent single and multiplayer modes, and even has split-screen on the PC which is an extremely rare occasion on the platform. The studio has since focused on its excellent Dirt and improving F1 series, although GRID is not off the table in the future. It was a hard one to choose between GRID 2 and Autosport as they’re very similar in visuals, gameplay and handling, however this title takes the list as the better racing title in the series. All GRID games are excellent really, and you can often find them at really cheap prices. At this point, I’d be hoping to see another entry in the series at some point soon with an even better experience.
Forza Horizon 3
Have you ever wanted to go off-roading in a Ferrari but that’s too expensive in the real world? Forza Horizon 3 has you covered, and it is the ultimate racing playground for the kids in us (with the Hot Wheels expansion that’s literally what happened). Set in beautiful Australia, Horizon 3 is an entirely open world, so you’re free to go anywhere in any car available to drive, and with plentiful of side activities and hidden collectables, trying to 100% the game would take at least about 40 hours or so. Featuring some of the world’s most exclusive cars that can be driven across vast beaches, busy cities and gorgeous rainforests, Horizon 3 is the ultimate arcade racer, and features a large map full of things to find. Available on both Xbox One and Windows 10, Horizon 3 gave PC gamers one of the best racers on the platform, even if the game’s exclusivity to the Microsoft Store takes a drag when something doesn’t work. Knowing Windows 10, I’ve ran into those quite often by myself, and the game won’t let you proceed at all past the starting menu simply because it failed to log into Xbox Live. But aside from those gripes, Horizon 3 is an excellent sandbox racer and there simply isn’t a better open world game currently on the market.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005)
In the street racing world, EA has failed to topple the success of its 2005 Most Wanted title for years, and while the game certainly shows its age and can’t be digitally purchased, for those who held on to the game might still be able to play it on modern systems. Yes, the resolutions would be low, but NfS Most Wanted is a better street racer than older Underground or newer games like 2015’s NfS reboot (still decent but it had frustrating flaws). With a nicely done career mode and a diverse set of cars, which to be fair are more limited than most gamers will be used to, but with each customizable car and a fun city to explore, there’s plenty of charm and personality in Most Wanted, and the soundtrack has some of the best music selection in an NfS game. Taking down the bosses and outrunning the cops was entertaining, and the plot had some nice twist points presented in quality cutscenes. Ah, the good old days. It’s a shame they haven’t come up with a better street racing game since then, although EA could greatly benefit from a remaster for this title.
Forza Motorsport 7
With Motorsport 7, Microsoft again made its juggernaut racing series available in the Windows app store, and while the experience is held back by the now annoying UWP platform, there simply isn’t another racing game with a 700+ car garage on PC. Forza has always been an excellent racing simulator, which up till recently was confined exclusively behind the Xbox platform, and Motorsport 7 improves on many aspects of its predecessors, with better visual detail, effects, and a longer career mode than found in Forza 6 before it. With an extensive career mode across various car disciplines, Forza 7 pushes to be the most accessible game to draw in new players, and with additional challenge of intense rain effects and night time races, the game is at its best on PC especially. Although it comes at a price of 100+ GB download, which is never ideal for gamers with slow internet speeds, Forza 7 visually looks spectacular, and graphics aside, it also offers hundreds of tracks and just about every car variety existing in the world. If you ever want to race a jacked up Ford Transit van on the Nurburgring, consider it possible in the Motorsport 7.
Since DiRT Rally released in 2015, Codemasters have been returning the series back to its original Colin McRae roots, and now with DiRT 4, they now offer something in between the serious DiRT Rally and the past arcade entries, which also happens to be their most feature-complete title yet. With two distinct handling models (I’d recommend going for the more challenging of the two), and an excellent track generator technology, DiRT 4 features an extensive career mode with endless possibilities for rally stages and includes around 40 of world-famous rally cars of the last 5 decades. With a sweet multiplayer mode added in for good measure, DiRT 4 is a solid gaming experience that doesn’t just focus on rally events either. For added measure, Codemasters included the TrailBlazer events where you compete in race-spec trucks, as well as the official Rally Cross mode. The only thing missing is the Hillclimb mode from DiRT Rally, which is a shame, but perhaps it wasn’t the developer’s intention to include it in the slightly more casual 4th entry. Either way, I can definitely recommend DiRT 4, as it is easily the best title in the whole series.
Shift 2 Unleashed
Before Slightly Mad Studios went mostly independent, they worked with EA to produce some of the highest points in the long running Need for Speed series: NfS Shift and Shift 2 Unleashed. The original offered EA’s take on the racing formula established by GRID, which also blended arcade and simulation racing into one to appeal to more gamers and offered a good balance between a solid career mode and intense multiplayer, but released in 2009, has since been mostly forgotten. Shift 2 Unleashed that followed drastically improved the original’s gameplay and structure, including an expanded car selection and a detailed career mode. What I loved the most is you were free to visually customize your car similar to older street-racing titles, and some of the best designs are possible to create with countless modification options. Without clearly defined racing disciplines, and available performance enhancements, Shift 2 Unleashed appealed even more to arcade racing fans than GRID made possible. Slightly Mad’s title played more casual, and with a superb handling model, was one of the best arcade-sim racers on the market. It still holds up well and can be grabbed from either Steam or Origin at ridiculously low prices, which is already enough of a selling point to try out this game. Shift 2 Unleashed remains an excellent racing game, and while the more recent Project CARS titles certainly took the crown with extensive simulation options, Shift 2 Unleashed is fun in its own.
Euro Truck Simulator 2
Sometimes fierce racing competition can be exhausting and you just simply want to drive down a highway at normal speeds listening to the radio, the Euro Truck Simulator 2 is about the closest driving game that represents the idea. Yes, you’ll be driving a big truck across Europe with a single task to manage your company and deliver goods between urban centres, but the experience is oddly satisfying and the menial tasks actually help unwind as hard as it is to believe. As a PC exclusive, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is extremely customizable, and gameplay can be dialed far back to simply sit back and relax, but at the same time, one could opt for playing this game entirely with manual transmission and on a steering wheel setup. The best thing, of course, is custom music in the radio, which brings your own music to the game, and while you drive across long stretches of road, the feature comes in handy. While it is completely the opposite of arcade racing games, and it can be odd to play a driving game with a certain set of rules, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is an extremely detailed and satisfying experience, with far more depth than just driving a truck.