5. Road Rash
Originally released on the Genesis, Road Rash was later ported to disc-based system like PlayStation and Sega Saturn, and with good reason. Road Rash introduced a novel racing concept with an emphasis on disrupting fellow races with an arsenal of weapons from the good old fist to chains and cattle prods. On top of that players had to contend with environmental obstacles and the police who did their very best to disrupt the path to victory. Road Rash is ludicrously nuts in every way, surreal even, yet the developers put a lot of emphasis on the driving mechanics, which were unforgiving, challenging, and pretty realistic in their unique way. For example, vertical inclines had an impact on speed, cornering required a careful balance of breaking at the right time and accelerating out of corners.
4. Forza Horizon 3
Forza Horizon 3 is all about balance. Finding a happy medium between arcade and realistic simulation is no easy feat, yet Forza Horizon 3 has found that sweet spot. Both novices and seasoned fans of the genre will find something to suit them from an emphasis on bombastic driving with stunts and open-world exploration, to classic race track racing with huge customization options. The multitude of modes from arcade style jaunts, to off road dashes and everything in-between makes Forza Horizon 3 one of the most accessible and enjoyable racing games out there.
3. Dirt 4
Heading off road? There’s really only one choice and it’s the Colin McRae series, now dubbed Dirt. The most recent entry, Dirt 4, is a hardcore simulator with hyper-realistic physics where learning and perseverance are the name of the game. On top of in-game realism, the myriad options for car setup, controls, and hardware accessories mean fans can fine tune the game to their liking. Though not officially linked WRC, the game is packed with compelling courses, multiplayer Joy Ride and Landrush modes, a Your Stage procedural generated course creator, and a team management aspect.
2. Project CARS
To say the racing game market is saturated resounds as an understatement. In order to find their own niche, the developers of Project CARS opted to recreate a driving experience as close to the real thing as possible. In other words, ultra realistic simulation at its very best. Choosing to forego the hoop jumping antics of competing franchises like Gran Turismo, Project CARS took the unorthodox decision to grant access to all race tracks and cars as soon as players start the game. This freedom was complemented with incredibly graphics, unforgiving physics, dynamic weather and lighting, and multiple motorsports from F1 to 24h Le Mans marathon.
1. Mario Kart
Realism and faithful recreation of real life driving conditions is all well and good, but nothing beats a game oozing pure unadulterated fun. With this in mind, Mario Kart is arguably one of the best racing games ever created. It’s just so damn enjoyable. Nothing quite beats darting around a cartoon-like racecourse firing turtle shells at your friends all within the playfulness of the Mario world. That’s not to say Mario Kart isn’t competitive. On the contrary, ask anyone who’s played and they’ll recount heated sessions with friends with nothing short of their very pride on the line. If you need more proof of Mario Kart’s position as a cultural staple of racing games, the successive iterations of the franchise and a vibrant community are testimony to its persisting relevance.