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The 28 Best Racing Games of All Time

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Electronic Arts / Rockstar Games / Sony Computer Entertainment / ONE37pm

The immense excitement that comes from zooming past the finish line first in your chosen supercar of choice will please gamers until the end of time. Racing games have evolved from local simple time trial challenges to sim- & arcade-based autosport experiences that allow players to compete against other competitors online. And through the years, racing game pundits have been treated to a wide array of astonishing titles that focus on different types of automobile action. Rally, offroad, F1, kart, and so many other racing-style classifications have been replicated across many of the best racing games ever made. Allow us to take a nostalgic journey across the long history of racing games and list 28 of the definitive releases that will always stand the test of time.

RELATED: The 16 Best Arcade Racing Games

Best Racing Games

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Microsoft Studios

1. ‘Pole Position’

The golden age of arcades was held up by a number of classic games from gaming giants such as Atari, SNK, Capcom, etc. Another one of those greatly admired gaming publishers/developers is Namco, which is responsible for creating a bonafide classic racing game. Pole Position is an OG that soaked up tons of quarters from players that wanted to complete a time trial lap as fast as possible in their signature Formula One race car. The game's scaling sprite visuals and racing wheel included with the arcade cabinet allowed for full immersion on the 2D track this innovator put forth.

2. ‘Rock n’ Roll Racing’

Rock n’ Roll Racing has so much going for it! It features some dope chiptune renditions of some of the hardest tunes in metal, offbeat racers, and awesome racing mechanics that threw in some car combat for good measure. Jamming out to "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath and "Highway Star" by Deep Purple while trying to blast your rivals off the road still brings so many good vibes. Also, we have to commend this game for going a bit deeper with its systems by adding the ability to buy car upgrades in between races.

3. ‘WipEout XL’

The esteemed "F5000 AG" racing league was brought to life by the sadly defunct publisher/developer Psygnosis on behalf of the WipEout series. WipEout XL made all the futuristic anti-gravity racing that got its claim to fame in the first game even better and a hell of a lot faster. The sense of speed featured in this game feels amazing. And being able to blast rival ships out of your way with an assorted collection of weapons that can be picked up at will adds another wrinkle of hard-fought competition to every competition. WipEout XL gets high marks in several categories - graphics, gameplay, stage design, and music.

4. ‘Daytona USA’

"DAYTONAAAAAAAA! LET'S GO AWAY!" Sega's storied development studio Sega AM2 produced an arcade banger that still gets plenty of play in your average Barcade. Daytona USA took its Nascar motor racing inspiration and added its own flavor to the formula with three iconic tracks, the signature "Hornet" stock car, and a soundtrack that instantly puts a smile on our faces. The game's 60 frames-per-second (FPS) visual performance still looks super crispy as you speed across "Three Seven Speedway" at the fastest clip possible. Count your blessings if you find a multiplayer cabinet for this Sega classic.

5. ‘Sega Rally Championship’

Once Sega got a taste of the massive success brought on by Daytona USA, it took a stab at diving into another type of 3D racer. Sega Rally Championship marks another win for the legendary Japanese publisher/developer that excelled in the arcades and on the Sega Saturn way back in the day. The inclusion of three track layouts that test players with different surfaces and friction properties helped this 3D racer differentiate itself from other racers at the time. And of course, this game is accompanied by a banger of a soundtrack that hypes you up to always grab first place.

6. ‘Colin McRae Rally 2.0'

The previously mentioned game on our catalog of the best racing games of all time had a hand in inspiring the Colin McRae Rally series. And when the very first PlayStation took hold of the gaming space in 2000, Colin McRae Rally 2.0 arrived on the console and captured the interest of so many racing game fans. The circuits and vehicles that were put on display during the 2000 World Rally Championship are front and center here - competing in highly competitive rallying events with the likes of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI and Peugeot 206 still hits us right in the nostalgic feels. This game's quality graphics, modes, physics, and damage modeling are always worth endorsing for racing game aficionados.

7. ‘Ridge Racer’ (1993)

Namco is back on this list of the best racing games once again with the first lap of the publisher/developer's 3D gem. The initial installment of Ridge Racer emerged as an arcade go-to for many racing game fans and a must-buy for the PS1 during its early days. The smooth feel of the speedy automobiles was unmatched at the time of release, plus we're still enamored with the game's trademark track layout that lets us hit high speeds next to a beautiful beach. Daytona USA and Ridge Racer are neck-and-neck when it comes to 3D racing game greatness. Now say it with us, folks! "It's ridge racer! It's riiiiiiiiiiiiidge racer! Remember that one?"

8. ‘Wave Race 64’

Before Mario Kart 64 dominated everyone's playtime on the N64, Wave Race 64 emerged first to capture the attention of racing game fans looking for something a bit different. This 3D racer focuses on hitting the harsh waves across a variety of stages atop personal watercraft vehicles. The extra element of correctly passing various buoys made each race feel a bit more rousing and played a great part in increasing one's speed to the max. The sunny skies, clear blue water, and cheery vibes of it are also what make us return to Wave Race 64 from time to time.

9. ‘Diddy Kong Racing’

To this day, people lament the fact that Diddy Kong Racing isn't readily available on the Switch. It's so maddening for us to not be able to boot up Rare's quintessential kart racer whenever we want on modern console hardware, too! And that's because we love everything this complex racer full of anthropomorphic mascots has. Being able to race on the ground, on the water, and in the air was super innovative back in the day. Plus the game's extensive adventure mode presents one of the most-feature filled single-player modes we've ever seen in a racing game. Those unfair boss races still irk us to death, but not to the point where we'd quit this amazing game cold turkey.

10. ‘Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec’

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec is not only gaming royalty - it's also a required racer that every PS2 owner needs to experience for themselves. There's such an immense collection of licensed cars, real-world tracks, and challenging competitions (those endurance races are something else!) to drop an ungodly amount of time into. And even though it's a PS2 game, its fluid and incredibly lifelike graphical presentation still looks illustrious. Achieving 100% completion in this classic racer is such a badge of honor for those who have actually done it. We salute you all for passing all those damn license tests, for sure!

11. ‘Need For Speed: Underground'

There was a time when illegal street racing culture blossomed and resulted in The Fast and The Furious movie franchise becoming a mainstream phenomenon in its own right. Electronic Arts took notice and decided to take its Need for Speed IP down that avenue. That move proved to be beneficial as one of the best games in the series came out of it. Need for Speed: Underground excels thanks to its focus on nighttime racing and heavy car customization. Hitting the streets of "Olympic City" kept a lot of players locked in for hours upon hours thanks to some lively Drag Racing, Drifting, and Sprint racing competitions.

12. ‘Test Drive Le Mans’

Only the best of the best can endure the famous 24 hours of Le Mans race in France. In video game form, Test Drive Le Mans tested gamers' levels of endurance by featuring such a demanding race. For many, there was no issue with having to brave such an insurmountable task thanks to the graphically impressive display of the Dreamcast version. Gameplay-wise, Test Drive Le Mans plays like a dream. Speeding past your rivals on real-world tracks such as Bugatti Circuit, Brno Circuit, and Road Atlanta during day and night cycles points to the huge appeal of this quality sim racer.

13. ‘F-Zero GX’

Captain Falcon is most known for knocking the rest of the Super Smash Bros. roster off the stage with his infamous "Falcon Punch." When he's not showing everyone his moves, he's racing at insane speeds in his trademark "Falcon Flyer." The best game that lets Falcon scratch that racing itch is F-Zero GX, which is one of the hardest yet wholly enjoyable racing games on the Nintendo GameCube. We'll never forget playing through the game's story mode and sweating bullets during way too many close calls as we almost fell off the toughest tracks. And when we're talking outstanding tracks, "Fire Field - Undulation," "Big Blue - Ordeal," and "Green Plant - Spiral" all get the nod from us.

14. ‘Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition Remix'

We miss that glorious time period when Rockstar Games put out fire racing games! We especially miss when the publisher/developer best known for the Grand Theft Auto series went over the top with fully upgraded versions of its racing games. Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition Remix added so much more to the already staggering amount of content the regular version of the game has and retained the addictive night races that made everyone such a fan in the first place. 24 added cars, more races, more battle maps, and the additional Tokyo city hub from Midnight Club 2 turned this expanded version of Midnight Club 3 into one of our favorite timesinks.

15. ‘OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast’

Sega's original Outrun game provided a speedy tour through a sunny locale back in the arcades during the mid-80s. When the series entered the realm of 3D, OutRun 2 emerged as an evolutionary take on the formula. OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast goes the upgrade route and comes packed to the brim with a nice array of cars, an extensive career mode, and one of the catchiest soundtracks Sega has ever produced. The "Avoid the Knockout" and "Do Not Lose Your Girlfriend" races will always stand out as the best two additions to this game - hitting the road in our F355 Spider to come out on the winning end of both those modes still keeps us enthralled in this day and age.

16. ‘Test Drive Unlimited’

Open-world racing games dominated during the mid-2000s and still have the genre as a whole in a chokehold. One of the earliest pioneers of that trend is Test Drive Unlimited, which mashes up entertaining on-road and off-road racing in a spectacular locale modeled after the Hawaiian island of O'ahu. There's so much ground to cover here and cool areas to discover as you comb every corner of the massive island. Getting our own house and being able to hit the road in our prized Ferrari 512 TR will always make us feel like a king. The Xbox 360 version looks the best and always gets a replay session out of us. Test Drive Unlimited definitely walked so Forza Horizon could run.

17. ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’

Kart racing games that feature the iconic denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom have been and always will be the ultimate multiplayer games and party starters. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe went above and beyond to expand on the standard Wii U version, retains everything that was so great about it, and throws in even more content to get sucked into. When you consider the DLC tracks and characters thrown into this Switch classic, you'll quickly realize the never-ending amount of fun this kart racer contains. Getting hit by a blue shell will always ruin our mood, but a smile will always come across our faces every time we get a perfect boost at the start of a race with the homie Metal Mario.

18. ‘Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled’

The original Crash Team Racing that debuted on PS1 is on par with N64's Mario Kart 64 when it comes to overall quality. We're forever thankful that the same studio that remastered the first three Crash Bandicoot games went ahead and remastered the finest aspects of the Crash kart racers. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is pretty much a best-of collection that features the most memorable characters and exceptional tracks from the original Crash Team RacingCrash Nitro Kart, and Crash Tag Team Racing. The game’s Adventure Mode that's patterned after the one seen in Diddy Kong Racing, 56-character roster, and slapstick humor solidify this remastered gen's greatness.

19. ‘Burnout 3: Takedown’

Oh, how we lament the loss of the Burnout franchise! The best way to lessen the pain of that revelation these days is by returning to arguably the best entry in Criterion Games' wild 3D racer. Burnout 3: Takedown embraces unbridled aggression that results in being treated to some of the best arcade racing anyone has ever played. Driving like a reckless maniac is actually rewarded in this game with an extra boost, which went even further toward helping players pull off lethal "Takedowns." "Road Rage" mode's focus on pulling off the biggest car crash combos imaginable is always worth the price of admission for Burnout 3.

20. ‘Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit'

On a list of the best racing games, having multiple Need for Speed titles take up a spot or two makes total sense. We've already heaped lots of praise upon Need for Speed: Underground and now we're ready to speak on the greatness that is Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. "Seacrest County" contains all the speed-limit-breaking bedlam that regularly breaks out across this game's offering of racing and police chases. Playing as a racer or a police officer means having two equally dope portions of the game's epic single-player campaign to sink one's teeth into. We also gotta give this game major kudos for its "Autolog" system and how it constantly egged us on to beat our online friends' racing completion times.

21. ‘Forza Motorsport 4’

PlayStation has Gran Turismo. Xbox has Forza Motorsport. And on the topic of another one of the best racing games and the strongest entry in the mainline series, the fourth mainline entry is what we decided to big up. Forza Motorsport 4 gets all the praise in the world thanks to its massive 500-car garage, intuitive handling system, and partnership with BBC's Top Gear series to add even more legitimacy to the whole experience. And thanks to the game's "Autovista" feature, players can peek into their favorite car's interior and bask in the super realistic modeling this game affords it.

22. ‘Forza Horizon 4’

We'll always love the fact that the Forza franchise deals in delivering simulation entries and games that embrace a more arcadey feel within an open world full of tasks to tackle. Forza Horizon 4 marks the peak of that latter series of spinoff games. This game's stunning take on Great Britain still looks incredibly picture-esque thanks to so many breathtaking sights and sounds to bask in. The dynamic weather system pretty much changes the layout of certain areas and opens previously inaccessible areas, which made simply exploring in this game easy on the eyes and oddly relaxing at times. With 750+ cars and a ton of activities to do besides simply racing, Forza Horizon 4 still holds the distinct honor of being one of the most feature-rich racers on the market.

23. ‘F1 2020’

When you bring up Formula One racing, you also need to acknowledge the immense work put forth by Codemasters for the racing league's marvelous sim-racer. F1 2020 sports such an amazingly lifelike presentation that makes it look like a legit TV broadcast of an actual F1 race. Getting behind a controller or hardcore racing wheel setup accentuates the fast and fluid feel of the onscreen action. F1 buffs get the whole shebang here - an amazing racing feel, fantastic visuals, a deep team management system, the return of split-screen competitions, and a more fair & balanced approach to AI rivals.

24. ‘Wreckfest’

You can always release a whole bunch of pent-up frustration just by smashing everyone on the track in the Destruction Derby and FlatOut games. The best and most recent way to get caught up in all that car-smashing bedlam is through our latest list entry, Wreckfest. While the actual races here are a good time, it's this game's bevy of vehicular combat-focused sessions that provide the most fun. The perfect marriage between clearly visible car damage and an excellent physics system is what makes Wreckfest such a must-play for gearheads that adore beneficial quantities of destruction.

25. ‘iRacing’

For the PC faithful, iRacing is the gold standard for sim racers. And that sentiment is partly due to just how realistic everything about it is. LIDAR-scanned cars and tracks, plus the default car cockpit-only camera view, bring you into an online racer where only the most dedicated competitors will prosper. As a subscription service-based game, there's a worthwhile gathering of cars and tracks to obtain over time. The inclusion of a VR headset and racing wheel compatibility goes a long way in letting players get as close as possible to the fine features iRacing presents.

26. ‘Assetto Corsa Competizione’

The official game representative for the GT World Challenge deserves to be recognized as such. The real-world drivers, teams, cars, and circuits from that racing series are brought to life in Assetto Corsa Competizione and afford the game that much-needed air of authenticity. This sim racer sits next to the latest Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport as another best-in-class game with a realistic visual and mechanical feel. The big things (the weight of each vehicle and the physics engine) and the little things (the look/behavior of doors and windshield wipers) are given special attention here, proving how much this game pushes for expert realism.

27. ‘Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed’

Developer Sumo Digital must have gotten inspired by Diddy Kong Racing since this Sega-themed mascot racer came outfitted with cars, boats, and planes. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed went to great lengths to throw the kitchen sink at fans of the first game - the mass delivery of content that comes into play here includes more characters, more tracks, more power-ups, etc. Even more notable Sega characters joined the roster and were given the opportunity to race within some nostalgia-fueled stages that paid homage to Sega's acclaimed IPs. Speeding, surfing, and soaring through classic tracks inspired by Sonic the HedgehogPanzer DragoonBurning Rangers, and even Nights into Dreams always hits the right notes for us and all the Sega diehards out there.

28. ‘Cruis'n Blast’

The Cruis'n games dominated the arcades and gave N64 owners another racer that tapped into their inner speed demons. For the longest time, the latest entry in the series could only be seen and played in arcades. But once it finally got ported onto the Nintendo Switch, a whole bunch more people got to bask in all the zany arcade racing Cruis'n Blast brought forth. The earworm of a theme song sets the mood just right as you pick your favorite car, monster truck, or unicorn to hit the track. And speaking of tracks, Crusi'n Blast has some truly off-the-wall selections - we tend to get the most fun out of the layouts based in Death Valley, Madagascar, and Rio de Janeiro. And thanks to the Switch version, players were gifted with tons more noteworthy tours and stages to enjoy.

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