Fancy a race? Whether you’re looking to unleash your inner petrolhead and tinker with mechanics, or just hop into a shiny gas guzzler and knock out a few laps, we’ve got you covered with the best racing games we’ve played in the last few years.
All comers are welcome, whether you’re on a PC, kicking back on the couch with a console, or on the bus with your phone.
First things first: if you’re a devoted racing fan, chances are you’ve been a subscribing member of iRacing.com’s legendary online community for years, as it’s the undisputed champion in the PC racing space. But if you’re not ready to dive into a 40,000 strong virtual racing nation (and shell out for a monthly subscription), strap in, grab your racing wheel (or controller, or mobile device) and check out some of the best new racing experiences around.
1. Forza Motorsport 4
Forza 4 is getting a bit long in the tooth, but you’d be hard pressed to find a game that supplants this masterpiece. It has everything: over 500 cars, from frumpy hatchbacks to legendary racing relics. It’s simulation-savvy will have you tinkering with gear ratios and drivetrains, but there are plenty of optional driving assists for racing neophytes. Most of the 26 gorgeous tracks are based on real raceways, and you can take the competition online, forming car clubs with your friends. If you’re a racing fan, this one is arguably worth picking up an Xbox 360 for—though the next game in the series is due to arrive with the Xbox One later this year.
2. Trackmania 2 Stadium
In Trackmania, speed is king. There are no powerups or drifting challenges, cars to modify or even choose from. Just you, the insane courses, and a record time to attempt to beat. There technically aren’t even other players: competitors dart about the track when you play online, but you can’t collide with them and there are no “positions” in the traditional sense, just a record of top times and that sinking feeling when StudMuffin47 shaves a tenth of a second off your best effort, and then drops a smiley face into server chat. The cad. Stadium hasn’t been released yet, but the open beta has been running for months, and is currently completely free.
3. Grid 2
PC, Xbox 360, PS3
The second entry in the Grid series doesn’t drift too far afield of its predecessor. A disparate collection of motorsport events are cobbled together to form a single globetrotting competition, coupling traditional circuit races with point-to-point cruises through major cities and the occasional drifting challenge. It straddles the line between arcade and simulation: you won’t be tuning cars or upgrading them, and a rewind option lets you recover after a gruesome crash or botched turn—though you’ll only get a few chances to do so each race. It’s also rather lovely, and while it doesn’t build on its predecessor very much or stand out too noticeably from the crowd, it’s an entertaining romp for folks who are in the mood for a bit of fun.
4. F1 2012
PC, Mac OS X, Xbox 360, PS3
I rarely feel as out of my element as I do when strapping into a single-seat rocket on wheels and attempting to round a corner without plowing headfirst into the stands. Fortunately, my tires blew out long before I had the chance to botch the turn: the danger of mindlessly futzing with tire pressures after cheekily turning off all of the driver assists. Codemasters is at the peak of their simulation game here. You’ll be fine tuning mechanical details, accounting for weather conditions and road temperature, and generally trying to keep these monsters upright as you compete at F1 circuits around the world. The uninitiated can always rely on suggestions from your pit crew and the Flashback feature, which lets you rewind the action when disaster strikes.