Picking the very best 10 racing games on PC is no easy task. So many elements contribute. The top 10 racing gmaes are not only about graphical fidelity and hair-raising sound design – though both certainly help – it’s also about pulling you into the action as if you’re there in the driver’s seat, eyes strained as the asphalt whips past at 240kph.
What are the best racing games on PC? Racing games have a rich history on this platform, going all the way back to the 1980s, and maybe even earlier. There are plenty of classics out there, from Midtown Madness to Need For Speed. But what are the 10 best racing games on PC you can play today?
Here you'll find hardcore sims like the magnificently challenging Dirt Rally, but also more offbeat choices like the underrated Driver: San Francisco—an incredibly fun driving game with a very weird body-hopping system. We're pretty loose with the definition of 'racing game' here. Basically, if it's got wheels, it's fair game. But these games all have one thing in common: they offer a great driving experience, and they feel great behind the wheel.
10. FORZA HORIZON 4
Playground Games’s latest racing title has left the Aussie Outback for the British Isles in Forza Horizon 4. Forza’s ten-hour campaign has you race through the Scottish Highlands, coast around the Lake District, and drive through quaint British villages.
As the seasons change between spring, summer, autumn, and winter, so do the landscapes. You’ll have to adapt your driving to suit each season, you can feel your car react to subtle changes like wet leaves and icy roads making you more aware of the terrain and forcing you to skillfully master it if you want to record the best track times.
9. DIRT RALLY 2
If you don’t know your pacenotes from your driveshaft, Dirty Rally 2.0 is not the racing game for you. If you’re looking for a casual driving experience, just getting from A to B a bit faster than you would normally be able to on your daily commute, try Dirt 4, instead.
In Rally 2.0 your co-driver will launch instructions, numbers, and directions at you thick and fast and, if you can’t handle the varied terrains and hairpin bends then you’ll be smashing into a tree before you know it. As you’ll find in our Dirt Rally 2.0 PC review, is unapologetic in its hardcore sensibilities. Unlike more casual racing games, failure here is regular, and the slightest error will be ruthlessly punished.
8. PROJECT CARS 2
Real cars, you might have noticed, rarely cartwheel into the verge the moment you dare to mix steering and acceleration inputs. In fact, they’re quite good at going round corners – it is almost like an engineer has given the problem some thought during the design process.
Performance cars in Project Cars 2, while certainly more liable to bite back, are even better at the whole turning thing. Throw a Ferrari or Lamborghini around the track (as we have done on a number of occasions) and you’ll probably spend more time having fun than fretting about the absence of a rewind button in real life.
An ill-fated attempt to mix Mario Kart with Project Gotham Racing, Blur was bought by approximately three people. But those three people will have been treated to one of the most exhilarating and underappreciated multiplayer racers of all time.
Blur took real cars and real locations, but then crammed them full of Mario Kart-inspired power-ups and more neon lighting than an 80s themed nightclub. The result was a game that had two major sources of satisfaction: legitimately rewarding handling and the air-punching joy of clattering your mate with the game’s legally distinct equivalent of a red shell.
6. Forza Motorsport 7
If they ever invented racing game Top Trumps, Forza Motorsport 7 would be the all-conquering card you’d covertly sneak into your own hand when you were shuffling the deck.
You simply can’t argue with the numbers in FM7 – over 800 cars from 99 manufacturers and 30 circuits on which to stretch their legs. If your favourites aren’t in here, have you checked you’re not into horse racing instead?
5. MotoGP 18
Two wheels might be considered blasphemy in some corners of the racing community, but for all those willing to divide the usual wheelbase by half, Milestone’s licensed MotoGP sim offers quite a rush.
Motorcycle racing is inherently exciting - the lean angles, suicidal overtakes and acceleration rates just make for a great spectator sport. And Italian superbike specialists Milestone really nail that feeling of terror and bravery of being on a factory MotoGP bike.
4. F1 2020
Codemasters’ F1 series has offered comparable depth in its career mode for a few years now, but creating and managing your own team really does make a difference to the emotional attachment you’ll feel.
From press interview answers to choosing the right teammate, you’re responsible for your results to the point where you can clearly trace any failure back to a poor decision that you made.
While there are moments of genuine edge-of-your-bucket-seat excitement in F1 2020 as your rival exits the pits right beside you into Turn 1, there are also countless regulations to follow and necessary management of components’ lifespan that makes F1 a far more cerebral racing game than some of its peers.
3. DRIVER: SAN FRANCISCO
Every arcade racer should be as cool as this game. If Steve McQueen were digitised and turned into a videogame, he would be Driver: San Francisco.
While Driver: SF features cars and influences from a variety of eras, it approaches everything with a ’70s style. It loves American muscle, roaring engines, squealing tyres, and the impossibly steep hills and twisting roads of San Francisco. It may have the single greatest soundtrack of any racing game, and some of the best event variety, too.
2. Burnout Paradise Remastered
Racing games aren't often treated to remasters. The big franchises iterate so often that there rarely seems much point, but in the case of Burnout Paradise everybody was happy to see an exception to the rule. In 10 years, there's been nothing quite like it.
And yet the original model still surpasses its imitators. It's so much purer and more exciting than the games it inspired. It doesn't have any licensed cars, so instead it features car-archetypes that crumple into gut-wrenchingly violent wrecks.
1. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit
While UK coppers are busy cutting about in BMW 3 Series Tourings, the fictional police force in Need For Speed Hot Pursuit’s Seacrest County spend their time agonising over whether to pick the Carrera GT, the Zonda Cinque or the Reventón. Presumably while the perp is busy getting away.
Still, chasing them down again as the fuzz was the most fun part of Hot Pursuit, with each improbably expensive ‘cruiser’ loaded with with spike strips, EMPs and deployable roadblocks. The racers, meanwhile, have additional boost and a defensive jammer, making for a perfectly balanced police chase.