It was only a few years ago that racing games were confined to the boundaries of two-dimensional game design. Players viewed the events on screen from a top-down perspective, taking corners as they appeared, often at break-neck speeds. In 2022, it’s a very different matter, as there are driving games to fit just about every taste and ability level.
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Whether you’re looking to go for a casual drive, or you want to take things a little more seriously, every platform has something to offer. In this list, we will try to include driving games that cater to all tastes to represent the best racing games on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
So buckle in, lift the hand-break and let’s speed through the best driving games you can play this year.
While the controversy surrounding the final race (or rather, lap) of the 2021 F1 World Championship is sure to linger for some time yet, at least we can be thankful there was no such hullabaloo with last year’s flagship F1 video game. Building on the series’ legacy by adding a new story mode, and a host of welcome changes, F1 2021 was one of the most dynamic instalments to date.
Developed by Codemasters (responsible for other titles including TOCA Race Driver and the DIRT series), it’s an authentic recreation of one of the most popular motorsports in the world.
Featuring an up-to-date roster of drivers, cars, and tracks, in F1 2021 players can compete seasons, manage their own F1 team, and even take part in the new Braking Point story mode. Playing as a young rookie named Aiden Jackson, players will start in Formula 2 and build their way up to Formula 1. The new mode adds drama to races, as you’ll compete head to head with a rival. You know, like the classic grudge-fest between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but in the virtual world and with far less sabotage.
Creating a realistic depiction of a highly technical sport is no simple task, but the developers cater F1 2021’s gameplay to all skill levels. If you’re just looking to relive your favourite sport, there are numerous assist options to choose from. Looking for more of a challenge? You can adjust the game’s difficulty and physics to match your ability. If you want a true F1 experience, you can even play the game’s hectic races in real-time, leading to long, calculated battles where disaster is one wrong corner away.
F1 2022 is scheduled for release later this year. In the meantime, you can check out last year’s F1 2021 review here to see why it’s one of the best racing games around.
Forza Horizon 5
Moving swiftly on from the sandstone and sleet that dotted the roads in Forza Horizon 4 – AKA the perfect road trip through the UK in video game form – the next chapter of the iconic Xbox driving sim lands in Mexico. Quite literally, in fact, as players must first drive a car off a plane in a feat in madcap Fast & Furious style.
There are plenty of blockbuster set-pieces in Forza Horizon 5, but when it come to the basics e-racing fans won’t be disappointed: the driving feels extra special, and, as flagged in the NME review, you never feel like the car is battling you to stay on the track, the sense of speed is immense without feeling like you’re about to fly off into a ditch, and the generous rewind feature and driving line mean that you don’t have to worry about being perfect, you just need to focus on the fun.
The laboriously crafted Mexican landscape will be by far one of the finest vistas you’ve ever had the pleasure of driving a fictional car around, while the sheer amount of vehicles to rip it up with will keep you busy for some time. Forza Horizon 5 is a visual masterpiece on Xbox Series X.
Gran Turismo Sport
Fans and journalists criticised Gran Turismo Sport on release because of its lack of content. However since launch, developer Polyphony Digital has added new cars, new tracks and even a VR mode for PlayStation VR since release. Rather than delaying yet another Gran Turismo game, the developers released a cut-back edition of the game and has built it alongside the community since release.
Sport features the tight controls and handling associated with the series and a number of tuning and performance options for players who really want to get stuck in. In its current state, Gran Turismo Sport is a solid sim-racer that focuses on online play rather than single-player content. There is a career mode, time trials and an offline league, but most players will want to try the online modes to get the most out of the game.
Having sold an estimated 8 million units, Gran Turismo Sport is the most popular driving game on PS4, and with good reason. Sport builds on the legacy set by its predecessors. However, it also sets up the series’ future with its focus on competitive racing and online play. It’s the best racing game you can play on PlayStation, at least until Gran Turismo 7 (see the latest teaser here) releases sometime next year.
Dirt Rally 2.0
DiRT Rally 2.0 is the quintessential rally driving experience. Featuring 8 real-world locations, 36 different stages, and several iconic licensed vehicles, DiRT Rally 2.0 provides players with one of the most true-to-life simulations of rally driving. You’ll fly past trees at breakneck speeds, throw your car sideways around corners and spend more time than you realise trying to perfect your run-times.
What makes DiRT Rally 2.0 such a great driving game is the commitment to creating a true rally experience. Driving assists are available, but there is no rewind feature. All of your mistakes are your own, whether you crash on the first corner or the last. Knowing failure is only ever a crash away makes every race feel tense. Falling behind in each sector? You can push the car harder to make up time, but push too hard and you’ll end up hitting a tree.
Unlike other driving games, 2.0’s cars are unruly, powerful machines that need to be tamed. Driving with a steering wheel is genuinely a full-body workout and even controllers provide a reasonable amount of feedback. This is especially true of the game’s Group B rally cars, which are lifted from one of rally driving’s most dangerous eras. DiRT Rally 2.0 is brutal, unforgiving, and exhilarating in equal measure. It perfectly captures the constant danger of rally driving but condenses it into a compelling and authentic experience.
Likely the least recognisable title on this list, iRacing is the game of choice for esports fans. Released in 2008 and developed by iRacing.com, iRacing bills itself as “the world’s premier motorsports racing game” and does so with good reason. It isn’t as pretty as other games here, but there’s a reason it remains the pinnacle of motor-esports.
iRacing provides a true-to-life authentic and realistic driving experience. Everything from suspension to tire differential and even brake bias can be customised. Cars on the track handle similar to their real-life counterparts. The extent of iRacing’s realism is such that many professional F1 and Nascar drivers use it to practice before events.
With competitive racing leagues, over 70 tracks, and an impressive collection of licensed cars, iRacing provides players with plenty to get stuck into. Competitive racing leagues provide a digital racing career for players to lap up. You’ll build your way up the ranks by winning races and driving safely. Those who really want to take it up a notch can play iRacing with a steering wheel setup, which is how the pros play it.
Wreckfest is a scrappy driving game that channels the visceral physicality of demolition derby video games and real-life events. Developer Bugbear Entertainment’s unique destruction physics unfold in real-time, making every car a target. Each individual element of a car can be scratched, crumpled and removed, with a surprising amount of detail.
It’s the variety on offer that makes it such an enjoyable driving game. There are numerous race modes, including outright destruction-based events, traditional stadium races, and events with converted furniture vehicles. Wreckfest puts those destruction physics to excellent use, creating dramatic races that can change on the flip of a coin. Trade paint with other drivers too much and you’ll permanently damage your car. Damage affects vehicle performance, which can change how your car performs.
It may lack the polish of other games on this list, but Wreckfest provides an experience that very few car games can. It forces players to be aware of the space around the car and punishes players for driving irresponsibly. Watching a car crumple into pieces after a bad crash or collision is also pleasing on a basic human level. We all love a good crash, provided no one gets hurt.
SnowRunner is all about the journey. Rather than racing other drivers, you drive against the elements, traversing mud, water, snow, ice, and just about everything else. This is a game that focuses on the actual act of driving. You’ll spend your time delivering items, rather than speeding through corners and chasing lap times.
SnowRunner encourages players to drive in ways other games don’t. You can change the differential lock to gain traction, enable all-wheel drive and even use a winch to get yourself out of tight situations. In order to succeed, you’ll need to understand how each element of a truck or vehicle works. Building your affinity and skill with the vehicles in SnowRunner is a genuine joy. Honestly, you’ll be astounded by the feats of endurance you’ll pull off only a few hours into the game.
Between digging yourself out of a muddy swamp and climbing an ice-covered hill, SnowRunner can be quite relaxing. Cruising the open roads, taking in the scenery, and listening to your favourite podcast while driving is a great way to unwind. If you’re looking for something a little different, SnowRunner is the perfect diversion from typical driving games.