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Best racing games to put you in pole position

Best racing games
(Image credit: Playground)

Want to know what the best racing games are for your console? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve hand-picked the best games from a wide variety of different racing styles, so whether you like sim racers, kart racers or just all-out arcade thrills, there’ll be something here for you. Now, just to be clear, past generations delivered some unforgettable racing games, but we’re sticking to still-available current-gen games or backwards-compatible titles here. It’s also worth keeping in mind that many of these superb games are available on PC too, but PC owners who are serious about racing games should also check out the likes of rFactor 2 and iRacing. So let’s get to the grid, it’s almost time for the race to begin.

20. Wreckfest

Best racing games - Wreckfest

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

It’s seemed ironic that in the age of superfast processors, nobody really managed to make the sort of Destruction Derby game that PSone was trying to do. That is, until now. Softbody physics allow Wreckfest’s vehicles to crumple realistically, even going so far as to warp the appearance of the driver as he gets squished around. You can drive everything from school buses and hot rods to lawnmowers and combine harvesters. The online mode id predictably chaotic, and old-school arena matches give you a score based on the type of contact you make on other players. It may not hold your attention for weeks and weeks, and it doesn’t look quite as slick as it probably should at this stage, but it really is a festival of wrecks, so if that’s what you’re looking for, this is absolutely the game for you.

 19. Project Cars 2 

Best racing games - Project Cars 2

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

The ‘Community Assisted Racing Simulator’ (CARS, see?) has become one of the most respected stapes of console sim racing, and few games are as full-featured. While the sequel didn’t have quite the same immediate clout as the ambitious original, it nonetheless offers an impressively varied and realism-rooted racing sim. If you really just want to simulate that ‘track day’ driving experience without spending hundreds on just a few laps at your local racetrack, this game will keep you entertained for weeks. Just be warned that pretty much every other game on this list has more personality. This is just by-the-numbers racing - not that there’s anything at all wrong with wanting that. 

18. Horizon Chase: Turbo Edition

Best racing games - Horizon Chase: Turbo Edition

(Image credit: Aquiris Game Studio)

Platform(s): Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC - digital download only

It’s unusual for a game that started life on mobile to work so well on console, but the Turbo Edition of Horizon Chase is simply brilliant fun. PS4, Xbox One and Switch owners all get four-player split-screen multiplayer, and the super-smooth frame-rate and insanely fast gameplay make every race exciting. Design-wise, it’s a very clever and deliberate throwback to ’80s and ’90s pseudo-3D racing games where you zoom along, pushing left or right to move across the road, avoiding traffic and slowing down when necessary to avoid flipping end over end. You have to watch your fuel level and try to collect all the blue tokens scattered about the course, and you have three turbos (plus more if you can pick them up) with which to win the race. Besides winning car upgrades and unlocking more tracks, each with cool backgrounds and even dynamic time of day effects, that’s pretty much all there is to it. But it does what it does so incredibly well, you’ll come back to it for a quick arcade fix time and time again. The music’s amazing too.

17. GRID

Best racing games - GRID

(Image credit: Codemasters)

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Sadly, after promising to redeliver everything that made the original Race Driver GRID so good, new GRID doesn’t really feel like old GRID at all when you play it. Instead, this is merely an astonishingly beautiful ‘simcade’ racer (part realistic simulation, part arcade game), with realistic cars and tracks coupled with forgiving handling and physics, recalling the early 3D racing games of the late 1990s. It runs at 60fps on the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, but only at 30fps on the base consoles,which is a noticeable step down. The crash damage is mostly just cosmetic, too, making for a slightly detached and underwhelming experience, but with a solid online mode, new updates coming all the time - some paid, some free - and incident-packed races, it’s one of those rare racing games that looks like watching a race on TV but plays like a video game, which is very welcome in the current, arcade-starved climate. 

16. Driveclub

Best racing games - DriveClub

(Image credit: Sony)

Platform: PS4

Alas, this is probably the last time Driveclub will appear on this list because its servers are due to be switched off at the end of March 2020. Once this has happened, expect prices for physical copies to plummet. It’ll still be a beautiful and exhilarating racer, but it’ll be missing its utterly superb online integration, which extends far beyond head-to-head races. So get on this while it’s still live and bask in one of the greatest community-based racers ever made. You can join a club, face new challenges at every other corner from online opponents who raced days or even weeks earlier, and embark on a superb, challenge-based career mode. The many DLC packs including the excellent Bikes spin-off are all excellent, so enjoy it while it lasts. Your only regret will be the lack of a sequel. 

15. TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge

Best racing games - TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge

(Image credit: Kylotonn)

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One

No other racing game conveys quite the sense of real life danger as this unexpected gem. You hurtle down the country lanes of the Isle of Man clinging to your motorbike, knowing the smallest error means a gruesome-looking fall. While it’s not a deliberate horror crash simulator, you’ll still sometimes see your rider hit his head on a stone bridge, so expect to wince every few minutes. Amazingly, despite the miles and miles of scenery, it’s actually incredibly true-to-life. Search for the race area on Google maps and you’ll see not only realistic road layouts and building placement, but even details on buildings, and appropriate vehicles parked outside the appropriate houses. It’s incredible. You’d never see it unless you stop to look, but it stands up to very close scrutiny. The game itself is fiendishly difficult, mind, so casual racers need not apply, but true fans will be satisfied like little else.

14. Assetto Corsa: Ultimate Edition

Best racing games - Assetto Corsa: Ultimate Edition

(Image credit: Kunos-Simulazioni / 505 Games)

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, and PC

Winning the award for most unusual name on the list, Assetto Corsa is actually the easiest to explain: It’s a zero-frills simulation of driving real sportscars. Built on an engine that was itself designed as a development tool for real car manufacturers, any shortcomings in the feature list are instantly forgotten as you feel the immediate similarity between this game and real life. Cars feel like they’re actually rolling over solid road, and if you hook it up to a decent Force Feedback wheel and pedals, you’ll feel like you’ve got a garage full of supercars ready to take for a spin in your living room. Of course, you’re actually driving around some of the world’s best racetracks, so all that money you’ve saved up for real track days can be spent on a bigger TV to enjoy it on. This is the best-feeling sensation of real driving you can play on console.

13. Daytona USA HD

Best racing games - Daytona USA HD

(Image credit: SEGA)

Platform: Xbox One 

This may be an ancient arcade game that was itself updated for the now also-aged Xbox 360, but don’t underestimate the power of Xbox One’s backwards compatibility. Daytona USA looks absolutely sensational on a 55-inch 4K TV thanks to improved anti-aliasing and that always-welcome 60fps frame rate. And all this just means you get to enjoy one of the best arcade games ever made in better-than-arcade quality. Three classic tracks, one of the most involved and rewarding car handling models ever seen and an unforgettable, soundtrack. It doesn’t matter than each game only lasts a few minutes, there are literally decades of fun to look forward to if you buy this. Released in 1993, eh? They don’t make ‘em like this any more. 

12. Crash Team Racing

Best racing games - Crash Team Racing

(Image credit: Activision)

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One

It took the might of modern hardware to give Crash Team Racing the production values it’s always deserved. Its debut on the original PlayStation won many fans, but the rest of the gaming world was getting hyped up for the 128-bit generation, which made CTR look alarmingly dated even on its release. Well, no longer. Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is yet another retro remake that’s turned a beloved classic into a visual feast worthy of a big budget CGI movie. The handling is superb, the track design was way ahead of its time, and there’s an absolute tonne of content, thanks to plundering both CTR and Crash Nitro Kart for tracks and characters. From Nintendo Switch to Xbox One X, all the versions run at 30fps and all look amazing. It’s difficult by today’s standards, but that’ll just make you want to play it until you’re a karting master.

11. Fast Racing RMX

Best racing games - Fast Racing RMX

(Image credit: Shin'en Multimedia)

Platforms: Nintendo Switch (digital download only)

This remixed version of the little-mentioned WiiU racer was a launch title for Switch, yet remains one of the most enjoyable and visually impressive titles on the machine. It’s reminiscent of Wipeout in that you’re piloting an anti-gravity ship around futuristic courses, but the similarities end there. This is all about mind-bending speed and keeping your ship consistently powered up enough to boost. There’s a polarity feature whereby selecting blue or orange allows you to boost over the corresponding sections of track surface, and there are orbs to collect too for manual boost. Add in split screen multiplayer, some phenomenal night-time rain effects and a challenging single-player campaign and there’s very little not to like about this one. It’s often on sale, too, so you should be able to buy it nice and cheap from the eShop.

Turn to page two for our top 10 best racing games...

Justin worked on the GamesRadar+ staff for 10 whole years. Imagine that. Now he is a contributor, specialising in racing games, retro, and Sanic.