Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (PS2)
Racing sims tread a fine balance between realism and accessibility. Making a racing game too realistic will make it unplayable - you just can't replicate the feel of a car's grip and weight shiftingthrough a simple Dual Shock controller.But making it too easy will make it unsatisfying.
Gran Turismo 3 finds that line and sticks to it like a train track. Its graphics are still incredibly pretty six years later. Its frame-rate is a solid 60fps, the cars are reflective... everything that attracts people to videogames from afar. But it also plays superbly. Track design is inspired, putting to shame other racers like Sega GT which almost reproduce the whole game, but fall down in the excitement department.
The hardcore gamer has months of gameplay waiting for him/her. And getting Gold on every single license test is a massive challenge. It is possible, but man, is it ever difficult. And yet, Gran Turismo 3 is almost impossible to get frustrated with. Its game world is so consistent, skill alone will improve your times. GT4 may have taken it a step further, but in terms of an overall package, GT3 is an essential hardcore videogame.