There's no better time to dive into a ranking of the best Forza games right now. With Forza Horizon 5 looking drop dead gorgeous, it’s surely time to take a look back over the entire Forza series and try to put the multitude of Motorsport and Horizon releases in order of greatness. That’s much easier said than done, and of course, some classics have had to be left out. But while the original Forza Motorsport will always hold a special place in our hearts for bringing serious sim racing to Xbox, there’s no way we’d play it over this lot. And for the record, we haven’t forgotten about Forza Street (though we wish we could). So let’s go! The top 10 best Forza titles so far:
10. Forza 5
A launch title for Xbox One, this tasty racing morsel feels like a demo for a next-gen racing game, but at least a demo for a good one. The visuals are nice, though seldom spectacular, and the cars look and feel solid and smooth. It also introduced us to the Drivater system, where you race virtual versions of your real friends. The vanilla version’s track selection is diminutive though, so you end up racing the same thing over and over again in a loop. Not a loop in a ‘this is lap 10’ kind of way, but in an ‘oh look it’s this track. Again.’ kind of way. Still, it only gets better from here.
9. Forza Motorsport 3
With Xbox 360 a few years old in 2009, this is where the series really started to hit its stride. Much more sprawling and grown-up, Forza 3 went further with car damage on licensed models than even most games do today. While the visuals are rather blown-out with too-high contrast, there’s clearly a solid game engine here, and the driving is smooth and responsive. ‘Modern Forza’ began here, and its career mode and fetishizing of car bodywork in pre-race screens set the tone for the rest of the series. If only it had a little more personality, this would still be amazing. But as it is, it remains one of Xbox 360’s best games, so worth picking up if you see it cheap.
8. Forza Horizon
The first Horizon in the series is still a really fun racer, blending realistic Forza handling with off-road driving. Unlike its sequels, there’s no smashing through fences to be done here, which makes for a much more curated experience as you race licensed vehicles in close-fought races. Despite this reigning in of your automotive freedom, there’s still a pretty expansive map to explore, and great music to listen to on the in-game radio. Playground Games developed it in tandem with Turn10, and the game was later ported to Xbox One allowing a new generation to enjoy it. Important considering it’s getting on for a decade old now. Wow.
7. Forza Motorsport 6
This one appears to have everything, but it’s not the most satisfying core game in the series - not by a long shot. What it does well, it does extremely well, with some of the best car models ever committed to 0s and 1s. There’s also a plethora of photorealistic racetracks, nuanced car handling and all the extras like photo mode and livery editing you could ask for. However, the racing is very inconsistent and not always fun (or fast), and the money system doesn’t seem to have much impact on the game. There’s also a strange mix of sim and arcade that just doesn’t sit right. Thankfully all this was fixed for its sequel, but there’s still plenty of merit here.
6. Forza Horizon 2
Revisiting Forza Horizon 2 now, what stands out isn’t the lack of boundaries for the racing action; rather it’s the sunshine atmosphere that makes the driving itself the reason you play the game. Hurtling along a coastal road in your dream car is still awesome and the ‘bucket list’ idea for making your own routes with a set car embraces this mentality. The ‘drive anywhere’ ethos is taken a little too far with the destructible walls and fences, and collisions with oncoming traffic are unrealistically lenient. But it’s still worth buying for the unforgettable scenery.
5. Forza Motorsport 2
For those still rocking standard definition TVs that made Forza’s HD-Ready graphics look sterile compared to PS2’s Gran Turismo games, Forza 2 was a disappointment. But having played it again recently on an HDTV, this was actually way, way ahead of its time on release. What really makes it still worth playing today is its mix of modern simulation standards with the last flourishes of 1990s presentation and game design, mixing rock music and synth squelches with (whisper it) an actual Arcade Mode. Turn 10 worked wonders with this game, even squeezing in animated crowds. Beautiful in motion, and super-assured in its delivery, this is a forgotten masterpiece.
4. Forza Motorsport 4
Forza 4 represents the pinnacle of Xbox 360 sim racing. With an utterly gigantic career mode, 17 real world tracks (plus 9 others) and the usual dedication to detail in the astonishing list of over 450 licensed cars, there’s enough game here to keep you going for years. Forza 4 even had its own licensed MadCatz force feedback wheel, which was a perfect way to enjoy this celebration of automotive awesomeness. It’s also worth noting just how great the new fictitious circuit in the Bernese Alps is. High speed with taxing technical sections and amazing views, it’s one of gaming’s best fictional raceways. Forza Motorsport 4 is one of the best games on Xbox 360, no question.
3. Forza Horizon 3
This is sheer class and really sets the benchmark for what an open world racing game can be, with the kind of detail and attention to detail usually reserved for enclosed, circuit-based racers. To maintain this level of quality over the full game is frankly amazing, and Forza Horizon 3 hasn’t aged much at all. Bright, colorful and with a festival atmosphere approaching Dirt 2’s levels of feelgood factor, this is a racer you can come back to again and again. While its successor below is better designed in terms of track layouts and technical prowess, England’s lanes can’t rival the sunshine setting of Australia. This is a beautiful place to visit on your Xbox.
2. Forza Motorsport 7
This is everything Forza 5 threatened to be, and everything Forza 6 should have been. Fixing the few areas where its predecessor fell short, Forza Motorsport 7 blends that lust for the romance of motorsport with true cut-and-thrust racing action. It’s faster, more consistently appealing and the simple structure allows you to see the end in sight as you progress up through the ranks. With progression feeling like real progress and car control that rewards skill without alienating newbies, this game excels in every area it attempts. Sublime presentation that was made even better with the power of Xbox One X is coupled with magnificent gameplay and exemplary content. It doesn’t get much better than this, even on the new-gen machines.
1. Forza Horizon 4
If you want a showcase for any of the three most powerful Xbox machines, then you’ve come to the right place. Forza Horizon 4’s recreation of an idealised England is absolutely breathtaking, and the idea of setting it all across the four seasons of the real world is a masterstroke. Tearing up country roads with golden leaves flying fades into delicate snowy scenes, then the British weather turns everything green and lush before baking it hard in summer. If the standard races look gorgeous, the showcases are simply spectacular. It may not hold your attention for as long as other games on this list, but as a surefire way to impress and feel impressed, there’s little as reliable as this beauty.
So there we have it. Where will Forza Horizon 5 fit into this list? Well, with the game scheduled for release on November 5 so you’ll soon find out. Want more in the mean time? Then why not check out our list of the best racing games you can buy right now?