Best racing games

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Racing games have been a staple of most gaming diets for decades, but they've really come in their own over the past two console generations. With that in mind, this list of racing games only includes titles from the PS4/Xbox One and PS3/360 era, meaning you can still buy and play them easily. Unlike, say, Sega Rally Championship - it's still a superb game, but you need a Sega Saturn or an import PS2 to play it. You've already got a copy of both of those, right? Just me? Oh.

While this list is loosely ordered from great to greatest the further you go, it's safe to say that everything featured here is a superb game worthy of your time and money. And if you're still unsure whether you should buy any particular one, there's a link to that game's full review, so you can read our verdict and make an informed decision.

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12. Forza Horizon 2

What do you get if you cross the amazing new-gen graphics and realism of the main Forza series on Xbox One with arcadier, go-anywhere racing of an open world game like The Crew? You get fun, that's what. Forza Horizon 2 takes itself less seriously than the main Forza series, and the result is one of the most accessible racers in years.

It's got some neat tricks up its short sleeves too. The Bucket List mode lets you try out set routes and parameters, just because they're cool things to do, and the ability to cut a corner by driving through a fence and ploughing through a field is incredibly liberating, even if it goes against everything you've been taught previously.

11. Project CARS

The most serious racing sim on this list, Project CARS is all about simulating actual motorsport, not a gameified version of it. Cold tyres will make you spin. A single bump can end your race. And, if you choose to, you can even have the game demand you press a button to start the engine. This is hardcore.

Fortunately, it's also very, very good. The dynamic weather system may not look as good as Driveclub's but it's still a wonder to behold as a sunny day turns into a thunder storm before your eyes. The helmet cam is also remarkable, genuinely looking like real life on certain tracks and in certain cars. Sometimes, it looks better than real life footage of the same car and track. Figure that one out.

10. Wipeout HD/Fury

One of the last Wipeout games to come from Studio Liverpool before its untimely closure, Wipeout HD is still a breathtaking and spectacular racing game. Running at 1080p and 60fps, its futuristic hovercraft races are brought to life in crystal clarity and even in 3D if you have a fancy TV.

Everything about this game screams 'class', from the soundtrack, to the weapons, to the auto-accelerating Zone mode (which remains one of gaming's most captivating combinations of aesthetic appeal and classic 'increasing challenge' score attack). It's also worth checking the games out on PS Vita (available as DLC for the also-great Wipeout 2048), because it also just so happens to suit handheld play beautifully.

9. Daytona USA HD

The oldest game on this list, Daytona USA is still available to download on Xbox 360 (but not Xbox One yet) and PS3 in beautiful HD. Originating as one of the first texture-mapped 3D arcade games in 1993, Daytona USA was ported to Saturn twice and Dreamcast once before it finally got the home conversion it deserved on Xbox 360 and PS3. It's arcade-perfect in terms of colours, textures and handling, but in HD and with vastly-reduced pop-in.

And what a game it still is. There are only three tracks to play, but you could play for 20 years and still not feel you'd mastered them. I know this because I have done exactly that. It's a shame the online servers are empty because there's so little scope for griefing in Daytona. This is that famous arcade game one of the most successful arcade games of all time in your house. It's still one of the best games you can buy.

8. Forza Motorsport 4

This is still the pinnacle of Turn 10's racing sim series, if not in looks then certainly in gameplay. This is essentially a playable encyclopaedia of cars. The handling is more responsive than new-gen Forzas 5 and 6, and the AI is programmed to behave a certain way, instead of being influenced by external variables that don't always work, like Forzas 5 and 6.

Playing Forza Motorsport 4 with a force feedback steering wheel and pedals is a wonderful experience. The quality is evident as soon as you load it up, and the split-screen multiplayer is every bit as solid-feeling as the main game. This is an exemplary racing sim and it's all dressed up in beautiful customisable liveries too. Superb.

7. Burnout Paradise

All of the core Burnout games are great, perhaps with the exception of the original which is merely very good. But Burnout Paradise remains one of the most ambitious racing games ever made and yet somehow also one of the slickest. It's a sprawling offline single-player game, but also a seamless online MMO with the tap of a button. Granted, the server isn't always available these days, but that doesn't detract from the solo experience, which is more than worth the entry fee on its own.

Today, that single-player mode is still gorgeous. After numerous updates, the game is very different to the vanilla version, but that 60fps update, super-scary speed and impeccable summertime atmosphere are still intact. And the crashes? Still the best crashes in any console racing game. Current-gen needs to do better.

6. F1 2013

Formula One cars require technical knowledge of racing lines and braking techniques to drive well, and I would even argue you should race with manual gears too. When you do, F1 2013 is a superb racer. The fourth game in Codemasters' series, this represents the pinnacle of its evolution, especially as it features a 'classic' mode that F1 2014 and current-gen's F1 2015 do not.

The standard, modern F1 season is deep and engaging here, along with some shorter, rival-based game modes, but the package is elevated above the competition with the inclusion of some of the biggest fan-pleasing content in any racing game ever, namely 1980s and 1990s cars and drivers. No single season's grid is fully replicated (and McLaren is conspicuously absent), though 1988 is closest. But as a modern video game of the kind of racing that got a lot of people into motorsport in the first place, this is wonderful.

5. GRID Autosport

By going against the sprawling career modes of most modern racing sims, GRID Autosport provides a focused, honed experience that lets you enjoy the parts of the game you like the most. The multi-disciplined event roster includes single-seaters, touring cars and V8 Supercars, lending the gameplay plenty of variety. But all that is peripheral to the fact the racing itself, which is some of the best you'll ever experience outside of racing against real people.

The key to this lies in its AI. When you race a computer-controlled car in GRID Autosport, you really race it. Lap after lap of cut and thrust competition, full of defensive lines, wide-in-narrow-out passes on corner exits you have to work hard to win, but damn, does it feel good when you do. The handling is grounded in reality, but has been tuned to allow for maximum risk/reward payback. You can probably buy this game very cheap now, so do it. You won't regret it.

4. Mario Kart 7

The best local multiplayer racing experience you can get remains the 3DS' Mario Kart 7. Everything from the handling of the karts, the upgrades you can select, the track/air/water transformations (and alternative routes) and weapon system is tuned as close to perfection as you're ever likely to see.

The tracks are more memorable than Wii U's Mario Kart 8, and the multiplayer modes are superior too. There are very few games that could be recommended to absolutely anyone, child or adult, and have them practically guaranteed a good time. This is one of those games.

3. Gran Turismo 6

The best 'serious' racer may only be on PS3, but Gran Turismo 6 feels every bit as convincing as its new-gen competition, to the point where side-by-side comparisons are entirely plausible. The simulation is beautifully-weighted, combining the real-world physics calculations you'd expect from a sim with responsive steering, making this far more accessible than its main rivals, Forza and Project CARS.

There are day and night transitions, wet weather racing, an incredibly long list of real-world and fictional tracks, all of which could sustain weeks of play alone if you're chasing best times and track mastery. It's a shame the AI isn't as good as it could be, and the car damage is frankly pitiful, but everything else is top-drawer.

2. DiRT 2

Arcade racers may have died out, but DiRT 2 remains as close as you can get to that pick-up-and-play gameplay of yesteryear. The 'dudebro' presentation caused a lot of very vocal protestations from a small section of the community, which is a shame because no subsequent racer from Codemasters has had anywhere near as much personality, almost certainly as a result.

But the soundtrack is unforgettable and the festival vibe in the off-track scenes carries into the action. The AI racers call you by name when they pass, allowing you to form organic rivalries (mainly with Katie Justice, admittedly), the handling is superb, the detail in the environments and the physics of destructible trackside scenery is frankly better than it has any right to be on 2005's hardware this is simply a phenomenally good racing game. Dude.

1. Driveclub

Driveclub is the best racing game on current-gen. It's blisteringly fast, incredibly good-looking, and beautifully interwoven with the possibilities opened up by modern connectivity. The process of being notified on your mobile phone that a friend has challenged you to beat their time, logging on, racing against their ghost and beating it is one of gaming's finest methods of asynchronous multiplayer.

Competitive online racing may not quite reach those heady heights in the cars, since things can get too cramped on the narrow roads and dirty lanes, but the Driveclub Bikes DLC overcomes even that issue, since the bikes give the racing room to breathe. The photo mode is the best you can get (and feels like a game in itself), the weather effects are the best you can get basically this is the best you can get. And it keeps on getting better with every update. Join the club.