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Best racing games to put you in pole position

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 the best 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.

A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work writing about games, movies, and TV.

12. 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.

11. 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.

10. 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.

9. Forza Horizon 4

(Image credit: Xbox / PlayGround Studios)

Platforms: Xbox One, and PC

Forza Horizon 4 is an extremely slick package, and while the gameplay is very similar to its predecessor, the quality of the track design is clearly superior, making this the one to go for. It’s all about freedom, letting you loose to drive around the British countryside, smashing through dry stone walls and enjoying ludicrous set-pieces like racing a steam train, all the while driving through seasons that last one week of real time. With the handling physics based on reality but with some arcade-esque stabilisation available, this is one of the easiest modern racing games to just pick up and play. If track racing leaves you cold but you still want a semi-serious game with the sheen of quality that Forza Motorsport has become known for, then this is the game for you.Just be warned that it does start to get a bit samey, especially if you’ve played either of the two previous games in the series.

8. Virtua Racing 

(Image credit: SEGA)

Platform: Nintendo Switch

How can a three circuit, one car arcade game from 1992 that doesn’t even have textures on its polygons be one of the best racing games you can buy today? Well, firstly it was the template from which every modern racer was built, featuring fast-moving 3D visuals, sublime car handling and a difficulty curve that lets anyone have fun, but provides masters with countless hours searching for perfection. This Nintendo Switch conversion was handled by the amazing M2, who also handled the phenomenal 3DS/Switch conversion of OutRun as well as plenty other Sega Ages titles. Everything this team touches seems to turn to retro gold. On Switch, this arcade classic runs at 60fps instead of the original’s 30, is displayed in full 1080p in docked mode, and even lets you play 8-player split screen on one Switch, in what is essentially the arcade version running 8 times on one screen. It’s really cheap too. If you’re unsure, buy it from the eShop (there’s sadly no physical release) and try to win just one race. You’ll be hooked by the time you do.

7. Dirt Rally 2.0

(Image credit: Codemasters)

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, and PC

The original Dirt Rally was the first Codemasters rally title in a long while to take rallying so seriously, and the sequel does everything that game did, and more. The graphics are simply superb, packed with detail and ever-changing terrain as you hurtle over bumps and jumps, redlining it around corners at 90 degrees and basically having an amazing time. It’s even a bit easier to get into than its predecessor thanks to stiffer barriers at the edge of the track, keeping you contained when you inevitably venture off the intended path. With official World Rallycross Championship races too and an exemplary career mode, this is a rally fan’s dream game. 

6. Wipeout Omega Collection

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Platform: PS4

Who would have thought that an upscaled collection of PSP games would turn out to be one of the best games on PS4? Well, that’s what we have here. Wipeout Omega Collection is indeed a collection of the three amazing Wipeout games that graced PSP and PS Vita, but they’ve been given such a deluxe makeover, they look like brand new games. Smooth as silk, it’s got an incredible weapons set, brilliant music, gorgeous menu graphics, challenging AI, and so many events to play and ace. And if you’re feeling really adventurous (and you laugh at motion sickness sufferers) you can even play it in VR. It’s not just a game - it’s an advertisement for HD visuals. But, you know. It’s also a game. And a very, very good one at that.

5. Driveclub

(Image credit: Sony)

Platform: PS4

Driveclub deserved so much better than the reception it received at launch. When the whole point of your racing game is online connectivity for competition and rivalries between friends and the world, server issues are going to kill it dead. In our review at the time, we said we’d never seen a game come to life quite so much as Driveclub when the servers actually switched on. Races are then populated with challenges based on your real-world rivals’ performance every few corners, asking you to go faster or drift longer. The game’s been updated massively since launch, too, with superb Bikes DLC as well as countless new events to play and love. Sadly, however, Driveclub’s future looks bleak, as Evolution Studios was sold to Codemasters who didn’t take Driveclub with them, and the servers for the game are set to be switched off at the end of March 2020. Worse than that, the game’s being removed from PSN so you’ll need to find a physical disc version if you want to play what is still undoubtedly one of the generation’s finest games. 

4. F1 2019

(Image credit: Codemasters)

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, and PC

After 10 years of gradual evolution, the series has really stepped up over the last three seasons, resulting in the most comprehensive simulation of a motorsport in the history of gaming. Every facet of the F1 world is recreated in accessible yet ultra-deep detail, with press interviews that affect team morale, a rivalry system practically lifted straight out of the classic Super Monaco Grand Prix, and there’s even Formula 2 as a feeder category now. This is all built around and interwoven throughout a rock-solid game engine, which provides speed, thrills and spills, as well as immense tactical depth thanks to tyre/fuel/ERS/DRS and component wear management. You can make all this as simple or complex as you wish, though the game is clearly aimed at people who absolutely love F1. So our advice is to get stuck in, and try to learn what everything does. You might just discover your new favourite racing game. 

3. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Mario Kart 8 on Wii U was decent but lacking in a few key areas - namely its speed, character roster and battle modes. Luckily, all of those things are fixed straight out of the box for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch, making for arguably the perfect kart racer. The attention to detail makes playing the game simply a very pleasurable experience. The soundtrack is stupendously good, the track design is memorable, and the new tracks like the Animal Crossing world and Zelda-themed level (complete with Master Sword) are, if anything, even better than the existing circuits. An old version of this Best Racing Games used to have Mario Kart 7 on 3DS as the best Mario Kart, but this is demonstrably better in every respect - and it’s even handheld too, so there’s no reason not to get involved now. Everyone should have a Switch, and every Switch should have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe installed on its hard drive.

2. Gran Turismo Sport 

(Image credit: Sony)

Platform: PS4

The final two games on the list are platform exclusives, so suffice to say if you have a PS4 or an Xbox One, you need to get the appropriate game on your machine right away. Sony’s flagship racer is the more understated of the two, choosing to champion sportsmanship and ultra-precise driving over sprawling, all-encompassing game modes. Indeed, the Career mode of old is absent, instead offering simple driving school events and some patched-in single-player races. The game is all about competition, though, and the online mode is arguably the finest online racing experience money can buy. Ultra-solid servers are combined with calendar-based races, all of which take place within stringent rules. It’s so closely monitored, the FIA even recognises Gran Turismo Sport as a motorsport in its own right. Amazing how far the series has come in 20 years. The new, revised penalty system makes for even fairer racing, too, so drive accordingly and you’ll have an amazing time.

1. Forza Motorsport 7

(Image credit: Xbox)

Platforms: Xbox One, and PC

This is very, very special. After the rushed-feeling Forza 5 and the sprawling yet flawed Forza 6, Forza Motorsport 7 get pretty much everything right. The game looks incredible even on a bog-standard Xbox One, running at 60fps with gorgeous special effects. There are countless amazing tracks, both real-world and original, and accessible handling that is more sim than arcade, yet still appreciated the need for the player to have fun. The result is game that looks amazing, feels great to drive and is genuinely fun to play. It’s very, very difficult to name any racing game that’s better than just one of the many elements that make up this incredible package, so for there to be so many of them (photo mode, online, wet weather, decal editing… the list just goes on and on) is frankly unheard of. Everything here is either excellent or best-in-class. Better get playing it, then.

So there they are - the best modern racing games money can buy. And if you take your racing very seriously and own a PS4 or an Xbox One, then why not take a look at our best racing wheel feature, too? Racing’s so much more fun with a wheel and pedals. 

A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work writing about games, movies, and TV.

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