Top Five Modern Racing Games

In: Articles by Chris "FighterAce100" Salazar

19 Apr 2011

Picking the best modern racing games is such a complicated and controversial subject.

With so many viable contenders — and a lot of completely nonviable ones — the list of possibilities can vary so much that these games. Nevertheless, I will  point out five games that I think deserve the title of best of racing games. The genre has been around since the first console with Mario Kart and has evolved to Gran Turismo 5 and Forza 3, but what’s really worth your time and money for current systems?

Here’s what I think deserve your attention.

1. Gran Turismo 5 — PS3

I do not even own this system, yet I am going to rate this game as number one on my list. Gran Turismo has been around since 1997 and has sold over 63 million copies. If that number doesn’t shock and awe you, the newest game in the series will. GT5 has more than 1,000 cars to choose from, 26 locations around the world with over 70 track variations, and day and night racing. Developer Polyphony Digital even included weather effects. I know of no other game, even with DLC, that has anywhere near the 1,000-car mark, much less the size and details of the tracks included with the game. Tracks are beautifully and painstakingly designed from the pebbles on the side of the road to every curve and bend on the Nürburgring raceway. Racing styles also are covered from top to bottom from NASCAR events and rally racing to basic circuit and advanced GT series racing. If you want a game that seriously covers it all, this is the game for you and you will not be disappointed. For the “tuners” out there, just like the real engineers, you can tweak nearly every little detail on your car from tire pressure to spring dampers and sway bars.

2. Forza 3 — Xbox 360

I can hear the fanboys screaming at me now, but Forza must ride in second place. The Forza franchise has sold a little more than 10 million copies of the game, which is significantly fewer than the more well-established Gran Turismo franchise, but just like GT, Forza is console exclusive to the Xbox. This has, in my opinion, stunted the growth of the franchise, but it is worth noting that with each release, the game content has grown tremendously. Forza 3 features about 500 cars and 25 tracks. With the variations of the original tracks, Forza 3 has more than 70 tracks to test your skills on. The devout online tuning and modification community has undoubtedly contributed to the success of each release. Racing is mostly limited to daytime track racing, broken down by vehicle classes. The career mode is extensive and can keep you busy for well more than half a year or more and the unlimited tuning, painting, and modifications allow the game to keep the cars fresh and new. Forza had done the “cockpit” view the best out of all the racing games to date until Gran Turismo 5 released, but even now, there is another game out that challenges this once-unique and defining feature of the series.

3. Shift 2: Unleashed (Need for Speed) — Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Just released this month, Shift 2 has such high potential and lasting value that it deserves some recognition, especially because it is so vastly improved over the first game. Improving the “cockpit” camera by renaming to the “helmet cam” and realistically recreating head movements that a racecar driver has on a course, it fully completes what other games have come close to recreating but haven’t been able to attain. Shift 2 does not have the level of detail on its tracks compared to GT5 or in some cases of Forza 3, it makes up for it with the sheer sense of speed and battles that occur during an actual race. Its gritty, rough, unrelenting, and an adrenaline rush all at once. This game is harder to master, as well, due to the sensitivity of the cars while driving them, and it emphasizes that a race is more than just a few cars on a piece of pavement moving at 150-plus miles per hour. I also think Shift is great because it further involves the Autolog feature from NFS: Hot Pursuit by allowing you to post times and challenge friends and other players online. It turns the game into a social network and adds more to the multiplayer and single-player capabilities. Did I mention the interiors of the cars are so incredibly detailed and realistic that it puts GT5 and Forza 3 to shame?

4. Dirt 2 – Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PSP

Owning to the heritage of rally racing that world-famous Scottish driver Colin McRae left behind, Codemasters has made a magnificent franchise bloom into something more than just driving off road. Dirt 2 is one of those games that is honed to a specific kind of racing: Rally style. Rally racing is mostly done in off-road environments around the world, with emphasis on speed, driver skill, and highly tuned and specialized cars. Rally racing has produced some of the world’s premier sedans and hatchbacks like the Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus, and Hyundai Genesis coupe. The game features rally racing in its pure form by time trials, but also has Baja, raid, and rallycross races as well. The level of detail on the tracks is mind blowing, as the impressions left by your car chewing up the track stay there for the entire race. Mud and dirt roads handle very similar to what real-world roads feel like and although the cars are not highly detailed inside the cockpit view, you get a great sense that you are racing in the jungles of Malaysia or in the dunes of Morocco. This game is by no means a simulation and leans more toward the arcade, but this lets a wider audience enjoy a sport that very few have seemed to notice over the years. If you want a game that’s fun to play with your friends and you don’t mind getting a little dirty, this game is for you.

5. Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit — Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii

This game is just too fun to not have on my list. In fact it’s so fun and easy to learn how to play that gamers who normally stay away from racing games can take a liking to this one quite easily. Rated the highest out of all the Need for Speed series, it won great reviews from all who played it. Based on the fact that it is an arcade racing game and is in no way, shape, or form a simulator, it takes what’s really fun with racing the world’s hottest cars and turns them into either street racers or police cruisers. The whole idea is to smash your opponents off the road in dramatic cut scenes by using a variety of tools — or the good ol’ fashioned way of bustin’ them off the road with your own car! With an open-world setting, Autolog to help post your bragging rights and issue challenges to friends, and great soundtrack, you can easily loose yourself into the world of Need For Speed. The game also has more than three bundles of new DLC to expand your car collection and available races to continue in your career. If that isn’t enough to get you sold, the multiplayer is vicious and not for the faint of heart. This is where its okay to hit the car next to you, showboat and pull a slick 180 on the road in pursuit, and show how patient you can be using weapons like electromaginetic pusles, roadblocks, tire spikes, and other assorted items to take out your opponents. Besides it’s fun to be racing in a Lamborghini police cruiser at 190 mph on the chase. This game will keep you busy for hours on end — just be sure to race your friends and post your scores so you can get the most out of it.

Racing games have come quite a long way from the early roots of Mario Kart and Burnout, and it’s become something that can be as real as you could imagine. You can, in your vitural gaming world, go into the complexity of working as an engineer for a racing team or you can keep it as simple as just smashing your opponent off the road because he is a fugitive and trying to run from the law. I’ll grant I left out some other fun games from this list that have made impressions on other racing-game fans, but I guarantee if you pick up any one of these games for your console or PC, you will have a blast racing for the checkered flag every time you play.

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3 Responses to Top Five Modern Racing Games



April 19th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Heres my $.02

GT5 – Nope, passed it. It took forever to come out only to fizzle into something not worth it. (Wait for GT6)

Forza 3 – I would approve on this list. Great ablilites to tweek, adjust, and customize to your hearts content. Online Community is rather nice too.

Shift 2 – I was never really into Shift. Trying to be an Edgy Forza/GT There was “Another” Game I think that plays better. We’ll get to that later.

Dirt 2 – With RalliSport Challenge dead, I always thought a new Rally game would never come out.. until Dirt came. Dirt 2 was just Icing on the Cake. Great Arcade/Sim ablities.

NFS:HP – Im sorry, I was so excited for this, and then is fizzled out too. Criterion you did your best, but did we really need a Burnout: Hot Pursuit.

Wanna know my 5. Here we go:

Dirt 2 – See above

Forza 3 – See above

Grid – Thank you Codemasters.. Yes Dirt was great, Dirt 2 was also great. So was F1 2011, But I think its time to come back to the Tarmac and whip up another Grid. Nothing has gotten me so pumped to play a 24 Le Mans race than this has.. ever. Just enough Sim and Arcade to make this right.. thus why Shift was really meh to me.

Burnout Revenge – Now before you shout, WAIT 3 TAKEDOWN.. Revenge to me was bliss. Talk about taking out some anger while playing this. Crash Mode, Traffic Attack all that. 360 Version being Suppior in many ways.. heck it looks like it should havce been IN an Arcade machine. PERIOD.

Split Second – WHY WAS THIS NOT IN THE LIST. I have not had this much fun playing a Racing game in so long. Over the top ways to take people out, getting chased and shot at by a helicopter and dare I say.. Survival mode being one of the best Racing modes ever created (way much fun online too). I guarentee to hear a Sequal maybe this year at E3.. if not then next year.



April 20th, 2011 at 11:22 am

My half-cents worth:

Test Drive Unlimited 2 is a great DRIVING game, but really can’t compete with your list of RACING games.

I think Track Mania is one of the great racing games. Sure, it is arcade racing, but it does it very well. TM is internationally famous with a huge user base.

I guess neither of these choices try to simulate racing, so they may be for a different list.



April 22nd, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I haven’t played any of the racing games in your top 5 list. However, you list is stacked with racing simulation games. The other sub-genre of racing games is arcade/story style games and I like them the best. My favorites in this console generation that I’ve played on xbox 360 or Wii in single player mode only are:

Need for Speed Carbon – Played this on the Wii. This game was almost perfect. I did not like the drift races, however I liked everything else about it. I also really like the night driving because that is where I feel the true street racing happens. Also, the canyon races added a unique challenge. Awesome!

Burnout Revenge – Played this on xbox 360. The crash events were fantastic! The computer opponents challenging.

Need for Speed Undercover – Played this on xbox 360. This one was fun, but it was not long enough. The game campaign ended shortly after unlocking the 3rd area of the city. I wish there was more, otherwise a great game.

Others that I played, but were mediocre or frustrating to play were:
Project Gotham 3, Need for Speed Most Wanted, Midnight Club L.A., Burnout Paradise.

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