By Nick Cowen
Forza Horizon 2
Forza Horizon 2 is ridiculously fun, beautiful to look at and smooth to play, so no surprises really that it's speeding its way onto our list. Set in various locations around Europe, Horizon 2 keeps the free-driving style of the original, letting you zoom around the spectacular scenery in a load of equally detailed cars.
What our friends over at totalxbox.com said: 'A triumph in so many respects that lets itself down with some technical issues and a world that needed more variety in the way it looks. That, however, shouldn't stop you from picking this up and loving it until the end of this console generation. Forza Horizon 2 is an accomplishment, and a showcase for what open-world racers can do.'
Originally slated to be a PS4 launch title, Driveclub was sadly delayed, for almost a year. But, finally, the team based online racer is here in all its next-gen glory. Boasting a fairly decent selection of European cars (there's more to come via downloadable content), multiple locations and plenty of online content, Driveclub is one of the best racing games you can buy on the PS4 right now.
What our friends over at gamesradar.com said: 'While too simplified to be a sim and too serious to be an arcade racer, Driveclub's online integration, beautiful environments and accessible handling make for a great new-gen racing package.'
Ubisoft's massively open world racing adventure had lofty ambitions. Essentially, you could explore the entire US of A, from New York to LA and everywhere inbetween, spending your time completing online challenges and story missions. The completely online game has had a rocky start, but it's hard to deny that the scope of the landscape is impressive.
What our friends over at gamesradar.com said: 'Take away its vast environment and The Crew is decidedly mediocre. But the enjoyable story and great sense of actually driving, whether alone or solo, means there's plenty of fun to be had all the same.'
Need for Speed: Rivals
While it's nearly a year old, Need for Speed: Rivals is still a very impressive racing title, packing that classic arcade style we've come to expect from the series. There's a great sense of speed in Rivals, pair that with the slick next-gen presentation, massive selection of cars and a variety of online and offline challenges and you've got a classy package.
What our friends over at gamesradar.com said: 'Need for Speed: Rivals is a wholly enjoyable open-world racer. The driving is solid, its streets are a joy to explore, and its racing assignments--though a bit repetitive at times--are incentive enough to keep you coming back for more.'
Forza 5 (2013)
As one of the leading exclusive titles for Microsoft's Xbox One, Forza 5 has definitely earned its place here.
Forza 5 takes full advantage of Microsoft's Xbox One controller features, giving rumble feedback to your fingertips through the triggers. Players are able to feel the engine starting and the edge of the road underneath the tyres. It's also a real looker...
Gaming has never felt, or looked this good, putting this title in for the gold when it comes to celebrating the next generation of gaming.
Platform: Xbox One
Burnout 3: Takedown (2004)
The game that rewards players for driving recklessly, Burnout 3: Takedown introduces a new game feature that gives players bonus points for smashing up as many vehicles as possible. Hours of irresponsible fun to be had by all.
Platform: PS2, Xbox
Grand Theft Auto 5 (2013)
Ok, so, it's not strictly a driving game… But Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto 5 had a huge impact on gaming, and land marked record-breaking sales. A massive chunk of the game involves driving, and with GTA5's world being so expansive, it's a good thing too… The open-world map is absolutely huge, and beautifully crafted, pushing current gen consoles to the limits.
Rockstar have also introduced a new style of multiplayer for GTA5. GTA Online works as an open world for up to 16 players to cause havoc to innocent civilians and cops. Alternatively, players can give each other endless grief until someone decides to break into the US Army base, grab a tank and show everyone who's boss.
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Driver: San Francisco (2011)
Driver: San Francisco, as with other games of this style, involved the standard high-octane car chases, dodgy shortcuts and law enforcement there simply to ruin the fun. Unlike others though, Driver: SF let players take control of other NPC's cars. This was done by essentially transferring the main character's mind into that of any other body around him. This feature added a new dimension to the game, and allowed gamers to change the course of events during chases. It also left the civilians freaking out about how they 'suddenly blacked out.'
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, Mac
Real Racing 2 (2010)
Real Racing 2 made its name as one of the most popular driving games for a mobile platform, being released first for iOS, and Android shortly after. A fun game to play, using either accelerometer controls, or the touch-screen steering controls. Graphically, it stands as one of the best games available for mobile.
Platforms: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows Mobile
Formula 1 '97 (1997)
Formula 1 '97, in its prime was the best selling game in the UK, proving to be a huge success. It was the first of its kind to put the player in a first person view of the cockpit, complete with dirt and flies spattered over the visor. It was also the first F1 game to feature a specific driver on the front cover, with Schumacher appearing on most editions of the game.
Platforms: PS1, PC
Need for Speed: Underground (2003)
EA's Need for Speed: Underground was your typical boy-racer's game. Flashy cars, urban city streets and a ton of good-ol' fashioned Nitrous Oxide. It could essentially be looked at as the unofficial Fast and Furious game. With a cool, varied soundtrack and high-energy races, Underground stands out as an iconic title from the NFS series.
Platforms: PS2, Xbox, Gamecude, PC
Split Second (2010)
Disney's Split Second can essentially be put down to Mario Kart on steroids. Like, mega steroids. Pitting racers in a fight to the death, Split Second saw players tearing through tracks to fill up their powerplay meters. This in turn could trigger game changing events, resulting in catastrophic changes to the course. A player could trigger a jumbo jet crash, or a large building to collapse, making life a lot harder for every other racer behind them.
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PSP
Daytona USA (1993)
One of the great arcade racing games. Daytona USA made its name as a world famous arcade machine, putting players in a driver's seat and behind a racing wheel. The vast majority of machines came with a few others too, so players could grab their friends and all join in on the fun together. It was a perfect multiplayer experience, providing endless fun, and can still be found in arcades today.
Platforms: Arcade, Sega Saturn, Windows, Playstation Network, Xbox 360 (Live Arcade), Dreamcast
Circuit Breakers (1998)
Another old game that brings back some memories. Circuit breakers was excellent fun to play with friends, and one of the first games that gave the player the danger of driving (or being rammed) of the edge of the course, leaving any chances of winning in the dust.
Micro Machines V3 (1998)
Micro Machines V3 is a golden retro racer and back in its heyday, players had a lot of fun with it. The smart thing about it was players were racing cars around a typical area in which kids would play with their Micro Machine toys, bringing imagined races to life. Stages included the breakfast table, a school desk, a science lab, a restaurant, the garden, and a pool table.
The game also equipped players with varied Mario Kart style power-ups, as well as putting obstacles in front of them using every day objects, just as acid or syrup spills, and massive obstacles in the form of pencils and spoons.
Platform: PS1, N64
Throwing all sense of realism out the window, Blur takes racing to a new level of fun with the use of power-ups and extreme vehicles modifications. Although developer Bizarre Creations based the racer on their Project Gotham Racing engine, the game didn't sell as well as expected, and unfortunately saw the studio close in February 2011.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Crazy Taxi (1999)
Less of a race against cars and more of a race against the clock, Crazy Taxi still deserves a place on the list for its ridiculously addictive vehicle-based gameplay. Players go against the watch to deliver passengers to their chosen destination, pulling off insane stunts along the way for those extra bonus points. If real-life taxi driving was this fun, we'd have quit our day jobs by now.
Platforms: Sega Dreamcast, PC, PSN, Xbox Live Arcade
Dirt 2 (2009)
Expanding on the Colin McRae franchise, Dirt 2 makes the experience more accessible with the use of multiple difficulty settings, an immersive career mode and solid online multiplayer to boot.
Platforms: PC, Mac OSX, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP
F1 2011 (2011)
Codemasters polished the F1 series to perfection in its 2011 sequel, which does an exemplar job of capturing the Grand Prix realism. There's a steep learning curve to tackle, but don't let it put you off: Impressive physics and a brand new co-op Championship make this an essential purchase for all F1 fans.
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, PS Vita
Forza Motorsport 3 (2009)
A high-powered racer that panders to hardcore and causal racers alike, Forza Motorsport 3 beats off most the competition with its impressive bevy of cars, tracks and games modes. Many claim this to be the definitive racing game. They may well be right.
Platform: Xbox 360
F-Zero X (1998)
A slightly non-conventional title that's more than worthy of a mention, F-Zero X brings the futuristic franchise into 3D on the Nintendo 64. The premise? Players race in hover-cars over magnificent structures at incredibly high speeds. The graphics might be dated today, but this still remains the best in the series.
Platform: Nintendo 64
Grand Prix 4 (2002)
Taking evolutionary steps forward in the racing genre, Grand Prix 4 was the first to introduce realistic rain that pit racers against the elements. Later iterations vastly improved the series formula, but Grand Prix 4 remains a fan favourite to this day.
Gran Turismo (1997)
Choosing only the first Gran Turismo for our list might be a controversial decision given how dated it now is, but the original still remains the most visionary of the series, stepping up everything we had come to expected in a racing simulator. For the first time, players could experience real-life physics, such as drafting and accelerating out of a turn. The series continues to go from strength to strength, with its latest offering, Gran Turismo 5, still offering one of the most realistic gaming experiences on the market.
Mario Kart 64 (1996)
There's no denying that Mario Kart deserves a place on the list, and the N64 version of Nintendo's ongoing franchise still offers one of the best multiplayer experiences available. With an arsenal of colourful weapons at their disposal, players must use their wits to battle it out for that coveted gold trophy.
Platforms: Nintendo 64
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition (2005)
One word: Bikes. Rockstar decided to break the mould by letting players race motorbikes alongside cars, and we honestly can't thank them enough. An impressive street racer in its own right, DUB Edition also allows racers to heavily modify their vehicles.
Platforms: Xbox, PS2, PSP
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005)
Though limited in its range of playable vehicles, EA's urban racer gets a place on the list thanks to its impressive maps, gorgeous visuals and fun police chases. Critics particularly praise its impressive cut scenes, the quality of which is almost never seen in racing games.
Platforms: PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, PSP, GBA, PC, Mobile
While fans debate whether OutRun is a racing game or just a “driving” game, one thing is for certain: the title was hugely innovative for its time. OutRun was the first game to use a sit-down moving cabinet in its arcade version, letting players feel like they were really in the car. It also introduced the use of in-game radio stations, a feature found in the likes of Grand Theft Auto and many other car games today.
Platforms: Sega Master System, Arcade, Sega Genesis, PS2, GBA, Xbox (attached to Shenmue II)
Project Gotham Racing 4 (2007)
With its visually-stunning environments and point system that rewards players for pulling off insane stunts, PGR4 is a worthy title in Bizarre Creations' franchise. Its weather effects are also some of the most impressive we've seen in a game to date.
Platforms: Xbox, Xbox 360
Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer (1999)
When it comes to video games, the Star Wars franchise has been a little hit and miss. Luckily, there have a few diamonds in the dust, and Episode 1 Racer is surely one of them. Based on the Podracing sport seen in the titular movie, the game challenges players to race at insanely high speeds through a variety of maps set in the expansive Star Wars universe.
Platforms: PC, Mac, N64, Sega Dreamcast
Pole Position (1982)
The oldest title on the list but an essential one, Pole Position launched all the way back in 1982 and set the precedent of racing games to come. Its over-the-car view has since been used in almost every racer to date. Almost 30 years later, we still can't get that catchy theme tune out of our heads.
Platform: Atari 5200, PC, Arcade
Ridge Racer 7 (2006)
Namco released Ridge Racer 7 to coincide with the launch of the PS3, showing off the horsepower of Sony's new console. Boasting hyper-realistic graphics and the ability to play in 3D, PS3 owners can't go wrong with this one.
Sega Rally Championship (1998)
It's a well known fact that at one moment in time, every arcade in the world had a copy of Sega Rally Championship. We just can't decide what we like most about this game: That fact it was the first racing game to apply different handling to different road surfaces? The co-operative multiplayer? The overenthusiastic voiceover (“Game over, yeah!”)? Ah, just all of it!
Platforms: Arcade, PC, Sega Saturn, PS2, GBA, N-Gage
Test Drive Unlimited (2006)
Touted as the world's first “massively open online” racer, Atari's 2007 title blurs the line between single-player and multiplayer by letting users interact in its “unlimited” online environment. Flawed, but insanely enjoyable.
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS2, PSP
Wipeout 2097 (1996)
Sony's answer to the F-zero franchise, Wipeout 2097 sees more anti-gravity madness and highs-speed thrills. The original Playstation release lacks the split-screen modes that made F-Zero so enjoyable, but it still remains a classic to this day.