Ahead of Christmas I thought I’d add a list of my favourite racing games ever, a kind of late Xmas list. I love retro games so this list features racing games from all manner of decades and consoles. This list combines games that are graphically stunning and the fun retro games!
Please let me know your thoughts and add any of your own suggestions in the comments!
Super Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart is one of those essential party games, that anyone can play and have fun with. The random weaponry and features help level the playing field, so even novices can compete. I’ve gone for the Nintendo 64 version of the game as I think the Wii version is slightly too chaotic. The multiplayer battle game is absolutely brilliant as both a first person shooter and a racing game. It’s a game that can take over a weekend!
Gran Turismo 3
The work of an obsessive perfectionist racer, Gran Turismo is a labour of love. Kazunori Yamauchi is the man behind it all, and if the rumours are true, he sacrificed the soundtrack and damage modelling so more time could be spent on the making the driving dynamics realistic. The third iteration of Gran Turismo is when things got serious. The digital version of the Nurburgring was accurate to millimetres of the real circuit and gave rise to the “Playstation Line”, a shortcut through the blind chicane at Adenauer Forst where you take a straight line over the kerbs. The game also started the Gran Turismo academy, where spotty gamers competed for the chance to race real cars once they’d proved their skills on the game. The TVR Cerbera Speed 12 also featured on the game despite it being an ultra rare car. This is the game that turned the world of racing games upside down and influenced rather than just imitated.
Available on the Sega Megadrive and Super Nintendo, Micro Machines had little in the way of plot or options, just tiny vehicles racing around the house. The level builder was an amazingly fun addition and something you don’t see very often in modern games. The multiplayer version allowed up to 4 players to compete in the chaos. An essential for retro gamers or those with access to emulators.
A rare gem on the Atari Lynx, Checkered Flag was a combination of F1 and Indycar. None of the tracks were real but the great graphics and the prospect of gaming on the go, meant this was one of the games I loved most. Countless options to customise races and cars kept the game fun.
While Quake and Unreal Tournament dominated the grisly first person shooter, Carmageddon created a new genre; killing zombies using your car in the post apocalyptic future, a kind of Quake game for drivers. Predictably controversial, Carmageddon was an innovative and entertaining game despite the gore and hysterical headlines.
Back when the Playstation 1 came out, this was THE game to have. A simple stock car simulation where the aim was to destroy opponents cars before they destroyed you. A simple premise and some great crashes and damage made this an excellent addition to any game collection. Racing switched between a free-for-all where the objective was to destroy opponents and a race around a circuit. Winning was preferable on circuit races, but trashing opponents was another way to eliminate rivals. The overly enthusiastic commentator adds some amusing phrases during the race and lets you know when your car has been totalled.
The most influential futuristic flying car game paved the way for ever more sophisticated games like Wipeout. F-Zero remains more of a fun game to play despite the simplistic graphics, balancing real skill with some random elements. The shoulder buttons enabled the driver to lean into bends, vital for keeping your lap times down. Certain tracks had ramps, magnets and side winds to complicate the game. The simple controls, funky music and crazy track elements kept F-Zero fun.
My favourite motorbike racing game *ever* is MotoGP on the PS2. The game has the usual mix of arcade and full season play, plus a load of challenges which unlock better bikes. The best thing about the game is that you quickly get the hang of riding the different bikes quickly round circuits, but it’s mastering the balance of the bike around corners that makes the game great. Lifting the throttle at just the right time and then accelerating out of the corners countersteering all the way. Shaving seconds off lap times and battling other riders is fun and simple to do, something that is completely missing on the more complicated sequel.
Road Rash, a violent combination of motorbikes and Street Fighter was a memorable game that was a fun and demented take on the racing game. Wipeout, a more advanced and less cartoony version of F-Zero featured fast flying cars and a techno soundtrack that reflected the futuristic surroundings of 2052. The Need For Speed series of games are an entertaining take on street racing. While on the subject of road racing, Grand Theft Auto 5 is an excellent game too, although not exactly a racing game.