What are the best racing games on PC? Whether mastering muddy tracks in Dirt Rally 2.0 or embracing Forza Horizon 5’s magnificent Mexico, these are the best racers around.
Picking the very best racing games on PC is no easy task. So many elements contribute: the genre’s not only about graphical fidelity and hair-raising sound design – though both certainly help – it’s also about pulling you into the action as if you’re there in the driver’s seat, eyes strained as the asphalt whips past at 240kph. From honing your timing for a perfect gear shift to kicking out the back-end for a sublime drift, a quality racing game just feels right.
Don’t go asking, “How could you forget about Grand Prix Legends! Where’s Geoff Crammond?!” When versions of those games surface on Steam or GOG, we’ll be the first in line to play them again… and inevitably find they haven’t aged as well as we hoped. So for those of you who are just looking to hop in and fire up the engine of a superb racer, whether that’s an intricate sim or an arcade thriller, we’ve got some breakneck PC racers for you.
The best racing games are:
Playground Games’ latest open-world arcade racer leaves the British Isles behind and brings the party to Mexico. Forza Horizon 5’s map is 50% larger than Horizon 4’s UK, and it’s filled with open desert roads, quaint Mexican towns, and breathtaking canyons. Building on the previous games’ stunning seasonal effects that bring the environment to life, in Horizon 5 you contend with storms that can whip up ferocious winds at a moment’s notice.
Aside from the new weather, not a ton has changed, but that’s by no means a bad thing as Playground Games has truly mastered the racing game format. You can participate in traditional races, co-op campaigns, stunt jumps, seasonal championships, and endurance tests in a range of speedy and stylish vehicles ranging from modified dune buggies and pick-up trucks to one-off hypercars.
There’s plenty of content to keep you coming back; as in-game seasons change every week, new events appear alongside them to complete, earning you exchangeable points you can redeem for exclusive cars. For our full thoughts, check out our Forza Horizon 5 PC review.
If you don’t know your pacenotes from your driveshaft, Dirty Rally 2.0 is not the racing game for you. If you’re looking for a casual driving experience, just getting from A to B a bit faster than you would normally be able to on your daily commute, try Dirt 4, instead. In Rally 2.0 your co-driver will launch instructions, numbers, and directions at you thick and fast and, if you can’t handle the varied terrains and hairpin bends then you’ll be smashing into a tree before you know it.
As you’ll find in our Dirt Rally 2.0 PC review, is unapologetic in its hardcore sensibilities. Unlike more casual racing games, failure here is regular, and the slightest error will be ruthlessly punished. Heavy crashes overwhelm the senses like a flashbang has exploded on your bonnet. And, if you’re caught behind the pack, the introduction of surface degradation will make even driving in a straight line a struggle. But, if you know what you’re doing, there are few better approximations of this demanding discipline among the best PC games than Dirt Rally 2.0.
Just as we did in our Dirt Rally 2.0 impressions, you’ll be doing a lot of crashing: Codemasters’ driving game doesn’t come with a tutorial this time – you’ll only learn from successive trips to the hospital. Also failing to make the drive from previous games is the procedural track-generating system, Your Stage. Instead, each race is meticulously hand-crafted, inviting devoted fans to commit every nefarious twist and turn to memory. That’s the only way to master Dirt Rally 2.0 and, if you don’t embrace its obsessively singular vision, you’re finishing last.
Shift 2 might be the best compromise between realism and accessibility of any game on this list. It’s not just the ways the car handle – menacing, but capable – but the way it consistently thinks about what players need to perform at a high level. Rather than lock your view gazing out over the hood, or ask you to spring for TrackIR to let you turn your head, Shift 2 has a dynamic view that subtly changes based on context.
Coming up on a gentle right-hand corner, your view shifts a bit as your driver avatar looks right into the apex. For a sharper corner, your view swings a bit more so you have a sense of what you’re driving into, yet it doesn’t feel disorienting at all. It feels natural.
The thoughtfulness even extends to depth-of-field. This is a wildly overused visual effect but Shift 2 uses it to highlight where your attention should be. When someone is coming up fast on your tail, objects farther away get a bit fuzzier while your mirrors sharpen to razor clarity. As you move around in dense traffic, your cockpit gets indistinct while the cars around you come into focus. It sounds gimmicky, but it all feels as natural as driving a car in real life. Shift 2 is really dedicated to communicating the fun and accomplishment of performance driving, and it succeeds admirably.
An isometric racing game doesn’t sound like it’d work too well – unless it’s Micro Machines, of course – but Art of Rally is perhaps the most charming racing game out there. It combines a stylised, minimalist art style with rally cars from the the 1960s all the way through to the infamous Group B in the ’80s.
Hurtle round open world environments hunting for collectibles or progress through typical rally stages, all within stunning, colourful environments. The soundtrack is fitting too, with mellow, lofi tunes accompanying you on your journey through countries such as Finland, Germany, and Kenya. Possibly the least typical racing game on this list, but by far the most unique.
Real cars, you might have noticed, rarely cartwheel into the verge the moment you dare to mix steering and acceleration inputs. In fact, they’re quite good at going round corners – it is almost like an engineer has given the problem some thought during the design process. Performance cars in Project Cars 2, while certainly more liable to bite back, are even better at the whole turning thing. Throw a Ferrari or Lamborghini around the track (as we have done on a number of occasions) and you’ll probably spend more time having fun than fretting about the absence of a rewind button in real life.
Slightly Mad know this. They are, it seems, just as frustrated by the driving sim genre’s propensity to equate challenge with the sensation of driving on treadless tires on a slab of melting ice set at an angle of 45 degrees. So here, cars actually go around the corners, even when you give the throttle some beans. Don’t get us wrong, this is no virtual Scalextric set – you can still make mistakes, and traction is far from absolute. But, crucially, you aren’t punished for these mistakes with a rapid trip into the nearest trackside barrier (at least, if you play with a wheel – pad control is still a little oversensitive). The result is a game that feels much more like real driving, and as you’ll read about in our Project Cars 2 PC review, it is wonderful.
The studio has made plenty of other changes in this sequel too, shoring up the car selection with a greater variety of vehicles, and creating a career mode that feels less wayward without sacrificing the appealing freedom of choice pioneered by the previous game’s. There’s even half-decent AI to race against if you don’t fancy the cut and thrust of online play. But the most spectacular update is the game’s astonishing weather system, one that calculates a dizzying number of factors about the physical properties of materials and surfaces, water pooling and run-off, in order to spit out the best set of weather effects – and wet weather driving – we’ve ever experienced in a racing game.
In Wreckfest, your goal is usually to cross the line first, but pure racing isn’t the only way to do that. Crashing into your opponents to whittle down their vehicle health is a valid way to win, or if you trust your driving ability, you can try to outrun all the other racers.
There’s also elimination modes which require you to be the last vehicle standing, and a vast array of vehicles to choose from. With an impressively accurate damage model and the ability to pit school buses against golf buggies and everything in-between, grab some pals and hop online for some of the funniest racing moments you can have in a videogame.
Any genre veteran will tell you that good track design is an essential part of any quality racing title. And that’s an area where TrackMania 2: Canyon really has a winning, unique selling point. While in most games a hairpin bend, g-force-laden camber, or high-speed straight might suffice, tracks in TrackMania 2: Canyon take on a terrifying, Hot Wheels-inspired new meaning. Sweeping barrel-rolls, nigh-impossible jumps, and floating platforms that stick up two fingers to physics are what set the TrackMania series apart from other arcade racers.
The real heart of TrackMania 2 can be found online, where the ingenious, convoluted creations of others take centre stage. The competition is fierce and frantic. A race can quickly devolve into a hilarious highlight reel of missed jumps and unforeseen corners. The racing mechanics make for an ideal pick-up-and-play multiplayer game that you can lose hours to without noticing. That’s largely because of how easy the cars are to drive, and yet, once you hit the (often ludicrous) tracks, it’s anyone’s bet who’ll take first place.
The GRID series has gone through many iterations, but the single player mode in the latest game takes inspiration from Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, which is a dramatised documentary focused on Formula One. It features real-life interviews with fictional characters and racing scenarios which see you face off against a number of rivals, trying to make a name for yourself in motorsport.
There are also plenty of multiplayer modes on offer, and the drop-in-drop-out feature means you can take over AI racers in live races whenever you please. It’s not a racing simulator, leaning much more heavily on an arcade style, but there’s a lot of fun racing to be had.
Every arcade racer should be as cool as this game. If Steve McQueen were digitised and turned into a videogame, he would be Driver: San Francisco.
While Driver: SF features cars and influences from a variety of eras, it approaches everything with a ’70s style. It loves American muscle, roaring engines, squealing tyres, and the impossibly steep hills and twisting roads of San Francisco. It may have the single greatest soundtrack of any racing game, and some of the best event variety, too.
It also has one of the most novel conceits in the genre. Rather than be bound to one vehicle, you can freely swap your car for any other on the road at the push of a button. So, in many races, the car you finish in might not be the one you started with, and in-car chases, you’ll quickly learn to teleport through traffic to engineer a variety of automotive catastrophes just to screw with opponents.
It’s bizarre, original, and perpetually delightful. As we’ve said in the past, there are a lot modern racers could learn from Driver: San Francisco. They really don’t make ’em like this anymore.
F1 22 is the latest instalment in the long line of official Formula One games and while it’s still developed by racing game veterans Codemasters, it’s now published by EA, which spurred the dropping of ’20’ from the game title.
While the addition of supercars and F1 Life cosmetics haven’t gone down too well with fans, the wheel-to-wheel racing is better than ever before thanks to the new real-life car designs. For the first time, tyre temperatures also mimic their real-life behaviour, so getting the perfect start off the line is much more difficult if you haven’t successfully warmed your tyres up during the formation lap.
You’ve got your usual single-player career mode, along with time trials and online multiplayer, plus the two-player co-op career mode has returned after debuting for the first time with F1 2021. New content is being added regularly, such as one-off liveries for McLaren and Alpine, the entire F2 season including all of the drivers, new MyTeam icons such as Mika Hakkinen, and new in-game tracks like the Shanghai International Circuit. If you want to get behind the wheel of the fastest motorsport in the world, F1 22 is the game you want.
You can’t put together a list of great simulation racing games without having something from SimBin. While the studio appears to have lost its way a bit with the dubious free-to-play RaceRoom Racing Experience, SimBin were sim racing royalty during the mid-2000s. Race: Injection is their capstone game, the package that combines just about everything they accomplished with the GTR series and Race 07.
These are hard games, but the race-modified sedans of the World Touring Car Cup should ease your transition into serious racing. Even a racing Honda Accord is still a Honda Accord, and the slightly more manageable speed and difficulty of the WTCC is a great place to learn the tracks and SimBin’s superb physics.
But there are muscle cars, endurance cars, and open-wheel racers to choose from in this package, all of them brilliantly recreated and offering unique driving challenges. For the money, you probably can’t do better than Race: Injection for sim racing.
Unfortunately, the Race series was also long in the tooth even as Injection was released, and there’s no concealing the old tech it’s built on. Don’t let the flat lighting and dull graphics throw you off, though. A few minutes with these cars, especially if you have a quality force feedback wheel, and you won’t even notice the aged appearance.
This racing sim will appeal to dedicated fans of the genre while also outdoing the original Assetto Corsa in practically every department – and doing that means clearing a very high bar indeed. It’s taken a while for Competizione to work through the turmoil of Early Access, but with it’s 1.0 release there are only a few bugs left to crush.
We’re quite taken with it, too. In our Assetto Corsa Competizione review, Phil Iwaniuk highlights how it evolves from its predecessor. “There’s more than just an endurance racing licence to distinguish Assetto Corsa Competizione from its predecessor,” he says. “It’s more polished, more precise, and offers more scope for long-term single-player satisfaction.”
Welp, here we go. The Grand Poobah of simulation racing. iRacing blurs the line between play and work. Its cars and tracks are recreated with a fanatical attention to detail, and its league racing rules are about as serious as you’ll find in any racing club or at any track event in the world. This is a racing game for people who want the real thing and are willing to spend hours training for it. It is perhaps the pinnacle of Papyrus legend David Kaemmer’s career. For those of us who cut our teeth on the IndyCar and Grand Prix Legends game, that name alone is recommendation enough.
iRacing is not cheap – though, at $50 a year, it’s better value than many an MMO – also, you should check out the best MMOs on PC. Nor is its emphasis on graphics. But its rewards are aimed at a specific and demanding group of players. When you’ve outgrown the Codemasters games, and even stuff like Race: Injection is wearing a little thin, this is where you go. Also, iRacing in VR is quite the experience, too.
There you have it, the best racing games on PC. If all this speedster action has gotten you restless and impatient, why not double down on those feelings by checking up on the best upcoming PC games. Perhaps you’d like to slow things down, and focus on more cerebral pursuits? In which case, read about the best strategy games on PC, or have a gander at the best PC games overall, because there’s some real corkers on there.
In the meantime, get fired into the speedy sensations above. Turns out, virtual driving is way more exciting than trying to parallel park a second-hand Skoda. Who knew?
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