Although there are always a lot of driving games available, finding a great one can sometimes be a challenge. Luckily, there have been several over the years tht fit the bill. This list could have had many games on it, but these eight are some of the best driving games over the years.
Pole Position was just about where it all started. Instead of just offering up a dial as a steering wheel, the arcade version of Namco’s racer featured one of the coolest cockpits you could find in arcades in its day. Pedals, a shifter, a steering wheel, and a wraparound cabinet made for a cool experience, which is why it was the highest-grossing arcade game of 1982. It also laid the foundation for future racing games to build on.
Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road
The ultimate in multiplayer arcade racing, Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road featured three steering wheels that let you take on your friends in off-road dirt track racing. You could earn points and money, which were used to upgrade your truck and buy more nitro. Sure, it sucked down the quarters, but it was championship-level fun if you had friends along.
Gran Turismo 3: A-spec
If you were a racing fan who owned a PlayStation 2, you had a copy of Gran Turismo 3: A-spec. In fact, only one game outsold the racing title on PS2, and that was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. GT3 was the turning point in sim racing. Instead of the clunky arcade racers of recent years, it was all about the experience of really driving a realistic car. It was the game that made realistic racing seem possible, even if it didn’t have a way to damage the cars.
NASCAR Racing 2003 Season
Easily the best of the early NASCAR simulators, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season featured a robust physics engine and driving mechanics so robust that you could sometimes find actual NASCAR drivers playing online (Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin were know to use it for training). Although developer Papyrus went out of business in 2004, shortly after EA acquired the NASCAR license, they returned and used the (now open source) code base of this game to make the super accurate iRacing simulator.
Need for Speed Underground 2
For many long-time fans of Need for Speed, Underground 2 is the best of that series. It combined an open-world environment, tons of customization, and a great soundtrack. It also offered up tuner options that really let you make your car fit your style. Its open-world Explore mode let players roam the world and participate in a number of mini-games. Underground 2 is a great example of what a great Need for Speed game looks like.
Pretty much any of the Burnout games could be in this spot, but Burnout Revenge gets the nod from me, because it’s the game that sold me on the series. It embraced the idea that most people were just here for the crashes, and made them more than an afterthought – it made them the point of the game. Sure, there was racing too, but when the majority of game modes and points are about smashing into other drivers, we know what’s going on. Burnout games never have licensed cars (because no manufacturer wants you trashing their product), but it still manages to be awesome nonetheless.
Forza Motorsport 4
The Forza series has always been strong, and Forza Motorsport 4 is likely the best of that bunch. It wowed gamers with its visual upgrades and added the much appreciated Autovista mode. More importantly, players could now customize the livery of every car, and then use those customized cars to race against their friends.
Pretty much every Mario Kart
Of all driving games, in all the world, you had to bring your blue shell into this one. The Mario Kart series is almost timeless. Although the graphics have gotten better over the years, the gameplay has remained largely the same, and that’s why people still love playing it. The biggest difference is that instead of piling all your friends into one room, you can hook up and play online, something that comes in pretty handy when you’ve all grown up and moved away.