Ah my thread has arrived.
I maintain a Top 5 of titles that are my favorite racing games of All Time. And they shift now and then, but over the years have been mostly the same.
1) Outrun 2 / Outrun 2006 - Hands down da best. I don’t think I need to say anymore, honestly.
2) Ridge Racer Type 4 - This game really excels at style the way no other game does. It’s a combination of soundrack, menus, and graphics is just dripping with style. You feel just so cool while playing it. The trail of the taillights and smears of the streetlamps
3) Burnout Paradise - I think some people are split on Burnout’s later games, with 3 / Revenge / Paradise being very but doing different things. I think an Open World was the logical endpoint with the game. It’s like a huge skateboarding level. When your main mechanic is traversal, and it’s a very good mechanic, just being and traversing the world becomes fun. When you can unlock and do stuff with every part of the world, it becomes the very best. This is the zenith, In my opinion, of the genre.
4) Driver: San Fransisco - I feel like this game took everything that’s fun about the Driver series and took out everything that wasn’t (shooting and on foot missions). The premise that the entire game is in someone’s head and they psychically swap into other cars is brilliant. This also allows for other leaps of logic to make a really fun experience. All the cars are fun to drive, even the vans and trucks. And they all handle differently. A Lamborghini drives like you imagine it would drive. The mission designs are inventive and varied. It has a killer soundtrack. The plot is well written and all the characters have life to them. They should make more games, and with Ubisoft really getting into open world games, it would be a natural fit.
5) BeamNG. - It occurred to me a while ago, perhaps while playing this game, that my favorite activity is just driving around a large game level in a simple car. That is this entire game’s premise. It absolutely has the best damage modeling in videogames, bar none. It may not be the best physics handling model, or have a good selection of cars, but honestly it scratches a very specific itch of mine perfectly. I will spend hours sliding around dirt roads and flinging economy cars over cliffs and into trees. It soothes me somehow. It’s completely directionless and, with the exception of some light time trial modes, pretty much devoid of “gameplay”. But I’m enthralled, for hours.
What is the best Need for Speed Game?
That goes to Need For Speed, Most Wanted (the first, from the early 2000’s). This was the first game to mesh NFS Underground’s excellent car tuning and customization (the likes of which were revolutionary) with the open world gameplay refined in Underground 2. With a Hot Serving of Gettin-Chased-By-Cops gameplay. A david and golith cat and mouse war of attrition on wheels. The final mission being an all out war between you and the entire police force, jerry bruckheimer meets blues brothers, which ended with a jump over a river in a section of road that only opens up at the final mission, leading you out of the game world. I wish more games did that for a final mission.
Subsequent games could not recapture the magic, and ever since I’ve played only one other game (NFS Rivals) for the PS4, which was underwhelming. In Underground 2, however, you can customize SUVs with neon underglow and hydraulic suspension, and bounce them down the highway at 200mph, so it gets an honorable mention.
What’s the best Simulation racing game?
This goes to Gran Turismo. The physics, the menus, the presentation. Everything since GT3 has been made with taste and care. It’s a whole package. Even now when I listen to the remix of Lenny Kravitz’ “Are you going to go my way” it gets me excited. They know how to pick a fucking soundtrack, which is essential to any racing game. GT Sport’s menu music contains a Mark Farina track from like 6 years ago, which tells me they are paying attention.
I loved racing games, but GT got me to love cars, it got me to pay attention to how a car moves and reacts, which carried over into real life. I just wanted to have a replay where I didn’t hit any of the walls, and i couldn’t figure out how to drive, until I unlocked the F1 car and went “oh, apexes are a thing, braking is a thing”. GT4 introduced me to The Nurburgring, the greatest racetrack in the world. I have raced it for probably thousands of hours over many racing games. It’s usually the only rack I race, because it’s so fundamentally challenging. Through the thousands of lap around that track, it is still catching me off guard, and I am still learning the track. GT’s depiction of the track from the beginning has been the most realistic and grounded, it feels like home to me almost.
GT is the best, to me, because Polyphony digital give a shit about the right things. Or perhaps the things that are right to me.
I feel like the Forza series is good for the Xbox but has gotten too much into car and car culture worship and forgotten how to be a racing game first. Comparing both physics models, GT’s has always felt more planted and Forza has always felt a little floaty and detached. Forza however does have a much more compelling selection of Very Weird cars and tracks, which an American car nerd would go gaga over. Like the Renault GTV. Thankfully, Playground games realized what makes car games fun, and took the cars from Forza and put them in an open world, creating the ultimate car nerd’s fantasy. Forza will always be on Xbox and PC and always be a very good driving and simulation game. It won’t be Gran Turismo, not unless someone at microsoft starts listening to fusion jazz. (I will also say as of Forza 7 they are still using older models of tracks from over 10 years ago, I think this will change in the new version, but it’s noticeable)
what’s the worst racing game, to you?
Thank you for asking. It’s vanishing point on the dreamcast. I wrote a long post that I ended up not publishing about my relationship with this game which ended with me snapping the disc in half. I went on youtube and discovered that other players had also snapped their discs in half. Vindication. I do wish to apologize for any preservationists reading this, destruction of property out of frustration is never really justified. However, it was unfair in a way I don’t think any game is.
AutoModelista - This was the cel-shaded racing game capcom made. It looks fantastic. it still looks fucking amazing. Even if it doesn’t play right, or if there’s a limited selection of tracks, and if the announcer is a little annoying. This game kind of got me to buy a fucking Toyota MR2. I will be ripping off it’s VFX for a future game. The pop of the exhaust backfiring and the manga styled tire smoke plumes deserve to be in more games. it’s fucking cool.
Wangan Midnight, Maximum Tune 5 - You ever spend a lot of money on an arcade machine? I have probably dumped hundreds of dollars into Max Tune 5 over several months of going to the Southcenter mall, south of Seattle, to it’s Round 1 arcade for incredibly cheap beer. There is a scene around this game, a local scene, with a facebook group. My friend unlocked the secret car menu and now drives a lifed HiAce van that looks ridiculous. You can challenge other racers one other Max Tune 5 machines from anywhere in the world. You’ll race someone from some mall in Maryland, and later when he gets on his machine, will challenge your ghost again, and on and on. You’ll be in intense 4 way battles with total strangers and their incredibly customized cars, people will gift you cars, you’ll make friends. I’ve never felt a connection through other people like I have with Wangan. It’s so much less about who wins and more about who shows up.
Tokyo Extreme Racer Series - This game has perfectly recreated what it feels like to drive a highway at night in a city. Especially Tokyo Extreme Racer Zero. I have raced the Tokyo highways so many times, in so many games, perhaps I could navigate them in real life. I really like it’s approach to challenging other racers, by finding them on the highway, flashing your lights, then driving until a victor emerges. It’s just highway driving, no alleyways or streets. and in this limited way it feels like a much more realized game world.
Double Steal/Wreckless - I have written at length about this game. It’s an open world arcade action game. It’s a playable Hong Kong action movie. it’s goofy. it has very cornball antics. It’s an open world game without a free roam mode. It looks fucking incredible even now. It’s got car platforming. You ram a space shuttle with your car because a crime boss is trying to fly into space. You drive a delorian with jets in the back. Hong Kong in the game is so densely realized that sometimes I will smash through random windows and discover whole malls or complexes that you’d never explore otherwise, shortcuts, alleyways, elevators. I found a hidden elevator to nowhere just fucking around in one mission. This had such a profound affect on me playing it in a gamestop almost 2 decades ago that I would eventually buy an original xbox just to play it and the one moment I remember that still sticks out is ramming a bus and watching people run out of it, thinking “wow, not only is it a bus, but all the people inside are simulated to”.
Smuggler’s Run series - I think this is the first game that introduced the concept of “open world” to me. Not just in the sense of “the game area is huge” but in the sense of “you can go anywhere” and because you were driving an off road vehicle, you could go anywhere and everywhere. Once the game was completed I would spend hours in free roam mode just driving around (my favorite game activity, by the way), and eventually got the cars to go out of bounds.
Fuel - The selling point of this game was that it’s game area was the size of the state of Conneticut. You know what I did? I bought it, installed a mod that removed the UI and all the races, unlocking all the cars in the process, and then put on Bob Dylan albums and just rode a dirtbike into the horizion. For hours. I took so many screenshots of the landscape. I would point any vehicle in any direction and just drive, for hours, discovering hidden canyons and cities, lakes, mountain ranges. It was free roam mode from Smuggler’s Run, but on a grand scale. It felt like an immense road trip. No game has come close to that. It holds a special place in my heart. I need to go back again.
F1 race - The second game I ever got for my gameboy pocket, with my own money. I was obsessed with the music and sound. My first was Waverace. I still have the cartridge somewhere. To my memory there’s no other game where you press forward, while driving, to activate boost. And only when you’re at top speed. The chicanes of the turns are genuinely challenging, and take a special trick to take at full speed, and even so you just barely scrape by the hazards on the side of the road. Criminally underrated, in my opinion.
Outrun - I would be remiss if I didn’t close out this monster post with The Game. This was more important to me than Sonic 2. Our family got a hand me down Genesis and it was my first game console, and among the games were Outrun, and this probably fundamentally affected me. It was so challenging! I didn’t realize, at first, that the more difficult roads were to the left, and I would always pick left out of habit, and so it took me months before I could string a run together long enough to beat the game. It was, to my memory, the first game I ever got an ending to. Years later, I would discover the album “The September Wind” by Naoya Matsuoka and Wesing. And hearing it was a revelation, because the soundtrack I had heard so many times in Outrun was directly lifted from the album, and it felt like a connection I held long in my life was somehow completed.
Eventually, I would take that heap of an MR2 and drive it into the mountains on a camping trip, and on the twisting National Park road I played The September Wind, windows rolled down, taking the undulating turns through the trees, and it felt like a lifetime of playing racing and driving games had coalesced into this perfect moment, this moment that every racing game tries to capture, I was actually living it. The red car, the samba music, the road itself.