Like your driving thrills in digital form? These are the ten games you should own.
There has been a multitude of Gran Turismo titles since the 1997 original, but this is where the series started. It was one of the first driving titles to offer realistic handling and hundreds of cars from all around the world. Subsequent GT games have been bigger, but arguably less accessible than the first. Gran Turismo introduced a whole generation of gamers to badges like ‘Skyline,’ ‘WRX’ and ‘Type R.’
Colin McRae Rally
If you grew up in the 1990s then SEGA Rally was the off-road game to have. Colin McRae Rally changed all that, in 1998. Now you needed serious concentration to avoid becoming part of the unyielding scenery in your popping, sliding rally car. The top WRC cars were represented, but so were F2 cars and classic rally vehicles. No subsequent Colin McRae or DiRT title has truly been as much fun.
rFactor 2 is about as serious as racing simulators get without having a hydraulic rig in your living room. All aspects of car handling are accurately represented in digital form. The graphics are perhaps a little too polished, but what it lacks in personality it makes up for in realism. If you can’t afford to race for real, this is a worthy alternative.
Continuing the ‘original is best’ ethos, the first Ridge Racer title started off as a high-octane arcade racer and quickly found its way onto one of the best-selling consoles of all time, the original PlayStation. As a launch title, it introduced a whole generation of gamers to next-generation racing thrills. It was bright, fast and accessible – the ideal mix of driving game attributes.
Grand Theft Auto V
While we’d not advocate taking cars without the owners’ consent, GTA V’s non-stop crime spree is only as much fun as it is thanks to the vast open world and hundreds of cars that inhabit it. Driving around a virtual Los Angeles and the surrounding geography is surprisingly immersive for a game that trades on illicit activities.
Driver was every 1970s car chase movie rolled into one game. The storyline is hardly original – think ‘undercover cop who likes to play by his own rules’ – but the floaty physics were perfect for sliding, smoking and J-turning big American muscle cars around the game’s four different cities – Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. A great replay mode let you stitch together your own 70s cop thriller.
Grand Prix Legends
Realistic physics weren’t a big part of driving games in 1998. It’s surprising then that those implemented in PC title Grand Prix Legends still feel so accurate. A wheel and pedals are basically essential but when you nail the perfect lap, the satisfaction is enormous. Some modern games could learn from GPL’s spine-tingling engine sounds, too.
The perfect example of how a simple concept can make for an iconic game. All 1986’s OutRun gives you is an open-topped Ferrari Testarossa (take that, Miami Vice), a fickle girlfriend in the passenger seat, a driving soundtrack and an endless twisting road to negotiate – but trying to master the fast-paced route is highly addictive.
Need for Speed Underground
The Fast and the Furious movie series has given us endless internet memes, but perhaps its most significant influence was on the Underground series of Need for Speed games. The car modifications look hilariously tacky now, but the racing, all taking place on night-time city streets, is as thrilling as ever. It almost makes under-car neons cool again…
Forza Motorsport 5
Forza Motorsport 5 is the latest game in the popular Xbox series, and the takes first blood from Gran Turismo as the first of the really big guys to make the jump to next-generation consoles. As an Xbox One title the graphics are predictably beautiful – it’s about as good as racing games get in that regard – and the lineup of cars available is bang up to date. Above all, it’s as fun to play as any Forza title.