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The best racing and driving games to buy in 2021

Motoring Research logo Motoring Research 2 days ago John Redfern
a truck driving on a bridge: Best 2021 Racing Video Games © Provided by Motoring Research Best 2021 Racing Video Games

If all the talk of online esports racing has got you intrigued, or you simply need a new way to pass the time, these are the racing games you need.

Our list of the top titles covers everything from serious motorsport simulators, through to casual racing adventures. If you have already completed the more obvious choices, we also have some deeper cuts to consider.

To avoid disappointment, we have detailed which games console or system you will need to play this collection.

Best racing and driving games 2021

  • Forza Motorsport 7
  • Forza Horizon 4
  • Gran Turismo Sport
  • F1 2020
  • Dirt 5
  • WRC 9
  • Art of Rally
  • NASCAR Heat 5
  • GRID
  • rFactor 2
  • Assetto Corsa
  • Assetto Corsa Competizione
  • Project CARS 3
  • RaceRoom Racing Experience
  • TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2
  • Ride 4
  • MotoGP 20
  • Gear Club Unlimited 2
  • The Crew 2
  • Need for Speed Heat
  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • Wreckfest
  • Car Mechanic Simulator 2018
  • Snowrunner
  • Hotshot Racing
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

Forza Motorsport 7

Forza Motorsport 7 © Provided by Motoring Research Forza Motorsport 7

The latest game in the Forza Motorsport series for the Microsoft Xbox was launched in 2017. Developers Turn 10 Studios have continued releasing updates, adding more cars and challenges for players.

With more than 700 cars and 32 different locations to race in, Forza Motorsport 7 has plenty of variety. Cars range from hot hatches, through to NASCAR and IndyCar racers, with multiple customisation options.

A single-player career mode offers challenges for solo players, and allows for the development of skills. An engaging online environment includes the ability to compete for cash prizes in the Forza Racing Championship.

Microsoft plans to release a new Forza Motorsport game in 2021.

Available for: Microsoft Xbox One and Series X/S, Windows 10 PC

Forza Horizon 4

a car parked on the side of a road: Forza Horizon 4 © Provided by Motoring Research Forza Horizon 4

The other side of Microsoft’s Forza empire are the Horizon range of games. Designed to offer a massive open-world environment based on real locations, the emphasis is firmly on fun. Forza Horizon 4 is the latest version, and sees the action taking place in Great Britain.

Drifting around the streets of Edinburgh, smashing through dry stone walls in the Lake District, or drag racing on a beach in Northumberland are just some of the activities. The car choices range from mundane to mad, with a hefty dose of customisation included, too.

Downloadable content has included the Lego Speed Champions add-on, using brick-based recreations of real cars. It is as silly as it sounds, but big fun.

Available for: Xbox One/Series X/S, Windows 10 PC

Gran Turismo Sport

a car parked on the side of a road: Gran Turismo Sport © Provided by Motoring Research Gran Turismo Sport

As an exclusive for the Sony PlayStation, the Gran Turismo series has now reached its thirteenth game. Gran Turismo Sport has been developed to maximise the power of the PlayStation 4, and is intended to accurately mirror circuit racing.

Gran Turismo Sport was initially light on cars and tracks when first launched. However, a series of updates from developers Polyphony Digital has seen a greater number added.

A constant internet connection is needed, as the bulk of Gran Turismo Sport involves online racing against others. FIA-certified championships allow the best drivers to compete on the global stage, and potentially find a career in professional esports.

Sony has announced that a new Gran Turismo 7 will be released in 2021. 

Available for: Sony PlayStation 4/PlayStation 5

F1 2020

F1 2020 © Provided by Motoring Research F1 2020

The most recent update in the long-running F1 series, F1 2020 brings new features to the party. All teams, drivers, and circuits are included, making this an accurate representation of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship.

Codemasters has also included the FIA F2 Championship, allowing for greater career progression as a virtual racing driver.

Legendary cars, multiplayer options, and even integration with official esports competitions are included.

Available for: Xbox One/Series X/S, Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia

Dirt 5

a car parked on the side of a road: Dirt 5 © Provided by Motoring Research Dirt 5

Another Codemasters game with a noble heritage, Dirt is the successor to the Colin McRae Rally series. Compared to previous titles, Dirt 5 has taken a path more focussed on off-road arcade action, rather than being a pure rally simulator.

Rallycross racers, muscle cars, dune buggies and more are all on offer. Four-player split-screen multiplayer challenges sit alongside a lengthy career mode.

Available for: Xbox One/Series X/S, Windows PC, PlayStation 4/PS5, Google Stadia

WRC 9

a train traveling down a dirt road: WRC 9 © Provided by Motoring Research WRC 9

The official game of the World Rally Championship is now into a ninth generation, and said to be the most in-depth rally game on the market. Multiple events from the 2020 WRC are replicated, even those that were cancelled due to Covid-19.

Career progression allows players to begin in less powerful machinery, before building up to full-fat WRC cars. Along with modern options, some 15 classic cars are included to drive, too.

Available for: Xbox One/Series X/S, Windows PC, PlayStation 4/PS5, Nintendo Switch

Art of Rally

a blurry image of a plane in the grass: Art of Rally © Provided by Motoring Research Art of Rally

For those wanting a retro flavour to their rallying action, Art of Rally could offer a slice of polygonal perfection.

Inspired by the golden age of rallying, the game includes more than 50 recognisable miniature machines, from the 1960s through to the 1990s.

Stages in a variety of environments all promote drifting action and big jumps, with an overall sense of fun. A cinematic replay mode offers the chance to relive your best moments. An impressive synthwave soundtrack adds to the nostalgia.

Available for: Windows PC, Apple Mac OS, Linux

NASCAR Heat 5

a car parked in a parking lot: NASCAR Heat 5 © Provided by Motoring Research NASCAR Heat 5

Yeehaw! NASCAR Heat 5 is the most modern stock car simulator, and perfect for some racing with the good ol’ boys. Based on the 2020 NASCAR season, four competitive championships are included in the game. Players can go from dirt track racing, progressing all the way to the top-level NASCAR Cup series.

A total of 34 licensed circuits are included, and players can take part in an official eNASCAR Heat Pro League esports competition. Most importantly of all, winning drivers get to perform a celebratory burnout.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

GRID

a car driving on a city street: GRID © Provided by Motoring Research GRID

For those old enough to remember the TOCA Touring Car games of the late 1990s, GRID can trace its lineage back to them. Made by Codemasters, GRID is focussed on a variety of racing styles and progressing through a lengthy career mode.

Although the list of cars may be smaller than some games, GRID ensures the ones that matter are included.

This means touring cars and GT racers, plus classic muscle cars and drift machines. Expect close racing on a mixture of real-world and city circuits.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia

rFactor 2

a close up of a toy car on a race track: rFactor 2 © Provided by Motoring Research rFactor 2

Should you want to take your racing to the next level, rFactor 2 increases the difficulty stakes significantly. Do not mistake this for a light arcade racer – rFactor 2 is the basis for serious simulators used by professional racing teams and drivers.

Tyre wear, and even the buildup of rubber on the racing surface, are accurately modelled. Visual and mechanical damage are also part of the game, whilst the physics engine can model details such as chassis flex.

A decent steering wheel and pedal setup will be needed to make the most of rFactor 2, along with many hours of practice and dedication.

Available for: Windows PC

Assetto Corsa


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a person driving a race car on a road: Assetto Corsa © Provided by Motoring Research Assetto Corsa

Created by a team based next to the Vallelunga circuit in Italy, Assetto Corsa also pursues a serious simulation approach to racing. This means a steering wheel and pedal setup are advised again. Some players have reported it being hard to use with just a standard gaming control pad.

A strict racing focus means the cars included are predominantly true competition machines. Downloadable content includes numerous classic Ferrari F1 cars, plus Le Mans racers and more.

Exact replicas of real-life race circuits are matched with a handful of fictional tracks.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

Assetto Corsa Competizione

a close up of a car going down the road: Assetto Corsa Competizione © Provided by Motoring Research Assetto Corsa Competizione

Developed from the original game, Assetto Corsa Competizione is an officially licenced simulation of the 2018 and 2019 Blancpain GT Series. Cars have been accurately modelled, whilst tracks have been scanned by lasers to ensure a pinpoint recreation of them.

Both Sprint and Endurance races from the Blancpain GT Series are included, along with the Spa 24 Hours race for the ultimate challenge.

Initially only available for Windows PC, the game is now available on Xbox and PlayStation consoles, too.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

Project CARS 3

a small plane parked on the side of a road: Project CARS 3 © Provided by Motoring Research Project CARS 3

Previous Project CARS were renowned for paying attention to realistic simulation, demanding concentration and commitment from players.

The latest Project CARS 3 title has dispensed with that formula, switching to a more accessible arcade-style format. Those who have played earlier versions of Project CARS may be in for a shock.

There are still plenty of replica racing cars included, along with a large variety of circuits to race them on. Seasons, weather conditions, and lighting are all accurately modelled for extra challenges.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

RaceRoom Racing Experience

a truck that is driving down the road: RaceRoom Racing Experience © Provided by Motoring Research RaceRoom Racing Experience

Offered as a free-to-play download, RaceRoom is a true hardcore motorsport simulator, packed with realistic championships and challenges.

Players are given a number of cars and tracks to use for free, with in-game-purchases used to add more as they wish. With more than 150 cars from 42 different manufacturers, plus over 50 different circuits, there should be content to suit every taste.

A proper steering wheel and pedals setup is recommended.

Available for: Windows PC

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2

a motorcycle parked on the side of a road: TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2 © Provided by Motoring Research TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2

Replicating the entirety of the 37-mile long Isle of Man TT Mountain Circuit is an impressive feat, and Ride on the Edge 2 aims to recreate the drama of the annual motorbike event.

Just like the real TT race, the difficulty curve for Ride on the Edge 2 is steep. Players should prepare for plenty of mistakes and crashes as they attempt to learn the seemingly endless number of corners and crests.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

Ride 4

a man riding a motorcycle down a street: Ride 4 © Provided by Motoring Research Ride 4

Consider the Ride series of games as essentially Gran Turismo for motorbikes. Launched in 2020, Ride 4 includes a roster of over 250 different bikes, all modelled in near-perfect accuracy.

Various competitions, including 24-hour endurance races await players, with dynamic lighting and weather included. A wealth of parts can be used to upgrade both the performance and looks of individual motorbikes.

Available for: Xbox One/Series X/S, Windows PC, PlayStation 4/PS5

MotoGP 20

a person riding a motorcycle on a track: MotoGP 20 © Provided by Motoring Research MotoGP 20

Although the real 2020 MotoGP season was affected by Covid-19, the MotoGP 20 game reflects what should have happened. All the bikes, riders, and circuits are included, along with a new ‘Historical’ feature.

At the core of the game is an immersive career mode, seeing players progress from Moto3, to Moto2, and finally the goal of MotoGP.

Handling of the various bikes is skewed towards realism, although plenty of assists are available to help rookie players.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia

Gear Club Unlimited 2

a bus that is driving down the street: Gear Club Unlimited 2 © Provided by Motoring Research Gear Club Unlimited 2

An exclusive for the Nintendo Switch console, Gear Club Unlimited 2 gives players the chance to race through four diverse environments. More than 50 licenced vehicles are included, with a major focus on modern supercars and hypercars.

Four-player split-screen racing is included, whilst players can also form their own clubs to race in. A story mode is also present, and players can customise their cars with unique liveries.

Available for: Nintendo Switch

The Crew 2

a car parked in a parking lot: The Crew 2 © Provided by Motoring Research The Crew 2

Roaming across a scaled-down recreation of the United States, players in The Crew 2 can race on land, sea, and even in the air. Such diversity means a roster of cars and motorbikes are joined by stunt planes and speedboats.

Ubisoft has released additional content for The Crew 2, including hovercraft racing and a demolition derby mode. Expect arcade fun, rather than simulation realism, here.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia

Need for Speed Heat

Need for Speed Heat © Provided by Motoring Research Need for Speed Heat

Released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Need for Speed franchise, Heat also makes use of an open-world racing environment. Set in a city environment modelled on Miami, Florida, players follow a story mode that includes illegal street racing and outrunning the cops.

Car customisation is also a major part of Need for Speed Heat. Players can use a separate smartphone app to personalise their cars before uploading them into the game.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

Grand Theft Auto V

a car parked on a city street: Grand Theft Auto V © Provided by Motoring Research Grand Theft Auto V

Almost eight years after being released, and with more than 120 million copies sold across the globe, Grand Theft Auto V is still one of the most controversial games ever made. With graphic violence and a dark sense of humour, GTA V is certainly not a game to share with the kids.

Aside from the massive open-world environment, GTA V does include a host of racing options with its extensive online mode. The cars included may not be officially licensed, but many will still be instantly recognisable.

In a crazy world, GTA V perhaps offers the ultimate escapism experience.

Available for: Xbox One/Series X/S, Windows PC, PlayStation 4/PS5

Wreckfest

Wreckfest © Provided by Motoring Research Wreckfest

If the idea of competing in banger races and destruction derby events gets your motor running, say hello to Wreckfest.

Detailed damage modelling will see every bump and bash affect your car in a realistic manner. The results of gigantic crashes will certainly need more than T-Cut to repair.

Originally started through crowdfunding, the developers of Wreckfest later turned to a pre-order system to raise money to complete the game.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

Car Mechanic Simulator 2018

a truck is parked on the side of a building: Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 © Provided by Motoring Research Car Mechanic Simulator 2018

Instead of ripping cars apart, Car Mechanic Simulator has an emphasis on putting them back together again. The game has been influenced by the host of TV shows that see garages transform abandoned cars into show-stopping machines.

Players can examine various components of officially licenced cars, then use realistic tools and methods to fix and replace parts.

A career mode opens up a higher class of vehicles, along with options such as a paint shop and test track.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

Snowrunner

a snow covered forest: Snowrunner © Provided by Motoring Research Snowrunner

A successor to the MudRunner series of games, SnowRunner delivers more of the same open-world off-roading. Players have to traverse 15 different environments, ranging from the United States to Russia.

Swamps must be navigated, broken bridges repaired, and treacherous weather conditions faced. Travelling even the tiniest distance can be tough, with careful planning and plenty of patience needed.

The vehicle roster ranges from conventional SUVs and pickups, through to monstrous military trucks and HGVs.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4

Hotshot Racing

Hotshot Racing © Provided by Motoring Research Hotshot Racing

Enthusiasm for all things 1990s has even spread to the world of racing games. Hotshot Racing is an unashamed tribute to arcade classics like Virtua Racing and Daytona USA, complete with jagged graphics and retro music.

A multitude of racing challenges await, from simple championships through to a pursuit-themed ‘Cops N Robbers’ mode. Four-way split screen multiplayer racing is also possible for a true arcade feel.

Available for: Xbox One, Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

a close up of a toy car: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe © Provided by Motoring Research Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

If entertaining the family is the main priority for your racing game needs, Mario Kart is an established favourite. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the latest version offered solely for the Nintendo Switch console.

For the unfamiliar, Mario Kart is the ultimate in arcade fun, pitting characters from the Mario video games into karting battle. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes special Battle modes and multiplayer split-screen competition to ensure everyone is included.

Available for: Nintendo Switch

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled © Provided by Motoring Research Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled

For more retro racing fun, this is a remastered version of the original Crash Team Racing,  launched in 1999. Gameplay is similar to that found in Mario Kart, albeit with titular cartoon bandicoot replacing the Italian plumber.

Remastering a game after two decades means Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled looks thoroughly modern, along with more tracks and gameplay modes.

As you may expect, the action is firmly orientated on fun, but with enough of a challenge for experienced players.

Available for: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

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