Racing games aren't often mentioned when it comes to the greatest games of all time. Despite their consistent quality, they are often overlooked for more "complex" and mainstream titles, and you'll certainly never hear the likes of Gran Turismo in the same breath as behemoths like The Legend of Zelda, Halo, Half-Life 2, Metal Gear, or Grand Theft Auto. But that doesn't mean they aren't worth playing. In fact, many of them are fantastic games that deserve far more recognition than they receive from the mainstream.
These are the ten best racing games ever made (according to Metacritic).
10 Wipeout XL (93)
Wipeout XL was released as Wipeout 2097 in everywhere but North America, and it was released way back in 1996 for the PlayStation and PC. As you can probably tell, the game takes place in a futuristic setting, complete with unimaginably fast vehicles, funky, imaginative tracks, and many unique weapons that can be used to inhibit other racers' progress. Upon release, the game was universally acclaimed for its fast-paced, arcade-like gameplay, soundtrack, and its graphics, which many considered absolute top of the line. It was a bonafide arcade game on a primitive PlayStation, and it was amazing.
9 Test Drive Le Mans (93)
Test Drive Le Mans was originally released on the PlayStation before being ported to other consoles, including the short-lived but much beloved Dreamcast. It is this version that currently holds a 93 Metascore, making it the ninth highest-rated racing game on the site. The game is modeled after the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race, which is the world's oldest active car race. The game is unique, as it perfectly blended elements of a deep and engrossing racing sim with accessible, arcade-y gameplay, resulting in one of the most casual yet challenging racing games of the time. It towed the line unlike any other.
8 Mario Kart Super Circuit (93)
Mario Kart Super Circuit is only the third game in the Mario Kart series, following Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64. It was released for the Game Boy Advance in August of 2001, and it wonderfully continued the legacy of the Mario Kart series. And that is no small feat! It did for the GBA what its predecessors did for their respective consoles - put it on the map and heralded a new age in racing gaming. It expanded upon the core gameplay in unique ways, and it was a technical marvel for its time, signaling advances in the handheld market in graphics, sound, and animation. What a wonderful game.
7 Gran Turismo 2 (93)
Gran Turismo 2 was one of the finest games released for the PlayStation, never mind one of the greatest racing games. Released in North America in December of 1999, Gran Turismo 2 came just nineteen months after its predecessor, but it signaled a huge shift in direction and technological advances. The controls were endlessly praised for their authenticity, and many critics commented positively on the sheer number of gameplay modes and cars available to race. It was the perfect sequel, and it was everything fans of the original had asked for. And then some.
6 Real Racing 2 (94)
Who says mobile games can't compete with their console brethren? Released for the iOS and Android back in 2010, Real Racing 2 was developed and published by Firemint and marked a new cornerstone in the mobile racing market. Nearly every aspect of the game was praised by critics, especially the amount of content, which many found surprising considering its limited technological capabilities and low price point. The production was also praised, as was the slick and intuitive gameplay, which provided a rush like no other mobile game at the time. It was like Gran Turismo, only in your pocket. My how times have changed!
5 Burnout 3: Takedown (94)
Burnout 3: Takedown was one of those rare racing games, much like Gran Turismo, that found a way to break into the mainstream. This is likely due to its arcade style gameplay, as the Burnout series has always prided itself on fast-paced driving and gameplay. Burnout 3 added a unique Takedown mechanic, which awarded players for attacking other drivers, often resulting in spectacular crash animations. This mechanic and the resulting visuals were lauded by professional critics, and Burnout 3 is now rightfully regarded as one of the greatest games of the sixth generation.
4 Jet Car Stunts (94)
Jet Car Stunts was an iOS game originally released back in 2009, when mobile games were first starting to earn acclaim and respect within the gaming industry. Despite the silly name, Jet Car Stunts was a gloriously over-the-top racing game that provided players with an old school arcade experience. The level design was intricate and expansive, the touch controls fluid, and the gameplay a chaotic mix of hoop jumping, ramp vaulting, and rocket-propelled madness. It taught us all what mobile racers could be capable of, and with it, we saw the future.
3 Need For Speed: Shift (94)
Need for Speed: Shift served as the second reboot of the iconic Need for Speed series, and it emphasized sim gameplay over the series' traditional arcade style. As such, it wasn't very well received by Need for Speed fans, as evident by the game's 4.0 user score on Metacritic. And while Metacritic has only included six professional critic scores, all of them are absolutely glowing. The game has praised for its offered content, trademarked vehicles, responsive controls, and production, which many singled out for being particularly great. Out of the way, Jet Car Stunts. The future is here, and it's called Need for Speed: Shift.
2 Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (95)
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec is the one that everyone remembers. Even the minimalist cover is iconic and enough to generate endless memories of the glory days of the PlayStation 2. Critics and general audiences couldn't get enough of this title, and literally every aspect of its production was praised. The graphics, detail, gameplay, controls, content - all were highlighted, and all were considered...well, perfect. It was also a major commercial success, selling nearly fifteen million units, which was frankly unbelievable for its time.
1 Gran Turismo (96)
After all, Gran Turismo 3 wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for its grandfather. And while this game may seem primitive, even by Gran Turismo 3 standards, it sent the benchmark for what a racing video game could accomplish. The game was unbelievably expansive in its time, offering an unimaginative amount of tracks, cars, and gameplay modes and mechanics. Add in the eye-popping graphics, alluring arcade gameplay, and surprising sense of realism, and you have one of the greatest games of all time, let alone the greatest racing game in history. Racing fans owe everything to Gran Turismo.