Driving games have been popular for decades now, going all the way back to Atari’s “Space Race” in the 1970s, but it has been only recently that they have become so very realistic. It has actually become hard to distinguish in-game footage from real world images, especially with all the details that are put into cars. Driving games, especially simulators, are amazing for their complexity, details and just how different various cars feel. The following list features the top 10 realistic driving games of the last 10 years.
1. Grid 2
Grid 2 is a sequel to the award-winning Race Driver: GRID, and was released by Codemasters in 2013 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows, and a special Reloaded edition in 2014 for Mac. Players are able to compete in the fictional World Series Racing event, and race on tracks from various real world locations against other drivers.
The game’s fun and addictiveness come from a combination of arcade play and simulation, with handling leaning heavily towards simulation. The new handling system developed by Codemasters, called TrueFeel, hits a sweet spot between accessibility and realism, making control more exhilarating.
You can compete in a variety of racing disciplines, including track and rally racing. Earning new cars and kits for customization is done by winning special challenges.
The game raises the bar with its outstanding graphics and audio – from Dubai to Paris, California coasts to Miami, the city streets, mountain roads and licensed circuits featured in the game are breathtaking.
Overall, Grid 2 is a fun, well-planned game that lets drivers progress through a racing career as quickly as their skills permit. The myriad of customization modes make the game immersive and integration with RaceNet offers connectivity that extends the GRID 2 experience.
2. Gran Turismo 6
The whole Gran Turismo franchise is absolutely brilliant, with the latest addition being Gran Turismo 6. Commonly referred to as GT6, the video game was developed by Polyphony Digital and published by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2013. GT6 is available for PlayStation 3 only.
Gran Turismo 6 comes with a new engine that makes the handling brilliant.
The graphics are stunningly good. The cars and environments are very realistic, and the studio really went that extra mile to achieve good lighting effects and reflections on cars. A variety of track and driving content, an online race organizer and a course maker will keep you glued to the game.
The latest version features more than 1200 cars, with 120 of them being a new addition to the GT6 universe. Choose one of the 33 available locations and enjoy the race. New events can be unlocked by completing various tasks within the game. Some cars are hard to get, as they are expensive or require a lot of hard work, but they can also be purchased via an in-game shop.
Gran Turismo 7 has been announced as well, and should be out in 2015/16. Judging by its predecessor, it will have a lot to prove.
3. Forza Motorsport 4
The Forza franchise is divided into two distinct categories: the Motorsport and Horizon franchise. The Horizon franchise leans towards arcade, while Motorsport focuses on simulation. Forza Motorsport 4 is the most successful release of the series. The game, developed by Turn 10 Studios and published by Microsoft, was released in 2011, and is available for Xbox 360.
The focus of the game is placed on making the cars look and drive as realistic as possible. You can choose from 500 cars that are available in the game, ranging from road cars to race cars. Cars are unlocked by completing challenges. The Autovista feature that was introduced with Forza Motorsport 4 enables players to inspect every car inside and out, and they can utilize Kinect in the game as well.
Although a number of courses was featured in earlier games, they were brushed up and their look and feel is superb. Five new courses were added, and the feature to rewind time made its comeback with this release.
The artificial intelligence and physics were improved, leading to better handling and feel, as well as more unpredictable races, which adds a new layer of fun to the gameplay.
4. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is a multiplayer game and the 16th title released in the Need for Speed franchise. Published by Electronic Arts and released in 2010, it was named the “Best Driving Game” at the Spike 2010 Video Game Awards, “Best Racing Game” at the 2010 Game Critics Awards and had an average critical acclaim of 90% upon release, which made it the highest rated game of the Need for Speed franchise.
The game is available across a multitude of platforms, with the Nintendo WII version being substantially different. It was designed by a different company, Exient Entertainment, and differs in graphics, racing modes, gameplay, soundtrack and customization. As a hybrid of arcade and simulation, Hot Pursuit is praised for its graphics, high-speed chases and dramatic races, visuals, sound and soundtrack. Race through the streets of Seacrest County and learn all the awesome shortcuts that will help you win the race.
Each car has its own very distinct personality.
Players purchase their vehicles with bounty and as they progress through their career, they can improve acceleration, strength and speed.
Players choose to be either the racer or the police for the duration of the game – if the racer, they have to outrun the police. If they choose to play as police, they have interceptors and have to bust the speeder. Choose to participate in street racing in supercars such as the Bugatti Veyron, Mercedes SLS AMG, Nissan GT-R, Pagani Zonda Cinque or McLaren F1.
Need For Speed Hot Pursuit offers pure driving entertainment that is challenging without being impossibly difficult. The Autolog feature offers you the ability to connect with friends to compare stats or to compete in head-to-head races.
5. Driver: San Francisco
The fifth main installment in the Driver series, Driver: San Francisco, brings back police officer John Tanner (a former race driver) in a mission-based game that combines action, adventure, driving skills and a slightly different approach. The game was published by Ubisoft in 2011 for Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox Live and PlayStation 3 and in 2012 for Mac. A Nintendo Wii version is also available, but the plot and play is different.
You can choose from 140 vehicles, including Shelby, Alfa Romeo, Hummer, Lamborghini and DeLorean. The online multiplayer and split screen options take the game to a whole new level of awesome. All the action takes place on 208 miles of roads in the San Francisco area.
Awarded “Best Driving Game” by Ripten and “Best Racing Game” by Machinima.com, the captivating plot and rich visuals of the game will grip you instantaneously.
The “Shift” system makes the game unique – it allows instant transfer to a different vehicle, which might seem a bit odd at first, but after playing with it for around 30 minutes, you will know the ins and outs and love it. Unfortunately, this option isn’t available on the Wii version. The game is best described as an arcade game that plays very much like a sim.
6. Assetto Corsa
Assetto Corsa is a racing simulation game developed by Kunos Simulazioni. The final version was released in 2014. The game features a complex physics engine to provide realistic driving experience, and has extensive support for modability and customization. Playable custom courses are available, one of the most popular ones being the Rainbow Road of Mario fame.
This is a PC-based game for Windows. Play in single-player or multiplayer online mode and compete on a variety of race types and events, including drift challenges and drag races. The detailed graphics and great attention to detail on cars and legendary tracks are awe-inspiring.
7. Shift 2 Unleashed
A racing simulator that redefines the genre, Shift 2 Unleashed gives players a realistic, immersive driving experience. The game is part of the Need for Speed franchise, but it plays very differently from other titles in the series, such as Hot Pursuit. The game was published by Electronic Arts. Released in 2011 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows and iOS.
Helmet cam and windshield view let players experience the feel of bumps, impacts, crashes and speed. Detailed graphics with numerous “little touches” make the game more realistic. The game offers great career variety and depth, allowing players to unlock multiple racing disciplines and event types. Highly customizable cars allow players to focus on performance, appearance or both. Night racing events offer a different perspective for players. The game supports up to 12 online players as well as single-player mode.
8. F1 2013
F1 2013 is a racing sim that features all of the cars, tracks and drivers of the Formula One circuit of 2013, as well as some classic tracks and cars. With outstanding graphics, plenty to do and a realistic feel, the game holds great appeal for any F1 enthusiast.
This is the fifth licensed F1 game Codemasters developed. Published in 2013 by Codemasters for Xbox 360, Windows and PlayStation 3 and by Feral Interactive for Mac, it features a single-player mode, split-screen two-player mode and up to 16-player online mode. Players can switch between career mode and scenario mode, and a mid-season save lets players save their progress during a race.
iRacing is a little different from other games that were presented here – it is a subscription-based, online racing simulation. The game was initially released in 2008 by iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations for Windows, OSX and Linux. iRacing has found popularity with a number real-world race drivers, as well as gamers, especially because of its extremely realistic handling. There is always the chance that players will have the opportunity to compete head-to-head against drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Justin Wilson or Divina Galica.
Laser mapping recreates real tracks, down to the last bump. Before you can play with the big boys, a four-week rookie session is a must. After that, you can enjoy four 12-week “seasons” per year and compete in tournaments and championships.
The game receives major updates at the start of each season.
Players can host their own series or leagues, but fees may apply, so be careful.
10. Dirt 3
Dirt 3 brings cars and courses that span more than five decades of rally racing. The realistic graphics and details such as scenic sunsets and puddles of rain on the course add amazing visual appeal, while superb handling provides efficient responses.
Dirt 3 is part of the Colin McRae Rally series and was published by Codemasters for Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and OnLive in 2011 and by Feral Interactive in 2015 for OSX and features offline and online play modes. Players automatically earn different cars (primarily classics) when they level up.
The ability to upload clips to YouTube is a nice touch. Effective blend of realism and arcade-type action brings loads of action and fun, while still maintaining sufficient realism.
Have you played any of the games described? Which one was your favorite?
Whether you are looking for a realistic race simulation or just a fun way to pass time, you can find a driving game that you will enjoy from among these 10 titles. The popularity of the genre means that new titles, including the upcoming Project CARS and Race: Injection will be available soon.