Update: Forza Horizon 3 has newly topped our list of the best racing games you can play on PC. Continue on to find out why!
Few genres manage to unite people from all walks of life like a good racing game. Whether your preference is for outlandish fun or intense realism, the vast collection of racing titles available for PC is sure to offer something that gets your pulse racing and your cheeks aching.
In 2016 the list of racing games is seemingly endless – every single genre of motor racing is covered in some capacity. Fortunately for you, we’ve managed to narrow down the selection and pick out some of the best PC racing games out there today.
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Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article
1. Forza Horizon 3
As indicated in our review, Forza Horizon 3 is “a petrol-head’s dream,” and we don’t use that phrase lightly. Iterating on 2014’s Forza Horizon 2, exclusive to the Xbox One, Forza Horizon 3 is the first full game in the entire Forza racing franchise to appear on PC – more specifically on the Windows 10 Store as part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program.
As such, Forza Horizon 3 brings all the beloved elements of the Forza Horizon sub-series to a wide range of capable gaming machines, and in stunning 4K at 60 fps if your rig can handle it. Along with the visual prowess the series is known for, Forza Horizon 3 brings along with it a distinct convergence between arcade and simulative racing.
Included in Forza Horizon 3 are all the outrageous damage bonuses, Speed Zones and barn finds of its predecessor, accompanied by a slew of customization options, head-to-head drivatar challenges and circuit races that appease sim racing fans and casual players alike. All of this takes place on an Australian map of the largest open world the series has seen to date.
While the motorsport enthusiasts amongst you have plenty of racing simulations to drool over, those who prefer something a little more casual are often told to buy Nintendo’s latest console and stick to Mario Kart.
The dodgy Italian plumber is unlikely to ever make its way to the PC in any official capacity, but Obliteracers does a mighty-fine job of filling the pixelated void with a game that allows up to 16 players to compete on a single PC using gamepads, laptops and smart devices as extra controllers.
The hectic, combat-focused racing features a wide variety of weapons and tracks, and plenty of game modes to keep the party rolling. The courses themselves are well designed and refreshingly varied, with plenty of jumps, loops, bends and areas to overtake – thanks to a burst of speed that is given to players that successfully drift through the corners.
3. Assetto Corsa
While the name might allude to the altogether underwhelming Vauxhall Corsa, this fully-fledged racing sim packs in everything you might expect to live up to the translated title of ‘Racing Setup’.
First released to Seam users on the Early Access program back in November 2013, the finalised game arrived on PC just in time for Christmas 2014, and features meticulously reproduced tracks based on laser scans of actual circuits from around the world.
In many respects, Assetto Corsa is a direct rival to Project Cars, though it claims to have better handling, more detailed cars and more user-generated content available. The game is now compatible with VR headsets such as Oculus Rift, which provides a truly immersive racing experience you won’t find on any console.
4. Rocket League
If you haven’t already heard of Rocket League, then welcome back from that comfy rock you must have been snoozing under. Rocket League may not be your typical racing game, but as it features cars, power-ups and competitive vehicle carnage it had to be included in our list.
It’s the 2015 follow-up to the relatively unknown, but snappily titled ‘Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars’, which while almost identical in basic gameplay, didn’t capture the imagination of critiques or gamers back in 2008.
If you’re not already familiar, Psyonix’s car-battling concoction is essentially football with cars – a combination that proves to be simultaneously intoxicating and incredibly frustrating. It’s one of those games you’ll desperately want to succeed at, and risk damaging your controller at the times you don’t.
Released simultaneously on PS4 and PC, Rocket League came along at just the right time and with more refined gameplay that quickly afforded it a very strong following. A string of upgrades, add-ons and game mode enhancements continue to keep Rocket League fresh and fun, but we’re sure there is still plenty more to see.
5. Project Cars
If you are looking for a racing game to push the graphical limits of your gaming PC, Project Cars is likely where you’ll end up. This gorgeous racing sim features some truly stunning weather and lighting effects that make each of the cars and tracks look particularly spectacular.
Whether you’re excited by 1970s F1 cars or would prefer to test the limits of your skill in a modern Le Mans prototype, Project Cars offers a substantial selection of cars and tracks that have been reproduced in lavish detail.
While it takes a fair amount of fiddling to get the AI and difficulty settings set right, one you’ve found the sweet spot, Project Cars can keep you on the edge of your seat for hours at a time (particularly if you take on one-too-many laps of the Nurburgring Nordschleife).
6. Grid 2
While there are plenty more realistic racing games out there, few are as satisfying as Codemaster’s Grid 2. This perfectly balanced racer manages to be accessible for casual and more experienced gamers alike, while offering a wide range of licensed cars and exciting tracks – including several real circuits.
The aim is to beat the best drivers around in a number of races, and although the hammy voice acting and predictable story – that loosely ties the game together – have been heard and done before, Grid 2 combines superb graphics with rewarding gameplay that’ll keep you going back for a quick thrash about.
7. Dirt Rally
Few will forget the impact that Colin McRae – the Scottish rally-driving legend – had on the sport, and indeed any game that followed the first bearing his name, which came out in 1998. While the latest incarnation from Codemasters drops the Scott’s name, the high-octane motorsport of rally driving has never felt better than this.
Dirt Rally is a proper rally game that does away with so many of the arcade touches that have seeped into the series over the year. Pulling off the perfect ‘Scandi Flick’ is immensely satisfying, and gives players a sense of reward that’s difficult to come by in less enduring racers.
As well as being stunning to look at, Dirt Rally features beautiful lighting and weather effects that make it all the more engrossing. Since its release in December 2015, a community of modders has already grown up around the game, who have assisted in tweaking and refining the game to make it even more enjoyable and realistic.
Not everyone prefers their racing set firmly on four wheels, and for those that don’t, the sequel to one of the best motocross games ever is finally here.
MXGP2 is – without a doubt – the most beautiful way to experience the mud-flinging, dirt drifting sport of motocross, and features enough detail to keep anyone entertained – even if you haven’t played any older motocross games.
Red Bull rider Tony Cairoli did extensive testing with Milestone studios to refine the gameplay and ensure the physics and feel of riding a motocross bike is as true-to-life as possible.
With a huge customisation system and a whole host of tracks and stadiums to compete at, MXPG2 offers enough variety for the die-hard fans, whilst keeping us amateurs entertained, too.
9. TrackMania 2
TrackMania 2 isn’t exactly the most conventional of PC racing games around, but this arcade racer combines Hot Wheels-esque high-speed thrills with a powerful level editor that gives players a limitless number of tracks to enjoy.
Originally released in August 2011, TrackMania 2 is split into three different games: Stadium, Valley and Canyon – though you don’t need all three to enjoy the stupidly enjoyable stunt racing on offer. The game’s multiplayer offering is firmly at the heart of the action, where player-made creations firmly take centre stage.
It’s the perfect game for a quick blast, but you can quickly get sucked into hours of racing without even noticing, largely because the loops, sweeping barrel-rolls and ridiculous jumps are so utterly enjoyable.
The racer has been succeeded by TrackMania Turbo, a console port that brings prettier graphics but lacks many of the customization options – and charm – of its PC predecessor.
10. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
GTA V isn’t the only game where you can get chased by cops, you know. You may have heard of the more recent remake of this classic Need for Speed game, which harks back to the 1998 original ‘Hot Pursuit’ title – the third instalment in Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed series.
While there’s plenty of standard racing available, the real fun comes in the form of racing other players and evading cop cars – or you can even play as the cops yourself. There’s a wacky races element as you can deploy EMPs, jam your competitors’ radars and set up roadblocks to help you get away.
The game’s Autolog feature lets you pit your racing skills against your friends and logs stats accumulated by playing online multiplayer races with up to eight other players. If you’re looking for a racer that stil looks decent and prioritises fun over physics, Hot Pursuit is a brush with the law you’ll want to get into.
11. Test Drive Unlimited 2
In 2006, Test Drive Unlimited was considered by many to be one of the most ambitious racing games ever. Set on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, it featured over 1,000 miles of road making it one of the largest racing games ever produced.
Besides the mile-upon-mile of roads to explore, its sequel, Test Drive Unlimited 2, features a huge wealth of content to keep completists busy. Released in 2011, few corners were cut in the selection of cars available, and there’s an even greater degree of customization than the original – from avatars to vehicles and the abiltiy to buy property, clothes and other goods with your race winnings.