Racing games have come a long way since the days of arcade machines, where players would strap in for an immersive and thrilling experience that could only be matched by a fear of running out of quarters.
Today, the genre has split into many different niches, including realistic racing sims, kart racers, arcade racers, and many more.
However, the best racing games offer high-speed thrills and an opportunity to tap into your competitive spirit while driving a wide selection of interesting and uniquely designed vehicles.
In this article, we will be highlighting the best racing experiences available to play in 2021. Make sure to check back as we’ll be updating this list in the future with new entries.
If you would like to receive more gaming recommendations, consider reading through our other curated lists:
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Assetto Corsa Competizione
When it comes to realistic racing sims, you’ll find that there aren’t that many series offering an experience as authentic as the Assetto Corsa games, namely2019’ss Competizione. The latest entry puts players behind the wheel of iconic GT racing cars like Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and McLarens, all rendered to look as realistic and carefully-detailed as possible.
Aside from a roster of official drivers, teams, cars, and circuits, Competizione utilizes Unreal Engine 4, resulting in equally stunning environments with photorealistic weather conditions.
This same level of care is present in the game’s racing mechanics, which use sophisticated mathematical models to simulate realistic tire grip, suspension, and drivability based on how much damage a vehicle has taken.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Next up is F1 2019, a racing/sports management sim that has you exploring the world of Formula 1 both on and off the track. The game features all the official teams, drivers and 21 circuits from the 2019 season along with F2 racers from the previous year.
Players can experience a brand-new career mode that sees you building up your reputation and competing with rivals. If you’re looking for an immersive experience, then F1 2019 has you covered with improvements like refined lighting effects and official F1-branded cars, bringing you one step closer to a 1:1 simulation.
Forza Horizon 4
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Forza Horizon is considered to be a much more forgiving alternative to the Motorsport series that doesn’t sacrifice its racing sim charm. The most recent entry presents players with a massive open-world comprised of unique locations where players can participate in an array of racing challenges with over 450 vehicles.
Forza Horizon4’s environments are brought to life by dynamic weather tech that allows for rotating seasons that dramatically affect driving conditions, unlock new activities, and open up new paths. Additionally, the game includes the highly-requested Route Creator tool, allowing players to design and share their custom racetracks online.
Now that we’ve gotten some more serious racers out of the way prepare yourself for more arcade-style racing games. Distance is a futuristic racing platformer with trippy visuals and challenging tracks littered with deadly obstacles.
The game blends driving with parkour elements that allow the player’s vehicle to jump, rotate, and fly through the air to survive any challenge standing in its way. Distance’s gravity-defying racing mechanics are complemented by the game’s neon-soaked visuals and atmospheric soundtrack, which feel reminiscent of the Tron films.
Riptide GP: Renegade
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Android, iOS
Riptide GP: Renegade transports players to a futuristic world where hydro jet racing is not only all the rage but also highly illegal. The arcade series got its start as a mobile title, but more recent entries have been designed from the ground up for modern consoles, including support for online/local multiplayer.
In it, you control one of many different customizable drivers and compete in a series of races that see you pulling off flashy tricks that count towards filling your boost meter. As you progress through the game’s career mode, you can unlock more customizations and upgrades for your hydro-jet along with increasingly complex tricks that reward you with more boost.
Horizon Chase Turbo
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Horizon Chase Turbo is an arcade-style racer that got its start as a mobile release with Horizon Chase – World Tour. The sequel includes many of the amenities you’d expect from a console racing game, including enhanced graphics, a wider selection of cars and tracks, and local multiplayer support.
Gameplay sees you competing in races around the world in vibrant locations that make full use of the game’s eye-catching visual style. You start off each race in the last place and must work your way up to the first by using a combination of fuel pick-ups and nitro boosts found throughout tracks. This twist on the classic racing formula adds a layer of strategy not typically found in arcade racers.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
We’dd be careless not to mention arguably the best kart racer ever. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe may just be a port of the Wii U game bundled with the original’s DLC. However, it looks and plays better than ever on Switch. The game includes 48 tracks and 41 characters pulled from various Nintendo properties ranging from The Legend of Zelda to Splatoon.
Aside from standard 4-player local co-op racing, MK 8 Deluxe also supports 8-player wireless and online multiplayer. With flexible control options like “smart steering’’ which makes staying on track much easier, challenging fast-paced racing modes like 200cc, MK 8 Deluxe has something to offer for every kind of player.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Nitro-Fueled dives headfirst into nostalgia with a roster of memorable racers and tracks from the original Crash Team Racing, each completely redone for modern consoles. In terms of gameplay, Nitro-Fueled stays true to the original while sporting some new optional features for novice players, such as a more readable boost gauge and the ability to swap between racers during story mode.
CTR has always had a more technical feel to its racing in comparison to top dog Mario Kart, and we’re happy to report that it is pretty much the same in the reboot.
While some parts may feel outdated by today’s video game standards, with AI racers often pulling cheap stunts that’ll quickly see you in the last place, the game’s satisfying boost mechanics still hold up in 2019.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Trackmania Turbo was designed with the perfectionist racer in mind, someone who’s obsessed with shaving off seconds from their racing time to get the best record possible. The game has you putting your skills to the test in over 200 tracks with the option to create your courses or generate random ones.
Turbo comes with four different environments to explore, each adding a new element to the gameplay. For example, Rollercoaster Lagoon has you racing on gravity-defying magnetic tracks while Canyon Grand has you drifting your way through narrow desert pathways.
Burnout Paradise Remastered
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
If you’re looking for an over-the-top arcade racer, consider Burnout Paradise Remastered, an enhanced version of the 2008 game that adds a host of technical and visual enhancement. The game has you exploring Paradise City, a massive open-world filled with plenty of hidden shortcuts, ramps, and billboards to drive through.
An original roster of 150 playable vehicles, as well as eight DLC packs that add over 100 cars, ten tracks, and extra challenges for players to take on at a fraction of the price, is included. If you’re into thrilling races and wanton destruction, Paradise Remastered will feel like a stroll down memory lane.
Team Sonic Racing
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Team Sonic Racing is a kart racer that manages to shake up the formula of previous Sonic Racing games by introducing some changes to the gameplay. This includes the addition of team-based maneuvers designed to keep you and your squad in the lead. One example is the Slingshot, a maneuver that boosts your character’s speed when you follow a teammate’s trail.
Aside from mastering every team maneuver, players can ride in style thanks to a new customization tool that allows you to select different materials, colors, stickers, and wheels for your kart. A more-focused roster of 12 playable characters from the Sonic universe and a collection of 21 different racetracks make TSR the best kart racing alternative for gamers who prefer Sega’s mascot over the mustached plumber.
Hot Lava takes the classic childhood game of “the floor is lava” and turns it into a deadly parkour challenge in which players run, jump, climb, and swing across a variety of levels flooded with hot molten lava. Environments are littered with shortcuts and interactive objects that can be experimented and combined to give you an edge during races.
The entire game has a Saturday morning cartoon-inspired aesthetic that includes a team of cool-looking superheroes and villains, which adds to its nostalgic premise. You’ll find drop-in, drop-out multiplayer for up to eight online players, along with Steam workshop support, allowing you to browse a plethora of user-created levels.
Must Dash Amigos
Not all racing games are meant to be taken seriously, as is obvious by the chaotic battle racer Must Dash Amigos. The game sees up to 4-players competing locally in intense foot-races across 12 different racetracks in Racing and Battle modes.
The real joy of the game comes from it’s bizarre and unpredictable environmental hazards and power-ups, which can see your character getting trampled by a pinata stampede, knocked unconscious by flying raw meat and slowed down by feet-pinching crabs.