Four elements support a memorable racing game: a thrilling sensation of speed, visuals that create a fun gaming environment, precise controls, and top-notch sound effects and cruising music. No matter the racing game’s genre—arcade, sim, or kart—if it nails those components, it will be remembered as one of the best. What PC games fall under this category, exactly? Our list separates the few games with winners from the many games with runners-up.
Racing Games on PC
The competition has a complete slate of games. Even without accounting for racing titles from other game retailers, Steam alone has an absurdly high number of pages dedicated to competitive driving as of this writing. Of course, not all of the titles on the list are racing games. For instance, Rocket League is undoubtedly a sports game despite having wheeled cars that are really moving quickly toward a goal (anyone who says otherwise is lying and is not your friend). The simulation game EmergeNYC, in which you take on the role of the FDNY, NYPD, or EMS and try to rescue lives, is not a racing game.
In a racing game, you take control of a car and compete to cross the finish line first by outrunning your opponents. That is how we define it, and we believe it to be rather sensible.
What About Playing Racing Games on the Steam Deck?
All you have to do to play these games on a Windows PC is download and install them. Whether you’re using the Steam Deck, see if your preferred racing games are compatible with the Proton-enhanced, Linux-based environment by consulting Valve’s game compatibility list. According to data taken from SteamDB, hundreds of Steam games have so far been validated by Steam Deck (Opens in a new window). Keep in mind that racing games that haven’t been evaluated still may operate with Steam Deck. A green checkmark means that game is completely validated to run smoothly on Steam Deck; a yellow checkmark indicates that the game is playable on Steam Deck, “but needs additional steps or manual labor from the user.”
Pedal to the Metal
You probably feel the urge for speed if you’re reading this post. Thankfully, we do too. The PCMag pit crew enjoys playing racing games, so we have a few suggestions for you to check out. We must admit that we have strong preferences for arcade and kart games. Future evaluations that examine intense racing sims like Assetto Corsa Competizione, Automobilista, and Project Cars will broaden the field. Expect them shortly. Check out our picks for the best PC racing games right now. Happy motoring!
Burnout Paradise Remastered
One of Criterion’s finest games, Burnout Paradise was first published in 2008 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. It follows that Burnout Paradise Remastered is even better.
Players on PC now get access to the formerly exclusive Big Surf Island, with all of its potential for stunts and mayhem, in addition to some nice graphical improvements. The geography of Paradise City is still entertaining whether you are simply driving about or taking part in the many activities that are offered.
The title’s great vehicle control, wide-ranging map, and many unlockables are not substantially diminished by any of the original game’s flaws, which include an unpleasant crash cam and some UI glitches.
The Colin McRae Rally and Sega Rally Championship of the 1990s boosted “extreme” racing games, drift hunters and so does the Codemasters-created Dirt 5. The rally racer Dirt 5 doesn’t care about realism or in-depth customizing; instead, it wants you to barrel your way to victory on twisty, muddy circuits.
While not entirely innovative, Dirt 5 is successful in providing players searching for a PC game with plenty of high-speed escapism with a noisy, vibrant racing experience.
Forza Horizon 4
Just two years after the release of its outstanding predecessor, Forza Horizon 4, on PC in 2018, several people questioned the need for the series’ every-other-year cycle. However, the open-world racer’s creator, Playground Games, bragged that its additional features would make the purchase worthwhile. The business was entirely right.
Forza Horizon 4 adds new cars, engaging solo and multiplayer modes, and seasonal effects to the exhilarating racing-and-music festival formula. The game’s finest feature is without a doubt the shifting weather patterns, which change how you approach driving. For instance, the picturesque lake you speed by in the spring, summer, and autumn can freeze over in the winter, enabling you to take a different route. The rain in April also muddies the courses, making it difficult to turn. You are not locked in one season for too long since the seasons change every week.
One of the greatest racing games to debut on PC in recent years, Forza Horizon 4 also has magnificent UK-based locations, returning Barn Finds, new performance-enhancing Skills, and a well-chosen soundtrack.
Forza Horizon 5
Every installment of the well-liked racing series from Xbox Game Studios builds on the one before it, and Forza Horizon 5 is no exception. The fifth edition of the racing-and-music event offers all the usual modes, a great atmosphere, cool music, and crazy stunts, but this time the adjustments and additions are more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Forza Horizon 5’s unique Mexico location, crazily packed options, and new features will appeal to longtime series fans (the create-a-track EventLab, in particular). The racer has a wealth of inventive riches that will astound newcomers. In summary, Forza Horizon 5 is just another reason why Forza Horizon is still the finest racing game series.
Horizon Chase Turbo
Nowadays, it’s simple to take a pessimistic position toward anything tinged with nostalgia since so many pop culture entities are exploiting the past for financial gain. Despite having a retro appearance, Horizon Chase Turbo has charm enough to keep it from falling into the hack category.
Horizon Chase Turbo is a straightforward game that emphasizes boosting, dodging other players’ cars, and a special gameplay element: collecting gas canisters to prevent running out of gasoline. Nevertheless, the primary draw of the racing game released by Aquiris Game Studio is its graphics.
Although Horizon Chase Turbo is a beautiful game, its flat, polygon-heavy graphic design, which is reminiscent of racing games from the 1990s, may make it difficult for some players to immediately identify it as such (but without jaggies, clipping, and other era-specific visual flaws). Depending on whether you’re traveling at night or during the day, the images alternate between soft pastel hues and cool neon accents.
Horizon Chase Turbo is a PC racing game that is insanely amazing to look at and just as much fun to play.