Best racing games 2020

Published: 10 June 2020

► Best driving games on all formats
► Tested with controllers and wheels
► Arcade to sim difficulty

The Coronavirus epidemic has heavily disrupted the motorsport calendar, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your racing fix. Esports has jumped to fill the void left by professional racing, with the likes of Lando Norris, Sir Chris Hoy and even Juan Pablo Montoya giving us wheel-to-wheel action, in pixel form. And despite the epidemic, it’s still possible to get your driving fix without leaving the house.  

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If you’re a racing game fanatic in 2020, you're spoilt for choice. Driving games such as Assetto Corsa Competizione and GT Sport will appeal to diehard sim-racers, while more casual gamers will enjoy titles such as Grid, Need for Speed and Forza motorsport. And because of improvements in hardware and software, all of these games look great in 4K and HDR, providing you’ve got the right TV and graphics card (if you’re using a PC).

Best racing games

We know you’re bound to have lots of free time now, but which racing games should you be sinking the hours into? To make things easier, we’ve put together a list of the best racing games you can buy right now, across PC, Xbox One and PS4. For clarity-sake, we’ve also sampled them on both a controller and a wheel. 

GT Sport

  • Best for: racing enthusiasts but also casual gamers, anyone with a big TV
  • Available on: PS4 only

One of the most famous racing games ever, now on Sony’s most powerful console. GT Sport is simply one of the best-looking racing games you can buy right now – regardless of the platform – and it’s one of the most complete, too. 

GT Sport doesn’t have the vast list of cars Gran Turismo 2 or 3 had, but it makes up for it with brilliant presentation, lots to do, constant free updates and a robust multiplayer experience.  

What’s more, it now has a paid add-on which features driver coaching from six-times F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton. Allowing you to follow the same lines as Hamilton and see his inputs, it offers an unprecedented level of access, and another reason to buy GT Sport. 

Read our interview with the game’s creator Kazunori Yamauchi, here.

iRacing

  • Best for: those very serious about racing
  • Available on: PC only

iRacing is the sim of choice for some of the most high-profile Esports races, and after spending some time with it, we can see why. It's the most realistic piece of software we've used so far, accurately depicting cars through the use of scanned tracks, tyre models and more. The physics will take some getting used to, but the attention to detail and feel is extremely impressive. The graphics are good – or great depending on the sort of PC you have – but this game is less about presentation and more about honing your driving skilsl. A bit like GT Sport, it features a rigid online structure, so you'll only ever race against those as qualified and skilled as yourself. The only drawback? iRacing is pricey; you start off with some content but after that, cars and tracks come at a price, and there's a monthly subscription, too.

Need for Speed Heat

  • Best for: boy-racers and arcade fans
  • Available on: PS4, Xbox One and PC

Need for Speed returns, but now with a neon hat on – and it’s rather good. In some ways Heat is a continuation of everything we like about NFS: it follows the familiar formula of letting the player rip it up in a world of tournament heats, illegal street races and police chases.

However, it also looks very different this time around: it’s stunning in 4K and HDR, and its 80s style colour palette sets it apart from everything else on this list.

There are over 120 cars to choose from, including a solid blend of unlikely classics, contemporary dream cars and everything in between. And because this is Need for Speed, every car can be modded within an inch of its life. Your only restriction is your imagination – but do try to be tasteful.

As you’d expect, the game leans towards to the arcade side, and only just got wheel support.  If you’re after the racing game equivalent of a can of Monster, this is a game for you.

Assetto Corsa Competizione

  • Best for: sim-racers and close competition
  • Available on: PC now, Xbox One and PS4 later this year

 Assetto Corsa Competizione is the fully licenced game for the GT championship, and that means its packed with all the cars and tracks from both seasons. Compare it GT Sport or the original Assetto Corsa and you’ll find the garage small and limiting; think of it like another licensed game such as F1 2019, and you’ll find the limitations more authentic. 

Cars seem to dance on the tarmac, giving you reams of information through the wheel. It certainly takes a while to get up to speed – especially if you’re used to more arcade-like handling, but once you do it’s fantastic.  

The graphics are good on PC, too; We installed our copy of the game on a relatively powerful gaming PC, cranked everything up to Ultra and the results were pretty impressive. But while the car models were clean and the lighting realistic, AC Competizione didn’t have the same eye-candy as GT Sport on PS4 Pro, or the latest Forza on Xbox One X. However, if you like how this game feels, you really won’t care. 

F1 2019

  • Best for: F1 fans, obviously 
  • Available on: PS4, Xbox One and PC

Formula One may be in disarray because of Coronavirus, but in the virtual world it’s in rude health. F1 2019 is now being streamed in officially sanctioned races, and to compare your skills against real F1 drivers, all you need to do is buy this game. 

The most recent game comes with a fresh batch of F2 content and promises an even deeper career mode, so you can move your way up the grid, from Williams to Mercedes. There’s also an improved multiplayer experience and retro content, too, so you’ll keep you coming back.

Handling-wise F1 2019 has much the same problem as GT Sport: it’s made by people who appreciate a challenge – along with increased realism – but it has to cater for everyone.

F1 2019 caters for both ends of the spectrum in admirable fashion: take all the assists off, use a wheel, and F1 2019 successfully conveys the brutal nature of today’s hybrid-powered F1 cars. Keep most of the assists on, pick up a pad, and F1 2019 gives you casual-gamer levels of accessibility. 

Watch out though, F1 2020 is just around the corner – and you can read everything we know about it so far here,

Dirt Rally 2.0

  • Best for: fans of gravel and mud instead of tarmac
  • Available on: PS4, Xbox One and PC

If you prefer handbrake turns to points of downforce, and get more excited by stages than circuits, DiRT a must-buy. It’s not perfect, offers the best total package for rally fans on any platform in 2020. 

When running in full 4K-stride, it looks great, and it also has a full licence for the World Rallycross series – so it’s not all fictional.

Like the F1 series – also by Codemasters – DiRT rally can be customised to suit your skill level. In the harder modes, DiRT will require patience and time ­– but mastering is very worthwhile. It’s also easy to play with a pad – when the assists are on, of course.

Grid

  • Best for: everyone
  • Available on: PS4, Xbox One and PC

Remember the TOCA series? The classic touring car franchise was one of the finest racing games of the late 1990s and early noughties, and under the steady hand of developers Codemasters eventually evolved into the series we know today as Grid.

This is not a racing simulator, and it’s not a fluffy arcade game either. Grid aims to walk the line between being accessible for beginners while still being engaging enough even for seasoned sim-racers, and it somehow manages to achieve precisely that.

Despite dwelling in the weird no-man’s land between ‘arcade fun’ and ‘gritty sim realism’, Codemasters’ Grid delivers an exceptional pick-up-and-play racing experience. It’s fun, it’s easy to jump in and get going, and it’s accessible – getting the best out of it doesn’t require heaps of fiddling in menus and pre-race planning, or heaps of practice.

Forza Horizon 4

  • Best for: arcade fans who want to show off their Xbox One X
  • Available on: Xbox One and PC

This isn’t one for those focused on stopwatches and racing lines: Forza Horizon 4 thrusts you onto the open-roads of Britain in some of the world's most exotic cars. It’s probably the best arcade, or open-world racer since Need For Speed: Underground or Burnout Paradise. 

While rewarding on a wheel, it’s fair to say Horizon 4 is probably more suited to those who use a pad as their weapon of choice. 

As for the graphics? The Xbox One X is able to show its full 4K, HDR-capable grunt with Horizon 4. Get a TV that can handle it, and you’ve got one of the best-looking game on Microsoft’s current console. 

Project Cars 2

  • Best for: sim racers
  • Available on: PS4, Xbox One and PC

The follow-up to the well-received hardcore racing simulator Project Cars, a product of Slightly Mad Studios, Project Cars 2 picks up the baton and takes the franchise into a new age. While its predecessor was born of a crowd-funding campaign, for PC2 the title takes on a more professional sheen with gorgeous visuals, plenty of diversity in racing codes and a physics engine that promises one of the more accurate virtual racing experiences.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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