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The Best Racing Video Games We’re Playing Right Now

We never need an excuse to hit the virtual racetrack, now or any other time.

Racing video games—er, "simulations," if you prefer—have gotten a lot of exposure recently as various professional racing series and their drivers stage online competitions in lieu of real race weekends. But we're never short of excuses to spend as much time as possible pounding out virtual laps. The below list of racing video games isn't meant to encapsulate every solid option available to stay-at-home racers at the moment; rather, it's a quick roundup of what various staff members have lately been spending the most time with to feed their addiction. Some are more realistic than others, but whether you prefer arcade-style games, more hardcore simulations, or even if you have access to a professional-level simulator, we promise each one of these titles can deliver hours of fun. And in our opinion, that's a highly valuable commodity right about now.

 Assetto Corsa Competizione

Assetto Corsa Competizione is the official SRO GT World Challenge Series (previously Blancpain GT Series) video game and is the follow up to Assetto Corsa. There are no supercars, no boring but cool cars, just purely GT3 race cars. It features an extraordinary quality of simulation, stunning visuals, realistic audio, and offers a handful of race modes, featuring Championship mode, Career mode, Special Events, and of course multiplayer mode.

Assetto Corsa Competizione is a niche title in the same way Formula 1 games tend to be, but it's also a wholesome racing sim that ticks many boxes for motorsports enthusiasts. For veteran sim racers, this is just another drive, but for newcomers to Assetto Corsa Competizione, you'll need to step up your skills and concentration.

 F1 2019

Like previous Formula 1 games, F1 2019 is a fully licensed product that offers all of the teams, drivers, cars, and tracks of the actual season. With Career mode, you'll get to drive for one of the F1 teams and build a reputation on and off of the circuits, and a great addition is the presence of the Formula 2 series. The latter offers a new set of challenges, allowing you to start out in F1's feeder category before progressing to the ultimate level.  You can also find a good amount of multiplayer options, with daily challenges and eSports competitions.

No, this isn't the world's most absolutely realistic game, but F1 2019 is a fun time loaded with content that covers every aspect of both offline and online game play.

Forza Horizon 4

If you'd rather bomb across a grassy countryside or snow or through a lovingly recreated Edinburgh than you would around a racetrack, the Forza Horizon games are just what you're looking for. Rather than restricting you to one specific loop of a racetrack, the Forza Horizon racing video games series plops you down in a massive open world based on real locations with hundreds of street races, cross-country races, drift challenges, speed traps, and more littered throughout the map. There's an astonishing amount of content here; it's hard to get bored.

 

Forza Horizon 4 is set in a fictionalized United Kingdom where the season changes every real-world week. That means not only can you build a rally-spec 1973 Porsche Carrera RS, you can jump it across a frozen lake in the winter and crash through puddles in the spring. The driving physics lean a little further toward the arcade side of things, which means huge drifts in your tuned, 1,000-horsepower McLaren Senna are easier and more fun than they would be in a Forza Motorsport game. It also means Horizon feels great to play on a controller.

Being a modern Forza game, it's also gorgeous. Every season is more stunning than the last and the lighting and weather effects really stand out. If you love cars and you're not playing this one, you're missing out.  

Forza Motorsport 7

Are you the type that geeks-out on track configurations, obscure race cars, and tweaking everything from anti-roll bar stiffness to brake bias, but you don't have a four-figure sim rig at home? The latest track-focused Forza entry will probably be your jam. We'd call it an arcade sim racer, a racing video game that boasts complex tire modeling, deep mechanical customization, and real-world tracks, but also one with features like auto braking and rewind for more casual players.

FM7 delivers more than 700 cars to choose from and more than 30 tracks to race them on, plus a single-player campaign, the Rivals time-trial mode, and loads of online races. Weather is variable, too, which means no two races will ever be the same. You can also collect different racing suits or spend hours creating custom racing liveries. (Trust us, we have.)

Oh, and no mention of FM7 would be complete without praising the visuals. Racing video games have long been a platform on which a game studio can showcase the latest in digital modeling and visual effects. That's especially true if you're playing in 4K with HDR; this is one of the best-looking racing video games you can play right now, full stop.

iRacing

iRacing is one of the most popular online racing platforms—see its use by NASCAR and IndyCar as the platform for those series' virtual competitions as of late—and continues to attract new drivers. Featuring a collection of officially licensed cars, series, and highly detailed laser-scanned tracks, this isn't a game for people who just want to pick up a controller and do a couple of hot laps. iRacing is for serious players only.

iRacing is a subscription-based service; pricing starts at $13 per month and gets a bit cheaper if you make a longer commitment. In the end, it's probably equal to or less than your subscription to Netflix, and if you sign up now, iRacing offers 50 percent off of all new memberships—plus 20 cars and 21 tracks. However, if you want to access cars like the Porsche 911 RSR and NASCAR Cup Series car, and some tracks, you'll need to buy them as part of the subscription. A typical car or track costs around $10-$15; the more you buy, the cheaper it gets. Yes, iRacing is by far the most expensive sim racing game out there, but it's a top-level virtual alternative to the real thing.

Need For Speed Heat

Need For Speed's legacy has rested on shaky footing: Its modern offerings never quite lived up to the hype of Need For Speed Most Wanted, or Need For Speed Carbon. But that all changed with the franchise's newest title, Need For Speed Heat.

Heat, like most NFS games, centers around you (a wannabe racer) working your way to the top of Palm City's street-racing circuit. Race during the day for cash to upgrade your rides, and race at night to unlock new cars and parts—just make sure you can stay ahead of the cops.

It's fast, fun, and the roster of cars should satisfy even the most hardcore racing video game enthusiast; everything from the Volkswagen Beetle to the Ferrari 488 Pista are on the menu. This is the best Need For Speed in years, and finally rights the wrongs of EA's more recent entries in the franchise.

Rocket League

Okay, so this is not a racing video game, but hear us out: Remember when the "Top Gear" hosts would play car soccer? (If not, check out the season-six premiere here.) Rocket League is sort of like that, except there are jet engines strapped to the back of every car, and you can boost yourself into the air toward the ball, and—gasp!—it's actually crazy fun.

All the cars drive the same, and most are more like generic car-shaped objects than anything you'd recognize. But you will get the opportunity to drive some sweet movie cars including Dominic Torreto's Dodge Charger, the Batmobile from "Batman vs. Superman," and a "Jurassic Park"-style Jeep Wrangler. We know it's not really about driving or cars, and that it's very different from every other racing video game on this list, but take our word on this one and give Rocket League a shot.