Five racing games that are way ahead of the pack


A huge open world full of challenges for car enthusiasts: ‘Forza Horizon 5’ has a lot of variety in store. — Microsoft/dpa

STUTTGART: Video games about races can get your heart racing with as much tension, drama and action as any fight-packed blockbuster.

The latest hits make full use of the new technical abilities of PCs and consoles, and are also surprisingly varied, ranging from quick fun races to sprawling open world spectacles.

‘Gran Turismo 7’ is a racing game series with an incredible level of detail. — Sony/dpa‘Gran Turismo 7’ is a racing game series with an incredible level of detail. — Sony/dpa

Gran Turismo 7

The game design philosophy of Gran Turismo can be summed up in a single word: details. Few series offer as many cars, greater scope and such rich attention to detail than Polyphony Digital’s ode to the automobile.

The racing game series, exclusive to Sony, has been providing bags of gaming fun alongside impressive visuals.

A total of almost 90 million copies of the series have been sold since 1997.

Players start out with a few dollars to win small races against a few easy opponents. To get ahead, you have to buy licences for access to a wider selection of racing series, cars and tuning parts.

By the end, dedicated players are able to choose from more than 400 vehicles, from the classic VW Beetle to high-powered racers. Fans can press the pedal to the metal on more than 30 tracks.

The PS5 version is visually stunning, giving us glittering asphalt, a slew of different weather conditions and impressive tracks to test out the new Sony console.

Meanwhile the difficulty level is highly accessible. As in a role-playing game, drivers can slowly improve the car to keep up with the competition. All that adds up to a comprehensive racing experience that provides at least a few weeks of fun.

What makes it worth playing: You just get behind the wheel and enjoy the ride. With Gran Turismo 7, Polyphony Digital and Sony give us the old strengths of the series matched with a full-throttle racing experience.

‘Forza Horizon 5’ also takes drivers on dusty tracks through beautifully designed desert valleys. — Microsoft/dpa‘Forza Horizon 5’ also takes drivers on dusty tracks through beautifully designed desert valleys. — Microsoft/dpa

Forza Horizon 5

Such spectacle is a rare treat. Forza Horizon 5 is the new flagship game for Microsoft’s Xbox Series console. Playground Games gives us an open-world racing extravaganza with players chasing through breathtaking Mexican landscapes on the hunt for money and fame.

There’s never a moment where you’re standing still. Forza Horizon 5 goes full throttle right from the moment you sit down. Players charge through narrow streets in a Mustang GT, plough through the swamp in a pick-up or cross the beach in a dune buggy. There’s always a race or a challenge somewhere to be found in this gaming world.

What’s special is that you can drive freely on each area of land and constantly take up new missions in the form of racing challenges, just like in an open-world adventure. That might be a regular road race or a test of your skill at speeding off jump ramps to reach record distances. Should you falter, there’s always the rewind button.

Each successful challenge that you master allows you to rise through the ranks and unlock new tracks or use your winnings to buy new cars or tuning parts.

Variety is a key feature. Whether you’re up against the clock or racing other people online, Forza Horizon 5 offers countless playing modes. You win experience points for almost everything you do, from drifting to brutally crushing traffic signs. Then there’s the super smooth animation, impressive weather effects and a catchy soundtrack.

What makes it worth playing: Forza Horizon 5 is a must for every Xbox series fan of racing. What’s not to love about a huge, spectacularly staged adventure playground?

‘Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ is another take on Nintendo's timeless racing game and fun for lead-footed gamers of all ages. — Nintendo/dpa‘Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’ is another take on Nintendo's timeless racing game and fun for lead-footed gamers of all ages. — Nintendo/dpa

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

The Mario Kart racing game series, exclusive to Nintendo, has been around for 30 years and has been shaping whole generations of video gamers ever since the Super Nintendo. The eighth part combines all the strengths of its predecessors for maximum fun.

The crazy races with all the familiar heroes and villains from the platform game are no less engaging even decades after their premiere. But Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not even new, it’s a remake of the Nintendo Wii game Mario Kart 8 with some technical tweaks and playful details.

Players in different motor classes race against computer opponents or up to seven other people, along colourful tracks from Sweet Sweet Canyon to Haunted Mansion. Alongside perfect drifting, you also get credit for using popular extras like banana peel or rocket propulsion.

Besides racing, fans can also pop balloons or chase coins in online arenas. Above all, what Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers is great fun for all the family. Even 30 years on, you can still get a huge kick out of hampering your competition with a banana peel or shoving them off the track with a well-aimed turtle shell.

Meanwhile the good news for those who know all 48 tracks by heart is that Nintendo has announced a further 48 tracks by the end of 2023 in a paid-for add-on pack.

What makes it worth playing: It’s chaotic, funny and absolutely without equal. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers highly varied and funny races with a unique comic look.

‘GRID Legends’ is a successful mixture of racing game and docu-soap. — Electronic Arts/Codemasters/dpa‘GRID Legends’ is a successful mixture of racing game and docu-soap. — Electronic Arts/Codemasters/dpa

GRID Legends

If all that seems a bit too bright, wild and hectic, then check out GRID Legends, the latest offshoot from the long-lived series by British development studio Codemasters. You’ll enjoy a good driving experience and there’s plenty to see, too.

GRID Legends is made up of two parts. There’s the classic racing game mode where players gradually work their way up the career ladder, gathering points and cash through wins worldwide in order to unlock new tracks and cars.

But Codemasters also has a story mode with a junior racer saving a small racing team from ruin to ultimately become the number one. The story sequences are staged like a docu-soap, with some well-known actors like Ncuti Gatwa from Netflix series Sex Education.

Whether you’re in it for the classic racing simulation or the docu-soap (which takes some getting used to), you won’t have anything to complain about when it comes to driving the different cars – they are every bit as good as rivals like Gran Turismo 7.

GRID Legends may not be as glitzy and not quite as extensive, but purists can enjoy weeks of driving fun.

What makes it worth playing: If you skip the story, which is a bit strange, Codemasters’ GRID Legends is a comprehensive racing simulation which delivers a great driving experience alongside spectacular scenery.

Following in the footsteps of the ‘80s arcade classic ‘Out Run’, ‘Hotshot Racing’ takes you through winding mountains and over sunny beaches in retro graphics. — Curve Digital/dpaFollowing in the footsteps of the ‘80s arcade classic ‘Out Run’, ‘Hotshot Racing’ takes you through winding mountains and over sunny beaches in retro graphics. — Curve Digital/dpa

Hotshot Racing

Even without major visuals, you can have a great time just try Hotshot Racing, from Lucky Mountain Games and Sumo Digital, which offers a handful of cars and tracks and bags of driving fun. It follows in the footsteps of ‘80s arcade classic Out Run, with the cars racing through winding mountains and over sunny beaches in retro graphics.

Plus, there’s no need for the ordeal of collecting experience points and tuning your car you can put the pedal to the metal without restraint in Hotshot Racing. The only thing that counts is the exact moment for the drift. Used right, it fills up a kind of energy bar that accelerates the car at the touch of a button. That’s it little more tactics or finesse are needed.

You can choose from eight drivers who differ mainly in their pithy sayings, while when it comes to the cars, the only differences are in terms of maximum speed, acceleration and drift behaviour.

All that may sound simple, but it’s actually not. In the higher difficulty levels, racing drivers have to know the tracks exactly in order to hold their own against the competition. Only those who time their drift for the precise moment and apply the boost have a chance of winning. And in addition to the Grand Prix game mode, there are also online races.

What makes it worth playing: It’s old, but good. Hotshot Racing revives old racing classics like Out Run and has an uncompromising focus on uncomplicated fun. – dpa

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