A memorable racing game is constructed on four pillars: a great sensation of speed, visuals that create a fun gaming environment, crisp controls, and outstanding sound effects and cruising music. It makes little difference if the genre is arcade, sim, or kart; if a racing game nails those features, it will go down in history as one of the greats. The issue is, which PC games are eligible? Our list separates the few games with a winner’s circle from the numerous others.
Racing Games on PC
The race has a complete field of games. At the time of writing, Steam alone has an absurd amount of pages dedicated to competitive driving (this does not include racing titles from other game retailers). To be sure, some of the titles mentioned are not racing games. Rocket League, for example, depicts wheeled cars physically racing toward a goal, yet it is undeniably a sports game (anyone who says otherwise is lying and is not your friend). Similarly, EmergeNYC, a simulation game in which you put yourself in the shoes of the EMS, FDNY, or NYPD to try to save lives, is not a racing game.
A racing game is a title that puts you in charge of a car and challenges you to outpace the opposition to finish first. That is our definition, and we believe it is fair.
What About Using the Steam Deck to Play Racing Games?
All you have to do to play these games on a Windows PC is download and install them. Check Valve’s game compatibility list if you’re playing on the Steam Deck to determine whether your favorite racing games operate in the Proton-enhanced, Linux-based environment. According to SteamDB, hundreds of Steam games have had Steam Deck validated thus far (Opens in a new window). A green checkmark means that the game has been thoroughly 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.” Keep in mind that unreviewed racing games may still operate with Steam Deck.
Pedal to the Metal
If you’re reading this, you’re probably in need of speed. Fortunately, we do as well. The PCMag pit crew enjoys a good racing game, so we have a few suggestions for you. To be honest, our preferences skew heavily toward arcade and kart games. We’re broadening the scope with future evaluations of tough racing simulators like Assetto Corsa Competizione, Automobilista, and Project Cars. Look for them in the near future. Right now, you should check out our top PC racing games. Have a safe and enjoyable drive.
Burnout Paradise Remastered
Burnout Paradise is one of Criterion’s finest games, initially published in 2008 for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, thus it stands to reason that Burnout Paradise Remastered is even better.
Aside from some nice visual improvements, PC users now get access to the formerly console-only Big Surf Island and all of its potential for stunts and devastation. The layout of Paradise City is also as fun as ever, whether you’re simply driving about or participating in one of the numerous available activities.
Although some of the original game’s flaws remain (an annoyance with the crash cam, certain interface glitches), none are severe enough to overshadow the title’s superb vehicle control, vast area, and many unlockables.
Dirt 5, produced by Codemasters, harkens back to the 1990s, when Colin McRae Rally and Sega Rally Championship boosted “extreme” racing titles. Dirt 5, like earlier games, isn’t concerned with realism or extensive customization; rather, the rally racer wants you to barrel your way to victory over twisty, mud-covered circuits.
While Dirt 5 isn’t entirely unique, it succeeds in providing a noisy, colorful racing experience for anyone searching for a PC game full of high-speed escapism.
Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 debuted on PC in 2018, barely two years after its fantastic predecessor, prompting some to question the series’ every-other-year cycle. Nonetheless, developer Playground Games said that the open-world racer’s additional features will justify the purchase. The company was completely accurate.
Forza Horizon 4 adds new cars, new and addicting solo and multiplayer modes, and seasonal effects to the exhilarating racing-and-music festival concept. The game’s finest feature is the changeable weather patterns, which change how you approach driving. For example, the gorgeous lake you drive past in the spring, summer, and autumn may freeze over in the winter, enabling you to take an other route. Similarly, spring rain muddies courses, making cornering difficult. The seasons change every week, so you’re never locked in one place for too long.
When you consider the new performance-enhancing Skills, breathtaking UK-based settings, returning Barn Finds, and well-curated music, Forza Horizon 4 is one of the greatest racing games to hit PC in recent years.
Forza Horizon 5
Each sequel in Xbox Game Studios’ renowned racing series builds on the preceding release, and Forza Horizon 5 follows suit. The fifth installment in the racing-and-music event offers all of the modes, fun atmosphere, trendy music, and crazy stunts you’d expect, but the additions and adjustments are more evolutionary than revolutionary this time.
Forza Horizon 5’s diverse Mexico location, insanely packed modes, and new features will delight longtime series fans (the create-a-track EventLab, in particular). The racer’s various, imaginative treasures will astound newcomers. In summary, Forza Horizon is still the finest racing game series, and Forza Horizon 5 offers just another reason why.
Horizon Chase Turbo
Because there are so many pop cultural entities mining the past for a fast profit these days, it’s easy to take a critical position toward anything flavored with nostalgia. Horizon Chase Turbo, despite its archaic design, has enough appeal to keep it from being classified as a hack.
Horizon Chase Turbo is a straightforward game that focuses on boosting, weaving between opposing cars, and a novel gameplay angle: collecting gas canisters to avoid running out of gasoline. However, the major draw of the Aquiris Game Studio-published racing game is its aesthetics.
Horizon Chase Turbo is a beautiful game, however it may not be immediately apparent owing to a flat, polygon-heavy graphic design reminiscent of 1990s racing games (but without jaggies, clipping, and other era-specific visual flaws). Depending on whether you’re traveling during the day or at night, the images alternate between 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.
Hotshot Racing’s pick-up-and-play gameplay method and angular, low-polygon graphic look are reminiscent of arcade-style driving events from the 1990s. In many aspects, the title, produced by Lucky Mountain Games (with assistance from Sumo Digital’s racing experts), nails the retro-racing spirit. Mostly.
Although the brilliantly colored Hotshot Racing seems to be an Outrun-style game, it lacks the dramatic level design that makes many old races memorable. That’s not to say Hotshot Racing isn’t fun; it most surely is! Drift fans will like the gameplay’s emphasis on powersliding.
Need for Speed Heat
Need for Speed: Heat is an exciting racing game that mainly hits the qualities that made prior NFS entries so successful: great racing mechanics, amazing vehicle customization choices, and outrageous police chases.
The game contains an interesting day-and-night system that allows you to enjoy both brighter, daylight racing scenes and high-stakes, subterranean racing at night. Palm City looks wonderful in any light and adds aesthetic variation to the game.
Despite the mediocre multiplayer option and some imprecise controls, the enhanced storyline and character customization make the game more engaging than the previous entries. Fans of the series should not pass this one up.
Ridge Racer Unbounded
The Ridge Racer series may not have the swagger of Gran Turismo or Forza in the modern video game industry, but the long-running brand has a devoted fan following that enjoys the drift-centric racing action.
Bugbear Entertainment’s offering adds a chaotic aspect to the traditional gameplay by including environmental and vehicle devastation as you compete for street cred in the fictitious Shatter Bay. Ridge Racer has gone full Burnout.
Shatter Bay’s districts are intricately crafted and destructible environments that lure you to race one more bout. When you first start Ridge Racer Unbounded, you can only choose one vehicle and one racing district, but more will become available as you gain collateral damage points. Plowing through anything other than a solid brick wall yields these points.
The plot is completely unimportant—this is a racing game, after all—but the driving action is diverse and intriguing. If you want to save your sanity, only play against human opponents.
WRC 10 FIA World Rally Championship
With WRC 10, developer KT Racing commemorates the World Rally Championship’s 50th anniversary. WRC 10 includes legendary races and cars from the event’s illustrious history, tight controls, and lifelike vehicles and landscapes, in addition to new circuits and challenges. This series entry isn’t drastically different from WRC 8 and WRC 9, but its tiny tweaks result in a better overall title.
WRC 10 is jam-packed with realistic racing elements. Its career mode and many solo and multiplayer options give hours of entertainment. Despite a few obvious faults, this is another great effort by KT Racing that respects the tradition of the World Rally Championship.
Also you can check out our other racing games like Drift Hunters!