These are the best racing games on PC, from the exotic sports cars of Forza Motorsport to the mud-splattered beasts of Dirt Rally 2.0.
What are the best racing games on PC? Whether mastering muddy tracks in Dirt Rally 2.0 or embracing Forza Horizon 5’s magnificent Mexico, these are the best racers around, though we’d recommend plugging in a controller instead of using a mouse and keyboard, or even better, getting yourself a wheel.
So while a couple of these could be contenders for our list of the best PC games overall, there are plenty of options here if you consider yourself a speed demon. We, unfortunately, don’t have Gran Turismo 7 on PC yet – fingers crossed it arrives eventually – but there are plenty of excellent racing games here, no matter your taste.
The best racing games on PC in 2023 are:
- Forza Motorsport
- Dirt Rally 2
- Shift 2
- Forza Horizon 5
- Art of Rally
- Project Cars 2
- TrackMania 2: Canyon
- F1 22
- Race: Injection
In what is technically the eighth game in the Forza Motorsport series, we go back to the beginning in a reboot of the series. Revisiting classic tracks from the Forza Motorsport games, the 2023 racing sim sees you drifting around Maple Valley and Le Mans in the highest definition graphics yet, with stunning ray tracing providing the most beautiful atmosphere, day or night.
Dirt Rally 2
If you don’t know your pace notes from your drive shaft, Dirt Rally 2.0 is not the racing game for you. If you’re looking for a casual driving experience, just getting from A to B a bit faster than you would normally be able to on your daily commute, try Dirt 5 instead. In Rally 2.0 your co-driver will launch instructions, numbers, and directions at you thick and fast and, if you can’t handle the varied terrains and hairpin bends then you’ll be smashing into a tree before you know it.
Heavy crashes overwhelm the senses like a flashbang has exploded on your bonnet. And, if you’re caught behind the pack, the introduction of surface degradation will make even driving in a straight line a struggle. But, if you know what you’re doing, there are few better approximations of this demanding discipline than Dirt Rally 2.0.
Just as we did in our Dirt Rally 2.0 impressions, you’ll be doing a lot of crashing: Codemasters’ driving game doesn’t come with a tutorial this time – you’ll only learn from successive trips to the hospital. Also failing to make the drive from previous games is the procedural track-generating system, Your Stage. Instead, each race is meticulously hand-crafted, inviting devoted fans to commit every nefarious twist and turn to memory. That’s the only way to master Dirt Rally 2.0 and, if you don’t embrace its obsessively singular vision, you’re finishing last.
Shift 2 might be the best compromise between realism and accessibility of any game on this list. It’s not just the ways the car handles – menacing, but capable – but the way it consistently thinks about what players need to perform at a high level. Rather than lock your view gazing out over the hood, or ask you to spring for TrackIR to let you turn your head, Shift 2 has a dynamic view that subtly changes based on context.
Coming up on a gentle right-hand corner, your view shifts a bit as your driver avatar looks right into the apex. For a sharper corner, your view swings a bit more so you have a sense of what you’re driving into, yet it doesn’t feel disorienting at all. It feels natural.
The thoughtfulness even extends to depth-of-field. This is a wildly overused visual effect but Shift 2 uses it to highlight where your attention should be. When someone is coming up fast on your tail, objects farther away get a bit fuzzier while your mirrors sharpen to razor clarity. As you move around in dense traffic, your cockpit gets indistinct while the cars around you come into focus. It sounds gimmicky, but it all feels as natural as driving a car in real life. Shift 2 is really dedicated to communicating the fun and accomplishment of performance driving, and it succeeds admirably.
Forza Horizon 5
Taking its spot on our list, separate from the Motorsport series, Playground Games’ most recent open-world arcade racer leaves the British Isles behind and brings the party to Mexico. Forza Horizon 5’s map is 50% larger than Horizon 4’s UK, and it’s filled with open desert roads, quaint Mexican towns, and breathtaking canyons. Building on the previous games’ stunning seasonal effects that bring the environment to life, in Horizon 5 you contend with storms that can whip up ferocious winds at a moment’s notice.
Aside from the new weather, not a ton has changed, but that’s by no means a bad thing as Playground Games has truly mastered the racing game format. You can participate in traditional races, co-op campaigns, stunt jumps, seasonal championships, and endurance tests in a range of speedy and stylish vehicles ranging from modified dune buggies and pick-up trucks to one-off hypercars.
There’s plenty of content to keep you coming back; as in-game seasons change every week, new events appear alongside them to complete, earning you exchangeable points you can redeem for exclusive cars. f
Art of Rally
An isometric racing game doesn’t sound like it’d work too well – unless it’s Micro Machines, of course – but Art of Rally is perhaps the most charming racing game out there. It combines a stylized, minimalist art style with rally cars from the 1960s through to the infamous Group B in the ’80s.
Hurtle around open-world environments hunting for collectibles or progress through typical rally stages, all within stunning, colorful environments. The soundtrack is fitting too, with mellow, lo-fi tunes accompanying you on your journey through countries such as Finland, Germany, and Kenya. Possibly the least typical racing game on this list, but by far the most unique.
Project Cars 2
You might have noticed that real cars rarely cartwheel into the verge the moment you dare to mix steering and acceleration inputs. They’re quite good at going around corners – it is almost like an engineer has given the problem some thought during the design process. Performance cars in Project Cars 2, while certainly more liable to bite back, are even better at the whole turning thing. Throw a Ferrari or Lamborghini around the track (as we have done on several occasions) and you’ll probably spend more time having fun than fretting about the absence of a rewind button in real life.
Slightly Mad knows this. They are, it seems, just as frustrated by the driving sim genre’s propensity to equate challenge with the sensation of driving on treadless tires on a slab of melting ice set at an angle of 45 degrees. So here, cars go around the corners, even when you give the throttle some beans. Don’t get us wrong, this is no virtual Scalextric set – you can still make mistakes, and traction is far from absolute. But, crucially, you aren’t punished for these mistakes with a rapid trip into the nearest trackside barrier (at least, if you play with a wheel. Pad control is still a little oversensitive).
The studio has made plenty of other changes in this sequel too, shoring up the car selection with a greater variety of vehicles, and creating a career mode that feels less wayward without sacrificing the appealing freedom of choice pioneered by the previous game. There’s even half-decent AI to race against if you don’t fancy the cut and thrust of online play. But the most spectacular update is the game’s astonishing weather system, one that calculates a dizzying number of factors about the physical properties of materials and surfaces, water pooling and run-off, to spit out the best set of weather effects – and wet weather driving – we’ve ever experienced in a racing game.
In Wreckfest, your goal is usually to cross the line first, but pure racing isn’t the only way to do that. Crashing into your opponents to whittle down their vehicle health is a valid way to win, or if you trust your driving ability, you can try to outrun all the other racers.
There are also elimination modes that require you to be the last vehicle standing and a vast array of vehicles to choose from. With an impressively accurate damage model and the ability to pit school buses against golf buggies and everything in between, grab some pals and hop online for some of the funniest racing moments you can have in a videogame.
F1 22 is the latest installment in the long line of official Formula One games and while it’s still developed by racing game veterans Codemasters, it’s now published by EA, which spurred the dropping of ’20’ from the game title.
While the addition of supercars and F1 Life cosmetics haven’t gone down too well with fans, wheel-to-wheel racing is better than ever before thanks to the new real-life car designs. For the first time, tire temperatures also mimic their real-life behavior, so getting the perfect start off the line is much more difficult if you haven’t successfully warmed your tires up during the formation lap.
You’ve got your usual single-player career mode, along with time trials and online multiplayer, plus the two-player co-op career mode has returned after debuting for the first time with F1 2021. New content is being added regularly, such as one-off liveries for McLaren and Alpine, the entire F2 season including all of the drivers, new MyTeam icons such as Mika Hakkinen, and new in-game tracks like the Shanghai International Circuit. If you want to get behind the wheel of the fastest motorsport in the world, F1 22 is the game you want.
You can’t put together a list of great simulation racing games without having something from SimBin. While the studio appears to have lost its way a bit with the dubious free-to-play RaceRoom Racing Experience, SimBin was sim racing royalty during the mid-2000s. Race: Injection is their capstone game, the package that combines just about everything they accomplished with the GTR series and Race 07.
These are hard games, but the race-modified sedans of the World Touring Car Cup should ease your transition into serious racing. Even a racing Honda Accord is still a Honda Accord, and the slightly more manageable speed and difficulty of the WTCC is a great place to learn the tracks and SimBin’s superb physics.
But there are muscle cars, endurance cars, and open-wheel racers to choose from in this package, all of them brilliantly recreated and offering unique driving challenges. For the money, you probably can’t do better than Race: Injection for sim racing.
Unfortunately, the Race series was also long in the tooth even as Injection was released, and there’s no concealing the old tech it’s built on. Don’t let the flat lighting and dull graphics throw you off, though. A few minutes with these cars, especially if you have a quality force feedback wheel, and you won’t even notice the aged appearance.