Adam Sandler’s latest comedy Pixels, which pits a motley crew of old-school video game nerds against an alien invasion of former iconic video game characters, hit theaters this weekend and we decided to indulge in some gaming ourselves. Some of us don’t have the opportunity to buy and drive any and every vehicle at top speed. The experience isn’t the same, but the strides of PC and videogames has given some gearheads and motor enthusiasts a taste of what some car can do from the safety of their couches, no seatbelts required. Grab your controller or boot up your console because here is a look at 10 of the best driving games so far (cue Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ for extra ambience):
10.) Street Rod
The idea of buying “used cars” and manually replacing parts dates back almost a decade before Gran Turismo to a cult-favorite 1989 MS-DOS/Amiga game called Street Rod (Forza Motorsport wasn’t the first game to allow engine swaps, folks). Street Rod is essentially the Sensei of all tuning games and places a huge amount of importance in installing as many performance parts into your rides as you can afford. Parts need to be purchased from the classifieds with money you earn from drag racing and street racing, and they need to be mounted manually.
9.) Project Gotham Racing 4
With its visually-stunning environments and point system that rewards players for pulling off insane stunts, PGR4 is a worthy title in Bizarre Creations’ franchise. Its weather effects are also some of the most impressive we’ve seen in a game to date. It’s a shame that the popularity of this franchise waned during the move from the Xbox to the Xbox One because it was perhaps the only racing game predicated on performing high-risk maneuvers with $100+ thousand supercars. However if you make one wrong move, your mediocrity is punished. This is the game for perfectionists.
8.) Grand Theft Auto V
Okay, sure, this isn’t JUST a driving game, but GTA V (known more for its crass and controversial open world game play) offers a driving experience like no other. Although the driving physics aren’t exactly realistic, and the cars, while usually inspired by real models, are made up, no other game allows for so much fun while running from the cops, shooting while driving, launching off anything and everything in a deeply immersive world, and doing pretty much anything else you want. GTA V has been out for nearly two years now and along the way it has received multiple updates including bunches of new vehicles and a first-person game play option, which has really made the driving experience even more compelling. Or you can just step out of the car and cause traffic jams all day. The choice is yours.
7.) Forza Horizon 2
This game’s calling cards are its fantastic graphics and massive open-world environment that lets players explore, using one of hundreds of cars, a virtual world that spans southern Europe. Forza Horizon 2 is further set apart by its focus on community play. Online, you can explore the vast landscape of towns and twisty mountain roads alone or you can link up with friends and enter a wide variety of races and challenges. The game wasn’t designed to cater to the hard-core sim fan, so the in-game physics aren’t as rigid as Gran Turismo, but they’re still very good and the game will satisfy just about anyone who loves playing driving games.
6.) Burnout 3: Takedown
The game that rewards players for driving recklessly, Burnout 3: Takedown introduces a new game feature that gives players bonus points for smashing up as many vehicles as possible. It’s literally hours of irresponsible fun to be had by all. Oh and it has one of the best licensed music selections in any video game ever.
5.) Need for Speed: Underground
EA’s Need for Speed: Underground was riding high off the success of the Fast & Furious movies and sought to give players a chance to step in that world. Flashy cars, urban city streets and a ton of good-ole fashioned Nitrous Oxide. It could essentially be looked at as the unofficial Fast and Furious game. With a cool, varied soundtrack and high-energy races, Underground stands out as an iconic title from the NFS series.
Disney’s Split Second can essentially be put down to Mario Kart on steroids. Pitting racers in a fight to the death, Split Second saw players tearing through tracks to fill up their powerplay meters. This in turn could trigger game changing events, resulting in catastrophic changes to the course. A player could trigger a jumbo jet crash, or a large building to collapse, making life a lot harder for every other racer behind them. One wrong move, and it’s GAME OVER man! GAME OVER! What a rush!
3.) Crazy Taxi
Less of a race against cars and more of a race against the clock, Crazy Taxi still deserves a place on the list for its ridiculously addictive vehicle-based game play. Players go against the watch to deliver passengers to their chosen destination, pulling off insane stunts along the way for those extra bonus points. If real-life taxi driving was this fun, we’d have quit our day jobs by now. Looking at you Uber.
There’s no denying that Mario Kart deserves a place on the list, and the N64 version of Nintendo’s ongoing franchise still offers one of the best multiplayer experiences available. Every subsequent Nintendo platform offered a unique twist on the formula with the GameCube’s “double dash” co-operative system that allowed you to combine player character abilities to the Wii’s motion control steering. With the pantheon of Nintendo characters and icons and an arsenal of colorful weapons at their disposal, players must use their wits to battle it out for that coveted gold trophy.
The original Gran Turismo was the definitive driving game for the 20th century. And it seems every subsequent game redefines the 21st. This franchise it brought a whole new look and feel to the series with better graphics and a new rallying mode. With a wide variety of true-to-life cars and racetracks, plus an advanced championship system, there’s never a dull moment behind the controller. One of the best features carried over from GT2, which was substantively improved upon, is the ability to extensively modify and tune cars with noticeable—and sometimes disastrous—results. The game’s designers did an excellent job with this immersive portion of the game allowing players to experiment. Often criticized as “too” realistic so as to be unplayable to novices, this franchise nonetheless remains the king of impeccably designed virtual driving experiences.
So there you have it: 10 of our favorite driving experiences in game-form! In the game world you don’t need to worry about breakdowns or accidents let alone the legality of driving 200 mph so they give us the chance to indulge our inner speed demon. Did you think we missed some or do you have a favorite of your own? Comment below and let us know.