The best racing games on PC. That’s a broad term that actually holds a huge range of different experiences within it. At one end of the gamut are hardcore racing simulators with such precise handling models and advance physics that real racing drivers use them in their training for the track. At the other lies Driver: San Francisco, a game about a comatose detective hopping between people’s minds. How many other genres can make that claim? So let us take a look at the best racing games that are available on PC.
When putting together our recommendations, we favor newer iterations of realism-focus sims and games with official licenses because of new counts for a lot in those areas. However, there’s plenty of room for older titles with a more timeless quality, and some classics that deserve recognition for their contribution to furthering the genre. Just as long as they’re a) still playable and b) still fun to drive.
This list also tries to strike a balance between high-fidelity racing sims, “sim-lite” Best Racing Games that balance realism with approachability, and action-orient arcade racers. And if you want to add extra realism to each one, here are the best steering wheels for PC.
For more tip-offs from us about the very finest experiences in PC gaming, check out our roundups of the best strategy games on PC, free PC games, the best FPS games on PC, and the best puzzle games on PC.
Forza Motorsport 7 Best Racing Games
It’s one of the most all-encompassing vehicle-lovers sandboxes, capable of providing for those who just want to go fast in shiny metal cages, simulation die-hards, and everyone in-between.
The addition of dynamic weather effects transforms the typical race from a technical route memorization test to an impromptu puddle-dodging marathon in low visibility. Night tracks slowly transition to dawn, sunlight filling out pitch-black darkness while Forza looks and plays better than ever. It’s weigh down by an awful progression system too dependent on a hackney loot box system, but as the first mainline Forza on PC, Motorsport 7 is malleable enough to absorb the shock of a few speed bumps.
Project CARS 2
This is the Best Racing Games sim that attempts to do it all: ice racing on studded tires around Swedish snowdrifts. Karting in the Scottish highlands. Rallycross within Hockenheim’s infield section, mud splattering across everything and everyone. LMP1s hurtling through Imola, Indycars defying gravity at Daytona Speedway – and when you really get bore, Honda Civics trying to make it up Eau Rouge without stalling.
More miraculous than the sheer breadth of content in Slightly Mad’s sim sequel is the fact they pull it all off. Loose surface racing feels just as convincing as hitting the track in a road-legal car, and the fidelity it conveys to your hands as you try to bully a car into the apex with its force-feedback support is best-in-class stuff. Several racing drivers across numerous disciplines acted as consultants during development, and it really does show. A strong eSports scene is now solidify around Project CARS 2, and such is the depth of simulation that for young aspiring drivers, this might well be a fitting substitute for time on track.
Dirt Rally 2 Best Racing Games
The first Dirt Rally was a revelation when it arrives in 2015, departing from the snapback caps and energy drink ads that erstwhile came to define the Dirt series and renewing its focus on the staggering challenge of – well, just keeping a car on the track of a rally course. Dirt Rally 2 does that too, and it’s better at it in every way. This is one of the Best Racing Games.
Rallying is an incredibly high-skill discipline, and Codemasters don’t ask any less of you than a real 4WD WRC vehicle would. At least, that’s how it feels – in truth, none of us have firsthand experience of how it feels to fling a Citroen through Finland’s dirt roads as quickly as Sebastien Ogier can do it, nor will we ever. But the transfer of weight in Dirt Rally’s cars, the feeling of raw power while the wheels scrabble for traction under you, feel utterly convincing.
Forza Horizon 4
With significantly better performance on lesser hardware than Horizon 3, more intuitive and social multiplayer features, and an ever-changing map that shifts to a new season every week, Forza Horizon 4 manages to improve on a near-perfect arcade racing game. It’s not for simulation fanatics, but for anyone with a passing interest in cars and/or driving them off of mountains, Horizon 4 is a must-play.
With its regular online racing leagues and meticulous car and track modelling, iRacing is as close to real racing as you can get on the PC.
That also means iRacing is something you need to work up to. It has no meaningful single-player component and, with its subscription fees and live tournament scheduling, it requires significant investment. Oh, and a force feedback wheel is quite literally required here – that’s not us saying the gamepad support is poor. The game just won’t let you race unless you have a wheel.
But for a certain class of sim racing fan, there is nothing that compares. The very best iRacing players often compete in real motorsport too, and make a career out of eSports sim racing. And having first released now over a decade ago in 2008, it’s consistently stayed astride with the latest simulators each year. Quite an achievement.
F1 2018 Best Racing Games
What Codemasters manage to achieve with their fully licensed F1 series is more than just a simulation of the car behavior and each track’s characteristics. It’s a chance to place yourself in the racing boots of a motorsport superstar and engage in rivalries, contract negotiations, car development plans, and race strategy. You might look at it as an RPG in which you happen to be a racing driver. And in which the throttle pedal replaces the +4 sword of tired RPG-isms.
As a result of these efforts to immerse you in an F1 driver’s life, every victory feels that bit more meaningful and every failure harder to swallow, because you’ve built a narrative around those events and invested in their outcome. None of that would work if the fundamental car behavior wasn’t so engaging, mind you. Although it’s more forgiving than iRacing or rFactor 2, for example, it sells the twitchiness and fearsome downforce levels of a modern Formula One car brilliantly.
Assetto Corsa Competizione
To be brutally honest, the sim racing world probably wasn’t on the edge of its seat for an officially licensed game of the Blancpain World Endurance series. As motorsport licenses go it’s a bit on the niche side, but as it turns out it was just what the Assetto Corsa franchise needed.
Kunos Simulazioni’s 2014 game had a lot going for it, including a handling model to rival the very best and excellent wheel support, but there wasn’t much singleplayer structure. As for polish, forget about it. What this license gives its successor is an inviting championship structure with different vehicle categories and highly scalable endurance racing across treasured circuits like Paul Ricard, Spa Francorchamps and Circuit de Catalunya. The handling is better than ever through a good force feedback wheel, and it nails the day/night cycles – a must for an endurance racing sim, really.
Now nearly a decade old but still perfectly form, Trackmania 2 is split into three different games, Stadium, Valley, and Canyon. Each offers a different flavor of physics-defying cartoonish racing, and each demands a short burst of absolute perfection from you if you want to trouble the upper echelons of the leaderboards – which, obviously, you will.
You don’t need the complete collection to enjoy TrackMania’s gleefully uninhibit F-Zero meets Sonic the Hedgehog racing action. With endless levels thanks to the powerful level editor, and tracks more improbable than Escher architecture, TrackMania 2 is the most classically PC of the arcade racers.
Two wheels might be considered blasphemy in some corners of the racing community, but for all those willing to divide the usual wheelbase by half, Milestone’s licensed MotoGP sim offers quite a rush.
Motorcycle racing is inherently exciting – the lean angles, suicidal overtakes and acceleration rates just make for a great spectator sport. And Italian superbike specialists Milestone really nail that feeling of terror and bravery of being on a factory MotoGP bike. The Codemasters F1 games are obviously a big inspiration, to put it politely, but the upshot for anyone playing it is a layer of career simulation on top of the racing. Work your way up through slower categories, build a reputation, and hold out for that big team ride.
Hopefully, you will love playing these games on PC. Let us know which game you enjoyed the most.