Video games have been delivering thrills and escapist fare to folks young at heart since Space Invaders and Asteroids started rocking people’s faces in the late 1970s.

Then the Atari 2600 was born in 1980, bringing the arcade to our living rooms.

Five years later, Japan introduced the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States, which was among the most-important things to happen to this country since July 4, 1776.

One of the best things to come out of the video game boom of the 1980s was the advent of driving and auto-racing video games.

This particular writer learned how to drive behind the wheel of a Pole Position arcade machine.

We’ve decided to put together a list of our 10 favorite racing games.

In many instances, there are several variations of the same game, because over time developers tweaked and refined already wonderful games and made them better. So, some of these we’ve grouped together as an entire series.

Because it was easier. You know, like it was easier beating Contra with 30 guys.

Our 10 Favorite Racing Games

Mario Kart (series)

mario kart

Don’t you even think about doing the thing where you scoff at the kid-friendly, cartoony nature of the Mario Kart franchise, as if it somehow invalidates the awesomeness. There are 10 versions in existence and one on the way for Nintendo’s Wii U next year. If you talk smack about Mario Kart, we’re going to fire a red Koopa shell right into your hind end.

Gran Turismo (series)

gran turismo 6

Arguably the most-realistic driving simulator in video game history. These games have been wildly popular and there appears to be no end in sight with Gran Turismo 7 slated for the upcoming PlayStation 4. All told, the Gran Turismo series has been the highest-selling during the PlayStation era. The graphics are amazing and the vehicles are ridiculously accurate. Short of buying and building performance cars in the real world, this is about as close as it gets in the digital world.

Need for Speed (series)


Globally, the Need for Speed racing video game series has been the most commercially successful of all time. There are 20 Need for Speed titles with more on the way, and an upcoming film adaptation that should only fuel interest and sales further. There are cars and racing options to appeal to every type of motorsports fan. It’s a wonder we’re not all playing one right now. We make bad choices, you and me.

Pole Position

Pole Position

The game that taught 80s-era kids how to drive. And fast. Because if you didn’t go fast enough, you had to hit up your parents for more quarters, and they didn’t always say “yes.” Pole Position could easily be the most-influential racing game, ever. It was the first arcade machine to bring a steering wheel and shifter to the equation.

Project Gotham Racing (series)


One of the best racing games for Microsoft’s Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles. This game rewards you for rad driving stunts and well-executed racing maneuvers, and punishes you for amateur moves, like running into guard rails. We don’t know whether there will be a Project Gotham Racing 5 for the Xbox One set to release soon for the upcoming holiday season.

F-Zero (series)


Yeah, yeah. So, they’re more like spaceships than race cars. We’re sorry. But not sorry. Because the F-Zero games have always been among the fastest racing games. And, you know, fast goes a long way with us.

Road Rash


There were a handful of Road Rash titles for a bunch of systems. But the one that really matters is the one not very many people played on the Panasonic 3DO video game console.

A bunch of motorcycles. A bunch of racing. A bunch of awesome music, including Soundgarden. Just flying down the road on two wheels… “I’m gonna break my rusty cage… and runnn.”

Forza Motorsport (series)

forza motorsport

Forza Motorsport is Xbox’s answer to PlayStation’s Gran Turismo series. Lots of cars. Lots of realism. Lots of terrain. Lots of races. Lots of awesome.

Daytona USA


The arcade version of Daytona USA did a magnificent job of eating your money. And you didn’t mind paying $1 per game because it was just that fun. Back in 1994, the arcade game was released. You’d find them in shopping malls and arcades linked eight-wide. Sometimes you’d have eight live racers. It was epic. Daytona USA took Pole Position to the next level.

R.C. Pro-Am

rc pro am

Oh, they’re just radio-controlled cars, you say? No fun? That just means you haven’t played it, hate fun, and don’t value credibility. R.C. Pro-Am was released in 1988 for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and may be the best single-player racing game of all time.


What say you guys? We miss anything? What are your favorite racing games?



Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.