The racing genre isn’t one that consistently serves up excellent offerings every single year, but it had more than a few great offerings over the last twelve months. Here, we’re going to recognize some of the best games in the group from 2021 as we list off our nominees for the best racing game of the year, before picking one of them as the best of the lot.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
ECC Games’ Drift21 probably flew under a lot of people’s radars, so there’s a good chance that you don’t know what it is, but this is a game that racing fans shouldn’t be sleeping on. Though not the most big-budget or feature-rich racing game you’ll ever play, Drift21 lives and dies by the strengths of its physics. The game’s absolute focus on drifting mechanics and authentic simulation serve it well, and tuning and modifying your cars to master those mechanics is a very satisfying experience.
F1 is one of very few yearly sports franchises that consistently improves upon its previous iterations, and F1 2021 certainly did not buck the trend. By its very nature, this isn’t exactly an accessible game with wide appeal, but fans of the motorsport just cannot get enough. Crammed full of details and customization options, boasting authenticity unlike anything else out there, and defined by best-in-class driving mechanics, F1 2021 is the crème de la crème when it comes to racing sims, and excellent additions – such as the new story mode – only serve to improve the experience.
HOT WHEELS UNLEASHED
Who’d have thought that a racing games based on the Hot Wheels license would turn out this good? Not us, that’s for sure. Milestone’s arcade racer, however, is probably one of the most addictive and enjoyable games we’ve played all year. Fun racing, an excellent sense of speed, and excellent use of the Hot Wheels license make this a racing game that pretty much everyone can enjoy, while detailed vehicle customization and a surprisingly robust track editor make sure that players will keep coming back for more.
Rather than focusing on a particular kind of racing, Riders Republic instead positions itself as a love letter to fans of any and all extreme sports, and while a game like that would ordinarily be in danger of diluting the quality of the experience, Riders Republic smartly avoids that pitfall. From mountain biking to paragliding, from jetpacking to snowboarding, this is a game that, in plain and simple terms, is an absolute blast to play pretty much non-stop. It’s a little rough around the edges, and surely there’s room for improvement in some aspects, but by and large, Riders Republic turned out far better than many had expected it would.
FORZA HORIZON 5
At this point, it shouldn’t be surprising that a new Forza Horizon game is this good- this is a series that has consistently improved with each new instalment and delivered some of the best games in the entire genre. But though Forza Horizon 5’s continued climb hasn’t surprised anyone, that should not and does not take away from just how excellent this game is. Playground Games has a knack for blending part-sim-part-arcade racing mechanics in excellently designed open world games, and Forza Horizon 5 is easily the absolute peak of that formula.
Racing connoisseurs Milestone have been pumping out MotoGP games for some time now, and for fans of the series, MotoGP 21 delivers exactly what it needed to- a solid, iterative sequel that makes improvements upon last year’s game with smart tweaks and changes. Is that enough to set the games industry on fire? Clearly not, especially given the inherently niche nature of the game. Would Milestone have been better served focusing more on delivering a more polished and better-looking experience? Without a doubt. But if you’re a fan of the genre, and a fan of the sport, you’re going to get many, many hours of enjoyment out of MotoGP 21.
MONSTER JAM: STEEL TITANS 2
A good monster truck racing game is incredibly hard to say not to- that’s been an unspoken rule for as long as monster truck games have been around. And sure, this isn’t a crowded space, or one that sees a lot of activity, but this year, we did get some solid efforts. Monster Jam: Steel Titans 2 is an absolute blast to play when it’s firing on all cylinders, its arcadeyness, enjoyable events, and vast explorable spaces coming together in a game that allows you to make your own fun. And sure, it isn’t always firing on all cylinders- but it’s hard to be too bothered about the issues (of which there admittedly are a few) when you’re having this much fun.
MONSTER ENERGY SUPERCROSS – THE OFFICIAL VIDEOGAME 4
Yep, another Milestone game- those guys sure do love their racers. Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 4 might not be the biggest or most high-profile game in this list, but honestly, it’s probably one of the most notable improvements over its predecessors. There’s a good balance of skill and physics-based racing here, bolstered by enjoyable customization and tuning mechanics, while surprisingly decent onboarding also manages to ease new players in without compromising any of the authenticity that the hardcore fans will want. From a production values standpoint and where performance is concerned, Supercross 4 does stumble every now and then, but by and large, this is a good game for genre fans to sink their teeth into.
ART OF RALLY
art of rally first launched for PC in 2020, and though it was received extremely well by all those who played it, not a lot of people played it- or even paid it much attention. This year, with the game also releasing for consoles, art of rally has finally received the attention it deserves- and with that comes justified praise and recognition. art of rally’s genius lies in its simplicity- how it uses its singular focus on accessible drifting mechanics to create an immensely enjoyable experience with a surprisingly high skill ceiling, or how it uses its minimalistic aesthetic to create some truly gorgeous visuals. It’s a game that deserves to be played by casual and hardcore racing fans alike.
KT Racing’s WRC series didn’t get off to the best start, but with each new instalment, the series hit new heights. WRC 10 is probably the best the series has been in a long, long time, which is saying something, because the last couple of years have been very good for the series. Tight and precise driving mechanics, meaningful audio-visual improvements, tons of customization options, and excellent track design make for an incredible rally racing sim, while additions such as the new Anniversary mode are sure to please anyone who considers themselves a fan of the motorsport.
FORZA HORIZON 5
Even in a group as full of excellent games as this one, Forza Horizon 5 was, ultimately, the obvious pick- which should really tell you all you need to know about how good this game is. Regardless of your affinity for the genre, regardless of your skill in racing games, this is a game that is guaranteed to be a good time for anyone who jumps in. There’s no shortage of factors that contribute to that success, from the vast and gorgeous open world to the endlessly enjoyable driving mechanics, from the massive pool of cars and customization options to all the varied activities scattered throughout the open world, from the diverse selection of both solo and multiplayer content to the fact that the game looks absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. At the end of the day, one universal truth emerges- Forza Horizon 5 is one of the greatest racing games ever made.