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Guided Tour: Racing Games

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With over 72 million monthly visitors across over 320,000 wikis (and counting!), Wikia is a hotbed of passionate expertise on an incredibly diverse range of topics. With such a plethora of information to sift through, breaking into a new franchise or genre can seem a tad overwhelming. To help break the ice, we're going to be asking experts from various communities to tell us what it is about their area of expertise they find so captivating -- and the steps they recommend beginners take to set themselves on the path to geekery!

We're calling the series "Guided Tour," and our topic this time is the Racing game genre.

What is a Racing Game?


Racing games are one of the oldest genres in gaming, arguably debuting in 1973 when Atari released Space Race in arcades. Since then, racing games have become a staple genre, and are frequently used to showcase exceptional graphics, there’s a reason Forza 5 launched with the Xbox One. A lot of games can be classified as racing games, but the genre generally boils down to one simple rule, you win by crossing the finish line in first place or as fast as possible.

Racing games are generally broken up into two camps, arcade and simulation. Arcade racing games are generally designed with player fun in mind, think Mario Kart or Need for Speed, while simulation games are made to reflect a more realistic driving experience, think Gran Turismo or Forza. There are oddball hybrid games like Trials Fusion and car combat games like Twisted Metal, that fall somewhere in-between

As always, we’ve turned to the admins of some of our biggest racing Wikias to see what got them into Racing games, which ones are their favorites, and why they’re still playing them after all these years.

Expert Opinion

Gp75 Avatar


“The racing game genre is one of the few where it can be honestly said that there's something in it for everyone.”

For me, getting into the racing game scene was a simple matter of logic. I became a NASCAR fan at all of two years old, and from there my passion for cars flourished. I'd always been absolutely fascinated with the automobile – its concept, its million different looks, each signifying someone's take on the question of “what is the ultimate in human transportation?” By age 4, I could typically identify every car in a parking lot, and those I couldn't enticed me even further. And by that age I had an interest in gaming, too, so when I got my first console – a PlayStation 1 – in '95, it naturally followed that I'd want a racing game to play on it. So when Gran Turismo, made by a fledgling company called Polyphony Digital, came out in '97, I was more than excited. Here was a game that, more than any other game on the market at the time, embodied not only the thrill and drama of motorsport by simulating to a T the feel of driving some of the world's best cars, but car culture as a whole. While I've played many, many racing games since, the only games to ever best the feel and excitement of Gran Turismo have been its sequels.


Daytona USA

The thing about racing games that I find the most amazing is that the genre has two faces, and both are takes on what their creators consider to be the best thing about racing. For racing simulators like GT, Forza Motorsport, rFactor, etc., it's the intense concentration required to drive the car as fast as it can go (and sometimes only as fast as you dare), while monitoring the feel of the steering and the car's movement to keep all those ponies tethered. They explore the depths of realism as much as the technology allows. The thrill and adrenaline of taking a high­-powered, beastly machine along a ridiculously technical course at maximum speed while the rear end is bumping and sliding around at every possible opportunity is unreal. And doing all this while trying to maneuver around the other cars on the track can, at times, be pure nightmare fuel.

On the other hand, you've got arcade racers, which minimize the amount of realism in order to focus more on the racing aspect; some good ones in the genre include games such as Daytona USA 2, TrackMania, and Need for Speed. While I generally prefer simulators, I do play arcade racers quite a lot. It's hard not to like a game that allows you to take a massively powerful Pagani Zonda and slide it around a hairpin at 100­-odd MPH, then nitro out of it into oncoming traffic, when, in a simulation game, the dang thing would try to kill you if you even thought about touching the gas pedal. The races are usually at least as absurd as the typical FPS mission as well, with insane jumps and ludicrous shortcuts that often have you doing such things as jumping over the competition. And that's not even counting kart racers, with their hilarious weapons - almost nothing beats dropping a banana or an oil slick with the rest of the field behind you and looking back onto the carnage that ensues.

That's what I like about racing games most – that duplicity. Racing simulators force you to concentrate, using physics to narrow the uncanny valley and get the blood pumping. They also share a deep love and respect of car culture, which allows them to also function as interactive automotive encyclopedias. Arcade racers are there to put a smile on your face, and sometimes to make you laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all. Either way, the racing game genre is one of the few where it can be honestly said that there's something in it for everyone.

Gp75motorsports recommends

Expert Opinion

Lemansracer avatar


“Racing games are all about the experience of driving; the fun of the car, the tension of the race, and the aggression of un-distilled road rage.”

Racing games have been around for years, they're one of the oldest genres in the games industry and still a major part of it. Racing games are all about the experience of driving; the fun of a car, the thrill of a pursuit, the tension of a race and the aggression of un-distilled road rage. The racing genre has grown into a series of differing sub-genres from simulation to arcade and MMO to destruction. They each offer different spills for all the same thrills.

The arcade genre is a popular staple within the racing genre. Many remember it for what it once was - a racing seat, a steering wheel, a four-speed gearbox and a Sega Rally Championship cabinet. Nowadays, that simple design of easily controllable cars lives on in games like the Need for Speed series. It's about driving as fast as you can in your favourite super car and out-running anyone that comes close; your car is the right car for the job and not even the police can slow you down.

Sega Rally flyer

Sega Rally Championship

Simulation racing games play a very specific role as they're all about the cars, and how well you can drive them. The bar for entry may be getting lower as developers continue to blend arcade and simulation ideas, but the quest to be great is always a mountain climb. Effective braking, accurate throttle response, keeping the racing line, managing the tyres, taking small sips of fuel, and ninja concentration are what makes a successful simulation racing driver. The Forza Motorsport series is based around your career as a driver, and recreates the dream of going from a weekend warrior with a hatch back to a professional racer tearing around the Nurburgring in a Bentley Speed 8 Le Mans racecar.

Playing with friends is also a cornerstone of the racing game experience; it's a blast just trying to get that slight edge over your friends while navigating the chaos of being surrounded by a pack of eager drivers. It gets even better when that rivalry becomes a means of co-operation... until someone gets stabbed in the back. Burnout Paradise is an example of a fantastic multiplayer experience; friends team up to take down Paradise City with each session drastically changing at a moment’s notice. You meet up to beat a group co-op task, tussle for victory in a race, play hide and seek in the huge, free roam playground, choose sides for a cops and robbers themed capture the flag and do it all over again.

Carmageddon Reincarnation is a soon to be released racing game that puts players in the gore-filled but tongue-in-cheek world of death racing. Who's death? Everyone’s! Racers fight against each other through checkpointed roads of differing landscapes with the intent of winning. Running down pedestrians means points, points mean more time, more time means more chaos, more chaos means more powerups, more powerups means more exploration, and more exploration means more pedestrians. The red tinted, demonic version of Wacky Racers that is Carmageddon isn't for the young, it's for the old... that are young at heart.

The simplistic driving design of arcade racing also makes it easier for anyone to multitask whilst they drive. Bizarre Creations' final racing game - Blur - is a kart racer born for the chaotic wild west of multiplayer racing. The visual style and superb sound design teamed together to invoke a very intense battleground where your car isn't just your ride, but your weapon of choice. Hatch backs face-off against muscle cars and super cars tangle with 4x4's, all resulting in a chaotic Carmageddon-like Death Race, but for the whole family.

LeMansRacer recommends

Expert Opinion



“Racing games may look alike to the inexperienced eye, but dig in a bit and you’ll quickly feel the differences.”

Like Gp75Motorsports, my gateway game into the racing genre was Gran Turismo on the original PlayStation. I was around 12 when the automobile bug bit me, as my grandpa had just bought me some car magazine subscriptions for my birthday. I’d tear through those issues of Automobile and Road & Track in no time flat, and when I heard that Gran Turismo would combine my love of cars with my existing love of video games, I was beyond excited. Since then, I’ve made an effort to play most racing games that come out, regardless of whether they’re simulation or arcade. I really enjoy both, even though they both provide wildly different experiences.

Simulation games like Gran Turismo/Forza/iRacing etc are all about repetition, memory and consistency, which may sound boring, but once you get in the zone, there’s almost a hypnotic feel as you hit every shift and turn just right. Arcade racers like Need for Speed and Burnout on the other hand, rely on the adrenaline rush you get from white knuckle, high speed maneuvering. And the inevitable macabre glory of watching a huge crash in slow-mo of course. People sometimes assume that racing games are only for car obsessives, but even if simulations aren’t for you, there are plenty of fun alternative racing games out there. Games like Mario Kart and Blur take the focus off precise driving and realistic handling and shift it over to the fun of trading paint (and shells) with your friends. Even more unusual is the Trials series, a game that asks the player to get the fastest time through an obstacle course on their motorcycle, but rewards low speed maneuvering just as much as it does high speed.

Racing games may look alike to the inexperienced eye, but dig in a bit and you’ll quickly feel the differences. No matter who you are, crossing the finish line in first place is always a great feeling, so get out there and find your favorite racing game!

Pseudobread recommends

Wikia resources

Want to learn more about Racing games? All of our experts provided a number of links to help you dip your toes into their exciting, ever-changing world. They also recommend you reach out to them via their message wall, wiki chat, or talk page if you have any questions. Here's the syllabus:

Got any questions about Racing Games or a favorite Racing Game to recommend? Leave a comment below!

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