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Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

After talking about the top party racing games, we've set our sights on the top arcade racing titles as part of our Racing Dreams series.

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Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

10. Race Driver: Grid

The year was 2008 and Codemasters released a game that, along with Colin McRae: Dirt 2 (2009), stands as the studio's best arcade racing game and a title that still entertains. I'm talking, of course, about Race Driver: Grid, which succeeded in pretty much everything Codemasters set out to attempt. It was brilliant in terms of presentation, game mechanics, sound and graphics and it contained a tone and attitude that fit perfectly with the gameplay, which was a phenomenal mix between racing and drifting. Grid (2019) was a bit of an affront to the brand and the upcoming Grid Legends looks questionable, but Race Driver: Grid remains one of the absolute best arcade racing games of all time.

Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

9. Motorstorm

It came out of nowhere and hit like a nuclear bomb in a crowded genre packed with tough opposition. Evolution Studio's acclaimed, goofy-looking launch title for PlayStation 3 offered equal parts stunning visuals and breathtakingly fast, high-flying, nerve-jangling arcade racing in the best possible way.

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Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

8. Forza Horizon

Although I like all five games in Playground's arcadey detour known as Horizon, and although the games in this series have become bigger, prettier and more richly varied over the years, it's the game that started it all that's closest to my heart. I still love the racing in chilly Colorado the most of any setting in this racing franchise and I think it all makes sense, in Forza Horizon. The roads are well suited to the physics of the car and the (appropriately) exaggerated sense of speed and graphics were, and still are, exquisite.

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Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

7. OutRun

Sega's immortal super-classic arcade success must, of course, be included on a list of this type, even if by today's standards it is both primitive and hysterically monotonous. But back in 1986, it was as style-setting as it was hypnotic. Virtua Fighter/Shenmue producer Yu Suzuki developed most of OutRun on his own, travelling by car across Europe to gather inspiration for the various environments. The feeling of being "free", out on the open road and that the racing mattered, along with the gorgeous design and masterful music, was reason enough for OutRun to be one of the genre's absolute highlights.

Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

6. Need For Speed: Underground

The fact that EA still hasn't developed and released Underground 3, considering how many millions of fans wanted that game, seems almost like self-sabotage to me. Instead, they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on titles like Heat and Payback, both of which disappeared into the genre just over a month after their release. For myself, there is no game in the Need for Speed saga that lives up to the concentrated brilliance that Underground offered. There, EA did a very, very good job of framing the ongoing styling/tuning trend in the automotive world and they built a game world that contained atmosphere and character.

Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

5. F-Zero GX

The collaboration between Nintendo and former arch-rival Sega began with the development of GX, which stands as one of the best arcade titles of all time thanks to its brilliant graphics, bizarrely fast pace and brilliant game mechanics. F-Zero GX certainly didn't sell like Mario Kart does, but Nintendo cranked out just over a million titles, which should have meant an immediate sequel, but it didn't. Sadly.

Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

4. Burnout 3: Takedown

Criterion's action-packed, explosive racing sequel reached its absolute peak with the third instalment, and despite old graphics, it's easy to see today exactly why. The game controls are brilliant, the racing high-flying, nerve-wracking, thrilling and the collisions unbelievably cool. For its time, it was also brutally stylish and just the right amount of challenging.

Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

3. Wipeout 2097

Psygnosis' iconic sequel was the first game, in any category, that just felt really cool. It attracted people who had never before cared the least about video games because Psygnosis managed to boil down everything from club music to racy futurism, fashion and graffiti into a product that entertained for years, without reservation. 2097 was ultra stylish for its time, incredibly fast, challenging and perfectly designed from the inside out.

Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

2. Sega Rally Championship

Kenji Sasaki was the driving force, the key person, in the development of Namco's super-successful Ridge Racer and left his own team to develop Sega Rally at Sega. The very idea that the same person produced both of these games within a four-year period is bizarre. Sega Rally Championship was, in many ways, the perfect arcade racing game. It was gorgeous. Just the right amount of challenging, addictive, contained incredible driving thrills and fantastic music. The reward of learning to drive all four tracks perfectly, being glued to the enormous arcade machine at the local VHS store, after cramming in pennies after penny a day for six months, was and remains an unbeatable experience.

Racing Dreams: The world's best arcade racing games

1. Ridge Racer

Kenji Sasaki's masterpiece feels a bit bizarre today, not least considering that it actually only featured three cars and a single (!) track. One track, which was also not very long. But it was enough, and it's still enough when you return to Ridge Racer and take part in gameplay mechanics that feel absolutely perfect. I'll never forget all the hundreds of hours behind the wheel of the bright red Namco car and how I learned to spin 360° in the "wrong" direction, the opposite direction of the curve, to pick up a well-deserved super boost after completing the mega-drive. Ridge Racer was and is the best arcade racer of all time. The game that defined what "arcade racing" is.



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