Despite what you may think, not all racing games are the same. Once you delve into the motorsport genre, you’ll quickly learn that they’re quite diverse, offering different kinds of experiences with each title. You’ve got your hardcore racing sims for those who like to tinker with virtual engines, your arcade-hybrids. which let you race real cars in extravagant environments, and then you’ve got your full-on arcade racers, which defy reality with their outlandish vehicles and driving. From there, the list goes on and on and on. That’s why I’m here to make it easy for you and recommend some of the best Xbox racing games out there.
This list is by no means exhaustive, rather it’s a collection of just the best driving and racing games for the Xbox family of consoles that I’ve personally played and enjoyed. I’ve played all of these games on the newest Xbox Series X, but all of them are also playable on the Xbox Series S and are backwards compatible with the previous Xbox One generation consoles. I’ve noted which ones are available for no extra cost with Microsoft’s excellent Game Pass subscription, but games do come and go from that service.
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Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow
A worthy follow-up to my previous pick for the best Xbox driving game, Forza Horizon 5 moves its automotive playground to the beautiful and diverse biomes of Mexico. Thanks to Horizon 5’s new dynamic weather system, players can now blast through sandstorms in the desert before traversing into dense wetlands or the top of an active volcano, sometimes all in the same mega race.
Like the previous Forza Horizon titles, Horizon 5 is a massive, open-world love letter not just to racing but to car culture and all things automotive. And players have more freedom than ever to explore only the race types, vehicle classes and elements of the game that they like. For example, I know plenty of Forza fans who aren’t great racers, but lose themselves for hours just in the photo mode or livery creator.
With over 500 cars to customize and modify, hundreds of miles of road and trail courses, and a large online community, if you pick up just one racing game for the Xbox, this should be it. Note that Forza Horizon 5 is available as part of the Xbox’s Game Pass subscription.
Players looking for a more serious racing sim should look to the more mature member of the Forza franchise. Where Horizon focuses on car culture and, at times, cartoonish street driving, Motorsport is all about real circuit racing on real tracks from around the world. Forza Motorsport 7 is an older title, launching in 2017, and a next-generation sequel is in the works for the new Xbox Series S and Series X consoles, but with an unbelievable 700 cars to drive, modify and customize, and 30 tracks, each with multiple configurations, the Xbox One’s premier racing franchise still manages to feel fresh.
Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow
Want to get a taste of the most realistic GT racing sim the Xbox platform has to offer? Look no further than Assetto Corsa Competizione. This hardcore racing sim is laser-focused on the world of the Blancpain GT World Challenge, putting you in the driver’s seat of real racing cars from the 2018 and 2019 series, complete with authentic liveries. Drop right into the championship, work your way up through the ranks in the career mode or head online to run wheel-to-wheel against players from around the world.
Assetto Corsa is a challenging sim and its steering model and racing physics are extremely realistic — so much that it can be frustrating to play with a controller’s thumbsticks. You’ll definitely want to get set up with a good force-feedback racing wheel (and maybe also a racing sim cockpit) for maximum enjoyment. Players looking for a Forza alternative that plays nicely with a controller should perhaps check out Grid Autosport.
The latest title in Codemasters’ F1 franchise builds on last season’s entry with new tracks, updated cars and a new My Team mode that lets you build and grow your own F1 franchise, rather than play one of the established teams. Got a friend who’s also an F1 nut? Play together in the new two-player career mode as teammates or fierce rivals.
The most interesting addition to F1 2021 is the new Braking Point mode. An evolution of the rivals feature that I loved so much in the 2019 title, Braking Point is a narrative story mode that follows your player as you navigate the victories, defeats and rivalries on track — as well as the drama off-track and in the pits — over multiple years of your F1/F2 career. If you’re a fan of the documentary series Drive to Survive or films like Rush, F1 2021’s Braking Point is definitely worth experiencing.
This thrilling arcade racer stars the miniature machines from the Hot Wheels series of diecast toys, which you can drift, boost and jump around wild courses made of familiar orange track. Hot Wheels Unleashed is easy to approach for racers of all ages and skill levels. Kids can enjoy unlocking wacky racers like the Tricera-Truck or the Buns of Steel burger car. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of fun, challenge and nostalgia for adults. Plus, there’s a highly flexible course editor that lets players build and share crazy courses and challenges.
With the Dirt series pushing deeper into the arcade end of the racing sim spectrum, I was glad when WRC 10 debuted earlier this year to scratch my itch for rallying realism.
WRC 10 improves over its predecessor with more cars, locations and ways to play, including a new 50th anniversary mode that celebrates and recreates great moments from World Rally Championship history dating back to its inception in 1973. The sim now features 19 locations and environments — breaking out to over 120 rally stages to master — and 22 legendary and historical cars from Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Subaru, Toyota and more.
The physics engine has also been updated, with improvements to aerodynamic and suspension simulation, which makes vehicles feel more accurate to their real-life counterparts. Newcomers to digital rallying can activate a revised selection of assist features to help ease into the franchise. Graphic and sound quality have also been improved to take advantage of the processing horsepower offered by the Xbox Series S and X consoles.
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at a glacial pace: SnowRunner, the latest in the Spintires series, is sort of the anti-racing game. Players take control of an assortment of unlockable 4×4 SUVs, heavy equipment and big rig trucks to crawl, haul and tow their way through the dirt trails, deep mud and icy snow of the game’s brutally rural maps. Precise wheel placement, a slow and steady pace and, occasionally, liberal usage of a winch matter more than speed. This isn’t a game for everyone; spending up to a real-time hour hauling lumber up a mountain can be absolutely maddening if you fail, but it’s unbelievably satisfying to get the job done. It’s available now on Game Pass.
Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow
Normally, opponents crashing into me during a race is the bane of my existence. In Wreckfest, on the other hand, putting your opponent into a wall or spinning them out of a corner is par for the course. Encouraged even. This demolition derby title pits drivers piloting all sorts of beaters — from muscle cars to panel vans to ride-on lawn mowers (yes, freaking lawn mowers) — against one another on a variety of dirt and tarmac tracks. Players can choose to be a bruiser or, with surprisingly good driving physics, rely on skill and nimbleness to be the last man standing. It’s available now on Game Pass.
Players who prefer their crashes a bit more high-speed and stylized should consider Burnout Paradise Remastered, an older arcade racer game that got a new coat of paint for the Xbox One. Here, winning means “taking down” the competition with gratuitous collisions and crashes. It’s also available on Game Pass.
Comparison of the best Xbox racing games for 2021
Best Xbox racing game overall
Forza Horizon 5
Best Xbox circuit racing game
Forza Motorsport 7
Best Xbox racing simulator
Assetto Corsa Competizione
Best Xbox Formula One racing game
Best Xbox arcade racing game
Hot Wheels Unleashed
Best Xbox rally racing game
Best Xbox off-road simulator
Best Xbox demolition derby game
There’s a driving game for everyone
Whether you’re looking to sharpen your skills or just relax and enjoy the ride, there’s a little something for every kind of racing fan and automotive enthusiast to enjoy. As I mentioned, this is by no means an exhaustive list and, with the next generation of consoles now pretty well established, I expect to rediscover enhanced versions of my favorites as well as a few new additions to this list. Have fun and drive safely… or drive recklessly; they’re just games after all.