The Most Realistic Racing Games of All Times

Team Rosberg car in Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed.

The Most Realistic Racing Games of All Times

The racing genre has come a long way since the retro arcade cabinets of the 80s and 90s. The pixelated graphics of the original racing games have evolved into a high-definition, expansive genre. There are fantastical racers like Mario Kart, street racers like Need for Speed, and futuristic racers like F-Zero.

Although these racers are fun with their wacky physics and ultra-high speeds, they’re not exactly realistic. Luckily, there is an entire genre of racing simulators that focus on creating a realistic experience. The developers of these games do their best to replicate the feel and handling of real automobiles. Players will often control real licensed cars to make the experience as life-like as possible.

Not every racing simulator is built equally. Some try to mimic that authentic feeling but just miss the mark. We’ve compiled a list of the most realistic racing games out there that will give you the heart-pounding adrenaline rush you’re looking for. Let’s shift into top gear and dive right into the list.

Forza Motorsport (2023)

©Screenshot from game

The Forza franchise is easily one of the most recognizable racing series in the world. Forza is Xbox’s top-of-the-line racer known for its realistic graphics, authentic weather conditions, and real-time wear and tear on the cards. If you’re looking for a popular racing sim that you can easily play on a console, Forza is the game for you.

Forza’s newest game in the series, Forza Motorsport maintains the franchise’s reputation. Forza Motorsport has over 500 vehicles, 100 of which are new to the series. There are 800 car upgrades and 20 new tracks that players can earn through races. As a testament to its quality, Forza Motorsport won Best Sports / Racing Game for The Game Awards 2023.

F1 23

A Steam promotional image for F1 22.

©Electronic Arts – Original

The F1 series is another well-known and popular racing series. While Forza deals in a variety of races and car types, the F1 series exclusively has Formula 1 and Formula 2 races. F1 features a dynamic story mode with rivals and meaningful connections. Players can also tweak and alter their cars to reach the highest speeds possible.

F1 23 is the newest entry in the F1 series and is the most realistic racer in the series. F1 23 was one of the nominees for Best Sports / Racing Game of 2023. While trying to earn a spot on the podium players will have to maintain their racecars so that they perform at their best.

Gran Turismo 7


Gran Turismo is one of the longest-running racing simulator franchises. Since 1997, Gran Turismo has dominated the racing genre with high-quality reproductions of real-world automobiles. Gran Turismo prides itself on accurate driving physics and emulating the realistic sound and feel of a racecar’s engine.

The franchise’s newest game, Gran Turismo 7, takes all of this and cranks it to eleven. Gran Turismo 7 takes full advantage of the PlayStation 5’s power and even has virtual reality support to put players right into the game. There is also a thriving multiplayer mode that allows players to unlock new cars and tracks.


iRacing Screenshot

©iRacing Screenshot – Original

iRacing is a subscription-based online racer that attempts to mimic real-world cars, tracks, racing events, and rules of conduct as closely as possible. Because iRacing is an entirely online game, it’s able to constantly improve itself without having to release a new game.

To make the experience as realistic as possible, iRacing has scanned real tracks and cars from Porsche and NASCAR. Players are confined to a first-person-only view, and there is a day-night cycle that can affect visibility. A player’s skill during races will also affect their driver and safety rating. Playing dirty can result in players being penalized or disqualified. The only thing that iRacing doesn’t have is realistic damage physics or dynamic weather patterns.

Ride 5

Ride 5 Screenshot

©Ride 5 Screenshot – Original

There are plenty of racing simulators that focus on racecars, but this one is all about motorcycles. Ride 5 simulates real-life motorcycle handling better than any other game. Thanks to AI adjustments and in-game tools it’s incredibly easy for newcomers to learn the game.

Players will have access to a massive collection of high-end bikes. Ride 5 offers the absolute best in motorcycle racing. With impressive physics and competitive AI rivals, players will have an extremely impressive experience with Ride 5.

Project CARS 3

©Project CARS

Project CARS is another racer that supports virtual reality. With VR, players can get as close to the action as possible. Project CARS focuses on customizable cars so that each vehicle feels personalized to the player. This game also features dynamic weather, changeable seasons, and a day-night cycle.

Project CARS 3 is the latest mainline entry in the Project CARS series. For players who are inexperienced with racing simulators, Project CARS 3 is the perfect game. There are a vast number of accessibility options that will make the experience much easier. Project CARS 3 is a great bridging point between simplistic arcade racers and hardcore simulators.

Dirt Rally 2.0

Dirt Rally 2.0 is another racing simulator that strays away from the clean-cut races of NASCAR and Formula 1. In Dirt Rally 2.0, players get to drive rally cars through diverse off-road terrain. This is the perfect game for players looking to get a little muddy in their racing games.

The weather system in Dirt Rally 2.0 really brings the game to life rain slick forests and scorching dirt trails. Because players aren’t driving on level pavement, they will have to navigate through ever-changing terrain. Dirt Rally 2.0 will put your ability to adapt to the ultimate test.

Automobilista 2

Automobilista 2 Screenshot

©Automobilista 2 Screenshot – Original

What began as an exclusively Brazilian racing game has expanded into an international racing phenomenon. Automobilista 2 emphasizes on Grand Prix racing cars from multiple different ears and continents. This game uses the same gaming engine as Project Cars 3, which gives it state-of-the-art visuals and in-depth weather conditions.

Automobilista 2 appeals mostly to an international audience, which makes it a must-have game for fans of foreign cars. Automobilista 2 manages to be a game that prioritizes both immersion and diversity in its content.

Need for Speed Unbound

Car represented by the new visual style of Need for Speed: Unbound.
The game brought about a totally new visual style.

©A screenshot for Need for Speed: Unbound. – Original

Sometimes, all the rules and regulations in professional racing games are just too much. Sometimes, players just want to break bad and play a little dirty. Need for Speed Unbound is the game you need for the ultimate street race.

This game is a bombastic combination of Grand Theft Auto and a realistic racing sim. Need for Speed Unbound features an open-world map where street races can kick off at any moment. Players will compete against rivals and build notoriety on their journey to win the ultimate street racing challenge, The Grand.

rFactor 2

rFactor 2 screenshot

©rFactor 2 screenshot – Original

We’ve finally reached the end of our list. Although every other entry hasn’t been placed in any particular order, we’ve saved the best for last. There is a racing simulator so authentic to the real thing that professional racing teams from NASCAR and Formula 1 use it for practice. rFactor 2 is that mythical game.

Although rFactor 2 was first released in 2013, it is still the cutting edge of racing simulators. This program can mimic incredibly niche details like tires getting gradually worn down. With enough training in rFactor 2, players could eventually drive an actual racecar like a professional.

rFactor 2 was actually created specifically for training professional drivers. The design of rFactor 2 allows it to simulate any type of multi-wheeled vehicle with accurate physics. There is a high skill curve that players will have to overcome before they get used to the game, but there is no racing sim more realistic than rFactor 2.

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