10 of the best games for just drivin’ around
All the fun of driving high-performance vehicles but without the pain of insurance policies
From petrol heads to speed freaks, there’s nothing quite like racing around a track at break-neck speeds, overtaking your enemies and clinching victory in the dying seconds of the final lap.
Or you could just run tonnes of (virtual) pedestrians over, if you’re more into that sort of thing, before switching over to launching turtle shells at your mates.
All of these options and more were possible, thanks to the collection of excellent driving games below.
Stunt Car Racer (1989, Amiga/Atari ST/PC)
The lack of processor power in the late 80s was used to Stunt Car Racer’s advantage, which opted to avoid trackside scenery and realism in favour of having us race along a raised abstract 3D track. You were a child “driving” a toy car down a banister, skilfully guiding it along precarious edges with invisible hands.
GTA: San Andreas (2004, PS2)
Few games have offered so much as the GTA series, with one of life’s greatest joys being to just load it up and muck about with the cars. GTA’s handling model is ridiculously simple and slidy, so even the crappiest family saloon has you powersliding and pulling mad doughnuts like a sedentary Jeremy Clarkson.
Forza Horizon (2012, Xbox 360)
Took Microsoft’s top racing franchise and binned the usual race track grinding in favour of a new open road aesthetic, letting drivers actually just drive about for the love of it for once instead of endlessly lapping the same tired old F1 tracks.
F-Zero (1992, SNES)
As well as the comic bananas of Mario Kart, Nintendo’s been home to one of the best sci-fi racers for the last 20 years. F-Zero has been missing in action of late, but that’s OK as the original and a SNES are true ‘desert island’ must-haves.
Gran Turismo (PlayStation, 1998)
Some may debate the amount of actual “joy” contained with the Gran Turismo series, but it took some of the more serious aspects of driving simulations to new levels. A dictionary-like car listing complete with some very dull family saloons was its big USP. What other game let you race your mum’s Honda?
Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992)
The complete opposite of the workmanlike Gran Turismo, everything about Super Mario Kart was joy-packed layers of joy heaped upon joy. Great racing, a style Nintendo’s still repackaging today, and a multiplayer mode you’d still get obsessed with now, should anyone agree to play such a relic.
Carmageddon 2 (PC, Mac, 1998)
This still contained much of the pedestrian-slaying nastiness of the original, but with the then-exciting inclusion of car deformation and a multiple choice route to completing missions, it was rather innovative in a way often used by so-called “open world” racers today.
Out Run (Arcade, 1986)
Another unbelievable milestone from Sega, Out Run was and still is a superb race game. It’s not serious, or long, or complex, it’s just you, a Hi/Lo child’s gear stick, stupidly colourful scenery and unquestionably the best music ever contained within a video game.