Racing to excellence.
The racing genre quietly delivers some of the most enjoyable games every year, and that’s exactly what happened in 2019 as well. But what really took us by surprise was how diverse the offerings were in this category as well- from arcade racers to realistic sims to experimental games, there was a little something for everyone to enjoy. Here, we’ll be talking about our favourite racers throughout the years, before crowning one game from our 10 nominees as the best racing game of 2019.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
NEED FOR SPEED HEAT
With the exception of Need for Speed Rivals, the Ghost Games era of Need for Speed has been woefully disappointing, and at times downright atrocious. But this year’s Need for Speed Heat is by far one of the series’ best outings in recent years. Fast and enjoyable driving, tons of cop chases, and extensive customization mechanics – not to mention the lack of aggressive monetization – are things that we expect to see in any NFS title, and Heat has all of that in spades.
CRASH TEAM RACING NITRO-FUELED
The kart racing space has been dominated entirely by Mario Kart over the years, but if there’s one game that has made the series sweat with proper, fierce competition, its the PS1’s Crash Team Racing. This year’s remake, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, not only showed us why the game is held up with such high regard, but also actually managed to improve upon it. Combining high speed with smart usage of items and the perfect drifting mechanics, Nitro-Fueled makes every second of racing around its beautiful, inventive tracks an absolute blast. We sincerely hope Crash and co. will be back behind the wheel in the imminent future.
TEAM SONIC RACING
Sonic’s racing antics have been surprisingly good over the years, and even though this year’s Team Sonic Racing offered up something pretty unique, it did not compromise on quality. Its team-based approach to racing, combined with excellently used Hero mechanics, makes for an experience unlike any other in the kart racing genre, while excellent track design and addictive and enjoyable game modes make sure that you’re never bored. Team Sonic Racing is possibly the most different yet consistently enjoyable kart racer we’ve played in years.
WRC 7 was – to put it mildly – an absolute freaking dumpster fire. The series smartly decided to take a year off following that disaster to examine what it needed to improved- and boy did that gap year pay off. Because WRC 8 is miles better than its predecessor. It is mechanically solid, it has excellent weather effects, it’s got great simulation mechanics, and it offers up a nice, diverse selection of modes for players to dive into. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a great recovery from what was, frankly, an unsalvageable mess.
DIRT RALLY 2.0
Though some might argue that Codemasters are the prime developers of racing sims in our industry simply because of the sheer quantity of their yearly output, it’s games like DiRT Rally 2.0 that prove that it’s also because they make some damn fine racing games. It’s the perfect sequel to the first DiRT Rally, smartly making improvements to areas that needed them, while retaining the things that worked perfectly. Great tracks, tight handling, tons of content- it’s hard to argue with the value of this package.
The Trials series went back to the basics this year with Trials Rising, and showed us yet again why it is the best at what it does- which is being unapologetically insane and constantly and consistently inventive. From its excellent physics-based platforming to the insane design of its courses to the incredibly robust creation tools, Trials Rising is yet another game that proves that there’s nothing quite like Trials when it is at its best.
F1 is one of those rare yearly franchises that has not only maintained its consistency with each new instalment, but has actually gotten better and better. F1 2019 is another step toward the top in the series’ upward trajectory. The driving and handling are as excellent as ever, the tuning options offer a ridiculous amount of depth, the career mode has been vastly improved, and the Championships mode is surprisingly engaging. If Codemasters can improve the visual and presentation aspects of the series with future instalments, it’s hard to imagine them being anywhere but at the very top of the racing genre.
LONELY MOUNTAINS: DOWNHILL
One of the most surprisingly enjoyable games we’ve played all year. Lonely Mountains: Downhill is all about speed and momentum, and feeling the rush of adrenaline as you race down a hill on your bicycle. It’s addictive, fun, and challenging, while at the same time being very accessible and welcoming to players of all skill levels. It’s not the most high profile release of the year, and may have flown under your radar, so trust us when we say that this is a game you absolutely need to play.
NASCAR HEAT 4
NASCAR Heat as a series has struggled to make a mark since the day of its inception, but with every successive instalment, it gets one step closer to doing just that. With NASCAR Heat 4, it might just have had its best outing to date. The driving feels refined and rewarding, the career mode is better than ever – thanks in large part to engaging progression – while the game also manages to find a great balance between being challenging and accessible. It’s still a bit unpolished, but if the series continues on this upward trajectory, it won’t be long before it stands tall as one of the better racing sims out there.
GRID got an unexpected this year in the form of a reboot, and though there were many areas where the game faltered – such as some repetitive elements and a campaign that dragged on too long – it’s hard to argue with the mechanical strengths of the game’s foundation. It’s a racer that appeals to everyone, from fans of arcade games to veterans of sims, while its unique Nemesis mechanic also injects a ton of personality and freshness into the whole experience. It’s far from perfect, but if all you’re looking for is tight, fun racing, you can’t go wrong with GRID.
Codemasters don’t get enough credit for they work they put in on F1 games every year. While Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport are at the forefront of the zeitgeist of the racing sim genre, F1 fans would emphatically tell you that this series deserves just as much recognition. And F1 2019 is probably the finest F1 game Codemasters have made in years. It hones the greatest strengths of the series to near perfection, while also making a number of changes and additions that complement the overall package excellently. For fans of racing sims and Formula One, it doesn’t get much better than this.