I happen to be of the opinion that most racing game series have a tendency to improve as they go along (whether or not huge changes are made in each increment), despite what attachment one may have to something due to nostalgia. Some of these lists crack me up. It is rare that an older version of a game in a racing series seems better to me than the most recent version. The most recent Forza and NFS games are an exception to this rule.
- Dirt 2
- Forza 3
- Forza 5
- Burnout 3: Takedown
Dirt 2 is by far the best experience I've had playing a racing game. I never really enjoyed Forza 4 because it felt identical to Forza 3 but thankfully Forza 5 was awesome with the rumble triggers and new driving model. Also the microtransactions never really effected my enjoyment either. Burnout 3 will always be my favorite Burnout game as it was my first Burnout experience and I didn't much care for Paradise. GRID was also fantastic but GRID 2 really ruined any love I had for the series.
5. Burnout Legends (PSP)
4. Mario Kart 64 (N64)
3. Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (PS1)
2. Gran Turismo 2 (PS1)
1. Burnout Paradise (PS3)
Man it's hard to make a list like this, I love the racing genre. As of this writing these are my top 5 picks. It would probably be different tomorrow. Honorable mention goes to the Super Sprint arcade machine. Alot of quarters were lost in this damn awesome game.
- Burnout 3
- Forza 4
- SSX 3 (I'm counting it)
- Midnight Club 3
- Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (PS2)
Honorable mentions to Gran Turismo 4, Mario Kart 64, Beetle Adventure Racing, Rush 2049, Hydro Thunder, Blur, Excitebike 64, and a lot of other entries in the same series.
Basically, racing is one of my favorite genres and I've played a lot of them. Top 5 isn't nearly enough.
Now and likely forever, my number one is Gran Turismo 2. I got so much mileage out of that game, and I just think it's so well put together in a series that's already extremely well-known for being well put together. After that, the list gets kinda hazy as far as ranks go. The other four are, in my book and in no particular order, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Ridge Racer Type 4, Burnout Paradise, and Midnight Club 3. Honorable mentions go out to Forza Horizon, F-Zero GX, Need for Speed Carbon, Project Gotham Racing 2 & 4, Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, Blur (which is criminally underappreciated and more people need to play it), Crash Team Racing, Wipeout HD, and Hydro Thunder Hurricane.
...Yeah, I really like racing games. XD
I can't help it, I grew up playing a shit-ton of Gran Turismo and GT2. The genre has always had a certain magic to it that keeps bringing me back. I'm looking forward to playing even more incredible racing games in the future.
In no particular order:
Super Mario Kart (SNES) - Words cannot express
Gran Turismo (PS1) - Great tracks, great soundtrack, and something I don't really appreciate enough in games...great menus
F1 97 (PS1) - It had its flaws but I played a damn lot of this game. Fuck those fuel line failures that always happened when you dominated a race.
Destruction Derby Series - The derbies aside, there was decent stock car style racing to be had with this. Especially in 2.
Burnout 2 - Before all the shitty take down nonsense. This was a fun game.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010) - Spent a good 2 weeks trying to get gold on all the police events. That was my Dark Souls honestly, super hard but super satisfying
PGR2 - I don't mean it exactly in the sense of a GT or Forza but I still feel that PGR2 is the most technical racer I've ever played. In that cornering was everything, absolutely everything. And someone taking a great line came out miles ahead of someone who came in to the turn just a little off. With wide tracks and precise mechanics you could get perfect skills at PGR2 in a way I've never had again with a racer.
These three games, with particular note of Project Gotham Racing 2 (for the exact reason @bluefish enunciated), form three-fourths of my personal pantheon. I'd like to add a fourth.
Star Wars: Episode I Racer -- Plainly, it's total nostalgia. While The Phantom Menace is for obvious reasons considered a low point for the series, its vaunted podracing scene is undeniably the film's single most memorable sequence. For a brief ten minutes, returned was the imagination and spectacular otherworldly thrill so native to the franchise's early installments. The game allowed players to experience that moment firsthand. But it wasn't simply a cheap, quick cash-in on a license. The game hefted some titanic depth. Dozens of uniquely-dextrous pods, a library of challenging courses, a career mode complete with fully customizable engineering gear to influence everything from your racer's handling to its sheer durability. And the racing itself required a surprising level of technical skill. Run your pod like a battering ram, and you risk losing your own racer. Lean too hard, for too long, into your engines' secondary boosters and you're courting a devastating overheating malfunction.
Episode I Racer took everything that helped the podracing sequence succeed and exploded it. Adding detail and minutiae to a world severely lacking in verisimilitude.
Yeah. That game was pretty great.
- Burnout 3 - Brother and I played the shit out of it on the OG XBOX.
- Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit - Similar to Burnout 3. I absolutely loved the single player for it, great progression through it and real fucking rewarding after winning a tough race.
- Burnout Paradise - Played it quite a bit when it came out but never got into it like I did with Burnout 3, got back to it later and played the hell out of it.
- Diddy Kong Racing - Easily the best Kart racer, loved the adventure mode.
- F-Zero X or Mario Kart 64 - played a lot of both on the N64 with friends.