Unlike Forza Motorsport, which is track-based and focused more on simulation racing, Forza Horizon is open-world and features a mixture of simulation elements with a more casual, or "arcade", approach to driving. The games are based around a fictitious racing and music festival called the Horizon Festival, which attracts drivers and artists from around the world.
Forza Horizon contains many elements from the Forza Motorsport series, including hundreds of cars, upgrades and tuning, custom livery design, and interior cockpit camera views. The driving physics are based on the Forza Motorsport series, and while the games do not offer the same degree of simulation, they still allow for a similar level of precision tuning and upgrades.
In Forza Horizon, festival sites serve as hubs where players can access the garage and the Autoshow and Auction House to buy and sell vehicles. Rare vehicles can also be found in abandoned buildings; these are known as Barn Finds.
Throughout the world of Forza Horizon, players can find designated stretches of road that track drift score and speed. These have global leaderboards attached to them, allowing players to compete for fastest speed down a stretch of road or highest drift score. Also scattered around the world are bonus boards that can be smashed to lower the cost of fast travel and provide bonus XP.
Each game has an extensive soundtrack, with dedicated radio stations for rock, hip hop, electronic, and classical music. Each station also has its own DJ who will react to the player's progression through the Horizon Festival.
Released: October 23, 2012
Platforms: Xbox 360
The first game in the series takes place in the U.S. state of Colorado. It introduced the wristband progression system that would be used again in the sequel as well as the Influence system wherein players are rewarded for skillful and stunt driving. Forza Horizon's open world is more restrictive than in its sequels; off-road access is limited to designated paths.
Forza Horizon features online multiplayer racing and free-for-all modes, such as a car-based version of tag.
Released: September 30, 2014
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360
The Horizon Festival goes international in Forza Horizon 2, this time traveling to the region of southern France and northern Italy. Forza Horizon 2 was the first game in the series to release on Xbox One.
Forza Horizon 2 introduced a dynamic weather system to the series. Its expanded multiplayer component includes a new meet-up feature called Car Meets and the use of Drivatars to populate the world and races instead of AI drivers. Bucket List challenges, which are timed and designed around specific vehicles, were also introduced.
Forza Horizon 2 features far fewer unbreakable guard rails than its predecessor, allowing for off-road driving anywhere for the first time.
Released: September 27, 2016
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Forza Horizon 3 is the first game in the series to release on PC. The game is set in Australia and features a significantly larger map than the previous two games. Many features return, including the use of Drivatars and dynamic weather.
Unlike the first two games, which had the player driving in the Horizon Festival as a participant, Forza Horizon 3 places the player in the role of the festival director. The ultimate goal is to grow the Horizon Festival to all corners of Australia by increasing its popularity. Being the director also allows for event customization, wherein the player can determine the type of cars used in a race, time of day, and weather in a feature called Horizon Blueprint.
Forza Horizon 3 featured the largest multiplayer component yet in the series. Its main mode, Online Adventure, puts players in a championship series that awards points for finishing well in races and for skillful driving.
- Blizzard Mountain: A new map that introduces snow to the series and features new vehicles and events.
- Forza Horizon 3 Hot Wheels: An expansion created in collaboration with Mattel's Hot Wheels line of toys. It features a new area off the coast of Australia with life-size Hot Wheels tracks.
Released: October 2, 2018
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
The fourth game in the Forza Horizon series is set in Great Britain. Forza Horizon 4's most significant introduction to the series is seasonal changes that occur every Thursday in the real world. Seasons bring new events and changes to the environment; for example, bodies of water freeze in the winter and can be driven on.
Forza Horizon 4 features a shared world with up to 72 players on a server together. Players encountered in the world can be challenged to races or invited to convoys, which allows them to join online events together. Hourly events called Forzathons occur, challenging participating players to complete three cooperative challenges and earn points that can be spent on cars and cosmetic items at the Forzathon Shop.
There are significantly more events and challenges in Forza Horizon 4 than in previous entries. Player progression is tied together in a concept called Horizon Life. Numerous progression trackers can be viewed, with various monetary, cosmetic, and vehicle awards available for reaching certain event type-specific milestones and completing specific challenges. For example, players have individual progression trackers for Road Racing, Cross Country Racing, Speed Traps, and even livery customization and car tuning.
As part of the Horizon Life concept, players acquire houses throughout the game world. These houses offer permanent passive bonuses, such as unlimited fast travel, and serve the same function as the Festival sites in previous games. The player character can be customized at these houses with outfits and gestures that are seen during loading screens and after events. These gestures include dances. Two of the dances--the "Carlton" and flossing--were removed in 2019 after Epic Games faced lawsuits for including the same dances in Fortnite.
Online Adventure returns in Forza Horizon 4, and players can create online races from any event in the game. Forza Horizon 4 also introduces a route creator, allowing players to create their own courses anywhere in the world. The feature quickly became dominated by short courses (less than 1 mile long) created to maximize XP and money gains.
At launch, Forza Horizon 4 did not feature vehicles from Toyota or Mitsubishi Motors due to licensing issues, but the brands were reintroduced in 2019.
- Fortune Island: A new map, with new cars and events, as well as a treasure hunting campaign to find 10 million credits.
- LEGO Speed Champions: A new map created out of LEGO pieces. Players construct their own Master Builder's house by completing challenges to earn bricks.