Best Xbox racing games October Windows Central 2021

The video games industry is filled with countless genres and categories of awesome games to choose from, but some of the most popular are racing games. Driving a wide variety of vehicles at speeds ranging from glacial to hypersonic, meticulously tuning and customizing every ride to exact specifications, going head-to-head with other racers from all over the world, and exploring beautiful worlds and tracks are all part of what makes racing games special, and Xbox is one of the greatest places to find them. Here are the best racing games for Xbox right now.

An overview of Xbox racing games in 2021

Racing games is a pretty major genre, so dozens of companies and teams have attempted to tackle the space and deliver their vision of a premium racing experience, to differing degrees of success. Xbox is often considered to be one of the best places to play for racing fans, if only because Microsoft has two powerful forces in the genre under the Xbox Game Studios banner: Turn 10 Studios and Playground Games.

Turn 10 and Playground are two halves of the same coin: Forza. They work together on the ForzaTech game engine and the illustrious, established Forza racing franchise. Turn 10 handles the Forza Motorsport series, a more simulation-centric racer that features wide rosters of real race tracks from all over the world, while Playground handles the Forza Horizon series, an open-world arcade series that follows the fictional Forza Festival and lets players race wherever they want, however they want.

Beyond Forza, Xbox also offers a ton of other great racing games from third parties, including more long-running franchises like Need for Speed, F1, DiRT, and more. All in all, there's no shortage of great choices, but quality tends to be inconsistent at times due to the surprising complexity and nuances of a good racing game. One of the few major racing franchises that Xbox misses out on is Gran Turismo, which is exclusive to Sony's PlayStation consoles.

Not all racing games are created equal, and many cater to entirely different categories of players. Are you looking for the most realistic simulation racer possible? An off-roading adventure? How about a casual yet expansive open-world? There's a lot to think about, so we've compiled the absolute best of the best for any racing game fan. Some of these games have even risen to be considered on our list of best Xbox games.

The games on this list are the best Xbox racing games right now, which means they can be available for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, and PC. Some of these games are also available through Xbox Game Pass and even Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud), making it easy to jump in and play.

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4Source: Xbox Game Studios

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S (Optimized), Xbox One, and PC with Xbox Play Anywhere support, and through Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming

Windows Central Must Play Award

If any game deserves to hold the title of "best racing game ever," it's undoubtedly Forza Horizon 4. Set in an absolutely gorgeous open-world rendition of the UK, Forza Horizon 4 hands players the keys to a massive roster of over 700 officially licensed and high-quality vehicles from dozens of manufacturers, and tells them to go nuts. Playground Games and Xbox Game Studios have faithfully supported FH4 for three years with constant content updates and additional features, so the game has improved steadily since its release in 2018.

Forza Horizon 4 is an open-world arcade racer with simulation elements, so it's far from the most realistic racer on this list. Still, you have a fantastic array of customization options to make your car look and perform exactly the way you want, and there's a decent set of tuning tools to give you that extra edge in a race. FH4 is also consistent, so it's easy for even novice racing fans to get into, and provides a ridiculous amount of freedom to play the way you want. Something about Forza Horizon games and their expansive open-worlds even draws in players that normally wouldn't touch racing games.

If there's anything that holds Forza Horizon 4 back (besides being more arcade-like than some players prefer), it's the fact that Playground Games is gearing up to release Forza Horizon 5 later this year, which looks massively improved over FH4 in every single way. Even so, Forza Horizon 4 is still and will continue to be an excellent racing game, and continues to grow its already-impressive community of racers.

Pros:

  • An incredibly detailed open world
  • A huge roster of officially licensed vehicles
  • Tons of activities and different ways to play
  • A large community and extensive post-launch support

Cons:

  • A little closer to an arcade racer
  • Forza Horizon 5 is coming
Forza Horizon 4 Reco Image

Forza Horizon 4 — Xbox

Forza Horizon 4 released as one of the best racing games of all time, and it's continued this trend with three years of solid post-launch support and a faithful, continually growing community. Forza Horizon 4 is still one of the best games on Xbox and PC, and is also available through Xbox Game Pass.

DiRT 5

DiRT 5Source: Codemasters

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S (Optimized), Xbox One, and PC with Xbox Play Anywhere support, through Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming, and through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC via EA Play

The Xbox Series X|S current-gen consoles are beacons of power and advanced gaming features, and they need games to show off what they can do. One of the earliest games to launch on the consoles was DiRT 5, a continuation of the popular DiRT franchise from Codemasters (now a part of Electronic Arts) that went in a different direction for the series but still manages to deliver lots of fun to players and fans of intense off-roading action.

As the name implies, DiRT games are all about taking highly modified cars off the beaten path to create new trails, and the franchise has appealed to a large variety of racing fans over the years. DiRT 5 is absolutely a different, more casual game than its predecessor, but this doesn't hold it back for most players. The game is ridiculously fun, easy to get into, and features a wide variety of game modes and races with a non-linear campaign and player-made "Playgrounds." There's also a diverse range of environments, complete with dynamic weather, that spice things up even more.

If you're looking for a more simulation-like, off-roading game, however, DiRT 5 is not that. The game is pretty simple and easy to get into, and even more serious difficulties probably won't be an extreme challenge for veteran racers. Visuals in DiRT 5 are also slightly inconsistent, ranging from pretty good to kind of "off." Finally, vehicles and vehicle customization are sadly lacking in DiRT 5, with the livery editor especially offering disappointing options and ways to design.

Pros:

  • Great, fun casual rally racing
  • Lots of variety and ways to play
  • Solid performance on current-gen consoles
  • Supports Xbox Play Anywhere, Game Pass, and Cloud Gaming

Cons:

  • Visuals and customization are just okay
  • Not as "real" as its predecessor
  • May be a little bit too easy for some
Dirt 5 Reco Image

DiRT 5 — Xbox

DiRT 5 may have taken the series in a different direction versus its predecessors, but it doesn't stop Codemasters from delivering an excellent casual off-road racer with a ridiculous amount of content, tons of variety in environments and weather, and surprising levels of support for player-centric Xbox features (for a third-party Xbox game).

DiRT Rally 2.0

Dirt Rally 2.0 Subaru ImprezaSource: Codemasters

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC, and through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One via EA Play

For those who desire a hardcore off-road racing experience with no holds barred, there's really only one good choice: DiRT Rally 2.0. The Rally half of the DiRT franchise is more simulation-focused than its non-Rally counterparts, and aims to test the skills of even the most experienced off-road drivers. Players should expect an authentic rally challenge when they step behind the wheel of a DiRT Rally 2.0 vehicle. with little-to-no handholding.

DiRT Rally 2.0 makes its claim to fame with excellent driving mechanics and physics, including surface degradation on tracks and tire wear, blisteringly difficult AI opponents and simulation-like racing, class-leading audio, and a decent selection of rally-grade vehicles to drive on through six countries. DiRT Rally 2.0 still more than holds up today, especially with a ton of post-launch DLC and additional cards, and is a great choice for any rally fan looking for a challenge.

It's not all perfect, of course. DiRT Rally 2.0's tracks can become repetitive over time, with a pretty limited number of options to choose from, and that simulation-like racing and difficulty would be forgivable if not for the lack of tutorials to ease newer players into the series and the genre. DiRT Rally 2.0's single-player campaign, as well, leaves a little to be desired. Pick up the Game of the Year Edition if you want access to DiRT Rally 2.0's extensive DLC collection at a compelling price.

Pros:

  • Authentic and challenging rally racing
  • Great driving mechanics and physics
  • Tons of additional DLC content and expansions
  • Visuals, audio, and performance are great

Cons:

  • Tracks can become repetitive and boring
  • Single-player campaign is shallow
  • Game may be too challenging for newcomers
Dirt Rally 2.0 Reco Image

DiRT Rally 2.0 — Xbox

DiRT Rally 2.0 is still the premier simulation rally experience, and is a great game all around for rally fanatics who love tearing tracks apart. However, the game goes from "challenging" to "inaccessible" with a lack of tutorials, and can become a little repetitive over time.

F1 2021

F1 2021 Store ScreenshotSource: EA | Microsoft

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S (Optimized) and Xbox One

Another entry from racing champions Codemasters and their newfound parent EA, F1 2021 is the latest installment in another long-running racing franchise that revolves around the global and well-known Formula One racing series. Featuring real drivers, teams, sponsors, and high-performance formula race cars across a wide variety of meticulously recreated real-world tracks and circuits, F1 2021 is the culmination of years of expertise from Codemasters handling Formula One.

Their newest game follows the aptly named F1 2020 and delivers a mostly familiar Formula One racing experience with better visuals and customization than ever before. F1 2021 even includes a full-fledged campaign mode that will likely keep players interested and engaged for hours to come, even if it likely won't win any rewards for storytelling. If you love the idea of driving a formula race car in any sense, there's seriously no better option than the officially licensed F1 series, and the best of the bunch is F1 2021.

F1 2021 will likely only cater to those who are interested in racing formula race cars, but it does feature a ton of options, customization, and ways to tinker the experience to be as real as you want it to. Of course, F1 2021 will never quite approach what real Formula One racing is like, since the game is limited by its "E for Everyone" rating, and Codemasters has followed their traditional F1 formula, for better or worse.

Pros:

  • Class-leading Formula One simulation racing
  • Excellent visuals, customization, and features
  • Solid single-player campaign

Cons:

  • Very similar to F1 2020
  • Not quite as intense as real F1 racing
  • May be missing some tracks and content
F1 2021 Reco Image

F1 2021 — Xbox

Choices are limited for fans of Formula One, and the F1 series is the only real option. It's a good thing F1 2021 is a fantastic racing game from every angle with fantastic driving mechanics, visuals, and a single-player campaign. Similarities to previous F1 games aren't enough to hold F1 2021 back.

Project Cars 2

Project Cars 2 Store ScreenshotSource: Bandai Namco | Microsoft

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One

It may seem strange to have Project Cars 2 on this list without its successor, Project Cars 3, but for many players the older game is the clear winner. While Project Cars 3 stripped a lot of its features and realism, losing most of its identity in the process, Project Cars 2 continues to be a generally excellent simulation racer — and a solid competitor for Forza Motorsport.

Project Cars 2 features a ton of gorgeous, officially licensed vehicles and a huge variety of different tracks, complete with impressive visuals (that still hold up today) and dynamic weather effects. There's even a decently robust single-player campaign, which will take players through multiple events and race types. In many ways, especially for fans of simulation racers, Project Cars 2 comfortably beats its successor and still remains competitive with more modern racers.

While Project Cars 2 does feature pretty decent tutorials for newcomers, many may still find this game a little too challenging. A smaller car list and a lack of customization for vehicles are big negatives when compared to Project Cars 2's biggest competitor, Forza Motorsport 7. If you're looking for another great racing game, though, Project Cars 2 makes a solid case.

Pros:

  • Solid tutorials and great single-player campaign
  • Still-gorgeous visuals with dynamic weather effects
  • Great driving mechanics on a huge number of tracks

Cons:

  • Can be too challenging, even with tutorials
  • Small car list compared to other racing games
  • Lack of customization or livery editor for vehicles
Project Cars 2 Reco Image

Project Cars 2 — Xbox

Project Cars 2 continues to be a great simulation racing game, even after its sequel dropped the ball, and features visuals that still look awesome today. The game may struggle to shine in Forza Motorsport 7's shadow, but it's definitely one of the better racing games on Xbox.

Burnout Paradise Remastered

Burnout Paradise Remastered Store ScreenshotSource: EA | Microsoft

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, and through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One via EA Play

Many people may think of the legendary Need for Speed franchise when they think "casual arcade racer," but the Burnout series was equally as infamous back in its prime. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a proper addition to the Burnout franchise since the incredible Burnout Paradise, which paired Burnout's glorious crashes and intense arcade races with an open world. Over a decade later, EA let players return to Paradise City with the arrival of Burnout Paradise Remastered, and it's one of the best racing game remasters.

Everything that was great about the original Burnout Paradise remains great in the remastered version, but EA of course modernized the visuals with support for up to 4K, better and more stable performance, upgraded textures and lighting, and much more. Players still get to drive around a beautiful open world and engage in several different race types all over the city. Crashes and collisions are still immeasurably satisfying, and are miles above many of the top racing games available today.

Burnout Paradise Remastered still features many of the same annoying menu and UI quirks of the original, which may be frustrating for some players. The cars are generic semblances of real-world vehicles, as Burnout Paradise lacks the official licensing of other racers, but they still look and drive great. Especially for fans of the original, though, Burnout Paradise Remastered is an excellent facelift and one of the best open-world racers right now.

Pros:

  • Intense racing and awesome collisions
  • A faithful and proper remaster of the original
  • An expansive open world with lots of personality

Cons:

  • Annoying menu and UI quirks remain
  • Cars are not officially licensed
  • Visuals still don't compare to newer games
Burnout Paradise Remastered Reco Image

Burnout Paradise Remastered — Xbox

Burnout Paradise Remastered definitely isn't going to compete with Forza Horizon 4 in the visuals department, but it is a faithful remaster of an excellent racing classic, and lets players return to Paradise City with a myriad of upgrades. Many flaws of the original still remain in the remastered version, however.

GRID

GRID Xbox OneSource: Codemasters

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One

Codemasters has managed to place a ridiculous number of games on our list of best Xbox racing games, and now we're adding another one. Another classic racing franchise was brought into the modern gaming world with GRID, one of the finest racing experiences you can currently play. While GRID may leave behind some aspects of the originals that made players fall in love, the new and improved GRID can still stand toe-to-toe with the best racers today.

GRID looks absolutely fantastic, and shares a similar vibe with DiRT 5 in that it's an excellent and incredibly fun casual racer to pick up and play at any moment. The difference is that GRID takes a decent collection of carefully chosen and well-known vehicles and puts them on a wide variety of road-based tracks. There's also a non-linear single-player campaign here, and it all exists to help players jump in a race exactly the way they want to.

As a casual racer, GRID is all about casual, sheer racing fun, and it mostly delivers. However, you may need to splurge for the Ultimate Edition, as it includes a ton of additional content that makes the base game feel slightly empty. If you're looking for a vibrant and varied multiplayer scene in GRID, you're not going to find it. Overall, though, GRID is a gorgeous and detailed casual racer, and the Ultimate Edition does include a ton of content for players to enjoy.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous visuals and details
  • Simple, fun gameplay
  • Easy to jump in and out of

Cons:

  • Lack of content in base game
  • Lack of online and multiplayer content
GRID Reco Image

GRID — Xbox

GRID rebooted a classic racing franchise and was a return to arcade racers for Codemasters, true experts in their field. GRID stands out with insanely fun gameplay that's easy to jump in and out of, but you'll likely want to splurge for the Ultimate Edition for more content and races.

The Crew 2

The Crew 2 Store ScreenshotSource: Ubisoft | Microsoft

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One

There's a relative shortage of proper competitors for Playground Games' genre-leading Forza Horizon series, but Ubisoft took a crack at the title with The Crew 2, an open-world racer that encompasses a shrunk-down version of the United States of America and a wide variety of different vehicles to drive — and players aren't limited to just cars.

At its core, The Crew 2 is about cars and a casual arcade racing experience, and in this aspect it mostly delivers with a decently sized roster of vehicles and pretty fun gameplay. However, Ubisoft wanted to deliver a more ambitious and encompassing experience than Forza Horizon, often to its detriment. It does mean that, if players desire, they can get behind the wheel of a bike, plane, or boat, in addition to all the traditional cars.

The Crew 2 is gorgeous, as one would expect from an open-world Ubisoft game, and it is a joy to explore this version of the USA that Ubisoft has built. However, The Crew 2 suffers from feeling too ambitious and ends up becoming messy and occasionally frustrating. If you're looking for another open-world racer that's a little bigger and a little more arcade-like than Forza Horizon, though, The Crew 2 can still offer hours upon hours of fun.

Pros:

  • Beautiful open-world version of the USA
  • Lots of vehicles to choose from
  • Mostly great arcade racing

Cons:

  • Feels messy and unfocused at times
  • Planes, bikes, and boats feel out of place
  • More arcade-like than Forza Horizon
The Crew 2 Reco Image

The Crew 2 — Xbox

The Crew 2 aims to be a more arcade and more ambitious version of Forza Horizon, and it does deliver in some aspects, with a fantastic open world to explore, superb visuals, and mostly fun racing. However, the game feels too big for its own good, resulting in a messy experience.

NASCAR Heat 5

Nascar Heat 5 Store ScreenshotSource: Motorsport Games | Microsoft

  • Available on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One

NASCAR is one of the biggest racing championships around, but many racing games leave the stockcars behind in favor of other vehicles and more variety. For NASCAR fans, there's only one great option and that's NASCAR Heat 5, the best stock car racing game and one of the better racing games on Xbox right now. NASCAR Heat 5 is the complete package for NASCAR fans, and features officially licensed real-world cars, teams, brands, and tracks, complete with a long career mode and plenty of options.

NASCAR Heat 5 also looks pretty great, even if it's not going to best some of the other best racing games out there (and lacks enhancements for more powerful consoles). Driving feels great, and you have a ton of circuits to choose from, which all look amazing and detailed. There's also a lot of options for assists and settings, and a test mode to ease you into driving a new car, learning a new circuit, or taking control of a new team.

Where NASCAR Heat 5 falls apart is how it differentiates itself from its predecessor. NASCAR Heat 4 players will likely find very little reason to purchase the new game, as Heat 5 only includes a few relatively minor improvements and remains mostly the same in visuals, performance, and physics. It's also worth mentioning how the Heat series is being replaced by the upcoming NASCAR 21 Ignition, which looks to feature major improvements in a variety of ways. However, for newcomers to the franchise, especially NASCAR fans, there's definitely no better option (right now) than NASCAR Heat 5.

Pros:

  • Looks and plays great
  • Officially licensed drivers and circuits
  • Lots of options for players

Cons:

  • Nearly identical to its predecessor
  • Not likely to win over non-NASCAR fans
  • NASCAR 21 Ignition is coming
Nascar Heat 5

NASCAR Heat 5 — Xbox

It may not be the first pick for "best racing game" on most people's lists, but NASCAR Heat 5 is absolutely top of the pack when it comes to racing stock cars around NASCAR circuits. Not just because it's practically the only choice, but because Heat 5 is a genuinely good game, despite similarities to the game that came before it.

Forza Motorsport 7

Forza Motorsport 7 ImageSource: Xbox Game Studios

  • Available only on Xbox Series X and Xbox One with a physical disc, or on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC through Xbox Play Anywhere if you already purchased the title digitally

Windows Central Must Play Award

While open-world Forza Horizon games may capture a lot of player attention nowadays, the original Forza games are Motorsport, and they serve the audience that desires simulation and realism above all else. Forza Motorsport 7 is the culmination of years of expertise from Turn 10 Studios and Xbox Game Studios, and is a near-perfect racing game with hundreds of high-performance vehicles, meticulous upgrade parts and customization options, and dozens of detailed real-world tracks and locations.

Forza Motorsport 7 isn't an arcade racer by any means, which means trading casual racing and an open world for realistic driving physics and actual circuits, all to fantastic effect. Turn 10 Studios is a master of their craft now, and FM7 is highly lauded as one of the best realistic racing games you can play, even nearly four years after its release. Unfortunately, FM7's age is also a negative, as Forza Motorsport 7 is officially end-of-life date. Turn 10 Studios is currently working on a current-gen soft reboot of their premier racing franchise with Forza Motorsport, which doesn't have a set release date yet.

This means that, as of Sept. 15, 2021, Forza Motorsport 7 is no longer available to purchase from digital stores, and is no longer included through Xbox Game Pass. If you purchased the game before its end-of-life date, or purchase a physical copy, FM7 will continue to be fully functional indefinitely (including online multiplayer!). This is still an incredible racing game, but Forza games, like many other racing titles, do have a defined shelf life due to licensing agreements with music, cars, and brands.

Pros:

  • Dozens of meticulously recreated tracks and circuits
  • A massive roster of officially licensed high-performance cars
  • Polished and customizable driving mechanics and physics

Cons:

  • Game is no longer available to purchase digitally
  • Only physical copies are an option for most new players, while supplies last
  • Online multiplayer isn't as busy anymore
Forza Motorsport 7 Reco Image

Forza Motorsport 7 — Xbox

Forza Motorsport 7 is absolutely one of the best racing games for track fanatics, as long as you already own it or are willing to go physical. FM7 is officially end-of-life, meaning it's no longer available to purchase from digital storefronts, and is much harder to get a hold of.

Xbox makes it easy to love cars

When it comes to racing games on Xbox, it's obvious fans of the genre have plenty of options to choose from. It might seem unclear at first glance what the best among the best racing games are, but Turn 10 Studios and Playground Games have proven their expertise and greatness repeatedly with the Forza franchise. Whether you're looking for a simulation-like arcade racer in Forza Horizon 4 or an in-depth simulation racer like Forza Motorsport 7, Forza is indisputably the king of Xbox racing games.

Codemasters, now under EA, certainly gives the Forza duo a run for their money, however, with a wide range of excellent racing games that cater to a variety of audiences. From casual arcade racers like DiRT 5 and GRID to simulation racers like DiRT Rally 2.0 and F1 2021, Codemasters is certainly a master of their craft. Of course, you can't go wrong with any of the racing games on our list of best Xbox racing games, as every title here has something to offer for lovers of cars and high speeds.

A catalog of racers

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

All your gaming needs, in one subscription

Is the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the best value in all of gaming? It's possible. Ultimate bundles your Xbox Live Gold subscription, an Xbox Game Pass subscription for both Xbox consoles and Windows PCs, and Xbox Cloud Gaming for on-the-go. Many of our favorite Xbox racing games are also available on Xbox Game Pass, including Forza Horizon 4.

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