Top 10 of Best Racing Games for the Xbox 360
It’s no secret that the Xbox 360’s lifespan is coming to an end, meaning we’ve got an extensive library of games to sort through and possibly trade-in to GameStop or EBGames. Because of this, used Xbox 360 games are incredibly cheap, and a lot of people might be spending this summer adding those last few games to their collections.
You’re here at RaceDepartment because you like racing games, so while we wait for the release of Grid 2, and the community-driven Project Cars to be possibly the last major racing title for this console generation, let’s take a look back at the ten best racing games available for the Xbox 360.
#10 – Need for Speed: The Run
Alright, Need for Speed’s identity crisis has been well documented during this console generation. One year, it’s a total arcade racer, and the next year, it’s trying to compete with Forza and Gran Turismo. This is okay because variety is always nice when it comes to racing games, but the NFS series hasn’t had a standout title in ages. “Need for Speed: The Run” is no masterpiece, yet it somehow held my attention much longer than I’d expected it to. And in all honesty, I’d like a sequel
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: It’s twenty dollars for Cuisin’ USA, as imagined by Michael Bay. The premise, track design, graphics, physics, and car selection are stellar. This is the exact game you’re looking for if you want to rip up highways in supercars. Black Box did an excellent job on the car physics, blending realism with over-the-top action sequences. It’s really hard to dislike this game, unless you’re the type of person to cry about quick-time events and scripted scenes in a racing game.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: Long load times, framerate issues, and scripted sequences. “The Run” is mostly story-driven, and the trial-and-error aspect of some stages in the main mode can get frustrating as hell, especially if you’re one to max out the difficulty.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: Yes, but see if you can convince a few buddies to buy it with you. The game’s Autolog feature constantly shoves leaderboards in your face, and leaderboards aren’t fun if you’re the only one on them.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 10?: “The Run” could have easily made it into the top five, but the lack of a traditional single race mode kills a lot of the replay value. A lot of the environments are cleverly crafted, but the fact that you can’t just load any car on any track for a quick run is severely disappointing.
#9 – Project Gotham Racing 3
This was a launch title all the way back in November of 2005, and it still holds up well today. Project Gotham Racing 3 is a quality racing title and set the bar extremely high when it was released. The game’s mantra, “Life begins at 170mph”, meant you were always racing fast cars in exotic locations. As a launch title, it demolished Need for Speed Most Wanted with a much better driving model and gave early Xbox 360 adapters a taste of what online racing would be like for the next seven years.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: Everything. The car selection is nothing but high-end supercars and concept cars, with a driving model that is damn near perfect. The four cities (plus the Nurburgring) are insanely detailed, and the game features a separate route creator to make your own track layouts, which can be used online. Menu navigation is simple, and online works very well. It’s also one of the few Xbox 360 games that was given a massive update to ensure 100% compatibility with Xbox 360 racing wheels. And unlike most games nowadays, the three DLC packs available add more than enough new cars to mess around with.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: While the physical racing is pretty damn good, you can blow through career mode in about a day, and online is dead, which is understandable. The AI also doesn’t put up much of a challenge if you’re used to PC sims.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: The car roster alone makes it worth the five bucks used it goes for at GameStop. Being able to take cars like the Ford Indigo or the Callaway Sledgehammer around the Nurburgring is pretty damn awesome.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 9?: Dated graphics and the lack of any real replay value means PGR3 is good for hotlapping some of the rarest supercars around your own custom tracks, but not much else.
#8 – GRID
We’ve already reviewed this game at RaceDepartment, but in short, GRID is one of the best pick-up-and-play racing games available, offering a multitude of different vehicles to race around the world.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: It’s not entirely realistic, but the racing in GRID is intense, the career mode is detailed without requiring any knowledge of racing to understand, and there is enough content to keep you interested past the first few hours. It was a radical departure from the sim-oriented Race Driver series, but Codemasters still put out a quality product.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: Online isn’t laggy, but most races are full of wreckers and not much is done about guys who exploit shortcuts in a few tracks. The DLC is also restricted to quick race mode.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: Absolutely. The best career mode in any Xbox 360 racing game to date, and a very good, if arcadish, drift mode.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 8?: GRID could hold its ground even if it were to be released today as a full priced game, but the simplified driving model might annoy more experienced racers.
#7 – Project Gotham Racing 4
This game died a quick and painful death, as it was released the week before Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 took the world by storm. However, for those who still played it, it’s fondly remembered for being a massive upgrade to an aging series that began on the Sega Dreamcast. Project Gotham Racing 4 attempted to expand on the single player aspect of the previous game and innovate in as many areas as possible, often succeeding.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: PGR4’s single player modes are much more detailed and longer than in PGR3. The game has double the amount of tracks and cities, and features stunning, and I mean STUNNING weather effects that are leaps and bounds ahead of anything on the market today. It was a worthy upgrade in all aspects.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: Bikes were added, and the car list was chopped in half, with many of the high powered supercars and concept cars removed in favor of a roster that included more recognizable (and slower) cars.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: You can drive the Nurburgring in the snow, and it looks almost as good as Gran Turismo 5. That should seal the deal right there.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 7?: There’s nothing wrong with PGR4, but other games on this list have much more to offer.
#6 – Need for Speed Pro Street
This was EA’s first attempt at copying the Gran Turismo/Forza trend, and they succeeded in creating something much better, an “all killer, no filler” version of sorts. Arguably the best Need for Speed title this console generation, Need for Speed Pro Street was always pulling you in different directions and giving you new things to do.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: It’s the good parts of Forza and Gran Turismo, with much more atmosphere and tons of different races to do in a wide variety of locations. The car list strikes a nice balance between volume & quality, and there are more than enough tuning options to keep the diehard car guys occupied and searching for that extra tenth of a second.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: For all the realistic tuning & customization options, and the ability to sculpt body panels to give you the exact amount of downforce you need, the actual driving isn’t that great, and the lack of a class system to sort the vehicles means races can get very lopsided once you start unlocking faster cars.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: Less grinding than Gran Turismo, and much more “personality” than Forza, but not as realistic as the games it tries to copy.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 6?: It’s the best Need for Speed title to come out for the Xbox 360, but the driving model just isn’t as good as the game built around it.
#5 – Forza Horizon
Forza Horizon was Turn 10’s attempt at catering to the casual crowd, with relaxed physics and a miniaturized version of Colorado to explore, although it has more in common with Need for Speed Underground 2 than the Forza series.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: This is Need for Speed Underground 2, with a much bigger map, and a giant car roster featuring everything you’d WANT to drive around rural Colorado. The map is beautiful and each section is a blast to drive on, with the highlight being some of the longer races near the end of career mode that take you on a complete tour of the map. And to sweeten the deal, all of your Forza 4 designs convert flawlessly into Forza Horizon, meaning there’s a huge storefront for custom car designs. Even with a standard controller, the cars handle well and the game is a blast to play through, being expertly crafted by an all-star team of developers that helped create Project Gotham Racing and the DIRT series.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: This is a game that constantly begs you to keep spending money on it, whether it be monthly car packs, unlock tokens, or map expansions. You can barely go five minutes without the game suggesting you to check out the marketplace for additional DLC, most of which was on-disc content In Forza Motorsport 4. Career mode is also surprisingly short, offering little replay value aside from being able to better your time on the global leaderboards.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: Forza 4 players should steer clear to avoid being blatantly ripped off by shady DLC tactics, but Horizon is the driving game everybody else has been waiting for.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 5?: Remember how much fun Need for Speed Underground 2 was? Forza Horizon is like Underground 2’s spiritual successor, with a much larger map, and a ton of cars. If Turn 10 opted out of their DLC-heavy approach to Horizon, it would be a clear cut number one.
#4 – Forza Motorsport 4
The definitive car game on the Xbox 360, Forza Motorsport 4 boasts more than 600 cars and over 30 tracks with multiple layouts, all while promising unprecedented customization and rock-solid driving physics. The series will always be compared to Gran Turismo, but the general consensus is that Forza does a lot of stuff better.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: This is the Xbox 360’s Gran Turismo, with an insane amount of cars and tracks, it’s your one-stop-shop if you’re just looking for ONE racing game. The game plays very well even with a standard controller, and it’ll take a LONG time before you see all career mode has to offer. Online is pretty much perfect, offering a multitude of file sharing features and racing types, with minimal netcode issues.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: Forza 4 has zero atmosphere, and it’s entirely possible to fall asleep to the menu music. The game attempts to be classy in its presentation, but ends up being downright dull.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: Since DLC is such a large part of the Forza 4 experience, you might want to save up a bit more before taking the plunge. Otherwise you’ll be treated to many “this car is available as DLC” screens.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 4?: The more you put into it, the better Forza 4 gets. If you aren’t a diehard racing fan though, who loves tuning, customizing, and testing different cars to get the most out of them, the lifeless three lap sprints against the AI can get old fast.
#3 – Baja Edge of Control
We’ve also done a full review on this one. Released in 2008 by THQ, Baja Edge of Control was the first ever dedicated off-road racing sim attempting to bring the complete Baja 1000 experience to home video game consoles. While it did include some slight arcade elements to make the game more approachable to newcomers, Edge of Control’s grueling fifteen minute rally stages were more than enough to keep people happy.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: Nine classes of off-road trucks, buggies, and SUV’s, as well as over one hundred different tracks spread across nine open environments. The gameplay was demanding, the AI ruthless, and career mode lengthy & rewarding.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: Dated graphics. Seriously, it looks like a PS2 game. And keep in mind, this is desert racing. If you want to crash into something other than cacti and tumbleweeds, you’re out of luck.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: The fifteen minute rally stages make it worth the price of admission. Plus, there won’t be another one any time soon. Edge of Control didn’t sell, and THQ went bankrupt.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 3?: Edge of Control isn’t for everyone, and the incredibly long races through bland terrain, as well as demanding physics that punish you for even the slightest mistake, will only appeal to the most diehard off-road racing fans. Sometimes, you just aren’t in the mood for that sort of thing.
#2 – DiRT 3
People all over the internet cry about the TOTALLY SICK DUDEBRO MONSTER YOUTUBE YEAH atmosphere of DiRT 3, but in reality, the game is a fantastic off-road racing smorgasbord , and with the “complete” edition on sale for twenty dollars, you shouldn’t hesitate to pick this game up. Approachable physics, a huge range of content, and some of the best graphics ever seen in a racing game.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: DiRT is the Forza of off-road racing games. Every major off-road series, from Group B rally racing to Mickey Thompson Stadium Trucks, are represented in some way, and are all amazing to drive both online and off. Even the Gymkhana mode, which drew criticism from longtime Colin McRae Rally fans, is surprisingly enjoyable. It’s difficult to run out of things to do in DiRT 3. You’re always finding a new car to experiment with, or a new favorite track to hotlap. The AI also puts up a great fight on the highest difficulty, so those without an active Xbox Live account can still have some killer races.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: Long load times and short rally stages. It’s no secret that you’ll be spending most of your time playing DiRT 3 sitting in the menus waiting for a track to load, and the 90-second rally stages don’t do much for any experienced console racer.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: If I was only allowed to have one racing game for my Xbox 360, this would be it. Short stages and long load times aside, it’s hard to find a game that’s more complete than DiRT 3.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 2?: DiRT 3 is one of the best racing games ever made, but the long load times and short point-to-point rally stages are a bit disappointing for people who have played more than just Burnout and Need for Speed in the past.
#1 – RACE Pro
I’m honestly shocked that after more than seven years on the market, there has only been one true racing sim released for the Xbox 360, and that is RACE Pro. This is a straight 1-to-1 port of Race 07 to the Xbox 360, and virtually nothing was lost in translation. If you want a hardcore PC racing sim for your Xbox, it’s Race Pro or nothing.
WHAT YOU’LL LIKE: This is a PC sim on the Xbox 360. A slightly different shader model was used, and some details were changed to make it fit in with the art style racing games were travelling towards at the time, but the actual driving mechanics haven’t been changed one bit. It plays exceptionally well with a controller, and is more or less a proper PC sim with a wheel & pedals setup. Quite possibly the closest thing we’ll get to rFactor on a console, Race Pro includes much of the content that you can find in Race 07, and the three DLC packs add a nice selection of cars and tracks to the roster. When the car is on-track and you’re racing against other cars, it’s easily the best racing game for the Xbox 360.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HATE: SimBin experimented with adding a console-style career mode into Race Pro, and it just didn’t work. It’s boring as hell and you’re much better off finding a completed savegame to toy around with all the cars from the get-go. You’re also not going to find many people online, either.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?: Console gamers looking to get a taste of what PC sims are like should look no further than Race Pro. This is the real deal.
WHY IS IT NUMBER 1?: SimBin had the balls to make a PC racing sim for the console, and nothing was lost in translation. Anyone serious about racing games should check it out.
Microsoft will be announcing the successor to the Xbox 360 in the coming weeks.
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