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What Is the Best Sim Racing Game for a Beginner?

The holiday season always brings with it a new group of sim racers. Here are some great titles to try if you are new to sim racing.

Sim racing is a rapidly growing hobby, and the holiday season is among the the most popular times of year to try it for the first time. If you received a new wheel, a new computer, or a console for Christmas, or perhaps just have a bit more free time over this period to try a new hobby, here are some sim racing games to try if you are a beginner.
  • RaceRoom Racing Experience - RaceRoom is a great way to dip your toes into the sim racing world without spending any money. This title is well-loved by even hardcore sim racers, and has the bonus of being a free-to-play model with optional add-on content. You'll need a PC and a Steam account, and then you can download and play RaceRoom for free. There is a huge selection of cars and tracks that can be added later a la carte, but the free cars and tracks included with your download will be enough for you to try your hand at sim racing and have hours of fun for no cost.
  • Gran Turismo Sport - If you own a PlayStation 4 or 5, GT Sport is a solid option for trying out sim racing. PS compatible wheels are supported by the title, and there is a license test mode that will train you in the fundamentals of performance driving.
  • Assetto Corsa - Assetto Corsa is offered on PC, PlayStation and Xbox, and offers drivers a great selection of cars and tracks. The driving physics are very realistic, and when combined with a wheel and pedal set it offers an outstanding virtual driving experience with both road cars and race cars. Assetto Corsa is a huge value these days thanks to its age, making it a well-rounded starting point for new sim racers that doesn't break the bank.
  • F1 2021 - The official game of the most popular motorsport series in the world is a logical starting point for sim racers. The 2021 edition of the F1 series has an immersive story mode, which allows you to drop into the life of a race driver making the jump from Formula 2 to Formula 1. The story is engaging and fun, and the game offers forgiving driving assists for those feeling overwhelmed while learning to drive racing simulators.
These are just four options in the sim racing game genre, but these selections should be good starting points for those new to the hobby. Above all, pick a title that you have fun playing.

If you have questions about sim racing, the RaceDepartment Forums are a great place to ask, or find advice from replies to other, similar issues.

If you're an experienced sim racer, let us know which racing sim you would recommend to those starting out. If you're new to the hobby, let us know which title you might start with and why.
About author
Mike Smith
I have been obsessed with sim racing and racing games since the 1980's. My first taste of live auto racing was in 1988, and I couldn't get enough ever since. Lead writer for RaceDepartment, and owner of SimRacing604 and its YouTube channel. Favourite sims include Assetto Corsa Competizione, Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Automobilista 2, DiRT Rally 2 - On Twitter as @simracing604

Comments

Can't go wrong with these suggested titles. Just to add, any first racing game that gets you into the "genre" is a good first title in my opinion. A driver that discovers that petrol is running through their veins will quickly follow up purchasing another title and get trapped in the sim racing matrix. :ninja::inlove: There is no way to escape!
 
AMS2 is a great way to get in. Modern, not too specific, easy navigation etc.. ticks all the boxes.
Yeah it's probably the best package right now, overall. I don't personally like the results of the physical modeling in it but that kind of stuff doesn't matter to most people anyway. It drives fine enough and doesn't need insane tweaking.

The only thing that'd make it even better for beginners is if there wasn't all those sliders in the FFB and it was just one gain slider like it should be. Just about everyone probably has wrongly setup FFB so what's the chances a beginner will get it right.
 
I'd have to say R3E for the easy of use and cars are relatively easy to drive, the core game is free and the addons dosent cost much. AC has a million mods to navigate in and the UI isnt terribly great, its also showing its age. Iracing can be daunting because its so big, AMS2 has some controller issues and bugs here and there, rF2 has a absolutely horrible UI that detracts nearly everyone, has bugs and can have a mind of its own online. GT Sport is a nobrainer on PS. And F1 2021 is also fairly accessible if you allow yourself to understand all the things and modes the car has - look at Opmeer on youtube, he changes a lot of stuff on every lap, that takes time to learn.
 
AMS2 is a great way to get in. Modern, not too specific, easy navigation etc.. ticks all the boxes.
Except it's not, because it's terrible with a controller. And that is what a beginner will be using.

Assetto Corsa is a much better bet. Great with a controller, can download their favourite track and favourite car from extensive mods. It's cheap too. Assetto Corsa all the way.
 
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Except it's not, because it's terrible with a controller. And that is what a beginner will be using.

Assetto Corsa is a much better bet. Great with a controller, can download their favourite track and favourite car from extensive mods. It's cheap too. Assetto Corsa all the way.
I kind of forgot that a lot of simmers use controllers nowadays. I started with a wheel first thing when I went to PC titles. If you think about it like that then Gran Turismo is probably the best title to start with; those kind of console titles back in the day is what I started on ultimately.

Otherwise I'd like to agree with you, but setting up AC correctly is more difficult than it should be, the majority of cars be it official or mod are not high quality and most mod tracks are a miss too. It can leave a sour taste in the mouth and be a bit underwhelming.

I say this as someone who has probably minimum 5000 hours of developing content for and driving in AC. Steam claims 3590 but most of my time is outside of the .exe.

It's the best sim for the top 1% who actually care about having an accurate model and have the data and capability to accomplish it, but might not be the best sim for the bottom 1% who just joined and download some random mods. Controller support is good though.
 
You missed out AMS2 whose drivetrain is considerably easier than most sims. And this comparison can be made with the equivilant cars on raceroom from the Evo to Porsche where pushing the car can result in instability. No such case in AMS2 that has its physics in PC2.
 
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Yeah it's probably the best package right now, overall. I don't personally like the results of the physical modeling in it but that kind of stuff doesn't matter to most people anyway. It drives fine enough and doesn't need insane tweaking.

The only thing that'd make it even better for beginners is if there wasn't all those sliders in the FFB and it was just one gain slider like it should be. Just about everyone probably has wrongly setup FFB so what's the chances a beginner will get it right.
Saying that is fine for a beginner but, I stopped playing ACC / RaceRoom, due to their forced simplified FFB approach. Not everyone needs or wants basic or "simple" settings. I prefer more immersive ffb with some added effects, no title offers more than AMS2 currently does. "Simple" works well for rF2-ffb, imo but, few titles can produce that level of ffb without some additional ffb-settings to alter certain effect levels.

People often lose sight of the fact, not much in Simulation is real. I really don't care if a certain ffb-effect qualifies as being "canned" or not. If it enhances the experience (without forcing itself on every user), that's fine. I prefer it be applied as dynamically as possible but, offering greater adjustability is important considering the broad range of hardware on offer today.

That you say the "just one Gain slider" is the right way is your opinion, no different than my opinion that more detailed ffb is the best ffb. Different strokes for different folks but, "Basic / Advanced" settings in the ffb-UI could better serve the broad range of user preferences.
 
No one is going to start with a wheel, unless they are given it for free. With a controller, none of the settings really make much difference, nor does the quality of the mods.
A beginner will get a kick of racing around a track they know with a car they like. That's where the interest starts. Once they get hooked, they will want a wheel, better physics etc.

IMO AC is more enjoyable with a controller than Gran Turismo.
 
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Saying that is fine for a beginner but, I stopped playing ACC / RaceRoom, due to their forced simplified FFB approach. Not everyone needs or wants basic or "simple" settings. I prefer more immersive ffb with some added effects, no title offers more than AMS2 currently does. "Simple" works well for rF2-ffb, imo but, few titles can produce that level of ffb without some additional ffb-settings to alter certain effect levels.

People often lose sight of the fact, not much in Simulation is real. I really don't care if a certain ffb-effect qualifies as being "canned" or not. If it enhances the experience (without forcing itself on every user), that's fine. I prefer it be applied as dynamically as possible but, offering greater adjustability is important considering the broad range of hardware on offer today.

That you say the "just one Gain slider" is the right way is your opinion, no different than my opinion that more detailed ffb is the best ffb. Different strokes for different folks but, "Basic / Advanced" settings in the ffb-UI could better serve the broad range of user preferences.
It's just a case of what kind of simulation you want. I'd like for the tactile to be identical to the real car if possible. Some claim that you need other effects to make up for missing feeling factors, but I've come to another conclusion over my some 10 years of trying to make cars in sims.

I really believe that just about all users are shooting themselves in the foot and getting a worse experience ultimately by trying to chase for the perfect FFB settings forever when it's really easy to just determine them and output that to the wheel.

The AC FFB itself isn't simplified at all by the way, the outputs are just (ideally) locked to only physically consistent ones. Which by the way isn't the case with vanilla AC and might not be with ACC so I can understand why some might not like *that* specific modeling. It's a problem with the developers though, not the method.
 
If a PS4 or 5 is available then GT Sport is by far the obvious one for a beginner - it‘s by far the best with a controller.

If on another system with only a controller available then I‘d recommed a recent F1 game, but not 2021. F1 2018 was a solid title as was 2017 and both can be had for chump change these days.

If a wheel is available then AC Ultimate Edition would be my recommendation for all platforms.
 

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