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5 Best Need for Speed Games of All Time, Ranked

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Need for Speed is arguably one of the best racing series on the market, period. Although it only pops its headlights up every once in a blue moon, it does somehow manage to pull us back in to its vibrant world with each passing instalment. With fluid controls, daring adventures, and story-driven experiences to boot, it's fair to say that Electronic Arts know how to craft a compelling racing empire worth holding out for.

However, with numerous titles under its cambelt and a whole lot more in the (exhaust) pipeline, we're beginning to wonder which of the many games have driven way beyond our expectations. So, with that in mind, let's gloss over the timeline as a whole and pluck out the five chapters that stood out the most. Here are, in our opinion, the best Need for Speed games of all time.

5. Need for Speed: Shift

Need for Speed SHIFT - launch trailer

As a way to cash in on other rival franchises, Electronic Arts made the brave decision to take Need for Speed off-road and towards a more well-rounded circuit. Similar to that of Gran Turismo, Shift revolved around life on the track as opposed to the suburban districts of neon-glazed cityscapes. And you know what? It actually worked.

Bringing its signature style to the track, Shift quickly became an up and coming rival on the scene, complete with all the promising qualities to help drive it north of the podium. Sure, it lacked in story, but when its physics and fluidity were well polished and tweaked to perfection, that didn't really matter all that much. It was a solid racing game, plain and simple.

4. Need for Speed (2015)

Need for Speed - Official Launch Trailer | PS4

Looking for a way to connect with players outside of the vehicle, Electronic Arts tapped into a whole new department come 2015. But rather than sticking to the same old formula, Need for Speed instead explored live cinematics and real life situations. Its gameplay was, for lack of a better word — meh — but its story was actually worth sticking around for.

For 2015, Need for Speed looked surprisingly good. Of course, it wasn't exactly on par with some of its rival franchises at the time, but it was a strong asset to the genre. Its beauty shimmered during the darkest hours, and it honestly was a sight to behold for all the while we found ourselves glued behind the wheel of a high-powered Lamborghini Aventador. But was it enough to conquer the board? Well, no, not really.

3. Need for Speed: Underground 2

Need for Speed Underground 2 PlayStation 2 Trailer - Full

Ask anyone in the world what Need for Speed game brings back the most memories, and they'll most definitely tell you Underground 2. But the memories of the beloved jewel run a lot deeper than Snoop Dogg and The Doors' “Riders on the Storm” and the dimly lit metropolis of Bayview.

Considering the game came out nearly twenty years ago, it's actually strange to see how well we still remember the Bayview map. And while it may not look like a technical masterpiece in 2022, 2004 showcased the game in a whole other light. Of course, its endless stream of Outrun races were partly the reason why we fell in love with it. Its online counterpart and generous number of customizable elements were, in all honesty, cherries on an already perfect cake.

2. Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Need for Speed - Most Wanted (Intro)

After dipping a few toes in open-world environments and learning from their successes, EA looked to bulk out on its possibilities by adding a few extra components, with Most Wanted being the carrier for their newfound ambition. Lo and behold, Rockport was erected, and the rest went down in history.

Following the story of a street racer with a grudge against the law, your goal, as said racer, is to become the most wanted driver in all of Rockport. By completing dangerous races, defiling the rules, and being a general nuisance to the people of the suburban jungle, you're able to ascend the ranks and become legend in a city that bleeds blue and red.

1. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered – Official Launch Trailer

Let's not forget that Hot Pursuit is actually one of Need for Speed's longest serving divisions, what with Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit being the original torchbearer back in '99. And being one of the most popular divisions to ever grace the platform, it was only natural for EA to squeeze the cash cow for all it was worth.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was an absolute blast when it re-emerged back in 2010. With its police and street racing story arcs sprinkled on top of a stunning world bursting with color and vigor, the elite racing chapter proved to be one of the best in the business. Thankfully, it was remastered a ways down the road, giving us all a gentle reminder that its beauty was still very much alive and kicking a decade later. Now, if EA can give Most Wanted the same treatment, then we'd probably stop badgering them for remasters.

So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.


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Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.