Whether you like exotic supercars or not, there's something about zipping around at breakneck speeds that make racing games appealing to everyone. This is made even better in open-world racing games since they allow you to take your ride anywhere you want. From racing through the city to dusty backroads and even obstacle-filled forests, there are always new tracks to burn some rubber on. And today, we want to rank the best open-world racing games that let you do just that.
There are a lot of notable racing games in the open-world genre, however, some have stuck with us more than others. That's mainly because as fun as racing cars across an open map is, it can get a bit repetitive. That's why our list of the best open-world racing games consists of games that have looked to push the premise by offering more. These games have it all, whether it's a variety of cars, a list of races to complete, or even hidden tracks and jumps to discover. So, let's take a look at which open world racing games made our list and why they rank among the best of all time.
5. Burnout Paradise: Remastered
If you gamed on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, you've most likely heard of Burnout Paradise. The open-world racing game first came out in 2008 and quickly became known as the go-to open-world racing game for both consoles. That's because Burnout Paradise was one of the first open-world racing games to take the genre to all new heights. It held nothing back, delivering intense racing, crazy crashes, epic slow-mows, and an adrenaline-fueled soundtrack. And when Burnout Paradise: Remastered was released in 2018, we knew it would be just as good, if not better, than the original.
It was classic Burnout Paradise as we know it, however this time in 60 FPS. From the moment you start your engine and hear Paradise City playing on the radio, you know you're in for an epic time. From drag races, cops chases, finding hidden jumps, and getting in epic slow-motion crashes, the game is full of tirelessly fun arcade-like racing content to explore. It's also for these reasons that the game had such a big influence on the open-world racing games that came after it. Every racing game wanted to be and feel like Burnout Paradise for its time, and because of that it easily earns a seat on this list.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
Although GTA V may not come to mind when thinking of open-world racing games, it is the preferred choice of many of the genre's players. That's because, despite the fact that the game isn't entirely focused on the concept, it's still managed to give a very successful representation of the genre. After all, the series is called Grand Theft Auto, so racing in stolen cars is a big part of the appeal, and GTA V took it about as far as it could.
Los Santos is a world full of hidden races, jumps, and daring stunts. Exploring every nook and cranny of its open world is both mysterious and exciting. Furthermore, you get to do it in your very own custom car, or multiple custom cars. Which includes a very detailed spec system for your vehicle's performance. That's why there's a thriving community dedicated to GTA V's open-world racing scene, complete with meet-ups, races, and community events.
BeamNG.drive is an open-world racing game with a highly realistic soft-body physics-based engine. That means your car will handle much as it would in real life, swerving when it lands off jumps, losing traction, and spinning out of control. You can practically feel the weight and torque of the car, making driving a much more immersive experience. This makes it more difficult than the other games on this list, but the learning curve makes it a constantly engaging experience.
But what's best about the game, is totaling your car. The soft-body physics in BeamNG.drive make crashing a highly realistic experience. Whether it's a minor run-in with a wall or a major head-on collision, your car will crumple to equal proportions. It really makes you want to drive carefully or, on the contrary, drive for total destruction. All of this is up to you in its open world map or user-created content.
2. Need for Speed Heat
The Need for Speed series is an iconic one in the open-world gaming genre. Despite a rocky start with some of its releases, Need for Speed Heat was an undeniable success for the series. Mainly for the game's visuals which really make you feel the rush of pushing your speedometer to the limits. Driving in its open world is also something to drool over, as it is filled with amazing lighting and bursting with color.
Need for Speed Heat has two modes: day and night. During the day, you can usually find scheduled races that award money. During the night, you participate in illegal street races to gain a reputation and upgrades for your car. That really encourages you to explore its open world and see what it has to offer. However, if you're driving around at night, keep an eye out for cops, who are always looking to ruin your fun.
1. Forza Horizon 5
The Forza series has always been a reliable racing series, but when it ventured into the open world genre with Forza Horizon in 2012, you just knew it would be something special. Now a decade later we've seen five installments to the series, with the newest and best being Forza Horizon 5 in 2021. Hands down, this game is the best experience of an open-world racing game you can get, which is why no other game on this list can contend it for the number one spot.
It features an open world set in Mexico, full of different biomes and constantly changing weather conditions for the most immersive driving experience. To add to that, the game includes a variety of vehicles to test out, including supercars, off-road SUVs, buggies, and monster trucks, all of which are a rush to drive. The experience Forza Horizon 5 provides is unparalleled, easily making it the best open world racing game of all time.