About a decade ago, racing games seemed to be a genre on their way out - arcade racers like Blur and Split/Second weren't selling, great studios were closing and even mainstream series like Need for Speed were struggling to get the attention they once had. Outside of a Mario Kart or a Gran Turismo, it seemed the days of the big-ticket racing game, and of the genre as an exciting mass-market draw, were over.
Happily for racing fans, things now look much better. Forza Horizon made driving games cool again, indie studios have resurrected the joys of the 90s-style arcade racer, the PC simulation racing scene is more competitive than it's ever been, and Codemasters has ridden a successful stint on the Formula One licence all the way to an incredible $1.2 billion acquisition by EA, which shows just how highly racing games are valued now.
Here we present our picks of the best racing games to play right now - mostly modern, because this is a genre that tends to improve with technology, but with a classic or two that has stood the test of time thrown in. As usual, we're focusing on games that are easy to find and play on current hardware. To break things up a bit, we've divided out list four sub-genres: open-world racing games that combine racing and exploration over a large map; arcade racing games which are all about immediacy and fun, and less about realism; motorsport games based on licensed real-world sports; and sim racing games which concentrate on the authenticity of the driving experience.