What are Racing Games?

edited August 2023 in Gaming

The racing game genre is one of the most exciting and popular game types. The gameplay is fast-paced and adrenaline-fueled, as players must make split-second decisions to avoid obstacles to win. Whether you enjoy them in arcades, on a PC, on consoles, or in a driving simulator, there's something for everyone. 

What are racing games? 

Racing games are a type of video game that involves the player controlling a vehicle either from a first-person or third-person perspective. While many types of racing games are available, they all share a common goal of crossing the finish line before anyone else. Whether it's a traditional Formula 1 race, an off-road rally, or even a kart style free for all, the player's ultimate objective is always the same. To succeed, they must use their reflexes, strategic planning, and quick thinking to outpace their opponents by the thinnest of margins. To increase replay value, many racing games also allow players to customize vehicles and tracks. 

Subgenres of racing games 

Racing game subgenres include: 

  • Arcade racing: These games feature fast-paced action and emphasize speed and agility.  
  • Kart racing: These feature small, fast vehicles that race around tracks with lots of twists and turns. Sometimes they also include special items to give you an advantage against opponents.  
  • Off-road racing: This type of game takes place on rougher terrain, often including obstacles like dirt, mud, and rocks.
  • Open-world racing: These games allow players to explore a large, open world at their own pace. They often feature a variety of different vehicles to choose from, and they can be played either solo or multiplayer.
  • Simulation racing: This style aims to recreate the experience of driving a real car as accurately as possible. This subgenre works well with a racing simulator and is quite common for series racing fans.
  • Street racing: These games focus on racing on public roads, and they often feature illegal activities such as drifting and disobeying traffic laws.

The history of racing games and the evolution from 2D to 3D to 4D 

The history of racing games dates back to the early days of video gaming. One of the earliest examples is Grand Prix, which was released in 1976. This 2D game was extremely popular and spawned many sequels over the years. 

With the advent of 3D graphics in the 1990s, racing games took on a whole new look. One of the most popular 3D racing games of all time is Need for Speed: Underground, which was released in 2003. This game featured realistic graphics and car customization that was unheard of at the time. Its popularity led to many other games adopting similar features. 

The latest evolution of this genre is 4D. These games add elements of virtual reality, making the experience more immersive. One of the most popular 4D racing franchises is the Forza Horizon series. These games feature stunning graphics and allow players to race around a virtual world. 

Popular racing game franchises 

There are a handful of titles on a variety of platforms that are responsible for the thriving genre we see today. With the rise of more powerful consoles and better graphics, racing games have only gotten better. Some of them, in no particular order, are: 

  • Forza 
  • Mario Kart 
  • Need For Speed 
  • Gran Turismo 
  • Burnout 
  • Test Drive 
  • Fast and the Furious 
  • Dirt 
  • F1 
  • iRacing 
  • MotoGP 
  • Grand Prix 
  • Project Cars 2 
  • Assetto Corsa 
  • CSR Racing 
  • Asphalt 
  • Nitro Nation Drag Racing 

The impact of racing games on esports 

Racing games are a staple in the esports world. They are known for their fast-paced gameplay and exciting matches. These games are often played in tournaments, and they attract a large number of viewers. The prize pools can be large, creating fierce competition. There are several reasons why racing games are well-suited to esports.  

  • They are relatively easy to pick up and play, making them accessible to a wide range of gamers.  
  • They are fast-paced and exciting to watch, which makes them ideal for broadcast. 
  • Races are unpredictable. Things can change at any time, making each race exciting. 

Platforms for racing game tournaments vary, as each game is unique. Unlike other genres, there aren’t just a few that dominate the esports scene. On one hand, there are dozens of tournaments each year. On the other hand, some games are set up into seasons similar to that of traditional sports. These tournaments and leagues are attracting some of the best racing game players from around the world and are creating a lot of choices for fans. Some of these include: 

  • F1 Esports 
  • iRacing Rallycross World Championship 
  • Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Super Cup 
  • WRC Esports 
  • ADAC GT Masters Esports Championship 
  • DTM Esports Championship 
  • Esports Racing World Cup by VCO 
  • ENASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series 

Common terms in racing games 

There are a few common terms in racing games that tend to be used across the genre. Here's a quick rundown of some of the most popular ones: 

  • Drifting: This is when the player intentionally oversteers around corners to maintain high speeds. It’s done by using the handbrake or by simply letting off the accelerator and turning sharply. 
  • Power sliding: A type of drifting where the player deliberately causes their car to slide by braking hard and turning sharply at the same time. This can be done with or without the handbrake. 
  • Drafting: An action in which the player gets close behind another car and uses the slipstream (the area of low pressure created by the car in front) to gain a speed boost. This is often used when trying to overtake another driver. 
  • J-turn: A specialized turn where the player quickly reverses direction by turning 180 degrees and then accelerating back in the other direction. This can be done with or without the handbrake. 
  • Handbrake turn: A move in which the player uses the handbrake to quickly turn their car around, often used for making sharp turns or getting out of tight situations. 
  • Boost or Nitro Boost: Some games are set up so that racers can perform a temporary increase in speed (a boost). This is usually done to counter drafting, on long straights, or after corners when the player was forced to slow down.  

Type of gaming equipment made specifically for racing games

Whether you enjoy these games on a PC, on a console, or on a simulator, specialized racing equipment is designed to provide a realistic and immersive experience. Generally, this type of gaming equipment is not required to play racing games but can make them more fun. 

  • Joysticks: The simplest input for racing games. They're easy to use and don't require any special setup. However, joysticks can be less precise than other inputs. 
  • Wheel: A more advanced but easy to use input that offers greater precision than a joystick. Wheels can give a more authentic experience to your game. 
  • Pedals: Another advanced input that offers greater precision than a joystick. Like wheels, they offer a more realistic experience.  
  • Virtual reality (VR) headsets: If your goal is to immerse yourself in the game, VR provides a whole new level of immersion that could make racing games even more exciting to play.  
  • Simulator: A simulator is a device that allows for the most realistic racing experience. These simulate sitting in an actual car with all the controls. Although these can be expensive, they add a whole new dynamic to each race. 

What's next for racing games? 

The future of racing games will be shaped by the success of developers to innovate and engage the genre’s fans. Developers will need to continue to find ways to make their games accessible and easy to play, while still providing a challenging and competitive experience. With more and more people getting into esports, the demand for racing games has room to grow. Along with esports, as the popularity of simulators and VR equipment continues, this is likely to drive demand. We should expect to see some racing games maintain their popularity and look forward to seeing how the genre develops over the next decade.

Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.



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