One of the best things about the medium of games is that it allows us to do things we never could in real life. And one of my favorite activities is driving cars that could never exist in our world — from fictional Italian sports cars to anti-gravity machines built or race at light-speed. In that spirit, we’ve assembled a list of some of the greatest not-real cars or car-like vehicles gaming has ever given us. There’s a ride for everyone here, but make sure to let us know at the end what other dream rides deserved honorable mentions.
We’ve made the case before that the M12-FAV “Warthog” is the most important vehicle in this history of the medium. See, early in development, the game that would become Halo: Combat Evolved was actually a top-down, isometric real-time strategy game. But the addition of the Warthog — and the fun discovered in allowing players to control it themselves — was a major factor that convinced developer Bungie to rethink Halo’s perspective, and thus its entire gameplay design. Anyone who’s played the original Halo will tell you how critical the truck is to cultivating game’s themes of exploring a new world. Without it, Halo — or, indeed, Xbox — might not be household names today.
F/A Racing (Ridge Racer)
Namco’s Ridge Racer is beloved by its fans for two reasons: Its gratuitous attitude toward drifting, and its lore. The former was cultivated very early on, with the original, 1993 arcade release. But the latter would take a little time to develop, until 1996's Rage Racer which introduced fictional teams and manufacturers like Assoluto, Lizard, Âge and Gnade. (Remember Assoluto — we’ll talk about it some more later.)
But before any of that, you had the player’s car in the first game, known only as “F/A Racing.” It was clearly an amalgamation of various Japanese-market sports cars of the early ’90s, mixing cues from the A80 Toyota Supra, DC2 Honda Integra and Z32 Nissan 300ZX. The F/A Racing evolved over the years into multiple generations of the Kamata Fiera, becoming a little more distinctive but never straying far from its golden-era JDM front-engine, rear-wheel-drive roots.
Blue Falcon (F-Zero)
You can’t have F-Zero without the Blue Falcon — the chosen craft of intergalactic bounty hunter and racing pilot extraordinaire Captain Falcon. As there hasn’t been a new entry in Nintendo’s racing franchise for a long time, the Blue Falcon has made a habit of turning up in other Nintendo games — from Super Smash Bros., where you can fight as Captain Falcon, to Mario Kart and even Animal Crossing.
Banshee (Grand Theft Auto)
This one-off Bravado Banshee was sold at auction in 2018 and was built atop a Viper SRT-10 donor car — which definitely shines through in the greenhouse.
Grand Theft Auto’s car roster has expanded immensely over the years, but the Bravado Banshee is a mainstay — perhaps the series’ most recognizable car, and the one that’s actually been recreated in real life. Technically that makes it ineligible for this list, but we’re going to make an exception because it’s so damn cool that someone went to the trouble.
The Banshee is probably what would result if Dodge and Chevrolet decided to break tradition, pool their resources and make one sports car, uniting the Viper and Corvette into generic American mush. In its latest incarnation (as seen above), it’s probably more Viper than ’Vette, but Vice City offered an earlier take on the Banshee aping the C4-based Callaway Sledgehammer. I wonder how it’ll look in GTA VI?
Hornet High-Class (Daytona USA)
Walk into any Barcade and chances are high you’ll happen upon a row of Daytona USA cabinets, where you and your friends can still get behind the wheel of this ’90s stock-car-racing legend. The No. 41 Hornet High-Class car, in its iconic red-and-blue livery (or red and yellow, for those skilled in the art of gear drifting) is synonymous with racing games of the era.
Over the years the Hornet softened up, reflecting the look of NASCAR entering the new millennium. The one constant was its rock-solid, balanced performance. Never the easiest car to drive nor the hardest, it was an ideal car for players of all skill levels, and looked the best, too. Canonically, it was driven by Jacky Bryant of Virtua Fighter fame. Although, to the Hornet’s credit, it’s pretty fast with the hands as well.
Wombat Typhoon (MotorStorm)
Divorced from context, the Wombat Typhoon is but a humble, yellow buggy. But in the world of MotorStorm, it’s a total sleeper, mixing it up with dirt bikes and mud diggers, light enough to take the paths that require more precise driving but heavy and grippy enough not to be thwarted by obstacles that would impede two-wheeled rivals. We’ve gone a decade without a new MotorStorm, but the Typhoon ventured into developer Evolution Studios’ last game, Driveclub, before that team was shuttered by Sony. It held its own against supercars there, too.
Assoluto Bisonte (R4: Ridge Racer Type 4)
Ridge Racer Type 4 pretty much established the blueprint for a fictional motorsport world in video games, with inventive car designs and a rich history of automakers, teams and characters melding together to create something meaningful and dramatic. The Assoluto Bisonte is the star, showcased on the game’s cover art (in some regions, anyway) in its memorable silver-and-blue Racing Team Solvalou livery.
Unlike many fictional cars from games of its era, the Bisonte is a thoroughly unique design. You could say the front goes for a neo-GT40 look, but this was four years before the Ford GT arrived, and from the A-pillar back the exterior is hard to relate to any particular real-world counterpart. The Bisonte lost some personality in later Ridge Racer titles, but this first attempt is still beloved today — so much so that fans are modding it into modern simulators like Assetto Corsa.
B Dasher (Mario Kart)
If we’re going purely on miles driven, the classic pipe-frame kart is hard to beat. It’s been in almost every Mario Kart since the original, and when your mind drifts back to those precious, golden memories of making your friends cry in Block Fort in Mario Kart 64, the pipe frame is what you see. But it’s not the coolest option in Mario Kart, and for that, we must turn to the Honda RA271-inspired B Dasher. You can still find the B Dasher in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Switch, owing to its popularity dating back to its introduction in 2005's Mario Kart DS.
Custom Coupe (Burnout)
The Custom Coupe, also known as the Kitano Hydros Techno in Burnout Paradise, is pretty much the quintessential Burnout car. It was first introduced in the second entry and has appeared in nearly every game since — Pop Tarts-style lime green-and-blue livery intact. It’s said that the Custom Coupe was inspired by the Mitsubishi Eclipse driven by Brian O’Conner in the first Fast & Furious movie, which tracks given that Burnout 2: Point of Impact would’ve released at the height of F&F fever. If we’re lucky enough to ever get a new Burnout, it deserves an appearance.
Quartz Regalia (Final Fantasy XV)
The Quartz Regalia is one of the more unique entries on this list, having been created for an RPG rather than a racing game. And though you can sort of drive it in Final Fantasy XV as Prince Noctis road tripping with your best pals, you’ll have to fire up Forza Horizon 3 or 4 to really experience it to the fullest. The Regalia is massive, measuring almost 21 feet long and 7 feet wide — about four feet longer than a Kia Telluride, for reference. In Forza Horizon 4, the Regalia’s “Type D” off road spec was added, basically transforming it into a monster truck.
Quadra Turbo-R V-Tech (Cyberpunk 2077)
The world of Cyberpunk 2077 is home to weird and wonderful car designs — one of the most notable being the Quadra Turbo-R V-Tech. Like the aforementioned Regalia, the Turbo-R made its way to Forza Horizon 4 rebuilt with stunning attention to detail, as cars in Forza often are. It’s a pretty competitive S-Class car too in the game, thanks to its all-wheel-drive configuration and low weight. It’s not the only car I’d want to tour Night City in, but if I had to choose just one, the Turbo-R would be hard to turn down.
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