Put the Pedal to the Metal with the Best Sim Racing Games

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Best Sim Racing Games 2023Amazon
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Despite having never stepped foot in a dedicated piece of racing machinery, I've covered thousands of miles of pavement across some of the most iconic race circuits around the world, all from the comfort of my home. How, you ask? With the help of sim racing.

Sim racing, for those uninitiated, is a subset of gaming that focuses on delivering a lifelike driving experience through dedicated motorsport games and accompanying computer and gaming peripherals, such as sim racing wheels, pedals, seats, shifters, and more.

Much like in the world of motorsport, there are different sim racing games for all kinds of racers. In this article, we're breaking down seven of the best games available for PC and console, and providing a brief overview to help you better find the game that best fits your style.

Things to Consider When Buying a Sim Racing Game

Diving into the world of sim racing is thrilling, but depending on your desired experience, it can be a serious investment. Let's start by saying there's no one-size-fits-all, and what tickles your racing fancy might not do the same for others. Here are some things you should consider when picking out a sim racing game:

Realism and Physics: First and foremost, ask yourself, "How real do I want this to feel?" Some folks like it authentic; others, not so much. Games like Assetto Corsa and iRacing are renowned for their realistic physics. They simulate tire wear, weight transfer, and even how temperature affects the track. However, if you want something less punishing and more forgiving, you might prefer titles like the F1 series or Forza Motorsport.

Car and Track Selection: What sort of cars are you looking to race with? And what tracks do you want to race them around? Games like Assetto Corsa and iRacing have an extensive list of cars and tracks. Some, like Forza Motorsport, even dabble in fantasy tracks, which can be a fun alternative to the real thing. Be sure to check out what is available for each game before making a purchase to ensure it fits what you're looking for.

Learning Curve and Accessibility: Sim racing can sometimes feel as complex as rocket science, so consider how much time you want to invest. Something with a gentler learning curve might be more appealing if you're a newcomer. Gran Turismo Sport, for instance, is known for being beginner-friendly.

Multiplayer and Community: If you're the type who gets a kick out of wheel-to-wheel racing with humans instead of AI, check out the multiplayer options. Games like iRacing have a huge competitive scene and a vibrant community.

Customization and Modding: If you like to tinker under the hood or yearn for tracks and cars that aren't officially available, you should check the modding scene. Assetto Corsa, for instance, has a huge modding community, and you can find everything from go-karts to Mars rovers to race with.

Hardware Compatibility: Got some shiny gear or a killer racing rig? Double-check that the game you're eyeballing supports your hardware. Thrustmaster, Logitech, and Fanatec are popular brands, and while most games support them, it's better to be safe than sorry.

System Requirements and Platform: Keep in mind what system you're playing on. PC is generally the go-to for hardcore sim racers, but consoles like PlayStation and Xbox have some fantastic offerings too. Just ensure your rig or console can handle the game smoothly.

Budget and Ongoing Costs: Finally, let's talk about the wallet. While nearly every game comes with a standard set of cars and tracks, most games also offer additional content through in-game purchases. For example, iRacing requires you to purchase a license to use specific vehicles and tracks, while games like rFactor 2 offer genre-specific add-ons for endurance racing and other series-specific content. Keep both initial and ongoing costs in mind before putting your foot to the pedal.

Forza Motorsport: Standard Edition (Xbox Series X

To hardcore sim racing fans, the Forza Motorsport series may be a bit on the arcade side. But for several generations, it has been a mainstay on Microsoft consoles. This latest iteration will be launched exclusively on Microsoft's latest console, the Xbox Series X|S.

Forza Motorsport will feature over 500 licensed cars, 20 environments with an array of track layouts, a revamped customization system, and much more.

What stands out most to us, and what will likely appeal to the more hardcore racing fans, is the new driver and safety ratings. With the new system, racers will essentially have a rating that they carry with them into online lobbies that will dictate who they race against. What is cool is unlike past Forza titles that only account for a skill rating, it will also take into account how clean or dirty a driver is and match them with similar opponents. This means much less grief in online lobbies for those of us interested in good clean racing.

The game will launch with two versions, the standard base game, and a premium version that will allow early access to the game, VIP Membership, additional cars, and more.

You can preorder the standard game now, or opt for the premium version and start planning right away. The standard version launches on Tuesday, October 10, 2023.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C95DS1L8?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10064.g.44172896%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Forza Motorsport: Standard Edition (Xbox Series X</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$69.99</p><span class="copyright">Amazon</span>

iRacing (PC)

Ah, iRacing, the alpha dog of the sim racing world. The title that manages to bridge the gap between gaming and real motorsport so finely, it's revered by both sim racers and professional drivers alike. I've spent hundreds of hours behind the wheel of dozens of cars in iRacing, and while iRacing might not necessarily excel in one specific area, it stands above the rest with its online multiplayer and competitive series, which rewards clean driving and patience while also pushing you to your limits.

Unlike every other game on this list, iRacing is a subscription-based service that boasts an unparalleled level of realism. The laser-scanned tracks are meticulous down to the millimeter, and the physics engine is as close to real-life racing as you can get without strapping into an actual race car. Dynamic weather and track conditions keep you on your toes, as you'll have to adapt your driving technique constantly, just like in an actual race.

What sets iRacing apart from the crowd, though, is its competitive ecosystem. The iRacing community is a melting pot of enthusiasts and professional racers, and the ranking system ensures you're matched with drivers of a similar skill level. It's not just about turning laps; it's about racing culture, sportsmanship, and the ongoing development of your skills.

The official series and special events, some of which even allow you to qualify for real-world races, provide an experience beyond just playing a game—it's an ongoing virtual racing career. If you're looking to challenge yourself against the best and are willing to invest both time and resources, iRacing is the pinnacle of sim racing.

<p><a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/266410/iRacing/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>iRacing (PC)</p><p>steampowered.com</p><p>$9.99</p>

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iRacing (PC)



F1 23 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)

F1 23 is the latest officially licensed Formula 1 racing game developed by Codemasters. It builds upon the success of its predecessors, offering a realistic racing experience as simple or sophisticated as you'd like.

While the initial versions of the F1 series were more arcade than simulation, Codemasters has steadily added more advanced features and integrations to bring it more in line with the likes of more traditional sim racing games. This makes it a great game for anyone getting started with sim racing, as you can start with all the driver-assists turned on and remove them as your skill level progresses.

As you'd expect from an officially licensed game, F1 2023 allows you to race as all of your favorite F1, F2, and F3 drivers across all of the tracks used throughout the 2023 F1 season, including the new Las Vegas and Qatar circuits. Other new additions to F1 23 include a new "Braking Point 2" story mode and "F1 World" hub. The latter further immerses you into what it's like to partake in a full Formula 1 race season by allowing you to level up with a new progression system. You can complete challenges, compete for rewards, earn upgrades, and even snag true-to-life F1 livery, suit, and helmet drops.

While I haven't played F1 2023 yet, I have raced F1 2020, '21, and '22, and it's clear that Codemasters is continually looking for ways to improve the overall experience and realism of the F1 racing world without abandoning budding sim racers. F1 2023 is available to pre-order for PC, Playstation, and Xbox. It releases on June 16.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C3T7K9Z8?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10064.g.44172896%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>F1 23 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$64.97</p>

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F1 23 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)



rFactor 2 (PC)

Developed by Studio 397, rFactor 2 has been around for a while but continues to be revered for its depth and complexity. Its physics engine is second to none, and for the true sim racing aficionados who love to tinker, this game is a treasure chest. Its deep customization options allow you to fine-tune almost every aspect of the car, and its physics modeling, especially in terms of tire dynamics and chassis flex, is legendary among the community. The game offers a wide range of cars and tracks, including some historical content, which is a treat for motorsport history buffs.

One of rFactor 2's distinctive features is its real-road technology, where the track surface evolves. Rubber gets laid down in the racing line as more cars drive over it, and marbles (bits of rubber that shed from tires) build up off the line. This means you have to adapt your driving as the track conditions change, similar to what real-world drivers face throughout a race weekend. Moreover, the game's modding support is extraordinary; the community has created many cars, tracks, and plugins that immensely enhance and expand the game. For these reasons, rFactor 2 is an enduring icon for those seeking a deep, complex, and highly customizable sim racing experience.

<p><a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/365960/rFactor_2/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>rFactor 2 (PC)</p><p>steampowered.com</p><p>$29.99</p>

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rFactor 2 (PC)



Assetto Corsa Competizione (PC, Playstation, Xbox)

Slipping into the hyper-realistic realm of GT3 racing, Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC) is a sim racing gem that carves its own path in the world of virtual motorsport. Developed by Kunos Simulazioni, ACC is the official game of the GT World Challenge, which means it's laser-focused on reproducing the GT3 racing experience with incredible detail.

The game's car models are nothing short of automotive art, and each vehicle exhibits the characteristics that set them apart in real life. The tracks are laser-scanned, and the audio design is some of the best in the business, which, when paired with the day-night cycle and weather system, gives you an incredibly immersive experience.

The tire model in ACC is widely praised for capturing the nuances of how rubber interacts with different road surfaces, which is an absolute treat for sim racers who crave authenticity. The force feedback is delightfully informative and allows you to feel what's happening at the contact patch, which is vital in a racing sim.

The game also boasts a well-structured ranking and matchmaking system, which, while not as extensive as iRacing's, ensures competitive online races. If GT3 racing is your thing, and you're looking for a sim that combines excellent driving feel with authenticity, Assetto Corsa Competizione should be at the top of your list.

<p><a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/805550/Assetto_Corsa_Competizione/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Assetto Corsa Competizione (PC, Playstation, Xbox)</p><p>steampowered.com</p><p>$39.99</p>

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Assetto Corsa Competizione (PC, Playstation, Xbox)



Project Cars 3 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)

Project Cars 3 is the latest installment in the Project Cars series, developed by Slightly Mad Studios. While the first two editions were well-known for their hardcore simulation approach, Project Cars 3 takes a slightly different approach. It's a more accessible and user-friendly experience that aims to cater to a broader audience.

The game offers an expansive roster of cars and a collection of tracks, with a particular emphasis on customization and car development. The career mode is more fleshed out than its predecessors, with a progression system that allows you to start from the bottom and work your way up the ranks as you earn and upgrade vehicles.

What sets Project Cars 3 apart is its balance between simulation and accessibility. It's like a bridge for those who want to transition from arcade racers to more serious simulation games. The handling model is more forgiving than hardcore sims but offers enough depth to be challenging. Another standout feature is the customization and livery editor which allows for extensive visual and performance modifications to your cars.

Additionally, the game's graphics and presentation are polished, and the dynamic weather and day-night cycles add an extra layer of immersion and challenge. While some sim racing purists were disappointed with the move toward a more accessible style, Project Cars 3 has found its niche in providing a stepping stone for those looking to ease their way into the sim racing world.

<p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08H9FJF9B?tag=syn-yahoo-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10064.g.44172896%5Bsrc%7Cyahoo-us" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Project Cars 3 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)</p><p>amazon.com</p><p>$59.99</p>

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Project Cars 3 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)



DiRT Rally 2.0 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)

Dirt Rally 2.0, another game developed by Codemasters, is a masterclass in rallying for the digital age. I've only played it on a handful of occasions, as I don't have rally-specific sim racing hardware to make the most of the experience, but it's unlike any other sim racing game I've experienced. Unlike the pavement and slicks I'm more accustomed to with iRacing and rFactor 2, Dirt Rally 2.0 is all about the off-road, delivering incredibly realistic rally experiences.

The game boasts an impressive collection of rally cars from different eras, and the stages are incredibly diverse, from the rain-soaked forests of Wales to the dusty trails of Australia. The attention to detail in both audio and visuals is astonishing, with car sounds that are so realistic, you can almost smell the burning rubber and mud.

What sets Dirt Rally 2.0 apart from the crowd is its off-road realism. The handling and physics are exceptionally well-crafted, and you can feel the differences in terrain under your virtual tires. The degradation of the stages is another standout feature; as more cars pass through a stage, the tracks get more rutted and the grip levels change. This forces you to adapt your driving style like real rally drivers. The co-driver's pace notes are an essential tool, guiding you through the blind turns and crests of the rally stages.

With a no-holds-barred approach to the challenges of rally racing, Dirt Rally 2.0 is not just a game; it's an education in car control and a tribute to some of the most demanding motorsport on the planet.

<p><a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/690790/DiRT_Rally_20/https://dirtrally2.dirtgame.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>DiRT Rally 2.0 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)</p><p>steampowered.com</p><p>$19.99</p>

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DiRT Rally 2.0 (PC, Playstation, Xbox)



Automobilista 2 (PC)

Automobilista 2 started out with an emphasis on Brazilian motorsport, resulting in a rather niche game that isn't as well-known as most of the other games listed here. However, its developer, Reiza Studios, has dramatically expanded the cars and tracks available in the game, bringing a realistic sim racing experience to tracks across five continents.

The game is built on the same engine used for the Project Cars series, resulting in impressive visuals, dynamic weather conditions, and a day-night cycle that adds an extra layer of immersion and challenge to your racing experience.

The uniqueness of Automobilista 2 lies in its content. While it's been expanded for a more international audience, the game features an array of Brazilian circuits and car categories that are rarely seen in other sim racing titles, making it a treasure trove for those looking to explore region-specific tracks and racing series. It also offers an extensive collection of historical content, letting players experience classic cars and tracks not always found in other titles. The force feedback and physics are also worthy of praise, providing a natural feel that effectively communicates what's happening between the car and the track.

Automobilista 2 is a hidden gem for those seeking diversity in content and an immersive driving experience with a touch of South American flair.

<p><a href="https://www.game-automobilista2.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Automobilista 2 (PC)</p><p>game-automobilista2.com</p><p>$2020.00</p>

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Automobilista 2 (PC)




What should I look for in a sim racing game?

When looking for a sim racing game, consider your interests and experience level. If you're new to sim racing, look for a game with a user-friendly interface and a gentler learning curve, like Project Cars 3. For more experienced racers, games like iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione, or rFactor 2 offer deeper physics and more realistic experiences. Also, consider the types of cars and tracks you are interested in, as well as whether you prefer single-player, multiplayer, or a mix of both.

Do I need special equipment to play sim racing games?

While it's possible to play sim racing games with just a keyboard or a gamepad, a wheel and pedal set will significantly enhance your experience. Force feedback steering wheels give you a more realistic feel of the car's behavior. Additionally, some sim racers opt for a dedicated racing seat and multiple monitors or VR headsets for immersion. Your investment in equipment can range from a basic wheel and pedal set to a full racing simulator rig, depending on your budget and level of interest.

How can I improve my sim racing skills?

Like real racing, improvement in sim racing comes with practice. Start by learning the racing lines and braking points on different tracks. Experiment with different car setups to find what works best for your driving style. Engage with the sim racing community, watch tutorials, and don't be afraid to enter online races to gain experience. Additionally, paying attention to the game's feedback, whether through the wheel or on-screen data, can help you understand how to adapt your driving style for better performance. Remember, patience, practice, and consistency are key.

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