A beginner’s guide to NASCAR Rivals for Nintendo Switch

Justin Melillo
NASCAR Rivals is now available on Nintendo Switch, and we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of the new game.
A beginner's guide to NASCAR Rivals for Nintendo Switch

The latest NASCAR video game on the market is NASCAR Rivals from Motorsport Games for the Nintendo Switch. This is the follow-up to last year’s NASCAR Heat Ultimate Edition+ title, which also released for the Switch exclusively.

Welcome to another year of taking NASCAR gaming on the go, but this time with rivalries at the forefront. The game can be played handheld or on a docking station to a television. It supports single-player career, races, 16-player online multiplayer, challenges, as well as split-screen multiplayer mode.

I’ll be diving into some of the basics for NASCAR Rivals to help get everyone started. From setting up the controls to starting a career, from playing online to customizing your driver, and everything else in between, I’ve got what you need to succeed in the latest portable NASCAR game. 


First things first, you’ll set up how you want to play the game. There are four difficulty presets – Casual, Normal, Hard and Expert. The lower you are, the easier things will be. More driving assistance will be implemented and the AI will be turned down. Conversely, the higher you go, the harder it will be.  

Being on a Nintendo Switch with digital controllers, the gas and brake aren’t pressure sensitive in any sense. It’s more of a constant full-on, full-off sensation when pressing the corresponding buttons. A Switch Pro Controller will give more precise inputs. The Hori MK Wheel is not optimized for Rivals.

Turning all the assists off would need an expert touch to not completely spin on take-off or lock up the brakes when attempting to slow down. Start at a lower setting until you get more comfortable, then raise it up from there. Players can also do custom settings, such as harder AI but more assists or vice-versa.

At any level, casual to expert, players can adjust the tight-to-loose slider for the car setup adjustment. There are no custom setups, similar to the way NASCAR 21: Ignition has it, there is merely a slider that makes the car turn more (and possibly spin more) or turn less (and probably be harder to turn).


As it usually is with NASCAR console games, the career mode is the big-ticket item for the majority of it. NASCAR Rivals sends players right into the NASCAR Cup Series to participate in, but there are two possible paths to take.

You can either race each season as an owner/driver or just drive for a preexisting team.

The latter will allow players to pick from one of the entry-level teams, such as Rick Ware Racing or Spire Motorsports.

Players will get to choose which driver to replace and begin their career from there. As players progress, the teams to choose from and drive for will become more lucrative as goals for each team are met.

As an owner/driver, you’ll create your own team, manage expenses and personnel, upgrade equipment and work up to the top of the NASCAR Cup Series.

NASCAR fans, think of it like what Tony Stewart did when he drove for Stewart-Haas Racing, or what BJ McLeod currently does with Live Fast Motorsports.

The ultimate goal is to become the NASCAR Cup Series champion. If one path or the other is chosen at the start, at the end of the season, the other option will be on the table.

There will be incentive-based challenges from sponsors to complete that you can choose how easy or difficult. An easier challenge will yield a smaller monetary prize. Momentum is something that can be earned during a season that provides a bit of a speed boost.  

If you’re struggling with completing goals for sponsors, maybe think about taking a lower goal. Completing goals in general are good for the business relationship you share with your sponsor.

If you’re constantly failing to meet expectations, it will make retaining sponsors and finding better rides a bit tougher. Also, you’ll at least have some income, even from a lower goal. 

For the owner/drivers, there are four different types of cars, from Short Track, to Speedway, then Superspeedway and finally, Road Course. 

The first race of the season is the Daytona 500, but opting for a Superspeedway car as a first purchase will put players behind the ball at the speedways that follow.

There are also hireable engineers that will help increase engine power, chassis and aero capabilities of the car.

You’ll need to upgrade both the departments (with money) and the people (with money). Don’t overspend if you find a place where you’re competitive, you don’t need to fully upgrade until later on.

NASCAR usually isn’t about winning it all in the first season, it should be a grind to the top. It’s your fake money though, so spend as you please. 


The Career schedule follows the 36-race NASCAR Cup Series schedule, starting in Daytona and ending in Phoenix. Races can be set to different lengths, some will allow for more options to be turned on, such as yellow flags, stages and black flags.

You can also choose to turn on DNF’s in the settings. If you crash hard enough, you’ll end the race without completion. You can simulate sessions if you don’t want to participate in a practice, qualifying or even a race session.

There are only 36 races and one series to contend with now, however. The season is split into six Superspeedway races, eight at Short Tracks, six Road Courses and 16 intermediate Speedway races.

My suggestion would be to build the speedway intermediate car first, since that’s the bulk. After that, whichever of the other three you prefer. Don’t forget to upgrade personnel and departments along the way!

Do take note, the game classifies Phoenix Raceway as a short track so a short track car will work best there… but that’s just plain wrong.

The title of the game is Rivals, so you’ll be getting a reputation dependent on the way you drive the computer opponents.

You get into rivalries with drivers by running them dirty and will make it harder to race around them.

On the opposite side of the coin, if you work together with another AI driver with drafting and making clean passes, you’ll get friendly with them, making them more likely to work with you. 


There are a host of other modes outside of the NASCAR Cup Series career. Single player modes, such as the Single Race and Challenges, are set to keep players entertained at their own pace.

Multiplayer options, such as Online or Local, exist to let players enjoy the title with others.

Finally, there are customization options to get into. Both cars and drivers can be created to your likeness to have a truly immersive experience.


Race Now is fairly self-explanatory. Pick a series, pick a car, pick a track, go race a single race event.

Race Now is great for getting to learn a circuit for the first time in a race setting, perhaps to see how different settings might work out. 

All 27 NASCAR Cup Series venues are selectable here, some venues hosting a second date that can be cycled so that all 36 points-paying races can be attempted.


For NASCAR Rivals on Switch, up to 16 players can get into a lobby and race against one another or a number of AI cars. A host can set up the lobby, choosing most of the details that could be chosen for an offline race.

Options range from the basics, like lap count, and flag settings and the track, to the number of assists that can be turned on or off. While NASCAR races can start up to 40 cars normally, the system is limited by the Nintendo Switch online play system.

Split Screen is a local multiplayer option to allow two players to race in a session offline on a single console. At this time, those are the only multiplayer options available.


The NASCAR Rivals paint booth is akin to the NASCAR 21: Ignition paint booth, both an upgrade and a bit of a letdown at the same time.

There’s no more pre-made bases or easily placed sponsors, creators will need to build their own liveries from shapes and size up their own logos to make them fit nicely.

A driver can also be created in NASCAR Rivals, and this is the same process that it has always been. Details such as facial features, weight, height, and uniform can all be adjusted.

When you load up a race weekend, you’ll see your character leaning on the race vehicle. When you win, your avatar will celebrate in victory lane. Make yourself as accurate or as wild as you desire.


So, what do you think? Are you ready to beat your rivals and become the next NASCAR champion?

Do remember that this is a starting guide for beginners. If you have any further questions related to NASCAR Rivals for the Nintendo Switch, ask away in the comments below.

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