Five of the toughest racing games ever created 

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We showcase five of the toughest racing games ever made, from 1999’s Driver to this year’s TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3.

What’s the toughest racing game you’ve ever played? Was there a certain section of a game that you just couldn’t get past? Did the final licence test in Gran Turismo 7 drive you around the bend? 

Well, we attempt to collate a few of the games we found to be controller-smashingly difficult. That’s not to say these games are bad – far from it. In fact, all five of the games below are critically acclaimed and much loved by racing game connoisseurs.  

So whether the games are super tough generally (Stuntman) or just contain an infuriating tutorial (Driver) we think we’ve covered a decent range of devilishly difficult driving games from the past quarter of a century. (With more to come in future!) 

Richard Burns Rally
Good ol’ Diamond Creek – Richard Burns Rally

Stuntman 

In our retrospective of 2002’s epic stunt-em-up, we called Stuntman the ‘Dark Souls of driving games’. It’s a tagline well-earned too, as Reflections Interactive’s take on simulating the world of a movie Stuntman is equal parts frustration and fiery crashes. 

Your on-set Director offers instructions on where to point your vehicle and which obstacles to hit, but his orders often arrived too slowly for you to react in time, with some being vague to the point of impenetrable. There are no checkpoints either, so one mistake and you need to start the whole scene again. 

Stuntman, PlayStation 2

Still, though, there’s a good game underneath to make all the frustration worthwhile, with impressively destructible vehicles and cool set pieces. All the individual stunts are linked together into a movie trailer too, showing off all your hard work in all its cinematic glory. 

The Stunt Constructor Arena is where the game really shines for me, however, freeing you up to create extravagant and explosive stunts that show off the game’s damage and physics model.

And there’s no Director on hand to give you duff instructions. 

Driver 


Another Reflections Interactive game, 1999’s Driver sees players taking the role of undercover cop John Tanner, as he battles against the criminal underground of Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York – using only his car. 

There were car chases, fully explorable cities and copious amounts of PlayStation 1-era texture pop-in, but the game’s physics engine really made it shine. The seventies-inspired cars had realistically soft suspension which led to dynamic car movement, ideal for creating exciting car chase sequences in the game’s novel ‘Film Director’ mode. 

Driver, PlayStation
Nurse! The flashbacks have started again. Argh!

However, some of the missions were extremely difficult; requiring multiple attempts to get close to completing. The cops were also a pain, assaulting you mercilessly for running red lights, driving too fast or looking a bit shifty. 

This is nothing compared to the game’s opening tutorial, though, which was so confusing and difficult that many players simply gave up on the game before its first mission.  

You get a list of driving techniques to complete within a minute, but nothing is explained or demonstrated, making it a hit-and-miss exercise in guesswork. Back in the day, completing Driver’s tutorial took me a whole millennium to complete – finally nailing it in January 2000. 

Nailed it.

Richard Burns Rally 


You can’t have a list of the toughest racing games without the inclusion of Richard Burns Rally. Warthog Games’ rally sim took a different approach to the official WRC game franchise by launching itself at 100 miles per hour over a blind crest marked ‘realism’. 

Impacts with scenery were rally-ending, with hidden damage to your oil pump, battery or alternator just as likely to end proceedings as bodywork snapping crash. 

Richard Burns Rally
“I said right-hand entry at the chicane”

As a result, the game is difficult. Extremely difficult. But it’s rewarding too, with one of the finest physics engines ever produced in any game – not just in the driving genre. 

Clearing a stage with a scratch time and an unblemished car is an achievement like no other, with the way your car grips up realistically in compressions and berms supplying a satisfying rallying thrill unmatched by modern rival rally games. 

There was also a tricky Rally School mode voiced by 2001 World Rally Champion Burns, helping players refine their Scandi flicks and handbrake turns. Although lacking in content in vanilla form, Richard Burns Rally has found a new lease of life thanks to the modding community. It doesn’t make the game any less brutal, however. 

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3 

A list of tough racing games wouldn’t be complete without an Isle of Man TT title. From Jester Interactive’s two Isle of Man games (TT Superbikes: Real Road Racing and TT Superbikes: Real Road Racing Championship) to Kylotonn’s TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge series, the Isle of Man TT’s difficulty and danger has been well-represented in video game format. 

These titles veered on the side of simulation, with the Ride on the Edge games particularly featuring some unforgiving bike handling characteristics. 

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3, Brian McConnell, BMW M1000RR, Snaefell Mountain Course
Did I save it? Of course not.

This has been improved somewhat with RaceWard Studio’s TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3, released in May this year, but it remains a stern test of any motorcycle gaming fans’ coordination and skill. 

Bikes travel at close to 200mph around the Isle of Man’s famous Snaefell Mountain Course and its surrounding roads, with a recalcitrant dynamic racing line prompting players to ride straight into dry stone walls. 

Owing to the narrow public roads prevalent throughout the island, it’s nearly impossible to avoid hitting a kerb at the wrong angle (is there a correct angle on a motorcycle?!), sending you straight to the scene of the accident.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3, Snaefell Mountain Course, Supersport
Perfectly placed paramedics…

And the sluggish way the bikes move around demands players practise their braking and tip-in points, with track knowledge of the enormous 37.73-mile course vital to achieving a no-fall lap. 

And let’s not forget the difficulty in controlling a 1000cc Superbike under acceleration; players need to be on their guard to keep the front wheel on the ground exiting slow corners like Quarterbridge or the infamous Ramsey hairpin. 

It’s all worth it though, this game is a TT fan’s dream. 


BeamNG.drive 

Now, BeamNG.drive isn’t a difficult game per se, but some of its Scenarios are an extreme test of players’ patience. 

The Crawl Scenarios are a particular source of frustration, with the top-heavy nature of some vehicles proving to be the bane of my BeamNG life. I regret to say I completely gave up on ‘Freeform Mountain Crawl’ despite several attempts at scaling its Johnston Valley-based mountain in the SP Rockbasher. 

BeamNG.drive v0.28, Automation Test Track

Not only is it a fair old distance from the starting point to the base of the mountain – and it’s easy enough to roll your car into failure on the relatively safe route – but the way the car overreacts to throttle inputs quickly results in me returning to sea level end-over-end (over-end-over-end etc). 

Even with diff-locking available a lot of the off-road cars feel unnecessarily unstable over rocky terrain, resulting in a ream of spectacular crashes. But let’s face it, that’s kind of what BeamNG is all about, and I’m a glutton for punishment, so it’s always worth just one more try. 

For a kinder Crawl Scenario, give ‘Leap of Faith’ a go – it’s a much simpler traverse up a rocky ravine with a Hollywood-esque payoff at the end. 

Frustration arises in other Scenarios too, as other chase-style missions feature AI cars that take randomised routes to escape your clutches. ‘Destroy the Moonhawk’ is a good example of this; as you’re tasked with taking down a modified muscle car using your bog-standard SUV.  

BeamNG.drive Scenarios
Every…single time

In a straight line, the Moonhawk is simply too fast for your Chelsea tractor and disappears into the distance. It supposedly takes a random route every time, however, so you should catch up when the AI slows for tight corners.  

Naturally, of course, in the 15 or so times I attempted this Scenario, the Moonhawk stuck diligently to wide-open roads, giving me zero chance of catching it. Excellent.  

Still, though, I consoled myself by destroying various Fiat Multiplas in extravagant ways.  

Magic. 

Beautiful.

Which racing game would you rate as the toughest around? Let us know in the comments below if you’re still in therapy after trying Driver’s parking garage tutorial. 

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