The Switch has done so many things right in its life, but while platformers, RPGs and so many indie games keep their fans well served, there haven’t been so many options for having a great time racing cars on Nintendo’s hybrid machine. Sure, the lack of analogue shoulder buttons isn’t ideal, and there’s no support for high-end racing wheels either, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a racing fix here.
This list shows you some great racers available on Switch right now – and better still they often go on sale at lower prices. Whether you’re into serious track racing, casual karting or arcade classics, there’s something here for everyone. Check out these beauties.
Sega Ages Virtua Racing
The granddaddy of all 3D racing games (depicted in the header image of this article), this masterpiece from Sega AM2 was ported to various home consoles four times before this version, with varying degrees of success. But this Switch version (and it is currently ONLY available on Nintendo Switch) is not only the best port of the game ever, it’s also the best version of it full stop.
Why? Because it’s running the original arcade code, only with widescreen support, 60fps fluidity on everything except canned animations like coconuts falling, and 1080p HD support in docked mode, putting the once-revolutionary original to shame.
For a while, the Switch port was tantalisingly close to being perfect but inexplicably lacked the correct arcade colour palette. But then conversion team M2 added a gamma adjustment slider via a small patch and now the famous Bay Bridge is actually red again. It’s so good now, long-term fans might actually cry. It’s still a belter of a racing game too, with track design, handling and difficulty curve all up there with the best ever made. Get on it.
Sumo Digital made its name with conversions, most notably when they ported OutRun 2 to Xbox back in the day, but after finally trying an original IP with Snake Pass (which isn’t racing-themed but you should also play), they’ve created a retro-tasic racer of their own. It’s the closest we’ve had to the perfect modern arcade racing game in years, and it’s only really lacking in one area: car damage.
The cars just don’t fall apart when you crash them into walls or each other, which is a shame. That aside, it’s all good. The tracks look great with their flat-shaded environmental touches, the drift-centric handling works well and makes it challenging to master, and the smooth frame-rate even on Switch means that it’s just a joy to experience it in motion. And the racing, while a little rubber-bandy at times, is great once you get used to the drafting and using your boost wisely.
Burnout Paradise was always a Marmite kind of game, separating ribbon-racing ‘purists’ from everyone else who thought a city full of car wrecking is a fantastic idea. But whichever camp you fall into, it’s hard to criticise this superb Switch conversion, especially if you play in handheld mode where its slightly jagged edges make less difference.
The game sees you revving up at the lights to start races in a sprawling city, with still best-in-class car damage and insane speed. Being a Remastered edition, it also includes all of the phenomenal DLC that was released to improve the already amazing base game. This includes bikes, day/night transitions, special vehicles and even a whole island designed to give expert players some truly amazing stunt opportunities.
The soundtrack is still wonderful, its 60fps action means it doesn’t feel old in the slightest, and it’s a universally appealing concept. Kids love it, adults love it. So if you can get over your ‘It’s not real Burnout’ gripes, you’ll love this too. For more on this game, you can also read our full review of the Switch version.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered
After making Burnout Paradise, Criterion made this similar game for EA, under the Need for Speed banner. Borrowing ideas from Burnout and the NfS series’ early PS2 past, this is a very tasty mix of gameplay, including cops and robbers clashes, high speed drifts through naturalistic scenery and some of the best leaderboard-owning gameplay around.
This is the game that introduced the world to Autolog, which turned every level into a battle against your online mates – a concept copied by countless other games that followed. This competitive concept is interwoven through the action brilliantly and seamlessly.
That said, while there are some quality-of-life enhancements for the Switch version, it is worth noting that in handheld mode you’re basically looking at the PS3/360 version of the game anyway in terms of fluidity and resolution. But when the game remains extremely playable, having it in your backpack wherever you go is still very welcome. For more on this game, you can also read our full review.
Sega Ages OutRun
1986 saw Sega pushing its arcade hardware that had powered Hang-On and Space Harrier to never-before-seen levels of graphical intensity and it was incredible to witness. To achieve this blizzard of high-colour visuals, the team cut the traditional 60fps of arcade titles to 30fps, loading the processor with twice as much to do and filling the screen with countless scaling scenery objects to create one of the most convincing pseudo-3D driving games of all time.
Of course, Nintendo Switch has more power than two 1986 arcade chips and so it fixes that problem, delivering OutRun to your home at a glorious 60fps. The driving itself may be basic, but the steering’s analogue and the two-gear system has some pretty impressive depth in terms of sweet-spot gear shifting. And hey – you can’t help but enjoy the ride when the music’s this good.
Sega didn’t have a Ferrari license in 1986, and when their real one expired after OutRun 2, they decided to remove the prancing horse from the car in this one. That small compromise aside, the game is better-than-arcade perfect in every way and must be played. Plus, even if you miss the arcade cabinet, it even simulates that too, complete with a fuzzy visual filter. To be this good took ages.
Switch’s premiere ‘serious’ racer deserves more recognition because it’s extremely good. Released originally at the tail-end of the Xbox 360 and PS3 generation, this structure is a streamlined, choice-heavy racer compared to its predecessors, that lets you just play what you want to play from a selection of several very cool motorsport disciplines.
The car handling is a little fiddly on the Switch’s Joy-Cons, but once you get the hang of it, the quality of driving physics here is commendable. Couple this serious driving with some of the best crash physics seen in any racer (made just before Codemasters started dialling back the damage), this makes for a more impressive game at times than rival consoles got with the supposedly more advanced GRID of 2018.
Throw in some real-world licensed circuits and a mode that lets you toggle between graphical fidelity at 30fps and a lower-detailed target 60fps and you’ve got yourself the most convincing hardcore racer on the system.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Let’s face it, you’ve already got this so you know how good it is. And if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat. No other kart racer is this detailed, slickly produced or just downright joyous. Mario has clearly still got it even though he must be pushing 60 given he was fully grown in 1981’s Donkey Kong. And while this game is not all about the racing when there are so many power-ups and weapons to chuck around, there’s no way you’ll win on 150cc or higher if you haven’t learned to drive the karts properly.
From jumping at the tip of ridges and learning how to use the shortcuts, to mastering the sparking wheels of the drift system, Mario Kart 8 has a solid and assured driving model at its heart, and the fluidity of motion is exceptional. One to play with the family, certainly, but if you want to get younger gamers into racers, this is the perfect place to start.
So there we have it: seven fantastic racers on an equally fantastic platform. That’s not to say you can’t find racing fun in other Switch games too, just that things get a little patchier after this lot. Be sure to check out our full review of Absolute Drift Zen Edition for Switch too, which didn’t quite make this list but certainly has its charms.