These are the best racing games released during 2022 across mobile, PC, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and Xbox.
It’s been tricky to whittle them down, because, while it was a stellar year where the genre made huge strides forward, this was arguably mainly down to continued support and downloadable content for existing platforms.
No bad thing, but this ever-encroaching live service business model does mean fewer individual releases.
Still, there were a number of gems released this year that Traxion.GG will no doubt be covering for the years to come.
So, here are five games – in no particular order – we loved this year, that were launched in that same time window, aren’t necessarily the greatest of all time and were neither updates to, nor ports of, existing releases.
Vote for the best racing game released in 2022 at the bottom of this article.
Need for Speed Unbound
Picking more than four racing games this year was a quandary, several of the honourable mentions could have made the final cut, and for the first all-new Need for Speed in three years, the omens weren’t looking good.
Development was paused in 2021 so Criterion Games could help finish Battlefield 2042. Then, when it resumed, the team needed to adjust to Codemasters’ Cheshire outfit becoming part of the project.
There were no reviews before the game’s $80 Palace Edition went on sale, either, while a cartoonlike visual style divided opinion.
Despite these hurdles, Unbound heralded a return to form for the open-world driving game in general, outside of Forza Horizon. Electronic Arts and the industry needed this to succeed, and we think for the most part it did.
Some of the car customisation options are unprecedented, and it’s these visual upgrades that hold the experience together.
A$AP Rocky’s appearance and the story itself are neither here nor there, the first few hours quite restrictive and the baseline gameplay experience not particularly ground-breaking.
But once you’re used to the day cycle gameplay loop and upgraded your vehicles enough to shake the cops, you realise there’s a thoughtful progression to proceedings, insane jumps, eye-watering top speeds and incredible visuals to boot when using a PS5 or Xbox Series X.
Horizon Chase 2
Yes, a mobile game. And not just that, one that is part of a frustrating business model.
Apple Arcade is a subscription service that you probably have by accident by purchasing a new iOS device recently. But, unlike other services like Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus, these games aren’t available to purchase separately, even on the App Store.
So, when the sequel to one of our favourite retro arcade racing games – remember the Ayrton Senna DLC for Horizon Chase Turbo last year? – went straight behind the Apple sub wall, it was a handbrake turn straight to the guts.
It retains its forbearers handling fluency, but layers in more advanced online multiplayer, turns up the vibrancy of the colour palette and allows the track designers to run wild.
“This is a prime example of the arcade racer, reviving ’80s gaming sensibilities beautifully and offering a joyous, simple experience anyone can enjoy,” said Justin Towell in our Horizon Chase 2 review.
Mercifully, Horizon Chase 2 is headed to more devices, including PC and console, at some point in 2023. Phew. The wait will be worth it…
F1 Manager 2022
When you’ve started your third season in F1 Manager 2022, the car development seems to lack the required depth, the AI decisions seem to be determined by someone who’s never watched a Formula 1 race and the driver market makes less sense than Tyson Fury.
Come on though, not bad for Frontier Development’s first effort in a racing management series, let alone inaugural foray into motorsport.
Why this title makes this list is very simple – it provokes emotions.
That first time you micromanage a young driver into a points-paying position for Haas, only for them to throw it off the road with a handful of laps remaining is rage-inducing.
Games, like other forms of entertainment such as films or TV shows, are created to generate feelings. Sadness, anger, relief and happiness. One season of controlling Williams in this title will see you run the full gamut of sentiments.
Technically, dig deeper and this isn’t the perfect management sim. Yet, it’s capable of being the most intense single-player motorsport title you’ll play this year.
Gran Turismo 7
It apparently doesn’t rain in America, the online lobbies are still unstable, the in-game currency model raised serious questions and once you’ve finished the Café Menu Books, there perhaps isn’t enough incentive for many to go back.
Gran Turismo 7‘s dynamic weather system is truly genre-leading, regardless of platform, there isn’t a more accessible sim-ish handling model in gaming and the real-world track recreations are a cut above.
These core abilities matter, while the rest of the experience can be built upon and refined. The essentials are in place, before we mention the ranked online Sport Mode, a car collecting draw or free monthly updates.
Ignore the needless fripperies such as Music Rally and Meeting Places and focus on driving.
It’s clear this isn’t going to be as fondly remembered as some of its precursors. But Gran Turismo 7 is also a continually updated platform that will continue to evolve over the years to come, and we can’t wait to see what comes next…
World of Outlaws: Dirt Racing
On the face of it, PC simulation subscription service iRacing’s console debut was up against it.
Developer Monster Games has previously produced the solid if unspectacular Tony Stewart and SRX games, and on the run-up to launch, World of Outlaws: Dirt Racing simply looked like yet another rehash.
But the Massachusetts-based chiefs saw something we clearly didn’t when they purchased the team at the start of the year and its potential has finally been realised.
Straight up, this game will not be for everyone. Dirt oval racing is a niche within a niche within a North American niche. Its representation of the sport is unabashed.
The decision was also made to spin off some of the licenced tracks into paid DLC – try to imagine a Formula 1 game doing that – and its online system is as basic, and as barren, as it comes.
Yet, this blew us away. One of the best games of the year and the single most surprising.
There’s nuance the vehicle handling, not just across the multiple different classes, but across varying surface types. Running a high line or a low line is possible, and both will work when the time is right.
The biggest shock is a single-player career that delivers arguably the most depth of any driving title released this year – take note Polyphony Digital…
Best continued support
While the five games above were our favourite all-new titles released in 2022, plenty of existing platforms received updates. Lots of updates.
Here are four we think stood out, although it’s worth noting that both RaceRoom Racing Experience and rFactor 2 were extremely close to inclusion. This isn’t about the best overall platforms per se, but judged on the rate of progress.
Forza Horizon 5
Microsoft’s open-world epic continued to excel throughout 2022, with its Hot Wheels Expansion being a particular visual feast. But the weekly Festival Playlists that steal the show, continually adding new cars to the platform, provided you collect enough points by completing challenges.
If Redmond’s aim was a high number of continually engaged users, it succeeded, especially after the flood of Game Pass subscribers playing their very first Horizon title.
The PC-only driving simulator that uses a heavily modified version of the Project CARS MADNESS game engine went through several pivotal evolutions in 2022.
There was the headline-grabbing hybrid single-seater Formula Ultimate Generation 2, this year’s Brazlian Stock Car Pro Series plus Galeão venue, the latest Spa-Francorchamps layout including gravel and a last, the Racin’ USA Part 3 DLC.
But under the hood, the physics changes continued at a rapid pace, oval racing, improved damage and even diesel fumes.
The year started off slowly for the preeminent sim racing subscription service, and while the track and car list continued to grow, key features such as rain failed to mateiralise this time around.
But, let us not forget, the Porsche Mission R became the platform’s very first electric vehicle, Rudskogen came out of nowhere to expand the include-track roster and the final update of the year was massive.
Sweeping changes to the tyre model and performance of GT3 and LMP2 vehicles, the BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh, the Mercedes-AMG W13 F1 car and Active Reset – an innovate practice tool that allows for the rehearsal of specific corners.
There’s life in this sim racing platform yet…
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass
While expecting Mario Kart 9 to have already released by now is not unreasonable, at least some new tracks were released this year for the venerable 8 Deluxe.
Well, let’s say reborn as opposed to ‘new’.
On paper, rehashing circuits from previous mobile spin-offs is hardly something to look forward to. But, never discount Nintendo. The Booster Course Pass is an inexpensive way of elgongating the appear of the very best kart racer, and with 24 extras tracks launching in 2022 alone (another 24 arrive in 2023) we were suddenly back playing Mario Kart online again.
Best re-release, new version or port
We’d also like to touch upon some games which we loved this year, but were technically new version, updates or ports of existing titles. Here are three we couldn’t stop playing this year.
Inertial Drift: Twilight Rivals Edition (PS5/XSX)
4K 60fps, or even up to 120fps, the independent Level 91 Entertainment aced Inertial Drift‘s transition to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The Twilight Rivals DLC was a sweetener, available for new and old platforms too.
This precision driving game’s unique twin-stick drifting technique felt as fresh as ever, only now there are more tracks, cars and leadborads to conquer.
Rush Rally Origins (PC)
The diminutive Brownmonster Games took its mobile and Switch top-down rally game into the fiercely competitive Steam marketplace and… handled it with aplomb. Rush Rally Origins was in our overall game of the year list in 2022, and this time its PC port kept us playing.
They even managed to release Rush Rally 3 on the platform too.
Wreckfest (Switch and Mobile)
Wreckfest on mobile phones and tablets shouldn’t work. But, it’s incredible.
Forget downloading an episode of your latest Netflix binge for your next flight or train journey, buy this instead. Thanks to advances in modern mobile technology, in our testing high-end Samsung and Nothing phones or the latest iPad can run it with aplomb and even support controllers via Bluetooth.
In comparison, the Nintendo Switch port looks less crisp, but it’s still just as playable. Two stunning mobile versions within one year.
The only downside of both platforms is barren online lobbies. If ever that was a game that needed cross-platform multiplayer…
Just before we end this year’s round-up, there were plenty of good games that didn’t quite make the final five.
Take EA SPORTS F1 22, for example. Yes, there was a new, somewhat divisive, handling model to match the fresh ruleset, but it also added in superfluous road-going supercars instead of refining more important areas.
WRC Generations still suffers from dowdy visuals, lacklustre engine sounds and the new hybrid Rally1 cars are heavier, thus more cumbersome to drive. Still, the new Leagues mode is engrossing and, with a wheel peripheral on the Swedish stages, one of the best rally handling models ever to exist.
Among other notable yearly sports releases, Monster Energy Supercross 5 was the biggest step forward for the dirt bike series in several years in terms of features, but not a revolution. Whereas MotoGP 22 offered a superb 2008-season-based documentary, but a lack of on-track refinements elsewhere.
Vote for the Traxion.GG Best Racing game of 2022 award
Right, we’d like to know your favourite. Vote for the overall best racing game release in 2022 below, and if you prefer something other than our top five picks, feel free to write an alternative suggestion.
Voting closes at the end of Thursday 22nd December 2022.