Gran Turismo, Forza, and Need for Speed are among the most popular racing game franchises. But some would argue that these franchises are running out of fuel and running out of new ideas.
There are many unique racing IPs that defy gender conventions. And yet, these games often sell poorly, whether due to poor release timing, lack of marketing, or overly negative reviews.
We’ve already revealed the most overrated racing games, so it’s time to look at the most underrated racing games that deserve more recognition.
GRID Legends is an excellent game released at the wrong time. For some reason, Codemasters and EA decided to release GRID Legends just a week before the juggernaut that is Gran Turismo 7, one of the most anticipated racing games in years. GRID Legends was always going to lose this race.
While GRID Legends received mostly positive reviews, player numbers were concerning upon release, leaving the future of the franchise in doubt. It’s a shame because GRID Legends does a lot of things right.
The Nemesis AI allows for exciting racing, there’s a wonderful variety of racing disciplines to try, career mode is comprehensive, and hop-in multiplayer eliminates waiting times in online lobbies. Even the Driven to Glory story mode is enjoyable if you don’t take it too seriously.
A solid arcade racer and a massive improvement over the disappointing GRID 2019 reboot, GRID Legends is criminally underrated.
No other racing game makes you feel like you’re in a Michael Bay movie like Split/Second: Velocity. In Split/Second, you race for a reality TV show with a twist: environments are equipped with explosive traps called Power Plays, which you can unleash to eliminate your opponents.
These range from crash landing jumbo jets on the runway to smashing opponents with collapsing buildings. Not only are these explosive sets spectacular and still impressive today, but the fall of the buildings changes the layout of the circuit. Each round is therefore different.
Like GRID Legends, sales suffered due to bad timing. Split/Second was released just a week before Blur and ModNation Racers, two other arcade racers with bold ideas. It also probably didn’t help that Gran Turismo 5 and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit were released in the same year. That is
While well received by critics, Split/Second was a commercial failure, selling only 86,000 copies in its first ten days in the United States.
This meant that Split/Second sadly never got a sequel after developer Black Rock Studios was shut down by Disney Interactive Studios in 2011, despite the first game ending on a cliffhanger hinting at a prequel set in the 1980s.
We hope the IP will be revived one day – just imagine the scale of destruction a Split/Second sequel could bring to the most powerful current-gen consoles.
Activision had high hopes for Blur. Prior to its release, the publisher boldly claimed that Blur would “do for racing games what Call of Duty did for shooters”, with Blur set to continue Bizarre Creations’ success with the Project Gotham Racing series.
Mixing real licensed cars with Mario Kart-style powerups, Blur was a unique concept. It was essentially Mario Kart for adults – something that has never been replicated in the racing genre.
Racing in Blur was gloriously chaotic, with players attacking each other with bombs and mines in BMW M3s and Ford Broncos. The tracks were equally unique, we can’t think of any other racing game that lets you race around Brighton Pier.
The neon-soaked visuals also gave Blur a unique, bright visual style and the audio design was superb, with a thundering engine and power-up sound effects that need to be heard on the loudest home theater system possible.
Ultimately, Blur failed to find an audience. Creative director Gareth Edwards later admitted the concept was too confusing for audiences, likening Blur’s mix of real cars and over-the-top bonuses to eating bacon with cornflakes. A Blur sequel was planned but scrapped after Bizarre Creations shut down for good in 2011. Since then, leaked video footage has surfaced online showing what Blur’s sequel might have been.
With Sony seemingly reluctant to bring back WipEout, Redout is one of the best underrated anti-gravity racing games of recent years. Developed by indie Italian studio 34BigThings, Redout landed on PC and consoles in 2016 but isn’t getting the recognition it deserves.
What sets Redout apart is its unique control system. In Redout, dual-stick controls let you independently control steering, pitch, and strafing, giving you precise control of your ship. Combine that with twisty tracks, a variety of game modes, including boss races that connect circuits into a single giant track, and a breathtaking sense of speed, and Redout is a challenging but rewarding game to master.
It’s also gorgeous, with stylized visuals giving the environments a distinctive art style, while the racing is accompanied by a great electronic soundtrack that suits the fast-paced game perfectly. If you feel like it, you can play Redout in VR on PC.
Unfortunately, Redout flew under most gamers’ radars, but has since gained a cult following. Let’s hope the series gets the recognition it deserves when Redout 2 hits PC and consoles this month.
Driver: San Francisco
It’s easy to forget that Driver was one of the first open-world driving games. Before Grand Theft Auto III revolutionized open-world gaming, Driver let you freely roam 3D recreations of Miami, San Francisco, LA, and New York in 1999. The sequel even let you get out of the car, explore the city on foot and stealing cars a year before the release of GTA III, pushing the original PlayStation to its limits.
With the bug-ridden Driv3r slammed by critics and Parallel Lines considered a GTA clone, the series suffered a steep decline in the 2000s. Fans feared Driver was dead until the series made a triumphant return. with the release of Driver San Francisco in 2011. It took the series in a bold new direction, and there’s no other driving game quite like it.
Open worlds were nothing new in 2011, but Driver: San Francisco shook things up with its unique Shift mechanic. Once again, you played undercover cop John Tanner, who finds himself in a coma after an accident while chasing crime lord Jericho. While in a coma, Tanner gains the ability to “move around” other people’s bodies and take control of their cars.
It’s a bizarre concept but one that worked, allowing players to instantly teleport into cars. This gave rise to some funny scenarios. Having trouble catching up to the car you’re chasing? Teleport onto a bus and smash it head-on. Thanks to Shift, the chaos never stops in online multiplayer matches.
Technically, Driver San Francisco shone, running at 60fps on PS3 and Xbox 360 – something few games achieved at that time.
Unfortunately, Driver has lain dormant since San Francisco’s release over a decade ago with lukewarm sales. Since then, fans have been clamoring for a sequel or even a remaster of San Francisco on the current-gen console. With the launch of a live-action TV show this year, we hope Driver will one day get the sequel he deserves.