What’s your favorite genre of PlayStation games? There’s no shortage of options to choose from. Strategy, hack-and-slash, puzzle, first-person shooter… and, of course, racing. Above all else, there is perhaps no other genre as consistently thrilling in such short bursts as the racing game subgenre. This is particularly true of the PlayStation 4.
It has arguably one of the best libraries of racing games in modern console history. Across franchises and one-offs alike, what are the absolute best PlayStation 4 racing games of all time? We’ve taken a look back through our collection in search of the very best.
It wasn’t easy, but we’ve narrowed down the absolute best PlayStation 4 racing games to seven spectacular titles. Representing the latest and the greatest in the decades-old history of racing video games, these seven titles are the most entertaining and enjoyable PlayStation 4 racing games money can buy.
Whether you’ve played them all or never heard of any of them, you can be certain these seven racing games serve as the very best of the best for the PS4.
A Brief History of Racing Games
In truth, you could trace the origins of racing games all the way back to the little yacht racers of the early 1900s. Found in arcades and amusement parks, these tiny ponds full of remote-controlled boats were the first taste of what it was like to control a cool vehicle from a distance.
The 1950s saw another step toward racing games with the advent of driving test simulators. Capitol Projector’s Auto Test (1954) was one such example, projecting a film reel of pre-recorded driving footage and giving players a point for every right decision in the test.
Rear-projection arcade games of the 1960s and early ’70s — such as Indy 500 (1968), Speedway (1969), and Super Road 7 (1970) — elevated the racing game concept once more. These sorts of arcade games had a direct impact on the development of console racing games.
1970s and ’80s
Wipeout (1972) for the Magnavox Odyssey was one of the first examples, giving players control of a dot that moves around an outlined race track. This led to the creation of more 2D top-down racing games throughout the ’70s and the pseudo-3D racing games of the 1980s.
The introduction of kart racing games in the 1990s helped continue the success of the racing game subgenre. From Super Mario Kart (1992) to Diddy Kong Racing (1997) to CTR: Crash Team Racing (1999), these kart racers brought a whole new kind of racing game into the fold.
With their weird tracks, their over-the-top graphics, and their exciting multiplayer options, these kart racers ushered in an excellent new era for racing games. As console gaming neared the 21st century, racing game developers had two options: serious and realistic racing simulators or fun and wacky-kart racers.
21st Century Racing Games
As the 2000s inched ever closer, Sega and Namco shared a monopoly on 3D racing games. Then, something crazy happened; Gran Turismo (1997) hit the PlayStation. It blew every last one of its competitors in both the racing simulator and kart racing spheres completely out of the water.
From its remarkable graphics to its wide range of customizations to the simple fact that it was a blast to play, Gran Turismo elevated racing games to the genre we know and love today. It didn’t stop there, though.
A few years later, Midnight Club: Street Racing (2000) took things a step further. It introduced open-world maps to the equation. Prior to this, racing games were restricted to a set of fixed courses. You couldn’t go beyond the set course or else you’d face elimination.
With the introduction of Midnight Club: Street Racing, racing games were now about more than just crossing the finish line first. Players could now seek out races on their own out on the streets of a virtual world. Today, it’s considered a key component of 21st-century racing games.
With the continued advancements of consoles and PCs alike, the modern-day racing game looks and feels much different than its yacht-racing origins over a century ago. However, all those gameplay elements are there: the joy and the thrill of controlling a miniature vehicle you might not have ever commanded otherwise in the real world, and the simple pleasure of roaming around an open world in a cool car.
It’s not hard to see why this video game subgenre has remained ever-popular for more than 50 years now, dating all the way back to the very beginning of video games. From the latest entries in long-running racing franchises to fun little one-offs free from the obligations of a series, these are the very best PlayStation 4 racing games of all time. Did your favorite make the cut?
7. CTR – Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled
The newest Crash Team Racing game in a series dating back to 1999, CTR: Nitro-Fueled is a Mario Kart-esque kart racer featuring the cast of characters from the long-running Crash Bandicoot series. Single-player and multiplayer gameplay options are quite similar to Mario Kart, as well: local races, Grand Prix races, battle races, online races… all with the wacky and wild gameplay you’d expect from the Crash Bandicoot franchise.
All in all, there are nearly 60 playable characters and a massive library of unlockable bonus content. It’s definitely one of the best PlayStation 4 racing games ever.
|Available Platforms||PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
|Released||June 21st, 2019|
- Awesome Cars - Old, banged-up, patched-together cars that simply ooze style! From old American heavy-hitters to agile Europeans and fun Asians, you won't find anything like this in other games
- Meaningful Customization - Change not only the look of your cars but also upgrade their body armor!
- Multiplayer - Wreck your friends online and take racing to the limit while chasing for demolition dominance!
- Challenge modes - Have hilarious fun with crop harvesters, lawn mowers, school buses, three-wheelers and more!
The best PlayStation 4 racing games are the ones that add fun twists to the classic racing game format. Wreckfest is one such game, adding the ability to wreck other cars in the competition to thrilling and challenging results.
Seen as something of a spiritual successor to the cult classic PC game Street Rod (1989), Wreckfest boasts amazing graphics and convincing physics as you wreck and race in truly believable ways. Wreckfest deserves heaps of praise for the way damage uniquely impacts your controls, only adding to the overall fun and excitement of the game.
|Available Platforms||PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC|
|Released||August 27th, 2019|
5. Need for Speed: Heat
- Take chances, take victories - Lay it on the line in the speedhunter showdown by day, competing to win bank in race, drift, and off-road events, then take on the city by night and hit up underground...
- Be unruly, be expressive - With even more options to customize your stable of cars as well as personalize your identity behind the wheel, this isn't the time to hold back be unique and make sure...
- Beat the heat - You will have to go out of your way to rile up the cops patrolling palm city during daylight hours, but after dark the rules change when a rogue task force comes out to play now...
The Need for Speed franchise has been around since 1994, which makes Need for Speed: Heat something of a 25th-anniversary gift to the fans. And what a gift it is; an open-world racing game with both legal and illegal races for you to partake in.
During the day, players must evade the police. During the night, players must dodge an elite task force determined to take them out. With over 127 cars and more than 33 recognizable manufacturers, Need for Speed: Heat proves to be the best of the franchise for PS4 (and one of the best PlayStation 4 racing games, to boot).
|Available Platforms||PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC|
|Released||November 8th, 2019|
4. Burnout Paradise Remastered
Burnout Paradise Remastered takes everything that was great about Burnout Paradise (2008) and brings it into the next generation of console gaming. This remastered version of the classic Burnout game is free from the restrictive, rigid formula of other racing games, permitting players to progress through Paradise City at their own pace.
With an expansive open-world environment full of shortcuts and secrets (not to mention plenty of races), it’s hard not to consider Burnout Paradise Remastered one of the best PlayStation 4 racing games.
|Available Platforms||PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
|Released||March 16th, 2018|
3. Project CARS 2
As many as 140 different tracks across 60 unique locations with more than 180 separate cars to pick from… Project CARS 2 doesn’t mess around with its customizations and unlockable content, and it’s all the more remarkable for it.
Featuring a special feature called LiveTrack, each lap sees the track change with the weather, the environment, the population, and more. You’d struggle to find a more expansive, involved game in all of the PlayStation 4’s library of racing games. It’s what makes Project CARS 2 one of the very best.
|Publisher||Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|Available Platforms||PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC|
|Developer||Slightly Mad Studios|
|Released||September 22nd, 2017|
2. Dirt 5
Dirt has long been one of the most underrated PlayStation 4 racing games. With the release of Dirt 5 in 2020, this has never felt more true. Interestingly focusing on off-road racing as opposed to streets or tracks, Dirt 5 spans seasons, continents, and weather types to create one of the most enjoyable games to ever hit the PlayStation 4 — racing games or otherwise.
As per usual for the Dirt franchise, players can also take part in a narrative career mode. It’s everything PlayStation gamers love about Dirt, but amplified to fantastic new heights.
|Available Platforms||PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC|
|Released||November 6th, 2020|
1. Gran Turismo Sport
Is it any surprise to see a Gran Turismo game at the top of this list of the absolute best PlayStation 4 racing games? After helping to usher in a new era of racing games back in 1997, the Gran Turismo franchise continues to revolutionize the racing game subgenre in continually new and exciting ways.
Gran Turismo Sport is proof of this, complete with nearly 350 cars and more than 80 distinct tracks in all. Gran Turismo is and always has been synonymous with peak racing games for the PlayStation family, and Gran Turismo Sport lives up to that on the PS4.
|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment|
|Available Platforms||PlayStation 4|
|Released||October 17th, 2017|
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