2021 was one of the best years for racing games in recent memory. Two long-running series put out two of their best entries yet, while two unconventional racers surprised us with their frenetic fun.
These are our picks for the best racing games of 2021.
It’s a fascinating fluke that Codemasters’ first true attempt at infusing its annual F1 franchise with a full story mode coincided with the most dramatic real-life F1 season in years, but F1 2021’s new ‘Braking Point’ saga ushered in a brand new way to play what’s still the strongest simulation package of a single motorsport on the market. The series debut on current-gen consoles, F1 2021 is also the best the series has ever looked – and the ability to adjust individual elements of the core career experience to help speed things up after all these years was very, very welcome. – Luke Reilly
For more, check out IGN’s F1 2021 review.
Forza Horizon 5
The Forza Horizon series has been the open-world racer to beat ever since its debut, but since the arrival of Forza Horizon 5 it feels like folks are finally starting to listen. Releasing to universal acclaim and hitting 12 million players in less than a month (a figure it took Forza Horizon 4 a year to reach), Forza Horizon 5 is the biggest launch in Xbox history for good reason. A technical triumph of production and a beacon of accessibility, Forza Horizon 5 is a barnstormingly beautiful and fun-filled driving game for absolutely everyone – from the car-obsessed to the automotive illiterate. – Luke Reilly
For more, check out IGN’s Forza Horizon 5 review.
Hot Wheels Unleashed
Racing games and Hot Wheels both come in two varieties: realistic and, for lack of a better word, “fun.” For every photo-accurate driving simulator aimed at distinguished gearheads, there’s a brightly-colored arcade racer that yells excitedly as you launch rocket-powered cars off flaming ramps. For every officially licensed, manufacturer-approved Hot Wheels replica of an existing Ford or Chevy, there’s some hyper-toyetic jalopy based on something ridiculous like a dinosaur, toilet, or hamburger. Hot Wheels Unleashed strikes delightful balance of all the above: it’s a colorful and flamboyant arcade racer built on some rock-solid driving mechanics, offering a garage of faithfully recreated Hot Wheels rides of all flavors for you to collect, customize and cruise around in. While it might not be a realistic simulation of driving actual cars, it’s a damn fine facsimile of the thrill of launching toy ones across your living room floor as a kid. – Max Scoville
For more, check out IGN’s Hot Wheels Unleashed review.
Riders Republic is a vast racing playground, a collection of extreme sports games — biking, skiing/snowboarding, wingsuiting, and more — seamlessly brought together into one cohesive package. It’s at one moment a heart-pumping arcade racer as you hurtle down a snowy mountain on rocket-powered skis, the next a spectacular exploration game as you fly across Ubisoft’s stunning recreation of seven U.S. National Parks. It’s competitive and leisurely, thrilling and zen. Riders Republic is a one-of-a-kind variety racer that stays fresh (and fun) for dozens of hours, thanks to its memorable mash-up of sports, landscapes, and game modes. – Jordan Sirani
For more, check out IGN’s Riders Republic review.
All IGN Best Of 2021 Gaming Categories
Best Game of the Year 2021Best Console Exclusive of the Year 2021Best Action Game of the Year 2021Best Action-Adventure Game of the Year 2021Best Puzzle Game of the Year 2021Best Racing Game of the Year 2021Best RPG of the Year 2021Best Shooter of the Year 2021Best Strategy Game of the YearMost Accessible Game of the Year 2021Best Music in a Video Game of the Year 2021Best Ongoing Game of the YearBest Performance of the Year 2021Best Story of the Year 2021Best Video Game Art of the Year 2021
IGN’s Best of 2021 Awards were designed by:
Lead Design + Art Direction: Julia Rago
Motion Graphics: Will Batchelor