With Gran Turismo Sport set to make its first appearance on the latest console generation in 2017, the great racing-sim rivalry has reared its shiny, chrome head once again. Some contend that the Gran Turismo vs. Forza argument ultimately boils down to whether a player prefers PlayStation or Xbox, but other gamers insist that one franchise is objectively better.
(A third group likes to throw Project CARS and Assetto Corsa into the mix, but THIS ISN'T ABOUT THOSE GAMES, GUYS.)
Gran Turismo is one of the oldest racing-sim franchises around. The series dates back to 1997, when the original Gran Turismo appeared on PlayStation consoles in Japan. Developer Polyphony Digital spent five years creating the first game, and has released major series installments much less frequently than developers of other triple-A franchises.
Nearly eight years after Polyphony Digital's racing simulator hit store shelves, Turn 10 Studios released the first Forza Motorsport in 2005. The game garnered immediate comparisons to the Sony exclusive, with GameSpot dubbing it "Microsoft's answer to Gran Turismo," a series that had four numbered titles under its belt at the time. Turn 10 and Microsoft turned out Forza installments every two years until the franchise-runners adopted an annual release model in 2011. Today, two series rest under the Forza umbrella: the original Forza Motorsport and the open-world-leaning Forza Horizon.
None of this answers the question of whether Forza or Gran Turismo is the superior racing sim, largely because there's no clear, objective winner between the two. Both franchises have their pros and cons, but Forza just manages to edge out Gran Turismo as the better racing series. Here's why.
15 Better: Forza's Output Is More Consistent
After 12 years and nine games, Forza can be counted on to churn out fun, gorgeous titles like clockwork. Since 2011, Microsoft Studios has released a new Forza game every year, alternating between Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon. In December 2016, a leak revealed that Forza Motorsport 7 would be the next installment to hit the Xbox One. The game is expected to make its official debut at E3 2017.
Granted, part of Forza's success in using the annual release model lies in Turn 10's decision to outsource the bulk of the Forza Horizon spin-offs' development to Playground Games. Although many gamers — this writer included — bemoan the annual release model, most of us don't mind plunking down $60 every year for our favorite franchise, provided the releases are solid enough to warrant the price. Thankfully, Forza continues to deliver ultra-playable content that has sold over $1 billion worth of games since 2005.
14 Worse: Forza's Release Schedule Feels Like Market Saturation
An annual release model can give gamers the sense that there are too many titles in a franchise. The latest Forza title will be on shelves for less than a year before Microsoft reveals the next installment, instantly tarnishing that new-game shine.
Compared to Forza's nine games in 12 years, Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo output feels sluggish, even knowing that years of hard work go into making each of the series' installments. Polyphony has released just six numbered titles in the 20 years since Gran Turismo first appeared on store shelves, and fans have waited up to six years to get their hands on a new title.
The relaxed release schedule lends Gran Turismo a competitive edge. When years pass between series installments, the pressure is on to buy and experience that latest release on day one. Forza has saturated the market, but Gran Turismo knows how to salt it.
13 Better: Forza Has A Wide Appeal
Since 2005, Forza has offered gamers of all stripes the chance to drive the most powerful vehicles in existence around real-world racetracks. From the beginning, Forza Motorsport titles employed a variety of driving aids to help newbie racers get the most out of their gaming experiences.
That brand of accessibility expanded with the release of Forza Horizon in 2012. Forza Horizon kept many aspects of its Forza Motorsport predecessors, including the huge vehicle lineups, tuning options, and driving assists, but the spin-off games also feature open-world exploration and additional challenges, such as searching for hidden vehicles or racing other competitors outside of Horizon Festival events.
With these features, the DJ-curated music, and the hypercolor graphics, Forza Horizon offers up a lot of racing fun without the asphalt and concrete aesthetic of Forza Motorsport staples like Road America and the Sebring International Raceway.
12 Worse: Gran Turismo Provides A More Focused Experience
Gran Turismo may not have the advantages of a spin-off series, but Polyphony knows exactly what its games are: racing-simulation experiences for car enthusiasts. Where Forza Motorsport focuses on track racing, and Forza Horizon ventures off in a pseudo-street racing direction, Gran Turismo gives players the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of car-related events, including rally races, hill climbs, and endurance races.
Gran Turismo branches out creatively in its partnerships with automotive manufacturers and other top companies. These partnerships have resulted in Gran Turismo-exclusive concept cars and real-life driving events for players, blurring the line between the fantasy of a video game and the actual experience of driving a powerful vehicle around a track. For players who care about cars as much in their real lives as in their virtual ones, Gran Turismo can't be beaten.
11 Better: Forza Has Richer Audio
Unfortunately for all those car enthusiasts, Gran Turismo doesn't have the best track record when it comes to recreating engine noise on a Sony system. The series has earned a bad reputation for tinny-sounding cars, although that might change with the release of Gran Turismo Sport.
Gran Turismo's hair dryer-like car noises are truly the only point of audio contention between the Sony series and Forza. As mentioned before, British DJ Rob da Bank curated the soundtracks for the first two Forza Horizon games, setting a better-sounding mood than some of the early Sony titles, which relied heavily on composed scores instead of licensed music. More recent Gran Turismo installments have included music from various artists, leaving the question of which franchise has the better music up to taste.
10 Worse: Gran Turismo Has More Cars
Where Forza Motorsport 6 gave players the chance to drive 460 different vehicles on day one, Gran Turismo 6 offered nearly three times as many. The Polyphony Digital title shipped with more than 1200 cars available, including just over 100 Hondas and nearly 150 Nissans.
Although Gran Turismo's broad selection of cars gives it an obvious advantage, fans of American muscle may still prefer Forza, which devotes a larger percentage of its garage space to vehicles from U.S. manufacturers. Both Forza and Gran Turismo will have Porsche models in their next installments, following the expiration of the auto manufacturer's exclusive deal with EA.
With that being said, Polyphony Digital has announced its intention to scale back the car list for the upcoming Gran Turismo Sport, which will feature a mere 140 vehicles, the same number as were in the 1997 original.
9 Better: Forza Has Some Truly Awesome Expansion Packs
The last two Gran Turismo installments have featured large selections of downloadable tracks and cars, including the Vision Gran Turismo pack, which added a number of Gran Turismo-exclusive prototype cars to players' garages. Even so, when it comes to expansion packs, Forza is the clear winner in this rivalry.
Forza Motorsport 6 and Forza Horizon 3 featured licensed expansions related to Fast & Furious, Red Bull, Logitech, Halo, and Hot Wheels, among others. Not only did the DLC add dozens of new cars to the Forza lineup, but they also presented players with additional tracks, challenges, and achievements.
We still don't know what kind of expansion packs players can expect with Gran Turismo Sport, but it's safe to say that Sony's racing simulator probably won't include the opportunity to whiz around an orange, plastic track as a toy car, but that's because...
8 Worse: Gran Turismo Is About Realistic Driving Experiences
Gran Turismo's car sounds might be wonky, but its recreations of world-famous cars and tracks are not. Polyphony Digital prides itself in its hyper-realistic representations of Murcielagos and Veyrons — not just in appearance, but in strength, speed, and handling as well. Although the series has featured fictional circuits over the years, most Gran Turismo tracks are real-world locations that the Polyphony Digital team meticulously recreates for PlayStation owners to enjoy.
Although Forza has received acclaim for bringing realistic driving physics to Xbox consoles, Playground Games and Forza Horizon aren't afraid to sacrifice realism in favor of a good time. Microsoft's philosophy wants Forza to be approachable above all else, and if that means that the Alfa Romeos drive differently on a console than in real life, then so be it. While Forza's approachability gave it an edge, Gran Turismo's devotion to automotive realism deserves commendation.
7 Better: Forza Has More Realistic Damage
The lack of damage physics in Gran Turismo leaves some gamers bewildered. After all, in what reality can somehow drive a car into a concrete retaining wall at 180 MPH and not take any damage?
Polyphony's stance on realistic damage falls in line with the developer's philosophy of making Gran Turismo games. After spending years digitizing vehicles down to their most minute details, Polyphony probably doesn't want to design a system in which players can reduce those masterpieces to smoking rubble. And, as it turns out, car manufacturers don't really want game developers to kill their products, either.
Meanwhile, Microsoft players can render their cars undrivable. Damage modeling in Forza isn't perfect, but it allows for a wider range of cosmetic damage, from scuffed paint to shattered glass. Newer installments also give players the "simulation damage" option, which turns off protections against race-ending transmission and engine damage.
6 Worse: Gran Turismo Puts Competition On Center Stage
In all my years of playing Forza, never have I once felt the need to really compete with friends and strangers on Xbox Live. Gran Turismo makes for a totally different experience. The Sony exclusive centers the very same player-vs-player competition that feels unnecessary in Forza titles. In addition to the multiplayer events gamers have come to expect from racing titles, Gran Turismo features a rich online community of seasonal events for players to enjoy.
That's not all. Since 2008, Gran Turismo has partnered with Nissan to host the Nissan GT Academy: a real-life driving school designed for the world's best Gran Turismo players. Gamers compete against worldwide opponents for a shot at attending the academy, and at least one graduate, Jann Mardenborough, has gone on to become an actual motorsport racer.
5 Better: Forza's Open Worlds Make It Possible To Lose Yourself
Forza Horizon opened up worldwide landscapes for racing-game fans to enjoy. You might not be able to get out of your car, but that doesn't mean that you can't have a great time driving aimlessly around Colorado, Europe, and Australia. And because Playground Games litters their festival locations with speed traps, barn finds, and other extra events, joyriders can rack up some nice unlocks for their wandering trouble.
Although both Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport titles feature career modes that take you around the world, teleporting from track to track is not nearly as fun as driving there yourself. Making freedom of exploration a major design point in the Forza Horizon spin-offs was a smart move on Microsoft's part, one that brought a Need for Speed-esque street-racing feel to the world of racing simulators, and that's what gives Forza the edge here.
4 Worse: Forza's Instagram-Worthy Graphics Sacrifice Some Authenticity
Forza Motorsport games look incredible, but Forza Horizon titles ramp up the series' graphics game with #nofilter-worthy sunsets, landscapes, and festival locations. The cars are nice, too, but unfortunately, Playground's focus on creating a game you just want to Instagram means that something had to go, and vehicle representations got taken down a peg. That's not to say that Forza's cars look crappy. In some cases, they actually look too good.
Everyday sunsets don't have the lighting Forza Horizon grants them, nor do all the vistas we encounter have picture-perfect color balance. The real world is messy, grim, and dull, as often as not, but that probably isn't what you want to look at for entertainment purposes. Gran Turismo edges out Forza for a win on graphics simply because of Polyphony Digital's dedication to accuracy.
3 Better: Forza Lets Your Driving Fantasies Come True
Want to race a hot air balloon in an American muscle car, or put your car through a Hot Wheels power booster? You can with Forza.
Gran Turismo might forgo damage modeling to preserve the fantasy of its picture-perfect vehicle renderings, but Sony isn't about to let its painstakingly accurate racing sim drift beyond the realm of possibility. Granted, Gran Turismo 6 included the option for driving the Lunar Rover around on the surface of the moon, but that's the biggest suspension of disbelief you'll find in the series.
Polyphony Digital knows that there are dozens of other racing games that will allow players to live out all their wacky driving fantasies, but that gamers choose Gran Turismo because they value its accuracy. If you want to jump through flaming hoops, it's OK. Just know that Gran Turismo is 100 percent comfortable not being that game.
2 Worse: Gran Turismo Gives You Real-World Experience
With the Nissan GT Academy, Gran Turismo blurred the line between virtual reality and real-world racing. Gran Turismo Sport will erase that line outright.
Polyphony Digital will bestow the "FIA Gran Turismo Digital License" upon talented, considerate Gran Turismo Sport players. Yes, you read that correctly. Play Gran Turismo can get you an actual motorsports license to participate in real track-racing events, provided you have also completed other necessary registration requirements.
Acquiring the license is no easy feat. Players will need to "complete the racing etiquette mode, achieve silver or better results in all the campaign mode events, and then maintain or exceed a certain level of driver class and sportsmanship points," according to Polyphony CEO Kazunori Yamauchi. Those sportsmanship points track how clean or underhanded your racing strategies are, so don't expect to get that license if you have to slam other cars into the barriers to win.
1 Better: Forza Has Turned The Tables On Gran Turismo
More than a decade after Forza Motorsport debuted, Microsoft's racing simulator has finally escaped the shadow of Gran Turismo. Forza has taken risks, from the spin-off Horizon series to its bevy of licensed content, but those gambles paid off. Today Forza is the racing game to beat, and Polyphony has to keep up.
Yamauchi tells GameSpot that, even though Gran Turismo Sport isn't numbered, players should consider it a main series installment: "[F]rom this title on, you could actually call it a brand new era because of the level of innovation and the level of technology that's going into the title now."
That sounds a lot like what Turn 10 planned with Forza Horizon. It's unlikely that Gran Turismo will bend to a full fantasy experience under pressure from Forza, but it's clear that Polyphony now needs to compete directly with its Microsoft-exclusive rival.