Racing and armed combat are two of the most intense and dangerous experiences to be had in real life. Thanks to the advent of video games we can all experience those sweet adrenaline rushes we've been missing out on, like nailing a perfect drift or lining up the perfect head-shot, in perfect safety.
In a moment of genius, these thrilling gaming experiences were mashed together to create the car combat game, a spectacular hybrid of high-octane racing and pixel perfect shooting. Whilst there have been hundreds of attempts at this genre crossover, very few have perfected the balance quite like the following ten games.
10 Road Rash 3 (Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, 1995)
Road Rash 3 melds high-speed motorbike racing with senseless violence by adding the ability to beat your opponents, not just with speed but with weapons, fists, and leather-clad boots. With a well-timed punch, you can steal clubs, crowbars, and chains from other racers and clobber your way to victory.
The weapon-wielding opponents aren’t the only dangers to contend with though, as other vehicles, signposts, and changes in road elevation can cause catastrophic crashes, ending your race. Road Rash 3 is the pinnacle of the series and despite later attempts at moving into 3D, the newer games couldn't recreate that same magic.
9 Rollcage Stage II (PC/PSX, 2000)
Rollcage Stage II features vehicles with enormous chunky tires, allowing them to flip over and continue racing in any direction. The gameplay is extremely fast. So fast, in fact, that the cars can cling onto walls and ceilings using their own momentum. This feature means you will crash often and it's here that the ability to quickly right yourself and continue racing comes into its own.
The tracks are short, with hard to reach shortcuts, and feature a variety of weapon pickups that perfectly suit the frenetic gameplay and add to the on-screen chaos. Rollcage Stage II is a fantastic arcade game with great visuals, a pounding techno soundtrack and explosive, gravity-defying gameplay.
8 Twisted Metal (PS3, 2012)
For many, Twisted Metal is the first game series that springs to mind at the mere mention of vehicular combat but whilst the original games are remembered fondly, they haven't aged well. The 2012 reboot brings the gameplay and graphics bang up to date and adds additional game modes and online multiplayer.
The core gameplay is still essentially a destruction derby where players can use machine guns, missiles, and other destructive weapons to wreck their enemies and be crowned the last man standing (or last car driving). The tricky control scheme takes some getting used to, but with persistence, you'll soon be wreaking four-wheeled havoc and reducing your opponents to smoking piles of twisted metal.
7 Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense (PSX/N64/Dreamcast, 1999)
A direct sequel to Vigilante 8, 2nd Offense is another royal rumble-style elimination-based game with a selection of devilish weapons on hand to blow your opponents to kingdom come. Interestingly, there are additional powerups to be found in each arena to allow vehicles to traverse unsuitable terrains such as lakes and snowy plains.
A new salvage feature lets players collect points from wrecked opponents which can be used to upgrade vehicle stats like speed, armor and offensive capabilities. The game is great fun in single player modes against the AI but, as with most of these games, it really comes into its own in split-screen mode with a group of friends (future enemies).
6 Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now (PC, 1998)
Carmageddon II is the gaming equivalent of the 1975 sci-fi B-movie, The Death Race 2000. It's set in an apocalyptic world where dangerous people in ridiculous vehicles compete in life-threatening races for a monetary incentive. Races can be won by reaching the finish line first, destroying all opposing vehicles or by killing every pedestrian in a level.
At the time, the polished graphics, realistic vehicle deformation and detailed dismemberment of unfortunate bystanders pushed gaming hardware to its limits. It’s a game that’s also notable for its humor which should be obvious from the title, the character names (e.g. Max Damage) and the crazy powerups (e.g. jelly suspension). A true classic of PC gaming.
5 Rocket League (PC/PS4/Various, 2015)
When Rocket League was first released, it was a simple game of football with rocket-powered cars instead of human players. The aim was to get an oversized ball through the opposing team's goal and stop them from doing the same by any means possible. Originally this could only be done by violently ramming enemies out of the way, but soon a whole host of new abilities were added.
It's now possible to kick opponents with a giant boot on a spring, set off a swirling vortex, that sucks up everything in its path, or even change the sport to basketball. Without these useful additions, Rocket League is still a highly competitive, addictive and frantic slice of car combat.
4 Burnout Revenge (Xbox 360, 2005)
In the early days of the Burnout series, the emphasis was on driving really fast and winning races by avoiding crashes with traffic, opponents and other obstacles. In Burnout Revenge you are encouraged to plow through traffic, ram your opponents into walls, barriers and oncoming traffic and cause as much high-speed destruction as possible.
The other racers are extremely aggressive and will actively attempt to run you off the road and wreck your vehicle. If successful, they become your rival and your immediate task is to carry out an act of fittingly brutal revenge. This version of Burnout has never been bettered and perhaps EA should forget about their remaster of Burnout Paradise and update Burnout Revenge instead.
3 Crash Team Racing (PSX, 1999)
Crash Team Racing may owe a lot of credit to a certain portly plumber, but it’s really rather good in its own right. The level design is outstanding, with each course full of sneaky shortcuts, difficult jumps and hazardous indigenous creatures that need to be avoided. The weapons can be powered up, by collecting bottles of nitro scattered throughout each level, and there’s a clever boost system, adding extra depth to the gameplay by rewarding drifting.
The cartoonish graphics are excellent, the controls are sharp and easy to master and the combat is explosive. With a remaster close to release, Crash Team Racing is the only true contender to Mario’s karting crown.
2 Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992)
Super Mario Kart earns its place on this list for perfecting the formula used in every subsequent game in the series. The graphics are timeless, there’s a classic roster of racers and a selection of devious weapons perfect for ruining an opponent's race, just as they're about to cross the finish line.
That's the beauty of Mario Kart, you can go from first to last in the blink of an eye. The weapon design is simple and intuitive, the levels are crafted to perfection, the difficulty is challenging and the battle mode --though limited to just two combatants-- is delirious fun. Super Mario Kart is a true classic that might just ruin a few friendships.
1 Blur (PC/PS3/Xbox 360, 2010)
Blur was developed by Bizarre Creations, the studio that created the Project Gotham Racing series, and as a result, it’s a highly accomplished racing game. It's fast, the cars handle like a dream and the tracks are littered with tricky challenges to be completed mid-race. As if that wasn't enough, a selection of devastating weapons turns the game into a sort of grown-up kart racer.
The satisfaction you get from nailing a bolt strike down a mile-long straight, avoiding a homing missile at the last second or planting a bomb in an opponent’s path just as they attempt to overtake is unmatched. Blur stands tall as the best car combat game available.