There are tons of driving and racing games out there. However, most of them have an arcade feel: fast-paced, forgiving, and using only the bare minimum level of physics. These games were made to be fun and little more. But on the other end of the spectrum, we have simulators. These are games built from the ground up to offer a realistic portrayal of driving. Whether you’re hurtling down a hill in a Subaru or cruising the European countryside in a large truck, these 10 driving sims are perfect examples of games that try to be as realistic as possible. They are tough, unforgiving, and mastering the vehicles is a challenge in itself.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 is the opposite of the other games on this list when it comes to difficulty. The driving sim is peaceful, slow-paced and the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon.
In the game, you drive a number of big trucks which haul a range of different cargo - everything from propane tanks to small cars. You can drive through most of Europe, from the UK to Scandinavia, in various weather conditions. There are traffic rules to follow, and speed limits, but you can ignore all of them; though the consequences are usually crashing your truck into a ditch.
This is one of the best rallying games ever made. It embraces the insane difficulty of real-life rallying, where fast, powerful cars hurtle down rough terrain at breakneck speed. You need to follow your co-driver’s pace notes since those will determine whether you will stay on the road or miss a hairpin turn and fly off a cliff.
Even if you follow the pace notes, sometimes the cars are so powerful and unwieldy that you just can’t avoid crashing into a tree. And you will crash many times in the game, especially if you pick anything more powerful than a classic Mini.
Some track-based racing sims mistake authenticity for difficulty; they make a car impossible to control, and the track feels like it’s covered with ice. Project Cars 2 doesn’t have this problem though. The cars feel almost true to life, though the handling takes some getting used to, and it understeers a little more than it oversteers. The game also has varying weather conditions - the effects are just sublime - and the weather often changes in the middle of a race. This is more than eye-candy, though, as you have to adapt to the new conditions before you spin out of control.
This game doesn’t have the best AI or game modes. However, it more than makes up for that when it comes to the pure sensation of driving a race car. According to PCGamesN, Assetto Corsa delivers an unbeatable sense of immersion and realism, with arguably the best physics of any racing sim. But that’s not all. The game is highly customizable, so you can tweak settings however you like until you can comfortably drive a car that was previously impossible to control. The game also has an active modding community which adds tons of features, from supercars to custom tracks.
If there’s one racing sim that every serious gamer knows, it’s iRacing. It’s also the most polarizing, because you have to pay over iRacing just for a subscription if you're not new, and every car or track not included in the base model costs over $10 to obtain. Yes, the cost of entry is high - exorbitant, according to some. But what no one can deny is its authenticity. All the cars are modeled with impeccable attention to detail, and the racing rules are just as serious as the rules you’ll find in a real-life track event. Its physics engine is also one of the most accurate out there.
If you’ve ever wanted to know how extreme off-road driving feels like without actually getting an SUV and going to a muddy area, this is the closest you can get. Spintires: MudRunner is a game that drops you into a large area with an unforgiving terrain. There’s a ton of mud, uneven roads and tracks, deep rivers, jutting rocks, deforming terrain, and steep hills. To navigate this terrain, you get a number of off-road vehicles, from SUVs to big trucks. It’s easy to get stuck in the mud, with your tires fast getting clogged, according to Rock Paper Shotgun. MudRunner demands patience and calculation; anything less and it can quickly become frustrating.
Launched in 2013, rFactor 2 is reasonably old. However, it has aged like a fine wine, with developers still making DLCs and the modding community still churning out tons of mods. And it’s also incredibly complex; so much so, in fact, that it’s turned away more than a few beginners.
According to DriveTribe, it has features like a rubber line, which forms on the track over time and affects the grip of your car, whether it’s dry or raining. The game also uses aerodynamics accurately, and making even minor adjustments will affect your car’s speed and even its fuel consumption.
It’s not easy to make a driving simulation fun from the get-go, but BeamNG.drive achieves this easily. It’s still hard, since the cars feel as realistic as any other sim on this list. But racing isn’t a priority with this game, even though you have that option. The damage model is what makes BeamNG.drive special; you can destroy your car just by driving over a bump at 60 mph, and all crashes look and feel real. This is thanks to the game’s soft-body physics which has been implemented in every part of the available cars. The modding scene is also pretty active.
This is the game that all other rally sims are compared to. It set the bar for ultra-realistic races, relentless difficulty, and the terror of knowing that even the smallest slip-up might cost you the race. Some diehard fans still insist that the DiRT Rally games still don’t come close to Richard Burns Rally.
Since its release in 2004, the game has received plenty of mods from passionate fans. These mods have tweaked everything from the interaction of tires to various surface types to suspension improvements. All these have resulted in a game that trades blows with DiRT and, in most cases, comes out on top.
This is one of the most forgiving racing sims you can get. Small mistakes won’t ruin your race, and it’s not too hard to master. That said, it is still tougher than your average racer, and the cars still require a bit of patience to learn; especially the fast ones. Its main appeal, however, is just how vast the game is.
It has over 700 cars, ranging from classic cars to muscle cars, simple vans, and even trailer trucks. It also has numerous tracks and locations, custom liveries and active multiplayer. For players new to sim games, Forza Motorsport 7 is a welcoming entry point.