Whether you like tinkering with cars or driving them, the world of video games is extremely well-served in the vehicle department. There’s something compelling about the mere act of hopping into a car and driving to wherever, and there’s also something inordinately satisfying about being able to pop the hood and poke around inside a vehicle’s innards so you can get a better idea of how it works. Whichever one you prefer, there are plenty of options for you, so let’s take a look at the 10 best car simulator games out there right now.
If you’re looking for unparalleled realism, then Sony and Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 7 takes some beating. Thanks to the PS5’s DualSense controller, you’ll feel every bump and whirr of your vehicle as you soar around some of the most iconic race courses in the world. Of course, there are also a variety of tuning options available, so no matter how you want your car to feel, you should be able to find a component to tweak to give you that perfect ride.
The Forza series is to the Xbox ecosystem what Gran Turismo is to the PlayStation console family. Like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport gives you the chance to drive and tune up a range of iconic vehicles, but there’s arguably even more of an emphasis on realism and mechanic-centred tuning here than there is in Sony’s series. If you like to pop the hood and change things around to your liking, then Forza Motorsport 7 will provide hours upon hours of entertainment for you.
For many years now, PlayWay has cornered the market on niche simulator games, and Car Mechanic Simulator is no exception to that rule. As the name suggests, you won’t really be driving the machines in this game; rather, you’ll be taking part in an incredibly detailed teardown of the cars, examining everything that makes them tick and trying to get them into road-ready condition once more. If you’re more of a mechanic than a driver, then this is the game for you.
Unfortunately, if you want to play Driver: San Francisco, you’re probably going to need to hunt down a pre-owned copy of the game on PS3 or Xbox 360, because it’s not available to buy for modern platforms. However, if you do manage to get your hands on this game, you’ll find a great racer with a surprisingly deep and complex storyline. The narrative is the real draw here; you probably won’t find the mechanical systems to be particularly realistic, but the story will keep you coming back.
5. rFactor 2
It’s hard to imagine a more realistic and detailed vehicle simulator than rFactor 2. In many ways, it’s the polar opposite of Driver: San Francisco; while the latter eschews realism in favour of narrative, rFactor 2 takes the approach of simulating a vehicle’s systems so thoroughly that you likely won’t want to check it out unless you’re an absolute car obsessive. If you’re looking for an arcade-style experience, then needless to say, this very much isn’t the game for you.
Don’t let its rather strange name put you off. BeamNG.drive is an excellent car simulator in the truest sense of the term; it’s not about racing, or building up a name for yourself on the street scene, or anything of the sort. Instead, in BeamNG.drive, you’ll take a series of different vehicles out on the road and crash them in realistic and satisfying ways. You can think of BeamNG.drive as a sort of more realistic Burnout game; the aim is to see how your car reacts when it collides with something rather than to win a race.
Created by developer Kunos Simulazioni, Assetto Corsa Competizione aims to create the most realistic racing sim possible. While the game modes on offer won’t light your world on fire, the actual moment-to-moment gameplay is about as realistic and compelling as you could hope for. If you’re the kind of racing game fan that owns your own racing rig, complete with steering wheel and haptic feedback simulation, then Assetto Corsa is definitely the kind of game for you.
Like BeamNG.drive, Euro Truck Simulator 2 isn’t a racing game in the traditional sense, although in this case, crashing your vehicle is definitely something you want to avoid. Euro Truck Simulator 2 tasks you with completing a series of long, drawn-out objectives across lengthy stretches of road. It’s basically a more detailed, more accurate rendition of the classic 90s joke game Desert Bus, although in this case, the developers are deadly serious. If you like playing games while listening to podcasts, this one’s for you.
Much like rFactor 2 or Assetto Corsa, iRacing is serious business. It describes itself more as a platform for facilitating esports competition rather than a game in the traditional sense; you don’t buy it outright, but rather subscribe to it, and for your money, you’re getting consistent support, new content updates, and lots more. If you prefer your racing sims ultra-realistic, then you definitely need to check out iRacing, which has introductory subscription offers in case you want to try at a reduced price.
10. Automobilista 2
Describing itself as a “celebration of motorsports”, Automobilista 2 is another realistic racing sim that wants to put you in the driving seat. Various officially-licensed cars are available to drive, including the Group C Porsche 962c, the Lotus 72E, and many more. Reiza Studios is also supporting the game with constant content updates and patches, so if there’s a gameplay issue, you can be sure that the developers will quickly become aware of it and will diligently patch it out.