In the mid-2000s, the Need for Speed series was in its heyday. The franchise was going from strength to strength, with each new successive instalment winning the admiration of racing fans and novices alike. Most of what are considered to be the best Need for Speed games are concentrated around the mid-to-late 2000s and early 2010s; it’s fair to say the games dropped off after that point.
One of the best Need for Speed games was Need for Speed: Underground, which perfectly balanced the gearhead aspects of the franchise with its more accessible racing gameplay. If you’ve got some nostalgia for that game and you’re looking to play something similar, you’ve got lots of options available to you. Finding the best game like Need for Speed: Underground isn’t easy, but we’re here to help. Here are some of the games you should check out if you love Underground!
Originally launched back in 2010, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit allowed you to play as both a street racer and one of the cops chasing said racers. Hot Pursuit lets you loose on an open world roughly 160 kilometres in size, asking you to complete a series of objectives in the single-player or just dominate your friends on the road in multiplayer. Unlike many other Need for Speed titles, there’s no customisation to speak of in this one, so it’s really for the racing purists. If you love the high-octane thrills of Need for Speed gameplay, though, you should check out this excellent remastered version of one of the series’ greats.
Forza Horizon 5 manages to strike the same balance between accessibility and fine-tuning that Need for Speed: Underground also achieved. It’s an open-world racer packed with tons of activities to take on, including cross-country races, offroad challenges, and even unique missions in which you must take on unusual vehicles in a spectacular way. There’s also an absolute feast of car customisation on offer; if you want, you can tweak tons of different aspects of your car, but if you want to focus on the gameplay, that option is there too. Forza Horizon 5 truly is the racing game that caters for all kinds of racing fans.
Another EA open-world racing extravaganza, Burnout Paradise originally launched just five years after Need for Speed: Underground, so it’s almost of the same era. This is a vast, involving game in which speed and thrills matter more than precision and motoring skills. Again, you won’t get much from Burnout Paradise if you love customisation, nor will you find any real-world models here to enjoy. What you will get, however, is the same dizzying sense of vertiginous speed offered in Need for Speed: Underground. Be sure to check this one out if you love racing games and want to get lost in a beautifully-rendered world for hours.
Since EA purchased Codemasters last year, the gaming giant has arguably held a monopoly on the best racing games, and it continues that monopoly with Grid Legends. One underappreciated element of Need for Speed: Underground is its story; the game has an involved narrative starring a cast of likeable characters, and it’s that element Grid Legends wants to emulate. There’s a full story mode here with live-action cutscenes, making races feel all the more personal and gripping since you know exactly who you’re racing past and what the stakes are if you beat them. Grid Legends also boasts a huge variety of cars and tracks, making it the ideal all-round racer.
Finally, we move away from the EA-dominated world of racing games and focus on an offering from Ubisoft. The Crew 2 is another open-world extravaganza in which you can race not only on the ground, but also in the air and across the water, too. The story is a light touch, as you might expect – you’re simply competing to become the best at racing, in essence – but it provides enough of a framework to consistently engage with the core gameplay, which is really all you can ask for from a game like this. There are plenty of vehicles to unlock, each of which has its own physics, so you’ll need to get to grips with various different play styles if you want to succeed in The Crew 2.
Crafted by a Codemasters subsidiary (before the studio was bought out by EA), Project Cars 3 was met with a somewhat mixed reception, but we still think it’s worth your time if you’re a racing aficionado. There’s an almost dizzying amount of depth to the car customisation and tweaking on offer, and there’s also a single-player story mode that takes you from zero to hero, which is about as complex as most racing games ever need to be (unless they’re Driver: San Francisco, but few racing games are). The gameplay is great, and although some players have gripes regarding just how much of a sim this game is, you’ll likely love it if you want a deep, rewarding racing experience.
We’re moving far away from the world of urban street racing sims here, but Dirt 5 has the same fun, arcadey approach to racing that Need for Speed: Underground does. Again, it proved somewhat unpopular with long-term, hardcore Dirt fans simply because it didn’t hew to what those fans thought the series should be, but if you go in without expectations, you’ll find a fun, rewarding racing game to pass the time with. Dirt 5 also has a story mode, and although it’s not particularly strong, it’s fun in its own right. The variety of events on offer is impressive considering how limited the racing genre can sometimes feel, too.