The Best Racing Games to Give for the Holidays

The Best Racing Games to Give for the Holidays
Contributor: Adam Ismail

2022 was a solid year for racing games — and it’s not even over yet, with Need For Speed Unbound slipping in right at the beginning of December. That’s good, because it presents you with plenty of options for the gaming gearhead in your life, no matter where their particular tastes lie. We’ve assembled a list of 10 racers worth gifting this year, some of which didn’t release in 2022, but nevertheless are still worth checking out. In many cases, they are still even being supported with new content. That also tends to mean you can find them a little more cheaply too, as the shopping season kicks into high gear. Here we go.

WRC Generations (PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Nintendo Switch)

WRC Generations is the final officially licensed World Rally Championship game developed by Kylotonn, the Paris-based studio that has been making WRC games since 2015. Starting with next year’s title, the franchise moves to Electronic Arts and Codemasters. And while there’s a lot of excitement to see what Codies can do with the official WRC licence, WRC Generations represents the apex of everything Kylotonn’s been able to accomplish over seven annual releases.

It contains a stunning amount of content — all 49 teams from the 2022 WRC season across hybrid Rally1, Rally2 and Junior WRC categories, as well as 37 classic vehicles, like the Lancia Delta Integrale, Toyota Corolla WRC and original Alpine A110. A total of 165 special stages, including a completely redesigned Rally Sweden, presents a vast breadth of environments, conditions and surface types to challenge for the fastest times. If you know anyone who loves rallying — it is the best discipline of motorsport, after all — this one’s a no-brainer.

Grid Legends (PlayStation, Xbox, PC)

No modern racer quite captures the drama and spectacle of motorsport like Grid, and Grid Legends — which has been well-supported with DLC since its release way back in February — continuing to keep the excitement coming. Anyone with fond memories of Codemasters’ TOCA Touring Cars and Race Driver games will love the recently released Rise of Ravenwest DLC, which adds new story mode events that establish the history of the series’ antagonists, with some cute presentation nods to Codies racers of years past (yes, Grid 2008’s dirt-piss filter is recreated to stunning accuracy here.) The Autozam AZ-1 was recently brought to the game too as post-release content, so we’re obvious fans. These days you can find the base edition for half price or less from many retailers.

Gran Turismo 7 (PS5/PS4)

Look, Gran Turismo 7 has some problems. But it’s also the racing game released in 2022 I’ve played the most, simply because its on-track product can’t be beat. The single-player campaign and economy sure could use some work, but when it comes to physics and presentation, GT7 remains the last word on console right now. And it’s gotten better — slowly.

Midway through the year, the multiplayer aspect was improved to allow changing of tracks within lobbies (amazingly, the game didn’t launch with that capability), and there are a hell of a lot more events in the game now that pay respectably compared to back when it launched. There’s also a 25th anniversary update right around the corner that will add a couple of hotly-requested cars (including a Ferrari VGT) and a new track, like developer Polyphony Digital has been supplementing the game with for free every month since release.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is very much not a new game, being a 2017 rerelease of a 2014 game that originally came out for the Wii U. But it is still getting a Mushroom Kingdom’s worth of new content, with a staggering 48 additional courses that were announced back in February, to be released over six packs. The next one will drop December 7, throwing in selections from Mario Kart Wii, DS and the mobile-only Mario Kart Tour. In other words, now is still a great time to get into MK8 Deluxe if you haven’t already. Next year probably will be, too.

F1 22 (PlayStation, Xbox, PC)

Sure, the 2022 Formula 1 season just ended. But that means you can get F1 22 for a very reasonable sum during this off-season, as the game can be had for half price from Amazon these days. New F1 games don’t typically launch until midsummer, anyway — for some reason, titles based on real-world motorsport don’t tend to benefit from the same cadence of preseason release that, say, MLB The Show or Madden does. Some of the additions in this year’s instalment, like the “live the life” conceit of the career and the addition of hypercar hot laps, didn’t necessarily strike, but the underlying simulation is as good as it’s always been from Codemasters.

Wreckfest (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC)

I will never not recommend Wreckfest, Bugbear’s delightful, demolition-centric, folk racing darling that’s been out for many years now but still continues to be a source of fun for me and my friends to this day. The game has enjoyed a plenty of post-release content long since launch, and the Switch port, which came out just this year, is strong enough to scratch the itch on long trips and flights, of which I’ve taken quite a few in 2022. It’s one of the finest racing games of the modern era, and now one you can take with you.

Art of Rally (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac)

Extremely charming and also surprisingly challenging, Art of Rally is a stunning tribute to 20th century rallying with a unique perspective and a refreshing, pure focus on technique. Despite its looks, this isn’t the kind of racer you pick up and play; the handling model is punishing but extremely rewarding, and it’s likely you’ll have to sit with it for a while before it starts clicking. Patience and calm are the vibes here. Art of Rally is also the only game on this list that is available on Mac via Steam, which counts for something.

Forza Horizon 5 (Xbox, PC)

It’s hard not to enjoy roaming about Mexico in Forza Horizon 5, a game that’s as much about exploration as it is cars and racing. It looks phenomenal, it has almost any car you’d ever want to drive in a video game and it only continues to get even bigger. It’s also pretty cheap, these days. You can snag it on Xbox or PC, and PC owners even have the choice of picking it up from Microsoft’s store or Steam. No matter where you get it, you can enjoy full cross-platform play with all of your pals. As for fans of a more sim-minded Forza experience, stay tuned — that’s coming in the not-too-distant future.

Wait & See: NFS Unbound (PS5, Xbox Series, PC)

Full disclosure: At the time of writing, nobody outside EA has any idea how Need For Speed Unbound will turn out. We at Jalopnik expect to have our hands on it in the days leading up to the game’s December 2 release, and you can expect our impressions around then. It’s worth keeping an eye on, because frankly, nothing hits quite like NFS when the series is on its game.

2019’s NFS Heat was a step in the right direction, with enjoyable cop chases that forced players to balance risk and reward in the way that games like the original Most Wanted and Hot Pursuit 2 used to, excellent customisation and an entertaining, if predictable and slightly cringe-inducing story mode. Unbound looks to shake things up with a unique, illustrative visual style and a new focus on hypebeast fashion, for better or worse. Look — as long as the game plays well and I feel those beads of sweat start trickling in minute 35 of a pursuit I just can’t shake, I won’t care what sneaker brands are in the game.

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