Nostalgia dictates that some of the earliest Need For Speed games, such as Most Wanted and Underground 2, are cult classics - and they are. But, they're also very old, clunky and they just aren't satisfying to play anymore. Don't make the mistake of trying to relive fond memories.
The world of gaming, and indeed the world in general, has changed far more in 10 years than we think. Have a look at your dusty old PS3 (old? It only came out in 2006) and compare it to your crisp new PS5. Blimey.
As we start edging our way through 2022, we take a look at our favourite Need for Speed games, deciding which of the dozens are now the best. Spoiler alert, Underground 2 doesn't make the cut.
CAR's favourite Need for Speed games
Need for Speed Heat
► Released: 2019
► Best for: Arcade fans who desire next gen graphics
► Available on: Xbox One, PS4, and PC
Heat has received mixed reviews since it launched, but we think it's excellent. It's got wonderful driving physics, amazing graphics, massive car customisation tools and a wide range of things to do.
In some ways, Heat is a continuation of everything we like about Need for Speed: it follows the familiar formula of letting the player rip it up in a world of tournament heats, illegal street races and police chases. However, it also looks very different this time around: it’s stunning in 4K and HDR, and its 80s style colour palette sets it apart from other racing games.
There are over 120 cars to choose from, including a solid blend of unlikely classics, contemporary dream cars and everything in between. And because this is Need for Speed, every car can be modded within an inch of its life. Your only restriction is your imagination – but do try to be tasteful.
As you’d expect, the game leans towards the arcade side. If you’re after the racing game equivalent of a can of Monster, this is a game for you.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered
► Released: 2020
► Best for: High speed highway action
► Available on: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit was released back in 2010, but the Remastered version was announced a decade later, boasting up to 4K at 60fps on PC and 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps on PS4 or Xbox One.
The game itself isn't ground-breaking, but it's great fun. The solo career mode has plenty of challenges to undertake and once you've got yourself a decent collection of vehicles and experience, you can join the social side, which is where the real excitement lies.
The car list is Porsche and Lamborghini heavy, with many other fantastic models, including the Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S and Koenigsegg CCX.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
► Released: 2012
► Best for: Urban exploration, Need for Speed style
► Available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
This later instalment of Most Wanted is probably the closest Need for Speed game to the Burnout series in that it's mayhem. In this open world, it's all about rather dramatic escapes and pursuits around a destructible city. It's a very simple and straightforward game that doesn't have much in the way of customisation or menus, but it makes up for that in intensity.
This game is not the one to many consecutive hours on, it's very arcade style aimed at pleasing the original fans of Need for Speed.
Need for Speed Rivals
► Released: 2013
► Best for: Insane pursuits
► Available on: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, PC
Need for Speed Rivals makes the racer-cop war very intense. On the cop side, the AI is geared to make them smart and aggressive. They work in teams and deploy a large arsenal of tools, such as helicopter support and electrostatic fields. Meanwhile, racers can use a similarly wide range of tools to evade cops. You can play on either side.
As ever, you can heavily customise and tune your cars, of which there are many tasty models, from the humble Dodge Challenger to the Lamborghini Veneno.
Need for Speed Rivals also blends single and multiplayer into one arena. Thus, you enter into a hectic world where your races and pursuits will cross paths with others.
Shift 2: Unleashed
► Released: 2011
► Best for: Proper track time
► Available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Shift 2: Unleashed really did just take the original instalment and make it even better. It differs considerably from the other Need for Speed games because it is focused on the career of a racing driver rather than a street racer.
As such, the driving and crash dynamics are very realistic, even now. And the career mode is excellent; you can pursue greatness in proper FIA championships like GT1 and GT3. However, there is still classic Need for Speed DNA here, evident in the ability to customise cars to your heart's content.
There are 120 licensed cars and it's a game that has aged reasonably well.
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