The genre is vast and caters to any car fan's preferences. Assetto Corsa Competizione and iRacing for serious people; GT Sport, Grid and Forza for casual racers; Dirt Rally 2.0 for rally fans; Need For Speed for boyracer and arcade fans. Whatever you want, there is a racing game for you.
If you've dabbled with rally games you'll know that they vary a lot. Just like the general racing genre, some rally games are aimed at serious sim racers while others are developed purely for fun. This article is all about the best rally games, and what we look for are rally games that not only perform brilliantly but cater for their target audience as well as possible.
What is CAR's favourite rally game?
Released in February 2019, Dirt Rally 2.0 still reigns as the apex rally game in our view. It caters to both serious racers and casual users and because the latter often graduate to the former, that is a very good thing.
You get to race in dozens upon dozens of historic and modern rally cars on real rally stages all over the globe.
DiRT Rally 2.0 quick review
It hasn't been uncommon for some players to grumble about DiRT Rally 2.0's driving physics because they're too unforgiving. But it's merely a case of them being much more realistic than arcade-style racing games where the driving physics are as complicated as a jam sandwich. It does take some getting used to and it does make for a challenge, but a challenge is what makes DiRt Rally 2.0 so good.
If you jump straight into an Audi Quattro S1 with the view you're lord and master of rally driving, you're in for a bad time. Our advice: be patient as your skill improves. We recommend starting with the Historic game mode, which moves from the near-stock rally-racers of yesteryear, like the Lancia Fulvia HF and Opel Corsa, through to the more powerful modern-day beasts which demand an experienced helmsman.
DiRT Rally 2.0 is more about driving skill and finesse than it is simply having an average speed of 120mph. As such, a racing wheel goes very well with this game. But don't write DiRT Rally 2.0 off if you haven't got a racing wheel because it remains 100% playable with a controller, though we suggest using minor assist options with a controller because analogue sticks aren't as precise as a racing wheel.
That being said, Rallycross mode does take DiRT Rally 2.0 into more arcade territory. Disregard the precision and caution demanded, you need to put your foot down and just go for it.
In DiRT Rally 2.0, the crash detailing is as pleasing as it is gut-wrenching. And you now have to pay for repairs. There is also the chance that something may start to malfunction in the car, injecting a little of the real-world mechanical frustrations that can make rallying the unpredictable and thrilling sport that it is.
With Codemasters picking up the WRC license in 2023, we'll be very keen to see what comes next.
CAR's other top-rated rally games
Forza Horizon 5
► Best for: arcade fans who desire next gen graphics
► Available on: Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC
Forza Horizon 5 is all about Mexico. Certainly, there is that Fast And Furious vibe that many of us find so appealing. Without question, Forza Horizon 5 is the best and most exciting racing game to come out last year. It's also the best instalment of the Horizon series yet.
There is a mountain of stuff to get stuck into, both in closed circuit and open-world racing. But the game manages it well, certainly better than Forza Horizon 4 - you choose what to unlock as you progress rather than all cars and quests thrust upon you at once.
Forza Horizon 5 is also a technical showcase. It's designed for Xbox Series X and can run in 4K Ultra HD at 60fps. But you can run perfectly well on an Xbox One too. There is gorgeous detail in the massive and varied landscapes that befall you. This alone is a huge drawcard.
The tone is the same as its predecessors. Well, more of the same, just better.
► Best for: showing off next-gen power
► Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
This latest instalment of DiRT continues with the stunts, mud and fun of previous games but now takes full advantage of the next-generation of consoles for some seriously stunning graphics.
Never a game for sim racers, the arcade-style handling is easy to master and you'll find yourself pretty quickly winning every race with ease. The game isn't the most rewarding to play either, lacking the depth that other racing games offer. At least it looks spectacular.
► Best for: those who are sticklers for real rally stages
► Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC
The latest instalment of the WRC games, WRC 10 was launched in mid-2021. Long story short, the driving physics can rival DiRT Rally 2.0 and the rally stages, of which there are hundreds, are doused in wonderful levels of detail that vary in both time and weather.
The career mode is very involved. You even accumulate staff as you progress. In terms of racing, there are both shorter and longer races, with the latter requiring a lot of concentration to see you through the entirety safely.