Revisiting the Racing Games We Played in 2022

Revisiting the Racing Games We Played in 2022

New and old, great and terrible, these were the racing games that made our year.

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Celica GT-Four rally car from Gran Turismo 7
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

All told, 2022 was a solid year for racing games. It gave us a return to dramatic circuit racing with Grid Legends, the long-awaited (if imperfect) comebacks of Gran Turismo and Need For Speed, the first F1 title to wear the EA Sports badge loud and proud, and old-school arcade vibes in the form of Horizon Chase 2 and the expanded release of Slipstream. It also inspired us to take a few strolls down memory lane and reacquaint ourselves with the worst the genre’s ever had to offer. Here in this list we’ve compiled snippets of all the games — new and old — we covered in the past year. Have at it, and happy racing into 2023!

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Screenshot of Speedway Racing
Image: Super PowerUp Games

Speedway Racing truly comes alive when you load up on 22 gallons of Suonco race fuel and hit the asphalt. Lunacy is guaranteed. The artificial intelligence exhibits none; computer-controlled cars are also so incredibly slow in a straight line relative to you that they’re impossible to avoid. When you hit them, they fly into the air weightlessly. Even if you do your best to steer clear, they’ll still send each other into the stratosphere. It’s a regular occurrence to blow past AI cars stationary on the apron for no obvious reason; hell, half the time they’ll venture into the grass as soon as the green flag drops.

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Screenshot of Ford GT race car on track in Grid Legends
Image: Electronic Arts

While there’s little about the Driven To Glory plot that I feel like I’ll recall months from now, it does feel like the perfect narrative companion to the Grid gameplay experience, which has always been one of chaos and bustle. You feel it most on the city circuits, where this game is truly at its best. The throngs of crowds lining the streets of Shanghai, Chicago and Barcelona; the dust kicked up as cars cascade into Turn 1 at Dubai; the warm glow of the lights strung over the track from building to building in Havana. The fireworks, the confetti, the balloons. God, the balloons. The artist responsible for designing the balloon archways in this game deserves a raise.

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Image of Porsche 930 Turbo from GT7 Photo Mode
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

GT7 is your youth in 4K, with ray tracing. It’s a remarkably earnest celebration of automotive history and the gaming franchise that disseminated that history to the masses 25 years ago. A celebration so earnest, it’s sometimes awkward.

There are surely racing games that are more realistic than GT7. Harder than GT7. Ones that have even more cars and better music. Definitely better music. But there isn’t another racing game that will demand your patience like GT7 does. For that, you might hate it, and I couldn’t really blame you.

Or, it might just remind you why you fell in love with cars in the first place.

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Split-screen multiplayer screenshot of Slipstream
Image: Ansdor Games

Slipstream has been out for a few years now, but only on PC, via Steam. It’s a fun, gorgeous tribute to Sega’s classic proto-3D Super Scaler racing games, like Super Hang-On, Power Drift, Rad Mobile and, of course, Out Run. The candy-colored skies, endless palm trees and nostalgia-swelling synth wave tunes are melded with a drift-centric handling model and a small selection of late-’80s and early-’90s performance cars, like the Nissan Z32 and Lancia Delta Integrale.

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Photo of Analogue Pocket handheld running Top Gear Rally
Photo: Adam Ismail

Racing games on the Game Boy Advance — it’s a pairing that sounds like a bad time. The GBA, beloved though it was with many fantastic titles in its library, was at its core a system designed to play 2D games. And driving a car is an experience that benefits greatly from a third dimension. It’s surprising so many publishers even bothered with the genre on the handheld at all and yet, my rough don’t-quote-me estimation is that there were about six times as many racing games released on the GBA than the Nintendo Switch has now. Why even talk about them?

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Screenshot of Jalopnik Twitch stream  showing the Crazy Taxi 2 website
Screenshot: jalopnikdotcom via Twitch

Last week, my friend José and I were playing the arcade classic Crazy Taxi 2 on Jalopnik’s weekly Thursday stream when we made a discovery that, quite frankly, stretches the limits of what’s deemed relevant content for a website ostensibly about cars. But it made our afternoons, and seemingly those of at least two viewers. It’s about the Sega Dreamcast and Y2K internet.

Hey, look at that — everyone’s gone! But you’re still here, and for that you have my sincere gratitude. I knew I liked you.

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Image of Alpine F1 car taken in F1 22 Photo Mode
Image: Electronic Arts

Annual sports releases like F1 22 tend to be more iterative than revolutionary, and once again that’s the case here. That’s not to say there aren’t areas Codemasters could look to improve, but it’s clear that with additions like the new broadcast options and dynamic difficulty, the studio is concentrating on broadening the interactive F1 experience to welcome newcomers without spurning longtime fans and sim racers. F1 22 doesn’t look to surprise anyone who knows these games well, but it is shaping up to be the most adaptable installment yet.

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Gameplay image from Horizon Chase 2
Image: Aquiris Game Studio

Horizon Chase 2 feels like a victory lap for one of the few series keeping the flame of old-school racing games alive. It’s not massively different from its predecessor, in that it still apes the gameplay and general feel of sprite-scaling racers of the pre-polygonal era, like Out Run, Super Monaco GP and, most of all, Top Gear.

The most profound difference is in the track design. Whereas the first Horizon Chase focused on replicating the flat-plane perspective of racing on Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo with sparse 3D assets, Horizon Chase 2 features richer, fully constructed 3D environments that bridge the gap between the series’ inspiration and the wave of titles that would follow, brought about by the likes of Ridge Racer and Daytona USA.

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Gameplay image from Hooters Road Trip
Image: Ubisoft

I love racing games with a passion. I’ve been reviewing and obsessing over them for decades. While it’s fun to glorify all the greats – your Gran Turismos and your Forzas and your Project Gothams – to really appreciate how far we’ve come, I think it’s important to sometimes look at the stars that shine a little less bright. Or, in this case, to occasionally gaze into the heart of a black hole so dark you may be driven to hang up your controllers forever.

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Mazda NA Miata customization in NFS: Unbound
Image: Electronic Arts

Little departures from the expected formula make Unbound feel fresh — even if, at its core, this is in many ways the same game that got a lukewarm reception three years ago as Need For Speed Heat. Heat didn’t have the graffiti-inspired art style, bangin’ soundtrack, focus on streetwear fashion and hip-hop culture or environmental diversity of Unbound, but it had the same cop chases. The kind that alternately thrill you and make you want to tear your hair out.

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12 / 13

Honorable Mention: Racing (1/13/22)

Honorable Mention: Racing (1/13/22)

Title screen of Racing, a PlayStation 1 game
Image: Agetec

It’s beautiful in its simplicity, isn’t it? In 2000, a company called Agetec published a PlayStation game simply titled Racing as part of its budget A1 Games label. It’s absolutely as terrible as you’d expect, but the utter lack of any defining qualities whatsoever has endeared it to me for years.

I imagine its title screen in my mind’s eye — with a blurry Porsche 993 that may or may not be present in the game and the name superimposed in Times New Roman font — and I giggle. Sometimes even in public!

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13 / 13