Racing games should be about having a good time above all else, but sometimes you just need need tweak your damper settings to shave .3 seconds off your lap record. Jalopnik readers know the ten most realistic driving sims for you.
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We're sticking to sims that you, yourself can play. This excludes perhaps the very best racing sims out there, but we'll explain.
First of all, car manufacturers and Formula One teams build their own bespoke simulators that outdo any and every commercial sim there is. They are fully-surrounding chambers that cost millions of dollars, so of course they're better. The problem is, you don't work for a Formula One team, so you'll never use one.
There are also two games in development that would come right at the top of this list, if only they were finished. The first is Project C.A.R.S. It's still in alpha testing, but the released video already is already the most visually stunning racing game we've ever seen. Second is Rigs of Rods, which is bar none the most realistic simulator for car crashes ever made. The problem is it's just an engine at this point, and is not a fun game you can play against your friends.
There's also Desert Bus, where you drive a bus eight hours from Tuscon to Vegas in real time with no saves. That game is actually too realistic, and is no fun.
Photo Credit: Project C.A.R.S.
Here is the baseline for computer racing sims. GTR 2, has been out for six years, but the mod community is so devoted, we're still getting meaningful updates. The basic engine is just that strong.
The physics engine in Fourza is stronger than nearly all other console sims. The physics, weight transfer, and tire dynamics stand above its arcade-style rivals.
Gran Turismo is the slightly more realistic alternative to Forza. The realization of the tracks, especially, is above its chief console competitor.
This isn't just a game where you crash on the first corner. This is a game where you crash on the first corner for the whole first week you play the game. When you get it right, though, GPL is one of the best racing sims. It's so good, there are still updates coming out 14 years after its debut.
Want a realistic rally sim? RBR is one of the best and it runs even on shitty computers.
It's ruinously hard, but the F1 series is the best game out there if you want to drive high-downforce, high-power single seaters.
Simraceway runs on the extremely well-regarded rFactor1 engine and has a strong online racing community. While the original rFactor 1 might be the slightly more developed game today, Simraceway looks like its growing into a much better sim.
Live For Speed is a little long in the tooth, but there are tons of amazing cars and the engine is fantastic. It's still a major point of reference for the sim community.
rFactor 2 is just in beta now, but it's already showing itself to be the beautiful, amazingly realistic game that sim fan have been waiting for.
This is the one that the pros use. Laser-scanned tracks, obsessively realistic physics, it's all here. If you want to get serious, get iRacing.