I’ve always enjoyed video games as a cold-weather activity. As a then-girlfriend of mine once said, while watching me lap a Scion FR-S around Lime Rock for half an hour, “Y’know, most people who play these games compete in races to win money and progress. You just like to drive the cars.” Right now, between the winter weather and the spiking COVID case rates, it seems like the perfect time to settle in on the couch with a controller and some nice digital cars. As the winter drags on, I wanted to put out the call: What games should car enthusiasts be playing?
The first game that always comes to mind, at least for me, is the Forza Horizon series. I’ve sunk a combined 599 hours into the latest three entries, with that number only set to rise over the next few months (if I can drag myself away from Halo Infinite). These games are incredibly detailed, both in their visual design and in the amount of fine control players are given over car tuning — individual gear ratios, brake bias, adjustable aero, it’s all there.
But, everyone knows Forza. Instead, I want to recommend a much smaller, but even more detailed game: Automation. Automation may not be the most user-friendly of games, with its stacks of menus and graphs, but it’s quite possibly the most intricate simulation of car design ever built. Not only do you design your car’s exterior, you can develop new engines and drivetrains to make your perfect vehicle. Want a car game that lets you use an engine dyno? Automation is that game.
Now that you’ve heard my recommendation, what’s yours? Do you like the games where you can get into the fine details of engineering, or would you rather just drive? Do you want to set blistering lap times, or just drive from Tucson to Vegas in real-time? Give us your best automotive games, and we’ll collect the top ten this afternoon.