Sometimes getting behind the digital steering wheel is incredibly rewarding.
Driving has been one of the hallmark activities of video games since pretty much the beginning. It stated off with pixelated cars with limited movements, like the classic Pole Position and Spy Hunter. Just like video games in general, not only has the graphics improved, so has the realism and engaging elements of play.
What follows are the best moments you can enjoy behind the wheel of any video game car.
Halo: Combat Evolved
While the Scorpion tank is a shining star in the first Halo game, it’s not much of a driving experience since the thing is slow and handles like a… tank. Instead, the truly amazing experience behind the wheel in this Xbox classic is when you drive the Warthog.
There are numerous sequences with the Warthog in Halo which are fun, others that are frustrating, and a few which mix the two. But the best of the best is the final race to the finish line after you destabilize the fusion reactor in the Pillar of Autumn and have only minutes to get away in a ship.
This means driving the Warthog like you stole it, pretty much ignoring the throngs of enemies which are in your way as you jump the armored vehicle over and over, praying it doesn’t flip. This is no easy task, as many Halo fans can tell you it takes considerable skill and repeated attempts to keep the Warthog going in the right direction, passing this final test in the game. The sequence is also incredibly fun, partly because of the challenge.
Yes, Forza has been a huge shaper of modern racing simulators since it debuted back in 2005. Featuring a long list of real cars stretching far into the past, it actually helped expose people to classics they didn’t even know existed.
The ability to customize, benchmark, and fine tune your cars in this game went beyond anything we’d seen before. So did the faithful recreations of legendary tracks like Laguna Seca, Silverstone, and the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
Challenging, offering endless hours of gameplay enjoyment, and doing an excellent job of introducing so many aspects of car culture in a game franchise that’s still going makes Forza a shoe-in for this list.
You can’t have a list about driving in video games and not include Mario Kart, one of the most accessible modern driving games out there. Pretty much everybody loves the cartoonish mechanics employed, from red tortoise shells to turning into a Bullet Bill.
The franchise has added some new dynamics to the mix over the years, like being able to drift and drifting on gliders after going off particularly high jumps. But, the same aggressive, in-your-face nature of this game lives on, leading to plenty of fights among friends and family.
If you’re not a fan of the Batmobile, it’s fair to have your tastes questioned. Arguably the best experience of driving Batman’s jet-powered car is in Arkham Asylum. Armed with all the weaponry the Dark Knight supposedly despises, it’s a little bit of an ironic experience, but once you blow away some bad guys in a car all that will be forgotten.
The Batmobile drives like the land yacht you’d expect, and is every bit as awesome as you had hoped. Even better, the ability to just drive around the gritty, largely abandoned city and do whatever you feel like makes this driving experience something to keep coming back to.
Super Controversial, Grand Theft Auto helped change the video game landscape in so many ways. One of the chief ways of getting around any of the cities in the franchise has been driving, especially if you’re on the run from the cops.
GTA also allows you to perform all kinds of sick tricks in cars and get rewards for successfully landing them. Or, if you prefer, you can drive on all the sidewalks, through parks, and whatever else to spread mayhem. It also doesn’t get old “borrowing” cars from people, especially when you see something that looks particularly fun to drive.
The first three Burnout games has some decent arcade racing elements to them, but the real gem was the crash mode. Play by yourself or challenge some friends to cause the biggest crash in traffic, choosing different scenarios. Everything would slow down Matrix style, and in the second game you could even semi-steer your wrecked car to hit something like a tanker truck.
Of course, people complained and the franchise moved away from these scenes of chaos and destruction, but they’re still a blast to play today.