Eleven of the best car game cover cars | FOS Future Lab

19th May 2023
Ethan Jupp

There was a time when the first thing a game needed to do in order to sell, was look good on the shelf of a shop. For that, it had to have an incredible cover car, doing something epic. It has to scream from the shelf ‘buy me’ at the window-shopping ten-year-old, enough to get them to nag their parents for it to the point of giving in. Happily, this was a trick pretty much everyone figured out, though all are not equal. Let’s count down some of our faves.


1. Super Cars – Lamborghini Countach

One from before my time but an undoubted shoe-in, Super Cars, released in 1990, and the Lamborghini Countach sat front and centre on its cover. The art style, the drama, the perception of speed. I’d buy it now, if it were available and if I knew where the family ZX Spectrum was.


2. Outrun – ‘Ferrari Testarossa Spider’

Outrun is one of the all-time icons, no? Featuring a car on its cover that was a Ferrari in all but name, it encapsulated our dreams of being free in a supercar racing around America with the top down. The ‘911’ that joined it might have been a challenger, though we’re dubious about the Beetle.


3. NFS Hot Pursuit 2 – Lamborghini Murcielago

There’s just no beating a Lambo for your cover car, especially if in the case of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2, it’s bright yellow, with lights ablaze, being chased by the cops. Four cars, one helicopter, but somehow the Murcielago still looked like it was getting away and it made us all feel like we could too. What a cover, what a game. 


4. V Rally 2 – Peugeot 206 WRC

As action shots go, the Peugeot 206 WRC blurred and sideways on the cover of V-Rally 2 is right up there. The game was of course belting, but what drew us all on? The pugnacious Pegueto showing us we could be rally drivers too, if only for a few hours at a time.


5. PGR 2 – Ferrari Enzo

In our mind, Project Gotham Racing 2 is the successor to Outrun in the cover car stakes. Who could say no to a Ferrari Enzo broadside in the wet, kicking up rooster tails, lights on with Sydney in twilight as a backdrop.


6. Enthusia – Aston Martin Vanquish

Sometimes simple wins the day, as long as you focus on the right part. Happily, if your chosen car is gorgeous from all angles, picking your part is easy, and so it must have been with Enthusia and the Aston Martin Vanquish. Little known but fiercely beloved by its fans, we were all immediately sold just by the front wheel, hood and haunch of Aston’s early 2000s flagship GT. Who owns the rights and can we have a sequel? 


7. Gran Turismo 4 – Ford GT

Probably one of the most recognisable cover cars on this list, is the special race-spec Ford GT with its clam engine cover up, as seen on the cover of Gran Turismo 4. The game’s excellence and enduring status as probably the best-ever GT game helped its fame, but the car was compelling in just the right ways to pull us in to begin with.


8. NFS Most Wanted – BMW M3 GTR

It’d be tough to argue against this being the most famous racing game cover car of all time. The BMW M3 GTR with its silver and blue tribal livery is a veritable icon of popular culture, even if it seems a bit ‘much’ now. Once again, its popularity was helped by how great a game Most Wanted was and how many people played it so endlessly.


9. Ridge Racer 2 – Soldat Raggio

“What on earth is that”? every kid who thought he was an expert on cars exclaimed, as they first set eyes on the cover of a Ridge Racer game. Of course, they hadn’t yet realised that this was a game comprised entirely of fictional cars that were homages to those we loved in real life. That didn’t stop us loving the numerous Ridge Racer titles, with the Enzo-like Soldat Raggio very much tempting us most into Ridge Racer on PSP.


10. Test Drive Unlimited 2 – Aston Martin One:77

Around 2010, we’re really reaching the point where shelf appeal is beginning to wane. There aren’t as many iconic cover cars, as there are iconic game trailers. That said, we’d like to nominate a couple that really stood out. The first is the Aston Martin One:77, adorning the cover of Test Drive Unlimited 2, alongside the Bugatti Veyron. That cover really sold the dream you could live on TDU2, of the supercar lifestyle in Ibiza and Hawaii.


11. Forza Horizon 1 – SRT Viper

The Forza Horizon franchise might have become a bit stale today, but back when the first one launched, the prospect of Forza physics and the freedom of an open world was a novel one. As was the car they chose for the cover of the first entry in their new franchise. The yellow SRT Viper is now probably one of the most famous cover cars in the world, with Forza even bringing it back on the latest game in celebration of the franchise’s 10th anniversary.

Of course, this is far from an exhaustive list. It could in theory be near-endless, with the range of motorsport, racing and driving games out there, and the incredible covers they put front and centre. Let us know your favourite cover cars in the comments.

Images courtesy of The Cover Project

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