The six best racing games for kids – FOS Future Lab

10th June 2020
Steve Marshall

The general consensus around the virtual office is that I’m the most qualified to write this list because I have a three-year-old child. He doesn’t actually play any racing games – or any computer games for that matter – but that’s beside the point. Luckily, I’m an avid gamer and have been playing racing games for as long as I can remember. I’ve delved into my childhood memories and picked out some of my favourites along with some modern blockbusters.


Mario Kart 1-8

Platform: Nintendo consoles through the years

You don’t need to look further than the Italian plumber to find what I consider to be one of the best racing game for kids. It’s been a staple of Nintendo consoles for decades. There’s been a version for every Nintendo console and they’re all excellent games. I have a particular fondness for Mario Kart 64, which first came out for the Nintendo 64 in 1996.

For those unfamiliar with the series, it involves Mario and his friends racing around colourful locations like Bowser’s Castle and the classic Rainbow Road. As you race around you can collect power-ups that come in various guises and hinder your fellow racers. The controls are simple and the physics laughable, but none of that matters. It’s some of the most fun you can have in a racing game, especially when played with friends.

Finding a second hand Wii with Mario Kart is a low cost way to entertain kids and adults alike.

Forza Horizon 4

Platform: PC/Xbox 1

The Forza Horizons series is the sibling to the Forza Motorsport series. It offers a huge map that’s completely open world. It’s a go anywhere do anything kind of game and that’s what makes it so good for kids. Often kids will struggle with objectives or timed missions — they just want a playground to go and drive around smashing things. Forza Horizons has just this kind of gameplay.

Set in a fictional slice of the UK countryside, Forza Horizon 4 was actually launched at Goodwood House a couple of years ago. One of the main hooks of the game is that every three weeks the season changes, changing the map allowing previously inaccessible locations to become reachable. For instance, the season changes to winter and a lake freezes over. There are hundreds of locations to explore with secrets hidden throughout the map. You can get just about every car you can imagine with a detailed painting mode allowing you to customise your ride to your hearts content.

The actual driving is incredibly fun. Drifting through a dry stone wall at 110mph is very satisfying. Kids will find endless enjoyment driving cross country, launching off huge jumps and maybe occasionally winning a race.

Star Wars Episode 1: Racer

Platform: Nintendo 64/PC/Dreamcast

Now for something without wheels. This game came out just after Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace came out in the cinemas. It received much better reviews than the film itself and was a particular favourite of mine growing up.

Starting at the bottom of the pack, in a slow pod racer, you gradually battle your way up the ranks. The racing and tracks are great, really capturing the essence of the pod racing scenes in the film. You can upgrade your machine or buy a new faster one as you earn more credits.

Definitely one for kids who love Star Wars who might not have ever come across this game. It’s being remastered for the Nintendo Switch and PS4 so keep an eye out if you want to bag a more modern version.

Diddy Kong Racing

Platform: Nintendo 64

Some consider Diddy Kong Racing to be the best racing game for the N64 – even better than Mario Kart. I’m not convinced on that point but it is a very fun game with enough difference to Mario Kart to make it worth a mention.

There were 10 characters to select and the vehicles weren’t just cars. There were hovercraft and aeroplanes too. Each vehicle gave different advantages on different surfaces. It also features a basic story mode.

Hot Wheels: Race Off

Platform: iOS and Android

It’s hard to ignore mobile gaming which has changes the whole gaming landscape, including racing games. The ability to play a game wherever and whenever you are can be a lifesaver when stuck somewhere with a fidgety child.

My favourite mobile racing game is Hot Wheels: Race Off. It takes classic miniature toy cars for a spin in brilliantly designed levels, following the ionic orange track. You play against one other car and attempt to get to the end of the course as fast as you. Addictive and challenging, but no overly complex and a good one for the kids.

Need for Speed: Underground 2

Platform: PS2/PC

This is by far the best Need for Speed game, combining the best driving physics, soundtrack and car customisations of the entire series. It has a big open world to explore, a fun story to play through and exciting racing throughout. The real fun comes in the garage where you can experiment with body kits, alloys and colour schemes to your heart’s content.

If you’re a grow-up, maybe you’d be interested in the seven best sim racing games?

Welcome to FOS Future Lab where we report on the latest visions of future technology. We'll be boldly covering flying cars, hoverboards, jetpacks and spaceships with plenty of down to earth topics in between.

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