The seven most overrated racing games | FOS Future Lab

19th January 2022
Ethan Jupp

In all of racing game-dom, the distribution of praise is way off and the power nostalgia wields over people can skew how they make calls between what means a lot to them personally and what is actually good. Some games we view through rose-tinted spectacles, some games are just half-baked with few able to see the corner-cutting. Let’s count them down.

Test Drive Unlimited 2

As a fully paid-up TDU superfan this one hurts to admit. I was a part of the fanfare when new and indeed still sing its praises today. But TDU2, feature-packed as it was, was a bit shoddy. We loved the enormous maps, the working indicators and roofs, the casino, the houses and lord knows so much more… But it was all for very little when you couldn’t connect to your friends. Which was a lot of the time. Things got more stable in the end but it was blatant the TDU experience was better-delivered on the first game. Which is why everyone went back to it, which is why Eden turned the servers off. The financial constraints that plainly plagued the development of this game came into sharp focus when Eden Games keeled over in 2013. No matter, a well-funded third TDU title is due this year from new IP custodians, and I’m dangerously excited for it…

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Gran Turismo Sport

This one feels a little harsh but it is the latest example of Polyphony phoning the middle child in. Since the very beginning, there have been interim GT titles with reduced depth and promise of more to come. That’s what GT Sport was to GT7. Online-focused and with very few cars relatively speaking, at launch GT Sport had little claim to its place as a ‘main entry’ in the series. That said, many cars and indeed single-player elements have since joined over time via free updates… but it never fully spread its wings. We suspect that’s where this year’s Gran Turismo 7 will come in.

Rocket League

Rocket League is a great game. It’s not a great racing game. It’s not a bad racing game. Why? Because it’s not a racing game. It’s a football game but instead of people, there are cars. Yet people insist on referring to it as a racing game. Some (who blatantly aren’t racing gamers) have published lists of the best racing games in which this game where no racing occurs features. So for its excess popularity, for the fact it robs actual racing games of interesting cars (not even Forza has the McLaren 765LT yet, but Rocket League does?) it gets a spot on this list. To call it a racing game at all is to overhype it.

Project Cars

The Project Cars series peaked with its second entry we’d argue. It did something very few have been able to pull off in being an accessible blend of sim racing authenticity and casual enjoyment. It suffered in the eyes of many, though, thanks to the burst hype bubble that was the first entry. We were all so excited – a sim racer by sim racers, that would deliver on all our cries that had previously fallen on deaf ears at Turn 10 and Co. It did not. It was at best a preview of what was possible given enough funding. Fine physics, a limited car list, drab graphics – not the one to lure a vast majority away from Forza Motorsport, to the point that the sequel that did deserve something of an exodus was half-dragged down with it.

Forza Motorsport 7

The expectation around any Forza release is always enormous so when Forza Motorsport 7 dropped towards the end of 2017, there were mixed reactions. This was a contrived entry in the series that’s lead to a significant rethink of how they do things. Ordinarily, follow-ups would have been due in 2019 and then again in 2021. Instead, the Horizon series took over, even with its own break, and a soft reboot of Forza Motorsport was teased last year and is due this year. Yet still, there were apologists for an entry that effectively took its predecessor, slightly tuned the graphics and made most other things – car list, track list, car sounds, career, etc – a lot worse than FM6. Forza games are generally overrated, if commendable in their own right. Motorsport 7 was overrated with little merit. Credit where it’s due, improvements were made over the years. The damage, however, was already done.

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Need for Speed: Most Wanted

This one will hurt some but fear not. I, like you, adored this era of Need for Speed games. The Underground duo, Most Wanted, Carbon – fabulous explorations of car culture and new levels soap opera-tier dramatised narratives that those young enough to shrug off the cheesiness just revelled in. Many believe that Most Wanted is the best Need for Speed game ever made and there’s a case for that… but nostalgia clouds our judgement. Revisit this game in 2022 and the hazy graphics, vomit-inducingly bad dialogue and dodgy physics don’t sit well. It was a bit thinner than previous entries, too. The modification system was dumbed down compared to Underground 2, as were the number of features of the game itself. Most Wanted while beloved was never an ambitious game. It never pushed the envelope. It delivered the right vibe and the right formula at the right time, which of course future NFS titles would rinse, repeat and rinse again with each attempt steadily worsening. Carbon was a slightly worse game but it gets the correct amount of praise. For what it is, Most Wanted is privileged to have the status it does. 

Forza Horizon 4

The most overrated and overhyped racing game of them all. It typifies everything Playground Games consistently gets wrong in this series and very few people seem to notice. An open-world driving game set in one of the greatest destinations for car enthusiasts in the world? Sounds great. It wasn’t. In fact, we’re not sure they could have given us any less of a representation of Scottish driving, with disparate villages, enormously wide roads in a strange spaghettified network that an actual infrastructure planner clearly had no hand in, and one token driving road that lasts about two minutes end to end. Open world driving game? It’s a claustrophobic sandbox at best. Yes, the graphics are great, yes there’s a good car list and yes Forza physics outdo most arcade racers but it’s all so lost in this strange abstract caricatured snippet of the north of the UK. This game is fun to drive in for precisely five minutes – exactly the amount of time most reviewers played it for before scribbling up their five-star appraisals.

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