Stuff's Best Games Ever: The 16 best driving games of all time

From racing to combat to car-soccer, these speedy games got our hearts pumping

Most of us will never actually whip a wickedly expensive supercar around the Nürburgring, or smash through traffic in a frantic police chase – probably for the best on both counts, let's be honest.

But we can do those things exuberantly, blissfully, and best of all safely in video games. We can also toss turtle shells to destroy rivals, blast through neon courses in hovercrafts, and play football with an enormous ball. Games have unlocked a level of fun in driving that we just don't get from commuting through deadlocked traffic.

And we've played a ton of them over the years. How many? Well, more than we could hope to fit on a list, but we pared it down to the 16 games we've loved the most. Strap yourself in your seat and read on for our all-time picks.

16) OutRun 2 (2003)

You've heard of OutRun – Sega's ancient arcade game, where you bomb along a road where everyone suspiciously drives at speed in the same direction. It's a classic. It also plays like a brick.

Not so with OutRun 2, which takes the original’s framework (cheesy music; blue skies; road forks so you can choose the next stage) and slams down the accelerator, leaving other arcade racers in its dust. It's pure, adrenaline-infused gaming magic.

15) Wave Race 64 (1996)

Wave Race 64 sounds a lot more generic than your average Nintendo gem, but this very early N64 release quickly revealed itself to be a racing classic. It harnessed the power of the new hardware to deliver convincing waves that battered you, despite their inviting sheen, and the game had a lot more personality on tap than you might expect.

Wave Race 64 didn't go on to become a Mario Kart-like juggernaut, but the original endures: it's still a blast today.

14) Twisted Metal 2 (1996)

Original PlayStation launch title Twisted Metal married a great concept with OK execution, but just one year later, Twisted Metal 2 properly nailed the car combat premise.

The action felt more precise, the graphics were slicker, the roster was more diverse than before, and best of all, the giant arenas (including Paris surrounding the Eiffel Tower) were fabulously fun. The next couple of entries were pretty crummy, but Twisted Metal Black on PS2 rebooted it spectacularly.

13) Stunt Car Racer (1989)

This one depicts a future where Formula 1 is deemed boring, and therefore dumps crazed racers atop tracks akin to roller coasters. One circuit, The Ski Jump, literally has a ski-jump built into it. But this is no absurdist throwaway arcade effort, because perfect physics means you feel every bump as you hurl your car into banked corners, occasionally tearing a hole in the chassis with a sickening crack.

Amazingly, it even works on a lowly C64; but if you and a chum had a 16-bit machine back in the day, you could hook them up for head-to-head action. A mite less convenient than two-player Mario Kart, admittedly, but just as much fun.

12) Sega Rally Championship (1994)

"Easy right! Over jump! Long medium left!" Sega Rally Championship didn't have a lot of courses (just the three), but those words remain burned in our minds more than two decades later.

This arcade and Saturn classic popularised the rally genre in 3D, with a wide array of terrain and a far greater variety of traction-types than we were used to from racers. It might seem rudimentary now, but back when it was a revelation.

11) Wipeout 2097 (1996)

Many of the early 3D games from 20 years ago don't hold up particularly well, but Wipeout 2097 is one of the rare exceptions – and it was damn near mind-blowing at the time.

2097 took the strong anti-gravity racing base of the original and pumped it full of style, with stunning visuals from The Designers Republic and licensed techno tracks that gave every thrilling, stomach-churning race an extra thump. It totally holds up today.