VR gaming is an interesting thing, isn’t it? The concept hasn’t quite blasted off into the success-o-sphere, but it hasn’t meekly faded away either. It’s a bit of a slow-burner, really, sure to benefit greatly from advancements in technology and reductions in costs of those pricey VR headsets.
If you are a proud owner of an Oculus, PlayStation VR or HTC Vive system, you’ll have noticed that the whole VR thing isn’t something you can just shoehorn in anywhere. It’s got to suit the experience, and the racing genre is perfect for that. After all, when a petrolhead isn’t driving, they probably want to be playing a video game that makes them feel like they’re driving.
Let’s hop behind the wheel, buckle up and check out ten of the very best VR racing games on the market.
10 Project CARS
Project CARS was released for the PC, PS4 and Xbox One in 2015. It supported the PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift, and was updated the following year to be compatible with HTC Vive.
One of the first titles to really get to grips with VR racing really nailed it. Project CARS is renowned for its quality as a sim and its stunning visual effects (the weather in particular). It may have been a newcomer from the lesser-known Slightly Mad Studios, but its success spawned a sequel and a mobile title dubbed Project CARS GO.
9 Gran Turismo Sport
Well, it wasn’t going to be long before the biggest name in racing reared its head, was it? Gran Turismo, as fans will know, is much more sim than straight-up racer. Mario Kart, it is not.
Racing fans will already be familiar with the quality that is PlayStation’s primo racing franchise, but Gran Turismo Sport took all of that to a whole new level when it hit VR. When sampling an early build back in 2017, Eurogamer reported,
“In the car the attention to detail makes it the measure of its PC counterparts. It's the little details that all add up - a neatly modelled set of Puma Furio racing gloves on your driver's hands, for example, lending it that extra touch of authenticity, or just the sheer craftsmanship that's been poured into the tiniest rivet in the cockpit.”
What more could a car-lover need to hear?
8 Assetto Corsa
Here’s another racer that wasn’t specifically built with VR hardware in mind, but took advantage of the possibilities it offered to build on an already fantastic foundation.
Assetto Corsa was released for the PC in 2014, arriving on current-gen consoles two years later. Its name means ‘Race Attitude,’ and developers KUNOS Simulazioni aren’t kidding with that. The game is characterized by its impressive, realistic physics engine, as well as its generous selection of tracks and cars.
The key to the game’s success is the focus on what really matters: the driving experience. That’s at the heart of every moment of Assetto Corsa’s gameplay, and fans love it for it.
As we’re already seeing, the makers of great VR driving games really don’t push the boat out when it comes to naming them. iRacing may sound like a bland, simple experience, but don’t let the name fool you. This one’s right up there with the cream of the crop.
A subscription-based experience previously known as iRacing.com, this is another game that makes sure to put realism front and center at all times. Its track-mapping software makes for an experience so authentic that many real-world racers have been known to use iRacing for track practice!
6 Need For Speed - No Limits VR
Next up, we’ve got a different, more accessible kind of VR experience. A lot of us have been tempted by the whole VR gaming thing, but haven’t wanted to lay down the fairly expensive price of entry for a headset. If you’re one of those cash-savvy people, how about Need for Speed- No Limits VR?
This entry in the popular franchise is available on the App Store and is designed for DayDream View. It’s been highly praised for its presentation and control scheme (the latter of which is a particularly big deal; VR games often struggle to get that right).
5 Live For Speed
VR gaming is something we tend to see as a more recent development, but that’s not really the case. I’m not talking about the shonky, migraine-tastic old Virtual Boy, but our next entry, Live for Speed.
This racer has been doing the rounds since 2002. Its virtual reality compatibility, however, took a little while longer to kick in. It was first off the mark to get it, though.
It may not be as visually stunning as other entries on this rundown, and its tracks and vehicles are largely fictional, but this is an impressive offering. Advanced features include an extensive ‘walk’ mode, which allows the player to take a detailed look at the tracks ‘on foot.’
4 RaceRoom Racing Experience
The interesting thing is that a lot of the top VR racing experiences available at the moment weren’t built with the functionality in mind. It’s true that we’ve gotten much more familiar with how the technology works, but it’s still a little experimental by nature and that’s sometimes reflected in its tentative use.
RaceRoom Racing Experience is another title that, like Batman, merely adopted VR. It wasn’t born into it or molded by it. Tired movie references aside, though, Vive and Rift support were added to RaceRoom in January 2017, and it went quite well. It nailed a lot of things that many VR experiences get horribly wrong, such as the HUD and juddering performance.
3 Driveclub VR
The innovations in the gaming industry often take some time to catch on. It’s odd to think that, just a few years ago, touchscreen devices like the Nintendo DS were a bit alien. Now, it’s smartphones-amundo around here.
It’s been the same story with VR. As with any gaming system, you want to be sure that you’re going to get your money’s worth, in terms of the games. The key to gaining momentum and long term success? Quality launch titles.
In that sense, the pick of the PlayStation VR crop was probably Driveclub VR, a separate version of PS4-exclusive racer Driveclub created for the hardware. It only offered a limited crop of modes, but was a gorgeous and solid introductory experience to VR.
2 DiRT Rally VR
Another thing to keep in mind with all this is that gimmicks don’t really get you anywhere. With new tech like motion controls, touchscreens and such, there tend to be a lot of glorified tech demos (think Wii Sports) flying around. Yes, these sorts of offerings have some wow factor early on, but when you buy into a new system, you want to be there for the long haul. You want to know that the quality games are coming, and coming to stay.
This is where racers that were already great but further-enhanced with VR compatibility come in. DiRT Rally VR is another example of a game that isn’t just a throwaway novelty. It’s a racer for fans of real racers, a good old fashioned test of your driving skills. A serious sim for sure and a solid challenge to boot.
1 Project CARS 2
To finish up, we’re going to take a look at the sequel to the successful Project CARS. It’s always a difficult task to create a follow-up to a game that was so well-received, but Project CARS 2 seemed to push all the right buttons.
The original was darn solid, but it had its issues too. The goal of the second game, then, was to expand on what Project CARS did right and attempt to address its shortcomings. The result was a great piece of software. I think UploadVR put it best: “Project CARS 2 feels like the Tekken of the racing world — intricate and complicated — whereas Driveclub VR feels more like Mortal Kombat: approachable, but packs plenty of depth when you dig into it.”