Hi all, I’m Pat. I’m one of several hosts of the Gaming Fyx Podcast. We love the team at SuperGG and I was thrilled when Alex invited me to come up with a Game of the Year style list. 2021 was the year I discovered perhaps the most rewarding hobby I’ve ever found: Simulation racing. Funnily enough I had never been a superfan of racing games, but after a few years of watching Formula 1 I decided I wanted to get a wheel and pedals to try out Codemasters’ F1 series of games. It ended up being a very long, winding rabbit hole that has been very expensive, but far more rewarding. That’s a story for another time, but it has led me to this article! Here’s my picks for the top 5 racing games and sims in 2021. I say “in,” because most of these are games from past years that got some great support and updates this year, and with the nature of racing sims that’s what really counts!
Number Five: Circuit Superstars
Circuit Superstars is by far the least “simmy” game on this list. This is a top-down racer from a small indie studio called Original Fire Games. The gist of Circuit Superstars is that it brings real life racing sensibilities to a fun, approachable format that is easy to enjoy with a gang of friends. The game features “sim-like” features like car damage, fuel consumption, and tire degradation. While none of these elements are as deep or complex as they are in some of the other games we’ll talk about on this list, adding a dash of pit stop strategy to something this simple and arcadey makes for a great formula.
On top of this, Circuit Superstars offers a good selection of cars and tracks that give you variety with just enough to sink your teeth into to make you want to practice before your next multiplayer race. Worth a look if the rest of this list makes you glaze over a bit!
Number Four: Forza Horizon 5
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Forza Horizon 5. On the one hand, it’s very much an iteration over the excellent FH4. It also drives me mad with its frustrating seasonal structure, making it feel more like a job than a game if you want to nab that extra cool car. However, on the other hand, there just isn’t much out there that gives you such an enticing roster of cars and a big wide open world to cruise in them through.
FH4 was one of my favorite games of 2018, and 5 really does build on its success. The biggest thing it did for me was improve wheel support. My Fanatec CSL DD works great with the title, and while it’s a far cry from providing anything approaching a sim in terms of realism, it is just a joy to cruise with. The car list, as well, is a dream. The fact that I could potentially drive my 2016 Honda Civic Coupe in game is really exciting, and there’s very little they haven’t crammed into this year’s game in terms of manufacturers. I think it’s safe to say this one is probably the biggest crowd pleaser on this list, even if some parts of it irk me to Mexico City and back.
Number Three: Assetto Corsa Competizione
Assetto Corsa Competizione is arguably the best GT car simulation on the market. The hyper focus on GT3 and GT4 cars means ACC offers some of the most accurate, and fun racing this side of Spa. This one may have come out a few years ago, but between new cars, promising new track packs, and a pretty incredible update to performance, physics, and tire modeling, ACC’s only fatal flaw is a fairly dead multiplayer scene. It’s a shame too, because this game has the best license system on the market, carefully tracking stats like consistency, safety, and track familiarity to build a really solid profile of your driving skill level.
Luckily, private leagues are aplenty, and ACC also has some extremely fun AI to race. This game definitely leans hard on the sim side, but I know multiple people who enjoy it with a controller, so if sports cars are your jam I would absolutely consider picking this one up in a steam sale.
Number Two: Automobilista 2
This was a tough call between ACC and AMS 2 for this slot, but in the end the support for AMS 2 this year just barely edges out ACC for me. If you’re not familiar, Automobilista 2 is a multi-disciplinary racing game initially inspired by the Brazilian racing scene. From there, the game has expanded to be one of the very best “simcade” style racers on the market. From Interlagos, to Daytona, to the Nurburgring, and beyond, AMS 2 has it where it counts. Highlights like an incredible looking and feeling weather system, great lighting, and solid AI seal the deal.
In 2021 AMS 2 has had a truly transformative year. The game runs on the Project Cars 2 engine, which is solid, but that game was definitely more of a game than a sim. AMS2’s developer Reiza Studios has wrung some incredible improvements out of the engine to put in a place where you can really dial up the realism to an impressive degree. With monthly updates that improve physics, AI, and bring new cars and tracks, (all already solid without these updates) I truly do wish I was spending more time on top of what I already have with Automobilista 2.
Number One: iRacing
Some astute readers with an ear to the sim racing tarmac probably saw this one coming. If you didn’t know already, iRacing is widely regarded as the premier racing simulation on the market. iRacing is the destination for official online NASCAR racing, the NTT IndyCar Series, the International Motor Sports Association, and more. The game launched well over a decade ago, but has seen constant and steady improvements since. It’s not the most incredible looking game on the market, but its tire model and physics simulations are top notch, and it tends to be THE choice for professional drivers to practice in. Even NASCAR used it to hold a virtual racing series with the real world drivers after COVID-19 shut down the 2020 NASCAR season.
But the real reason it’s on this list, in this spot, is the excellent support it’s received this year. First, there’s the track additions. Hungaroring, Nashville Superspeedway, Red Bull Ring, Mount Washington, and more have all made their way to the service in force this year. We’ve also seen extensive updates and releases for cars like the Mazda MX-5, Porsche Cup Car, Ferrari 488, and more. Plus, with the promise of rain coming soon and iRacing’s stunner of a partnership with the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team (which promises to bring their current, and next generation F1 car to the service) iRacing already has a bright looking 2022 approaching on the windscreen. A tough nut to crack for anyone without at least a wheel and pedals, but iRacing truly is one of the most rewarding bits of software I’ve ever found, and I love it to pieces (forty plus pieces, to be specific).