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10 best arcade-style racing games

Burning rubber.

The age of the arcade-style racing games has certainly passed, with some of the best being left in the smoke. However, that doesn’t mean a lot of them aren’t worth visiting again. There are even some gems still being produced.

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Arcade-style games need something more than their sim racing-style counterparts. For me, the core of it is handling. Cars need to be able to be thrown around corners at speeds beyond comprehension while burning rubber in a sideways slide. Nitrous needs to be in abundance, and crashes have to be completely unrealistic. A few other extras I like to see are a killer soundtrack, police chases, and of course, obscene car customization.


This whole series ran from 2001 to 2018 and created a one-of-a-kind style of arcade racer that has never quite been matched. What made the Burnout series stand out was its focus on carnage and destruction over technical mastery. The high-speed, car tagging, adrenaline-fest was best in class for arcade-style racing games for the longest time.

Best Arcade Style Racing Games
Image: Steam

However, the company that owns Burnout, Criterion Games, got bought by EA and swallowed into the pit of corporate waste. EA put a stop to the production of the Burnout games just after their first foray into the open world. Burnout: Paradise was a great first try at something new and promised great things. Alas, it may be the last we got.


As far as arcade-style racing games go, it doesn’t get much more high speed and breakneck than the Wipeout series. This collection of games began during a time when the future of 3D gaming wasn’t just exciting; it was completely unknown.

The Wipeout games were designed with the bright lights, high speeds, and pumping techno of nightclubs. The games themselves were originally intended to be played in a lot of the raves that occurred around the UK at the time. This gives reason for the original design of the name having the capital E right in the middle. However, the game moved from the clubs to the home and ran from 1995 up until 2012.

Need For Speed

Games with opening theme songs can often ruin the track for me forever. Burnout: Paradise did it with Paradise City by Guns N Roses, but Need For Speed: Underground somehow never managed it. I will still listen to Lil John and The Eastside Boys – Get Low on the regular. The tune just slaps.

Need For Speed Best Arcade Style Games
Image: Steam

The Need For Speed series, with Underground 2 being my personal highlight, is a phenomena. The slick-looking streets, unbelievable customization, and killer soundtrack are all held together by some of the best driving controls of the time. Games like Forza Motorsport, in my humble opinion, aren’t ever going to be arcade-style racing games because they don’t feel arcady. The Need For Speed games have that forgiving, blisteringly fast, nitrous-injected handling that needs to be there for arcade-style racing games.

Ridge Racer

The Ridge Racer games spanned over 20 years, starting in 1993 and being platformed on everything from arcade boxes to Android phones. The reason these arcade-style racers have managed to stand the test of time is that they have stuck to their formula.

Arcade-style racing needs a few things to work. They need flashy street racing cars, some wicked tracks in crazy locations, and those wonderful arcade-style controls. Ridge Racer lets you fly through city streets or mountain passes at far more than 100 miles an hour. Drift and slide are used liberally, and nitrous oxide is a given. Everything is a caricature in a good arcade-style racing game, and Ridge Racer kills it.

Midnight Club

Back when Midnight Club Street Racing came out in 2000 on PlayStation 2, it was one of those titles that changed the game but never got the recognition it deserved. Racing through midnight dark city streets, following checkpoints rather than closed courses, was a new thing in racing games, and Midnight Club did it so well.

Midnight club 3 arcade-style racing games
Image: YouTube

By the time Midnight Club 3 came out, Rockstar had nailed their USP. These games took the arcade-style racing game to the extreme. It was possible to not only weave through traffic at more than 200 mph, could also boost, jump, and two-wheel your car. However, it didn’t stop there. There were also shields, force push, and other powers to unlock.

Midnight Club 3 had it all when it came to arcade-style racing games. The customization was fantastic, there was a great little career storyline, and the free roam even had collectibles to find.

Mario Kart

Even today, you will most likely find one of the Mario Kart games tunefully sitting there in modern arcades. It is still a staple in a lot of alternative bars and can be found, in some form or another, in a lot of homes. The Mario Kart games are some of the most accessible arcade-style racing games on the market, and there are good reasons why.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Image: YouTube

These seminal games from Nintendo have controls that can be picked up in minutes, even by the most gaming-averse people. The friendly graphics and fun sounds draw folks in due to their attractive and welcoming vibes. The gameplay looks simple until you sit down with a pro and get taken to the streets. Mario Kart is the arcade racing game for everyone, loved by all, and mastered by few.

Forza Horizon

Forza games are generally made for racing enthusiasts. The Forza Motorsport games are impeccably made and provide some of the most realistic racing experiences in the gaming industry. Their dedication to realism should be praised. However, these are not arcade-style racing games by any stretch of the imagination.

Forza, realizing they weren’t capitalizing on the huge arcade driving market, introduced the Horizon games. These take themselves a lot less seriously, but still a lot more so than our previously mentioned titles. The Horizon games let you customize your cars, compete in races, and tear up the open world like any good arcade-style racing game, but they bring their own flavor. Forza Horizon injects a little of their precision and sensibility into their games, still expecting you to use the brake here and there, and restricting your boost to the point where it must be hard-earned. These are the perfect middle ground between racing sim and arcade gamers.

Crazy Taxi

Whenever I enter an arcade, and they still have an original Crazy Taxi setup, I know where I am probably spending most of my time. This, along with some of the other titles in this list, broke free from the shackles of the arcades and into our homes. The original arcade machine had a wheel and pedals, but it translated well to the controller.

Crazy Taxi Best Arcade Style Racing Games
Image: Steam

Crazy Taxi was dripping in style and character with its unique characters and their wildly different cars. Screaming around the city streets, collecting fares, and jumping highways, was wild fun. The clock was always just too short, but once you get the game cracked, it’s a blast. Rumour has it that there is a new Crazy Taxi on the way. However, whether they will capture the arcade-style glory of the original is yet to be seen.


Sometimes games slip under the radar, and it’s a terrible shame. I feel Wreckfest never really got the recognition it deserves, especially for how unique it is in the arcade-style racing game genre. Wreckfest brings mayhem, customization, and a pretty good soundtrack to a genre that has far too few similar modern games under its belt.

Wreckfest puts you in the driving seat of a stock car, driving and smashing your way to fame. As a kid, I used to watch stock car racing, so it has a place close to my heart. However, even if you’re not a fan of the sport, the game offers a whole lot of fun. It is beautifully designed and has some unbelievable crumple engines at work on the vehicles. This gives the action a bone-crunching realism that is so lifelike it almost pushes the game out of the arcade genre and into the sim one.

Twisted Metal

This is a game that I never expected to have a TV show made, and I don’t think it did, either. Twisted Metal was the most violent driving game of its time back in 1995, and it continued with its many releases up until 2012.

Twisted Metal
Image: YouTube

Akin to Wreckfest, you’re in an arena, and you want to be the last vehicle standing. However, Twisted Metal doesn’t take itself quite so seriously. So, everything from busses to the infamous Sweet Tooth Ice Cream Truck can be driven. Every car has its own specs, but they also come armed with weapons. Car-mounted guns, rockets, and flame throwers turn Twisted Metal from a racing game to a third-person shooter.

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Image of Leo Gillick
Leo Gillick
Leo is a Freelance Writer for PC Invasion. He has a degree in English Literature and Film Studies and more hours buried into videogames than he cares to admit. He has worked extensively in the Videogame and Travel writing industry but, as they say, get a job doing something you love and you'll never work a day in your life. He uses his writing as a means to support indefinite global travel with the current five year plan seeing him through Latin America.