From rudimentary mechanical racing games in 1930s amusement arcades unrecognizable by today’s standards to modern-day hyper-realistic simulators like iRacing, the love affair between games and racing would take multiple tomes to recount.
It’s that drive to match the visceral thrill of rushing metal and fierce competition, to reproduce the sensation of carving the perfect line around the banked curves of a speedway or deftly navigating the streets of Monaco. So it’s no wonder developers have turned to VR, the latest and arguably the most exciting frontier in video games, to push the envelope of immersive racing experiences.
Today, we’ll be sharing what we think are the best examples of how VR propels the genre forward, tapping into the full capabilities of tech to have you almost inhaling the tart fumes of burning tires and feeling the crunch of colliding nose wings. So here are our picks for the best VR racing games you can play on various headsets right now.
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How We Picked
Though ‘best’ is heaped in subjectivity and personal preference, we’ve tried to take an impartial look at the spread of VR racing games to only highlight those that offer the best VR experience, whether you are a first-timer testing the waters or a seasoned racing game fan.
To us, these games epitomize the cutting edge of VR racing and are sure to regale anyone with even a passing interest in the genre. That said, we’ll invariably have missed some out, and if there’s one you think is a must-play, please do let us know by dropping into the comments section below.
Below, you’ll find five of the best VR racing games. We’ve structured things to give you a sense of what each offers while also highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. And, at the end, we’ve pulled together some good-to-know general information about shopping for VR racing games in a handy ‘Things to Consider’ section.
Best VR Racing Games in 2021
Perfect for beginners
Good headset compatibility
Requires a high-end gaming PC
Project Cars 2 rightly turned heads for offering a good balance between realism and fun, free of surplus complexity in the mechanics, but with just enough depth for purists.
Project Cars 3, on the other end, throws that formula out the window for a far more accessible, arcade-style experience that makes excellent use of VR capabilities for a light, accessible driving game, earmarking it as the perfect first stop for VR newbies before they move on to more unforgiving titles, of which there’s no shortage.
In keeping with what we’ve come to expect from the series, Project Cars 3 is even more stunning than its predecessors with gorgeous environments, dynamic seasons and weather, a genuine hair-raising sense of speed, and explosive collisions. In VR, this is only intensified, and it’s a real pleasure exploring everything Project Cars 3 has to offer with a 360-degree view.
Alongside, you get the full spread of over 200 cars, 120 tracks, and game modes, both single-player and competitive multiplayer, as the PC and console version. Although quickly passed off as superficial due to the bite-sized qualities of the content on offer, Project Cars 3 isn’t as daunting as other VR racing games and offers hours of light fun.
Despite being suitable for those looking for a more effortless driving experience, Project Cars 3 requires quite the gaming rig for a palatable experience with no less than an RTX 2080 and 16 GB of RAM, a point to consider if you’re running an older PC.
Gran Turismo name
Stellar handling and driving experience
Only on PlayStation VR
Limited ‘VR Tour Mode’
A revered name in the motorsport genre, Gran Turismo is synonymous with one of the best console racing experiences. The series’ first foray into VR in Gran Turismo Sport, while not perfect, is a must-play for racing game fans.
Gran Turismo Sport is certainly showing its age but remains one gorgeous game, something that’s only enhanced when you plop on a VR headset. However, there’s naturally a bit of a downgrade to some environments that come with the territory. The lighting, in particular, is exceptional considering it runs on what is now considered a previous-gen console. The car handling is as good as ever, and the details of both the courses and the cars are only limited by the power of the PlayStation 4.
And herein lies one of the major drawbacks of Gran Turismo Sport; it’s only available on PlayStation VR, and even there, the experience is pared down compared to what’s on offer when playing on a TV.
With a PSVR headset, Gran Turismo Sport is limited to what’s called a VR Tour Mode. In practice, the Tour Mode breaks down to one-on-one races against AI and a somewhat gimmicky gallery to view cars in all their stunning detail. No more, no less. It’s slim pickings for what is otherwise a compelling VR racing experience, and the lack of competitive online play hits is disappointing.
With this in mind, we’d be hard-pressed to recommend PC VR headset owners dart to the shops to pick up a PlayStation 4, but if much of your VR-ing is already on PSVR, Gran Turismo Sport’s VR mode is well worth a visit.
Precise, realistic simulation
Huge range of great mods
Add-on accessory support
Compatible with most PC VR headsets
Limited VR experience without mods
A legendary entry in the annals of racing game history, Assetto Corsa’s jump to VR was once rough around the edges, but thanks to a vibrant modding community, it has become one of the best VR racing games money can buy.
Much of the Assetto Corsa’s ultra-precise and realistic sim elements port incredibly well to VR, and few games channel the genuine thrill of controlling a racing car to such a convincing degree.
As we noted above, Assetto Corsa truly comes alive thanks to modding support, which grants access to all manner of cars, tracks, locations, and improvements. The focus is primarily on drifting, but if that tickles your fancy, there’s no shortage of great mods to sink your teeth into. Without mods, the VR experience lacks much of the content that makes the game a fan favorite among racing enthusiasts, so they are essential, in our opinion.
Assetto Corsa is best experienced with a racing wheel, and to that end, the game boasts broad support for all manner of racing game add-ons, from steering wheels and gearboxes to rigs and pedals. Proof of how well Assetto Corsa mimics the experience of sliding into a high horsepower motor is that many professional drivers turned to the game during Covid lockdown as a distraction but are now competing in-game regularly.
As a SteamVR title, Assetto Corsa is compatible with Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Unfortunately, the PlayStation version doesn’t support VR.
Dash Dash World
Fun, arcade VR racer for everyone
Single and multiplayer
Huge amount of content
Cross-platform and broad headset compatibility
Motion sickness prevention options
Not one for hardcore racing fans
Dash Dash World is an accessible racing game designed through and through for VR; no shoddy after launch mode here, it’s a fully-fledged VR experience with a fun experience at its core.
Dash Dash World is easily one of the player-friendly VR racing games out there with both single and multiplayer modes. It features over 100 hours of content across a story mode, quests, challenges, achievements, and eight-player online matchmaking. Develop MOTIONX Studio even hosts regular online tournaments to spice things up.
The art style is also a strong point with bright colors and plenty of bombastic charm. It even has a robust set of motion sickness prevention options to reduce the intensity of the VR experience to suit each individual player.
Rather than straight driving, Dash Dash World combines racing and an explosive weapon system styled on what we’ve come to expect from Mario Kart. The combination is frantic, fun, and fast. And with a variety of modes designed to cater to all skill levels, it’s a game for everyone, from children to those looking for a real challenge. That said, the arcade-style gameplay won’t go far for those looking for a simulator that’s both unforgiving and realistic in its handling and physics.
As it stands, Dash Dash World is available on Steam and the Oculus Store, with compatibility for the Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Having launched only in late 2020, Dash Dash World benefits from regular updates to add to its early access launch.
One for off-road rally fans
Realistic car physics and handling
Loads of real-world locations and environments
Same content as non-VR experience
No PSVR version
If you are looking for the unbridled intensity of off-road rally racing in VR, look no further than Dirt Rally 2.0. One of the best rally racing games comes to VR and does it in style.
Unlike many other big-name VR racing games, Dirt Rally 2.0’s VR offering has all the content as the straight ‘flat’ game with all the stunning locations, courses, and cars for you to sample. The matched content also extends to unrivaled realistic car physics and handling, making for a genuinely challenging but rewarding VR driving experience. The immersion of driving in full 360-degrees through the sharp turns of a tree-lined rough track delivers bucket loads of adrenaline-pumping gameplay, especially when paired with some choice add-on accessories.
Carving the perfect line around muddy Scandinavian farm tracks is a dizzying experience under normal circumstances. Multiply this twofold with a VR headset, and you are in for quite the jerky, twisting, and bumpy experience that might trigger motion sickness in some players. We’d recommend sampling straight-track VR games first before moving on to Dirt Rally 2.0 if you’re a newcomer to VR racing.
You’ll need the Steam version to play Dirt Rally 2.0 in VR, but other than that, Dirt Rally 2.0 is pretty forgiving in terms of what headset you can use: Valve Index, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, and HTC Vive are all a go. Sadly, developer Codemasters confirmed back in 2019 that it has no plans for VR on PlayStation 4.
Things To Consider
Due to the relative infancy of the gaming aspect of the tech, VR is a fragmented and sometimes confusing gaggle of headsets and platforms to decipher, especially for newcomers unversed in how the VR gaming landscape exists and operates. It’s not just your headset that matters but also where you buy a game.
Some of the best VR games may be available to everyone, whether you are running a Valve Index or PlayStation VR headset. In contrast, others may be anchored to a specific headset manufacturer such as Oculus or one lone platform such as Steam.
Over time and as the tech matures, it’s likely we’ll see more cross-platform support for games, but, for the time being, we can’t stress the importance of checking up on compatibility before committing to a purchase. Check game listings, or refer to our guide where we’ve listed headset and platform compatibility under each game.
VR Racing Setups
A decent VR headset and suitably powerful desktop PC are the minimum gear you need for VR racing games. Still, there’s a teeming market of add-on accessories to enhance the experience further. These range from steering wheels all the way to fully-seated setups decked out with realistic pedals, gearboxes, and even button dashboards.
Unsurprisingly, these full setups cost a pretty sum for the most immersive and high-quality options, with prices quickly surging beyond $5000. These push the boat out with hydraulic pedal designs, F1 position seating rigs, and wheelbases to accommodate real-world racing steering wheels.
While we’d ward casual players off forking out, these add-ons do wonders to mimic the sensation of taking control of a ludicrously-priced racing motor. In our eyes, they are an excellent option for dedicated mavens with the cash to spare looking to sink hours into VR racing and who want the best experience possible.
Though motion sickness is likely to arise for some players regardless of the game, it tends to flare up in VR racing titles. Maybe it’s the simulated speed, the jerky movements, or the repetitive, almost instinctive head tilts that preface each tight corner, but, if anything, it’s a testament to how immersive VR can be.
Due to this, VR racing games are best experienced in short bursts rather than all-nighters, unless you fancy a panicked rush to find a receptacle to evacuate your half-digested dinner. Progression is vital if you’re afflicted by motion sickness. The human body’s incredible ability to adapt to different experiences and environments has served humanity well up to this point, so it’s only logical that after a handful of short, concentrated sessions, symptoms of motion sickness should subside entirely or be manageable enough to enjoy the game.
Sadly, some people simply don’t have the physical composition to shake off motion sickness regardless of how often or long they play. In that case, a ‘flat’ gaming version, which most of the games in our list exist alongside, is a more advisable option to experience the joy of racing games.
Project Cars 3 is the perfect entry point into VR racing games: stunning visuals meld with straight-forward arcade-style gameplay brought to life in immersive 360-degree VR. It may have abandoned the balanced realism of old and may lack some depth, but there’s plenty of fun to be had here.
While Gran Turismo Sport’s VR mode represents only a taste of what the full game offers, it remains a must-play VR racing game for PlayStation VR owners. Due to its age, you’ll likely pick up Gran Turismo Sport for next to nothing.
As the VR racing game of choice for motorsport fans, Assetto Corsa injects plenty of realism into the mix, aided by a vibrant modding scene that elevates what is a pretty poor base VR offering to something truly special. One for drifting fans and those who are eyeing up a decked-out racing setup with a steering wheel, pedals, and a rig.
Dash Dash World is a fun and accessible option aimed at everyone, from those looking for a light distraction to the more competitively-minded. There’s a deep pool of content to work through, plenty of online shenanigans to get involved with, and regular updates to keep it fresh.
Dirt Rally 2.0 abandons the sleek lines of the race track for a hands-one off-road racing experience that’s as forgiving as it is rewarding. VR players get all the content as the base game, enhanced thanks to VR alongside realistic car physics and stellar handling.
Don’t hesitate to send any questions or suggestions our way in the comments section below.