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Whether you like zooming about in cars, on jet-skis, or by way of a futuristic spaceship, there’s an amazing game for you
Since the early days of gaming, many games have been infused with the need for speed. But only modern hardware provides the kind of power that enables the huge diversity of racing games found in this round-up.
Here, you’ll find everything from retro-tinged arcade fare through to gorgeous time trials across snaking, gleaming circuits twisting their way through sci-fi futures. So whether you’re into fast cars, fast spaceships, or anything in-between, there’s a racer here for you.
$3.99/£2.99 • v1.5.0 • 308 MB • By Zorg
AG Drive propels you into a future where racing takes place on spectacular roller-coaster-like circuits that thread across a planet’s surface. The anti-grav crafts are weaponless — this is a racer all about learning the various twists and turns, and using them to your advantage. It’s blazingly fast and frequently dizzying — you wonder if half the challenge for the competitors isn’t so much taking the chequered flag as keeping their lunch down as crafts flip and spin about the place.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Free + IAP • v2.5.0 • 1.32 GB • By Gameloft
You’d think Asphalt would be a bit more down to earth, being that it’s a racing game featuring fast cars. But this game merrily and frequently flings said cars into the air, gleefully awarding you with nitro on performing death-defying stunts. Most of the tracks have also taken leave of their senses, with you bombing through hyper-real takes on famous locations, or surreal jaunts that may end up with you drifting across an aircraft carrier. It’s bonkers in the best possible way.
Free + IAP • v1.5 • 76.5 MB • By Nova Games Ltd.
This top-down racer is another that clearly isn’t taking things too seriously. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic future, yet rather than scavenging for food, inhabitants spend their time racing ramshackle cars around tracks fashioned from the remains of humanity. And when they get a bit fed-up with that, they partake in some three-on-three football with a giant ball. It’s street racing akin to Mad Max crossed with Mad magazine — a ballsy but silly mix of speeding, smashing, and blowing up opponents whenever possible.
Colin McRae Rally
$2.99/£2.29 • v1.11.4 • 243 MB • By Codemasters
Based on the hugely popular PC and console series, this streamlined mobile effort places you behind a rally car, making your way through a range of tracks from dusty Australian outback to twisty Corsican roads. The controls are sharp, and although we’re not in simulation territory here, the game requires a certain amount of mastery if you’re going to have any hope of winning a rally. On iPhone, the display’s a bit cluttered, but otherwise this is a great game.
$4.99/£3.99 • v1.3 • 151 MB • By Sega
One of the finest games to grace Sega’s Dreamcast, Crazy Taxi looks dated and feels a touch clunky on a modern iPhone. But the larger-than-life gameplay still shines through. The aim is to collect passengers and drop them off within strict time limits. Loads of modes and mini-games add a little depth, but mostly this is a high-octane arcade blast, based around three-minutes of thrilling driving, snaking through traffic and making the most of your mental map of Crazy Taxi’s small city.
$2.99/£2.29 • v1.2.2 • 24.1 MB • By Kimmo Lahtinen
The most retro title in this round-up, Drift’n’Drive wouldn’t look out of place on a 1980s home computer. But this is perfect mobile fare, with you urging a tiny car along short vertically scrolling tracks, populated by swarms of crazed computer-controlled opponents. A good finish improves your subsequent grid placing, along with awarding funds to soup up your car so you can tackle tougher championships. It’s simple, accessible and exhilarating, not least when trying for a third straight win for a platinum medal, and you’re battling for the lead against a car that would sooner see you drive into a tree.
Final Freeway 2R
$0.99/79p • v1.0.10 • 17.8 MB • By NEWTYPE K.K.
Final Freeway 2R is more or less an incarnation of famous 1980s racer OutRun. Like its famous forebear, you’re blazing through colorful landscapes, where loads of cars are all suspiciously driving extremely quickly in the same direction. Weave to the end of a section before the timer runs out and you select the next stage by going left or right at a fork in the road. There’s a great sense of speed here, and while Final Freeway 2R may lack nuance, this kind of simple racing fodder is great for quick iPhone blasts.
Free + $2.99/£2.29 IAP • v1.4.2 • 257 MB • By Aquarius Game Studio
Another love letter to retro racers, Horizon Chase harks back to the 1990s and titles like Lotus and Top Gear. The aim is to win a series of races in a range of countries, maximising your points by picking up gems and conserving fuel. The controls are pitch-perfect, but the visuals take the crown. The low-poly art style is dazzling — modern but with a hint of retro — and the light effects strewn throughout are mesmerising. Great stuff.
Free + IAP • v2.0 • 96.8 MB • By EcoTorque Games
Back to the future now, with Impulse GP. Like AG Drive, this title imagines a time of hovering vehicles on gravity-defying tracks. Here, though, you’re on a bike rather than in a spaceship, and the lurching tracks have boost and impulse pads peppered about. The latter requires you to hold a button while travelling across them, giving you a big boost in speed if you get the timing right — or leaving you in everyone’s dust if you don’t. Tougher than most, Impulse GP is also hugely rewarding when you win.
Mini Motor Racing
$0.99/79p + IAP • v1.8.2 • 374 MB • By The Binary Mill
This stunner features chubby cars flinging themselves around gorgeously rendered tracks with merry abandon. Despite the game’s semi-realistic appearance, the sound and feel of the cars is akin to remote control vehicles. And the aggression of the AI — especially on later tracks — is such that you often have to throw your car about, cunningly using boost to eke ahead whenever possible. Car upgrades and track variation hold the interest, even if the AI’s constantly ramming you sometimes wears thin.
Need for Speed Most Wanted
$4.99/£3.99 + IAP • v1.0.43 • 681 MB • By Electronic Arts
Most Wanted is an exciting and varied street-racing game. Dumped in a drab city, you get your kicks by drifting for miles and speeding along rain-splashed streets, humiliating opponents and outrunning local cops. Although the frame-rate occasionally suffers, the game looks great — if a bit grey — and handles wonderfully. It’s so easy to kick out the tail of the car and drift, and the steering is spot on for weaving through oncoming traffic, evading a police roadblock, and flooring it to victory.
$1.99/£1.49 • v1.2.2 • 115 MB • By Black Coal Studio
Quite a few iPhone titles have tried to capture the magic that was Micro Machines. Paper Racer is the best — a fast-paced top-down racer that features little cars blazing about tabletops, the main hazards being pencils, erasers, and a deadly drop to a tiled floor. The twist here is that the paper racers of the title leave tracks when driving through paint; and customisation options go far beyond selecting a new car — you can doodle your own and import it into the game!
Reckless Racing 3
$2.99/£2.29 + IAP • v1.1.5 • 251 MB • By Pixelbite
This top-down effort features dilapidated cars and trucks battling it out across a surreal section of courses. Whereas the original in the series appropriately restricted itself to scrapyards and mall parking lots, Reckless Racing 3 features routes through a quaint European village, an airport, and a nuclear plant with a worrying amount of green goop sloshing about. The handling feels a bit lightweight, but the races are amusingly smashy. And if you’re in the mood for something completely different, there’s a gymkhana mode for precision driving and drifting in your decrepit vehicle.
Ridge Racer Slipstream
$2.99/£2.29 + IAP • v2.2.0 • 827 MB • By Bandai Namco
The Ridge Racer series has a reputation for boisterous arcade larks, demanding you constantly drift round corners to maintain speed. Against some of the iOS competition — notably Asphalt but also Most Wanted — this mobile entry feels surprisingly staid and sedate. Yet spend time with Slipstream and you find a different kind of racer — one that is less forgiving but more rewarding if you properly want to master courses and feel like you’ve earned every win. Plenty of course variation and superb visuals add to the thrills.
$1.99/£1.49 + IAP • v1.3.1 • 57.5 MB • By Vector Unit
Our final entry in the future, Riptide GP2 is the splashiest of them all. Presumably, global warming’s drowned cities, leaving racers zooming about on souped-up jet-skis. Everyone in Riptide’s world is also a massive show-off, and so during moments when you’re hurled into the air, you must perform stunts to acquire boost to be used on landing. This one’s a great bet if you fancy something a bit different, not least because the effect of the undulating tracks really makes Riptide stand out.
Rush Rally 2
$3.99/£2.99 • v1.03 • 61.4 MB • By Stephen Brown
There’s a sense with Rush Rally 2 that it’s initially shooting for authenticity, with its fairly unforgiving nature during initial stabs at a rally. But stick with it and the game slowly reveals its fun side, whether your car’s sent flying up a hillside do to misjudging a corner, or when you’re smashing your way through the superb rally cross mode. It’s all too easy to find yourself skidding into a gravel trap, but the entertainment level’s such that you’ll right your car, gun the engine, and try your damnedest to get back into the thick of it.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Free + IAP • v2.0 • 1.05 GB • By Sega
Kart racers are surprisingly rare on mobile, and this effort from Sega is the closest approximation you’ll get to the likes of Mario Kart on iPhone. Fortunately, it’s a great game, full of madcap courses based on Sega’s back catalogue. The handling’s great, and, presumably having got bored with roads, the creators periodically hurl your cars into the air or dunk them in the drink, temporarily transforming them into aircraft or boats accordingly. There’s some unwelcome grind in the World Tour mode, but once you’ve Grand Prix at your disposal, you’ll thrill at besting rivals in the eye-searing Super Monkey Ball track, or barrel-rolling your way through After Burner’s fleets of battleships.