It’s that time of year again and I find myself racing toward another birthday and to the ripe-old age of 31. In celebration I thought why the hell not have a racing themed countdown – so here we are, down 31 racing games that have defined my enjoyment of the genre over the last 31 years. Enjoy!
It’s hard to believe that Dirt 2 turned five this year. I don’t tend to recognise how many years its been since the release of my favourite games, but Dirt 2 is different. Even when it was released I can remember Melbourne’s seasons passing, with Codemasters’ off-road masterpiece always sitting in the Playstation 3 ready for the next race. Time passes more quickly than i’d like, and the realisation that a game I still consider new is half a decade old, is a terrifying thought. The fact that it still every bit as good as it was back then is slightly more terrifying, because despite numerous shots at the title – including from Codemasters itself with the game’s follow up – Dirt 2 still stands at the top of the dusty mountain as king of its genre.
It was so great that it was just too easy to lose hours, even days to. I’d start playing with the intention of playing a race or two early in the morning, and before I knew it, my stomach was rumbling after a Vegemite Sandwich, and the afternoon sun was peering in through the gaps in the blinds. It was the kind of game that never gave you a reason to stop, offering enough in the way of variety to keep things fresh, and always dangling the carrot of a new car of livery just out of reach to make you want to keep going. To say its more than just a racer would be overstating it, but as far as racing games go, it’s one of the more friendly and welcoming out there, due in no small part to Codemasters’ clever in-world menus, which has become a Codemasters Racing trademark since.
But one thing that was introduced in Dirt 2 and didn’t stick around was the EXTREME WITH AN X attitude that was bleeding out of every one of the game’s orifices. It was all “dude” this, and “bro” that, with Travis Pastrana and Ken Block taking on the role as spiritual guides, egging you on to your next victory. It was certainly jarring, but while the Americanisation of the series rubbed some people up the wrong way, I didn’t find it quite so intrusive, even if I’d prefer to be spoken to in my native tongue. I guess “She’ll be right mate, no bloody worries, have another crack” doesn’t have quite the same worldwide appeal.
There’s not much to say about playing Dirt 2 other than it was a fine-tuned racing game that seemingly built upon everything Codemasters had learnt from making racing games for the past 20 years. The physics was amazing, the presentation top-notch, and its carefully designed options for both tuning and gameplay made it easy for it to get its hooks into anyone regardless of their racing game experience. From a tyres on road perspective, there is not a better all-round experience than Dirt 2, period.
But i’ll be honest, the game really won me over the moment it let me put a minion bobblehead from the woefully underrated Overlord, on my virtual dash.
#31: Stunt Car Racer #30: Badlands #29: RVF Honda #28: Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge #27: Nitro #26: Super Grand Prix #25 Super Cars II #24 Super RC Pro-Am #23 Sega Rally #22 Wipeout 2097 #21 Micro Machines V3 #20 Gran Turismo #19 Need For Speed: High Stakes #18 Colin McRae Rally 2.0 #17 Wave Race: Blue Storm #16 Grand Prix Challenge #15 Project Gotham Racing 2 #14 F-Zero GX #13 Mashed #12 Burnout 3: Takedown #11 Ridge Racer #10 Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast #9 Forza Motorsport 2 #8 Motorstorm: Pacific Rift #7 Midnight Club: Los Angeles #6 Dirt 2 #5 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit #4 Shift 2: Unleashed #3 Sonic All-Star Racing: Transformed #2 Forza Horizon #1 F1 2013: Classic Edition