Rallying is the highest test of driving abilities. To be a rally champion, you must be a brave soul capable of tackling the most formidable challenges. Going over 100 mph (160 km/h) on a narrow road in the middle of the night might be scary, but it's also a perfect material for rally video games. Our top ten list features only one game per series and includes simulations and arcade titles. Also, we've listed the other recommended games from the franchise, if any. With that said, it's time to start the engines!
10. Neo Drift Out: New Technology (Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD)
|Initial release: 1996|
|Best qualities: Great old-school graphics, easy to learn|
|Skip if: You want a longer experience|
|Try also: Super Drift Out (SNES), Drift Out '94: The Hard Order (Arcade)|
Due to its high price and scarcity, many Neo Geo games were relatively unknown until the rise of emulation. While this platform is mainly recognized for fighting games, Neo Drift Out showed how good rally video games can be on a 16-bit system. This one is short, like most arcades, with only six stages featuring all surfaces.
Surprisingly, the game features licensed vehicles, including Mitsubishi Lancer, Toyota Celica, and Subaru Impreza. Furthermore, they all offer slightly different performances. The isometric view is zoomed out, giving you time to react, and your co-driver will tell you all about the next turn. For skilled players, there are even shortcuts! Cars in Neo Drift Out are easy to control while drifting mechanics is incredibly fun. Plus, the beautiful hand-drawn graphics stand the test of time better than early polygonal games.
9. Rallisport Challenge 2 (Xbox)
|Initial release: 2004|
|Best qualities: Multiple rally racing disciplines, excellent controls|
|Skip if: You prefer a realistic experience and longer stages|
|Also try: Rallisport Challenge (Xbox)|
It sounds weird, but Rallisport Challenge 2 is developed by the same guys and girls responsible for the Battlefield series! This high-speed game is between the arcade and the sim and offers a lot of content. This is the only title on our list presenting four rally racing types: ice racing, hill climbing, rallycross, and classic rallying.
The driving experience is fun and forgiving since the tracks are wide, so you'll have to try hard to break the car. Also, since the stages are short, you probably won't have the time to cause much damage. While it sure looks a bit dated now, this was one of the best-looking games at the time. Unfortunately, it's only available on the original Xbox (and isn't backward compatible), so only a few players will enjoy it.
8. Rally Trophy (PC)
|Initial release: 2001|
|Best qualities: The best historic rally experience, long stages|
|Skip if: You are more into modern rally racing|
|Try also: Wreckfest (PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series, Switch)|
Before they developed the Flatout series and Wreckfest, Bugbear Entertainment debuted with Rally Trophy. What makes this game unique is the focus on the early era of rally racing. There are no modern WRC monsters like the Audi Quattro driven by Michèle Mouton, just a ton of models from the sixties and the seventies, all incredibly challenging to drive.
Still, that's what makes them fun! The stages are massive, and the roads are wide, giving you plenty of opportunities to recover. However, we wish there were more rallies. Rally Trophy can be played on modern gaming PCs with a few fan patches, and it's still worth your time if you are into retro rally racing.
7. Sebastian Loeb Rally Evo (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
|Initial release: 2016|
|Best qualities: Rich content, Sebastian Loeb career mode|
|Skip if: You can't stand sensitive controls|
|Try also: WRC 4 (Milestone – PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita)|
Once Milestone lost the WRC license, they teamed up with the greatest rally driver in history, Sebastian Loeb. The result of their collaboration is one of the most feature-rich rally video games. The unique aspect here is exploring Loeb's career through a dedicated mode, explained through fun and informative videos. Alternatively, you can dive into a lengthy career, taking you across eight rallies worldwide.
Yet, this game is lower on our list because of its driving model. While some will say it's very realistic, we think it's just hard. Consequently, the handling is twitchy, and the cars feel like they lack weight. So, while this one isn't for everyone, you should give it a go, especially as it's dirt cheap now.
6. Mobil 1 Rally Championship (PC)
|Initial release: 1999|
|Best qualities: The longest rally stages ever, hot seat championship|
|Skip if: You don't enjoy a highly-challenging experience|
|Try also: International Rally Championship (PC)|
Mobil 1 Rally Championship is the only game on our list featuring massive real-life stages. This means plenty are longer than 15 miles (20+ km), even close to 30 miles (45 km)! As the game features narrow roads and a punishing damage model, you'll be happy only to survive.
We never particularly liked the physics model here, which is challenging rather than realistic. However, it's still far from unplayable, even today. Of course, such an old game can't look perfect today, but modern PCs can still run it. A long and realistic championship always makes this one attractive to play, so give this forgotten classic a try! Oh, and there's a PlayStation version, but don't bother with it.
5. WRC Generations (PC, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
|Initial release: 2022|
|Best qualities: The best career mode in rally games, lots of rallies|
|Skip if: You have played WRC 9 or WRC 10 - there's not much new|
|Try also: WRC 10|
WRC Generations is the last WRC game made by Kylotonn, which has held the license since 2015. The game features the 2022 season, including all the drivers, teams, and rallies. While most of the special stages were in previous games, they remain to drive. These include long stages, often longer than 15 miles (20+ km), that require maximum concentration. While cars are harder to drive, thanks to real-life changes, various options make them more predictable.
WRC Generations features the best-ever career mode in rally video games. Thus, you can start driving in Junior WRC before progressing through three higher classes. There's so much stuff to do between races, working with sponsors, improving your car, or hiring crew members. Finally, many legendary cars and rallies are coming from all WRC eras. While the graphics aren't great and have some performance problems, this is still a decent-looking title. We suggest getting the PS5 version, as the DualSense controller support is excellent.
4. Sega Rally Championship (Arcade)
|Initial release: 1995|
|Best qualities: Gorgeous tracks, excellent arcade handling|
|Skip if: You prefer realistic rally racing|
|Try also: Sega Rally 2 (Arcade, Dreamcast, PC), Sega Rally Revo (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)|
With only four tracks and three cars, Sega Rally Championship is a game that needs more content. Still, even today, it's incredibly fun to drive! The game features stunning-looking stages and the best-ever arcade driving model. Sliding the legendary Lancia Delta Integrale and Toyota Celica while fighting against the time and the opponents never lost its charm.
Sega Rally was a technological marvel at its release, beating other rally video games available on PC and consoles. Later ports couldn't do it justice, so the arcade release is still the best. The next games in the series are also solid, but the original is our top choice for quick-fix gaming. Now, if it could only get a remaster.
3. WRC 4 (PS2)
|Initial release: 2004|
|Best qualities: Excellent handling, hot-seat championship|
|Skip if: You prefer a full simulation experience|
|Try also: WRC 2 Extreme (PS2), WRC 3 (PS2), WRC: Rally Evolved (PS2)|
Now defunct Evolution Studios might be best known for their MotorStorm series and underappreciated DriveClub, but their WRC games were also excellent. Even though five titles were released as PS2 exclusives, only the first one appeared in North America. That's a shame, as all later versions were much improved.
WRC 4 is the best of the bunch as it offers an excellent career mode, plenty of tracks, and an immensely fun sim-oriented model. Featuring a superb damage model and fantastic graphics at the time, WRC 4 is still highly playable. It also features a hot seat championship, which is rare these days.
2. Richard Burns Rally (PC)
|Initial release: 2004|
|Best qualities: Endless mods, realistic handling|
|Skip if: You don't have the patience to install mods|
|Try also: Rally Championship Xtreme (PC)|
Once you start playing Richard Burns Rally, you'll quickly realize why it never sold well. This is the ultimate survival game, where every turn is another chance to turn your car into junkyard material. Only those with a lot of patience and love for the sport will get a hold of its complex physics. This game was so hard that even some WRC drivers complained that the developers overdid it! Still, until this day, this title has a large and passionate following, primarily thanks to improvements made by fans.
No stone is left unturned as modders added hundreds of cars and stages, but also multiplayer and VR support. While the graphics look dated now, there are visual packages that will make them more tolerable. Be aware that you'll need the patience to install mods, but finding the tutorials online is easy.
1. Dirt Rally 2.0 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
|Initial release: 2015|
|Best qualities: Excellent graphics, realistic handling, beautiful stages|
|Skip if: You want an excellent career mode|
|Try also: Colin McRae Rally 2005 (PC, PS2, Xbox), Dirt 2 (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)|
For years fans begged Codemasters to release a realistic rally simulation, and in 2015, they finally did it. Dirt Rally was shockingly good and quickly hailed as the successor to Richard Burns Rally. Finally, we got a game where every mistake is severely punished! And you know what? It was fun! Finishing the stage without much damage was more satisfying than winning in other games.
Dirt Rally 2.0 was a natural evolution, doubling the content while improving the handling. Although the game is absolutely playable on the gamepad, combining a wheel and the VR takes things to a much higher level. The only element that needs considerable improvement is the career mode. The rivals are brutally fast, while there is little to do between races but upgrade your stuff. Dirt Rally 2.0 offers daily, monthly, and weekly challenges with no restart option. Give them a try for the ultimate challenge!
There's something unique about every game featured on our top ten list, which makes them all recommended. Even though Dirt 2.0 is our choice for the best rally racing game overall, maybe you'll prefer the moddability of Richard Burns Rally or the simplicity of Sega Rally.
What are your rally video games favorites? Do you favor an arcade or a sim-like experience? Tell us in the comments!
Cover photo: Toptens.fun original Midjourney creation
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Dirt Rally games are still amazing. Now that Codemasters has WRC license, I hope we can expect something great in 2023.
November 03 at 08:44:27 AM
Wayne C Says:
I loved WRC games on PS2. Evolution Studios was great.
July 03 at 04:53:42 PM