One video game genre that benefited from 3D graphics is Racing. Developers no longer had to create the illusion of three dimensions by scaling 2d sprites, artists didn’t have to create lots of drawings of a vehicle from different angles, and players finally got 3D Models!
At the arcades and on home consoles, we did get a few 3D racers before the Sony PlayStation, but it was on the PSOne that many of us have most early memories with some of these franchises that are still getting sequels and remasters to this day.
So, let’s take a look at games that put you behind the wheel of a car, boat, a floating bike with a jet engine, or futuristic anti-gravity ship that travels at 500 km/h. These are the
15 Best Racing Games On The Playstation 1
Need for Speed 2 (Electronic Arts – 1997)
The original The Need for Speed was released on the 3DO console in 1994, and two years later we got a port on PSOne that wasn’t quite as good, but the sequel is worthy of the name Need for Speed.
Many exotic, pretty looking, expensive, and (most important) FAST cars are available for you to drive against other racers, head to head, with a single driver, or against time.
Besides playing to get 1st Place on tracks, each car has information, slides, videos, and its history available to enjoy and learn about every model and manufacturer. It sure was a great way to get to know these unique vehicles before Wikipedia was invented.
Nascar 2001 ( Black Box Games – 2000)
If you’re looking for an arcade-style racer, this isn’t for you. If instead, you’re looking for the retro Nascar experience at home, this Playstation game is just what you want.
From Daytona to Watkins Glen, this game features faithful 3D representations of official Nascar tracks focusing on the 2000 season. Or at least as faithful as they could be given the hardware.
The graphics are cool as it was made right before the PS2 launched and they force out every bit they could get. The sounds of the engines and stadiums make you feel right there.
Gameplay wise there may be more fun titles out there, but if you want to simulate being a professional driver in the world’s top level of professional competition, here’s the perfect game for you.
Hot Wheels Turbo Racing (Stormfront Studios – 1999)
If you ever wanted to feel like you’re riding in a Hot Wheels car on one of those crazy rollercoaster-like tracks, this is a game that gives you that experience, with lots of Power Ups and crazy stunts to perform too.
You can select up to 40 vehicles from the famous toy car line and race in wacky-themed stages at high speed against 5 opponents.
You spin like mad in the air before landing, which will grant you turbo boosts that you can use to outrun your rivals and get to the finish line first.
You can also pick up several temporal upgrades during the race that can make your vehicle tougher, faster, or spinnier (I guess that’s a word) so you can squash your opponents, break barriers to shortcuts and alternative roads or spin a lot more times in the air to gain more turbo.
Fans of Mattel scale model cars may like this video game even more since there is tons of content to unlock, including dozens of more cars, but there’s fun to be had here even if you’re not a toy lover.
Sometimes you just want to perform a quadruple-spinning backflip with a 4×4 miniature truck.
Demolition Racer (Infogrames – 1999)
Here the objective is not really to reach the goal line first but to ram your opponents to earn points.
Based on the sport of Demolition Derby, your end score depends on how flashy and violently you crash into your opponents, just touching them from behind is worth 10 points, but hitting them at high speed on one side and making them spin earns you 50 points.
Vehicles get damaged and can explode if they crash too much, and if you make one of your rivals explode and become a charred piece of flaming junk on the road, you win 100 points.
The graphics and driving physics are much better than in the Destruction Derby games, and you’re able to drift and take turns easily like in the more popular and serious racing games on the console.
If you had a bad day in traffic and feel like playing something to let out a little Road Rage, this is the game for you.
Jet Moto (SingleTrac – 1996)
We all fantasize about riding a hovering skateboard like in Back to the Future, but the next vehicle we’d like to get on would be an antigravity bike capable of flying over land and sea, and that’s exactly what you get here.
Simple controls, nice tracks to gravitate on that go from beaches to snowy mountains to forests, and the ability to lean your body to the front back, and sides in order to navigate and jump over waves without losing speed on the water
This game features mechanics from the super popular MX vs ATV Reflex way before that legendary Moto game came along.
Also, you have a grappling beam that lets you attach to some magnetic poles to take close turns without losing speed. Add this and a dozen other riders in each race and you have a recipe for a great title still worth revisiting today.
Rollcage (Attention to Detail – 1999)
Remember those RC toy cars with huge wheels that can’t be turned “upside down” since they’re double-sided? Well, that’s Rollcage in a nutshell. With power-ups, great velocity, and awesome tracks of course!
Here you’re going at over 300 KM/H while launching missiles at your opponents or aiming at signs over the road to have them fall onto the road and stop your rivals in their tracks.
You’ll be racing on planets far away with destroyable objects on the maps, and there will be alien ships flying above you. You can also drive on walls and even attached to ceilings in caves and tunnels.
Sure, WipeOut is a more popular series, and for a more serious player where skill is involved that’s the better franchise, but Rollcage is a great futuristic racer in its own right, and the original one should at least be in the conversation when discussing the sci-fi racers out there.
Nascar Rumble (Electronic Arts – 2000)
Here’s the most exciting announcer I’ve ever heard on a racing game. Nascar Rumble unlike the simulator titles mixes a wacky “Kart” approach with the more traditional sport.
You can pick up items on the roads, throw bombs at other players, leave mines, get a turbo boost or even send a tornado to your opponents and see cars being flown away like in the movie “Twister”
The gameplay is something you’d expect from a racer featuring cartoony characters and not one with realistic-looking vehicles and real-world drivers (including past legends) behind their wheels.
Many high jumps, lots of flips, and awesome looking crashes await players on the 18 available tracks in this goofy title that plays more like a Looney Tunes show than a Nascar race.
WipeOut XL (Psygnosis – 1996)
Futuristic Racing at its finest. Sure, Nintendo had F-Zero, but PlayStation owners had Wipeout, which let us participate in antigravity races at high speeds while launching rockets at other hovercraft bikes in the hopes of becoming the champion of the F5000 AG Racing League.
It looks and plays better than the original Wipeout, and now you’re able to destroy your opponents with explosives and electric bombs or blow up yourself when your shield energy reaches zero.
For a high-speed racing game, you can turn on close curves easily by letting go of the thrust button and pressing the shoulder triggers. It’s not always going at maximum velocity that will give you the victory, but knowing how to take turns, use weapons wisely, and above all, don’t blow up.
Hydro Thunder (Midway – 1999)
This is a port of the speedy powerboat racing arcade that took us by surprise in the late 90s and was a launch title for the Sega Dreamcast.
Midway give the player control of a turbo-powered ship on water circuits and need to reach the goal while taking fuel for the turbo boosts floating on the tracks, or in the air over ramps, while crashing into rival boats and avoiding tourist cruisers that may get too close to the shore.
The PlayStation version has watered-down graphics, but the gameplay is left intact, and the new console tracks, boats, and music to go along with it make it a great experience even if the PC and DC versions look better.
Here you will sail at full speed along sharks and dolphins, free fall from super high waterfalls, and even travel inside sunken battleships that still have combat airplanes inside them.
Sure, it’s not the same as getting in the seat of the arcade cabinet, but you will forget there’s a superior version because all the fun is in the PSX port.
Need for Speed High Stakes (Electronic Arts – 1999)
This is more of a simulator than the previous games of the series. Here you can’t take curves so easily at high speeds, since cars don’t turn like in more forgiving arcade-style games, and the damage you take from collisions on walls really affects your performance on the road.
The tracks are very long and in beautiful places. The graphics for locations and cars look great considering the hardware limitations, and the motor sound effects also sound spot on.
The tournament mode has been expanded upon. Now you need to spend your money wisely on entrance fees for events and buying and upgrading vehicles. You can even sell a car after you win the races, so you can use all your hard-earned cash on a new sweet ride.
Also, you can be a cop and catch outlaw drivers taking part in illegal street racing, and use many gadgets at your disposal as well as asking for backup to get those dangerous drivers behind bars.
Crash Team Racing (Naughty Dog – 1999)
Nintendo had Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart, PlayStation owners had the Crash Bandicoot platformers and then a racing game with Crash and the crew.
In the late 90s, the “kart” genre was becoming popular and many companies had their own racing game with their mascots on small cars, but Naughty Dog really made a high-quality title that got a remaster recently because it was so beloved by everyone back then.
It features an adventure mode where you choose a driver and must win races to collect trophies, keys, and power-ups. After completing a few courses you also have boss duels, and can unlock other racers.
This game has lots of animations, one-liners from the characters, and cinematics with voiceovers to keep you hooked. It doesn’t have anything to envy Diddy Kong Racing on Nintendo 64.
Of course, you can pick up items to blow up your opponents and such, but you also collect wumpa fruit found on wooden boxes on the tracks, which give you extra speed if you have 10, and can make a difference when trying to reach 1st place.
Some people even prefer the classic PSX game over the new Nitro-Fueled, you have to go back and play this legendary racer to find out why.
Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit ( Electronic Arts – 1998)
It improves everything over NFS2, and now you can choose to play in Simulation Mode, where you must reduce speed to take turns, and it’s very easy to flip over if you activate the handbrake at high speeds.
Arcade Mode is more forgiving when turning hard to the sides and you can drift like in action movies.
Each track can be played in the daytime or at night, when raining, as well as being able to race it backwards or in mirror mode. For practice, you can also activate a ghost car, and get an assistant telling you which curves are ahead, like in rally games.
And of course, there’s Hot Pursuit mode, where you must escape police cars chasing you. Even if it is the first game to have this mode, it is very well done and soon you’ll be running from several police interceptors that want to take you down, with traffic and a rival on the roads as well.
Sure you can now play the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit reboot of 2010, and its recently released remaster for modern consoles on 4K, but there’s fun to be had here on Sony’s first console, gameplay wise it feels great to drive with the analog stick and you’ll be surprised how the game looks lights look at night.
R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 (Namco – 1999)
The late ’90s were truly a great time for the Racing Game genre, and after a few arcade games in the series, Namco perfected the formula of Ridge Racer and created an excellent entry in the franchise for the original PlayStation.
The control is extremely simple, just gas, brake, and steering (plus shift up and down on Manual) but you will be drifting and taking curves smoothly thanks to the great gameplay and super responsive analog stick.
This game looks even better at night than Need for Speed titles, and you can see far beyond the limits of the track you’re racing on.
In many 3D games of the time, you feel “enclosed” in a huge bowl, but here the illusion of being in a city surrounded by buildings is very well done.
Grand Prix Mode has you selecting a team and moving up the ranks in tournaments, getting sponsors, and buying new cars.
You can also talk to your team leader and conversations change depending on how you perform in your races. If you want to feel like a professional racer but don’t want to start in cheap cars that take ages to accelerate or struggle with tests in driving school like in Gran Turismo, get right to it with R4.
Gran Turismo 2 (Polyphony Digital – 1999)
An excellent racing game that comes on two discs, Arcade Mode where you can select fast and expensive cars and compete with AI opponents on several tracks, or the Simulator Mode where you have to start in driving school, earn a license, compete in small tournaments and local competitions while you earn money to tune up your vehicle, buy more cars and get to bigger and tougher races.
It features hundreds of car models from many manufacturers, and it has dozens of tracks to play on.
A common sight in PSOne games was “pop up”, where elements of the map would appear all of a sudden, but here you can see things in the scenery from very far away.
Graphics, sound, and music are top-notch for the console, as well as the gameplay which makes this sim a thrill to play even to this day. Truly the game that consolidated Gran Turismo as a high-quality franchise.
Colin McRae Rally 2.0 (Codemasters – 2000)
The original game was a very good Rally simulator, but a little lacking in the few “extras” that makes the driving experience more enjoyable, like music, voice-over, sound effects, and other game modes to keep you going.
The sequel expands on the Rally experience and now you can compete against 5 other racers in Arcade mode, or compete for the best time in official Rally Tournaments based on real-world tracks of the 2000 World Rally Championship.
You can feel the difference when driving over dirt, snow, gravel, grass, and all the distinctive terrain in various weather conditions and times of day.
This game features very open tracks and the scenery looks great when you’re taking curves on slopes, and there are even rally fans watching the race on the sides of the roads.
It is a very detailed and enjoyable game, even if you’re not really a fan of the genre, the arcade mode features lots of cars and drivers to choose from and tight controls that are on par with the highest-quality simulators out there.
If you don’t mind the now outdated graphics and “pop-up” of trees in the distance, check out the best Rally game available for the original PlayStation.
Gran Turismo: The Real Driving Simulator (1998 – Polyphony Digital)
What can I say? It is the most successful game on the console for a reason, and still one of the best racing games ever made.
In Simulator Mode you will start from the very bottom working your way to the top, with 180 cars in total and 11 tracks that can be raced in the reverse direction against very advanced CPU opponents, it gives the feel of a professional driver like in no other game available at the time.
Gran Turismo started a very successful franchise that still lives on today, and while the Arcade Mode may be a fun ride for the casual gamer, the hardcore racing enthusiast will have an unforgettable experience that few titles can match even to this day.
Truly a classic every PlayStation owner should have and complete at 100%