Racing and driving games
Whether you want to blast along space-age rollercoasters or wheel-spin on some tarmac, these are the games to grab.
Compared to some futuristic racers, AG Drive takes a relatively traditional view: all zooming spaceships and massive metal tracks akin to giant looping roller-coasters that leave your heart in your mouth. It’s a dazzling game, with animated environments and gorgeous lighting effects that make everything feel alive.
But mostly you’ll stay because of the racing. When immersed in the game, you can try your luck in one-off time-trials and single races, or work your way through a career, gradually upgrading your craft as you go. Just try not to gawp too much at a Mars sunrise as you speed on to yet another loop, or you’ll soon find rivals blazing past. Craig Grannell
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Whereas most racers have one foot planted in reality, Asphalt 8 throws caution to the wind, flinging cars into the air with merry abandon, and burning nitro like it’s going out of fashion. You zoom your way around hyper-real tracks, occasionally animated with a launching shuttle or a massive ferry to leap over and totally not crash into. Crashy moments should instead be saved for rival cars, ramming them while nitroing; this, naturally, rewards you with more nitro. Asphalt just can’t get enough of nitro.
The only dent in this bonkers driving game’s otherwise fine frame is its business model. Gameloft and freemium equates to IAP and ads. But the latter are infrequent and the former can be avoided if you’re happy grinding a bit - and given the madcap, glorious courses on offer, who wouldn’t want to play them again and again? Craig Grannell
This one first came out in 2000 on the Sega Dreamcast - and it shows. Crazy Taxi is like a time machine for your iOS device, assaulting your eyes with graphics that looked pretty hot 15 years ago but are now muddy and littered with pop-up. So why are we recommending the game? Because Crazy Taxi was, is, and will always be, superb.
You choose your driver, pick up passengers, and barrel about city streets, leaping over cars, weaving in and out of traffic, hurtling from the top of car parks, and doing whatever it takes to shave a few seconds off of your fare’s journey. It’s exhilarating, hugely replayable, and absurdly fun. Craig Grannell
Speaking of retro, Drift’n’Drive doesn’t look so much like it crawled out of a Dreamcast as the 1980s. But this cruelly overlooked overhead racer is one of the most compelling we’ve played on iOS. Dinky cars barge their way along vertically scrolling tracks, getting all smashy in an attempt to reach their goal.
At first, your car is underpowered and fragile, but as you improve your position, you can buy upgrades (only with earned in-game currency - there’s no IAP). Eventually, you’ll be kicking bottom racking up wins, at which point you can take on the next championship level. There’s also a split-screen multiplayer mode, if you think you’ve got what it takes to beat your friends. Craig Grannell
One of the criticisms often levelled at games on mobile is they’re not ‘proper’ games like you get on consoles. Well, Grid Autosport is the highly regarded simulation-oriented console/PC racer squeezed into your iOS device. You get the full complement of tracks and cars (100 of each), and an almost bewildering array of settings.
Fortunately, beginners can ease themselves in gently, leaving on driving aids and nursing Touring Cars around tarmac tracks. But with mastery comes the rewards of tackling beefier cars, and gradually tweaking the set-up so you do more of the driving than the computer.
This is a game that demands perseverance and attention - you can’t barrel into a corner at full speed and expect for anything to happen other than a head-on collision with a very solid wall. But if you want a rich, exciting, deep driving experience on iOS, you won’t find anything better. Craig Grannell
Horizon Chase - World Tour
A love letter to classic arcade fare, Horizon Chase brings the likes of the Amiga’s Lotus Turbo Esprit Challenge and SNES racer Top Gear kicking and screaming into the present. This one’s all about insane speed, vibrant graphics, and fighting your way from the back of the pack - every time.
But just because Horizon Chase has one foot in 1992, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely retro. The controls are perfect for touchscreens, the career mode is finely tuned for mobile play, and the visuals boast a gorgeous low-poly aesthetic that’s unique and modern, and yet evokes the feel of old-school racers - all without stabbing your eyes with chunky pixels. Craig Grannell
Like AG Drive, Impulse GP envisions a future of looping tracks and insane speed, but rather than encase racers inside metal spaceships, it instead plonks them on hoverbikes. Health & Safety must be taking a decades-long break.
As for the game itself, Impulse GP can’t match its most beautiful rivals when it comes to visuals, but it gets things right where it matters: speed, track design, and feeling like you’re hanging on by your fingernails. The courses are full of corkscrews, hills, twists and tunnels, and boost pads give you a stomach-lurching blast when you time it right. Just avoid the red pads (which slow you to a crawl) and rivals (who’ll knock you into a spin, given the chance) if you want to win. Craig Grannell
Reckless Racing 3
Putting our political correctness hat aside for a moment, the original game in this series was perhaps best described as ‘Redneck Racing’. Beaten up vehicles jostled around courses comprising a grimy mall car park and a wrecking yard. The sequel stripped away the character, but this third entry again gets the balance right.
If anything, Reckless Racing 3 is even more oddball than its grandparent, with a decidedly surreal edge. You smash and drift your way through airports, abandoned nuclear plants, and genteel Mediterranean hilltop cafes. And along with straightforward racing events, there’s a Gymkhana mode, to test your skills at coaxing a rickety car around precision courses. The physics is a bit floaty, but get used to that and you’ll spend many hours enjoying the best top-down racer on iOS. Craig Grannell
If you prefer racers to make a splash, Riptide GP2 dumps you in a future that has decided cars are old hat. Instead, rocket-powered hydro jets are the way forward, lurching their way along undulating watery tracks. This future also likes massive show-offs, and so at opportune moments, you must perform spectacular stunts to acquire boost.
This is easier said than done. Some courses have handy yellow ramps, but others merely offer huge waves where you take your chances. One wrong move and you’ll find splashy disaster, hitting the water just before your rocket-powered hydro jet hits your head. Still, there’s great satisfaction in mastering stunts, and Riptide GP2 as a whole is a gloriously fun arcade racing experience. Craig Grannell