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
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
You might consider pigeons a menace, but it turns out they’re the heroes East Megalopolis needs when a rich super-villain looms into view and decides the city is his to rule.
For the honour of battling what turns out to be an insanely heavily armed megalomaniac, your pigeon partakes in insanely fast side-on races through cityscapes and subway tunnels. For some reason, the pigeons are all seated in tiny biplanes, and you tilt your device backwards and forwards to change altitude, slipstreaming those in front to gain precious extra seconds.
Particularly on iPhone, Pigeon Wings feels perfect, affording you plenty of control whether you’re nudging your plane subtly to slipstream a rival, or zigzagging for your life through a maze of tunnels threatening to turn your pigeon and plane into a combination of modern art, scrap metal, and pie filling.
Win enough races, and the ‘prize’ is a brief battle where your equivalent of a pea shooter goes up against massive flying fortresses spewing lasers and bullets in your general direction. If nothing else, it makes for a change of pace and scenery, even if these battles are every bit as tense as the races.
Should you manage to take down the evil-doer, an endless mode awaits – although in a game that’s this fast, ‘endless’ mostly amounts to ‘ends pretty rapidly’. Mind you, Pigeon Wings’s combination of daft visuals, fab controls, and exhilarating gameplay means you’ll immediately be up for another blast. Craig Grannell
£1.99 | For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Pigeon Wings
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