The Best PS1 Racing Games
Gran Turismo was one of the most well-known and best respected titles to ever release on Sony’s debut console. With a roster of over 140 cars from real manufacturers from the US, Japan and Europe, it brought racing realism to home consoles for the first time. It was also one of the first titles to fully utilise the new (at the time) Dual Shock controller, allowing players to experience rumble feedback and analogue controls for the first time.
With more than 11 tracks in the game, and almost endless ways of tuning and customising your car, there was plenty in this game to keep players entertained for a long time. Each car had its own unique feel, and to progress through the game you were required to pass various licencing tests to prove that your skills were developing and allow you to challenge the next level of opponent.
With various game modes alongside the main career option, including a fun multiplayer option, Gran Turismo offered a ton of replay value for gamers. The game was a true genre-defining title, and few racing games have had the same impact since.
The Wipeout series on the PS1 were an interesting cultural phenomenon at the time, as well as being outstanding games. The combination of fun, high-paced racing and internationally known artists on the soundtrack of the games introduced the PlayStation to a whole new audience, and fortunately the games were more than good enough to back up the marketing hype.
Wipeout XL was arguably the best of the bunch, with more tracks, weapons and tactic options available to players. The gameplay has remained similar throughout the series – race at high speed around a futuristic track, trying to take out your opponents with various weapons. The sheer speed of the games at the time really made them stand out, and the fantastic electronica soundtrack added so much to the atmosphere.
There were various game modes to keep players entertained, including the rarely utilised multiplayer across two consoles using the link cable. Wipeout XL was a lot of fun, and the series has continued on the PS4 to this day.
Colin McRae Rally 2.0
Colin McRae Rally 2 was just about the best representation of the popular rally racing genre on the PS1, featuring a wide range of tracks and cars for players to choose from. Alongside the main Championship mode, players could race through single stages, time trials and straightforward single rally modes.
The Championship mode was the real meat on the bones of the title, allowing players to race through 8 rally stages across various countries and against 5 different opponents. With 13 total vehicles to unlock in the game, there is plenty of variety and something to suit most driving styles. Cars could take real damage, and players had to repair their cars between stages as well as tune and tweak things to their liking.
With more than 90 tracks set across 8 different locations, there was more than enough to keep even the most ardent rally fans busy for a while. And, for those with a multi-tap, 4 player split screen races were a lot of fun.
Crash Team Racing
Sony had their own attempt at a Mario Kart style racer during the PS1’s era with the fantastic Crash Team Racing, a game which was recently remade for the PS4. Crash, the star of a handful of well-received platform games on the console, was teamed up with the majority of the characters from his world for a fast-paced and extremely fun kart racing game.
The main single player Adventure mode consisted of racing around 16 tracks to try and defeat Nitrous Oxide, and provided players with plenty of action and interesting tracks. But, as with many racing games, the real fun was in the multiplayer mode.
With up to 4 players able to join the action on the split screen mode, Cash Team Racing was one of the most fun multiplayer games ever to hit the console. With the wide range of tracks, racers and weapons available, each race offered something different and provided players with some of the best action on the PS1.
Need For Speed III: Hot Pursuit
The Need for Speed series has always been popular, with the high-octane experience appealing to a wide range of gamers. While the main elements of the series were present in Need for Speed III, the mode which really set this entry apart was the Hot Pursuit mode. It offered players the chance to try to escape from the cops, who have more than a few tricks available, including roadblocks and tire spikes.
The deepest part of the game was the tournament section, allowing players to enter a range of tournaments to try to increase their skill and show their dominance. There is a total of 8 cars in the game for players to unlock, including high end models like Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Need for Speed III was (and still is) a lot of fun, and is one of the more interesting racers on the PS1.
R4: Ridge Racer Type 4
The Ridge Racer series was one of the earliest to bring arcade-style racing to home consoles, and Ridge Racer Type 4 was about the best the series had to offer on the PS1. With 45 unique cars in the game, with more than 300 variants, it brought one of the most diverse racing rosters to the console. The game featured 8 different tracks and three unique game modes – Grand Prix, Time Attack and Versus.
The bulk of the single player action lies in the Grand Prix mode, in which players choose from a handful of racing teams and compete over a full season of races. This mode gradually allows users to unlock the additional cars in the game by finishing the races in winning positions. The versus multiplayer mode was a lot of fun as well, allowing two players to compete across the full range of tracks in the game.
Jarret & Labonte Stock Car Racing
This game was released in Europe as TOCA World Touring Cars, however in the US they replaced the touring cars with stock cars and feature the titles Jason Jarrett and Justin Labonte in the game itself.
The game features 40 fully customizable cars, from a range of top manufacturers like BMW, Honda and Ford, and has 23 tracks all based on real-life locations. The 4-player split screen mode was a fantastic addition, and a high-profile soundtrack with songs from The Offspring and Moby made for a well-rounded racing experience.
Rollcage Stage II
Rollcage Stage II was the sequel to the original Rollcage games released for PC and PlayStation and expanded on the fun arcade-style racing of the original. Cars can pick up weapons as they race around the track to try to take out their opponents, and the style of the cars allowed them to continue racing even if they were completely flipped over, adding an extra dimension to the fast-paced racing action.
The game offered some unique aspects in the genre, such as fully destructible courses, racing on walls and flipping cars upside down, which really added to the fun of the game. The game features 65 tracks in total, over a wide variety of landscapes, and the destructible environments allowed players to take advantage of their weapons and hamper the progress of their opponents.
In a genre which can sometimes be quite stale, Rollcage Stage II offered a unique racing experience and was a ton of fun.
Destruction Derby 2
The Destruction Derby series of games were something fairly unique back in the days of the PS1, and it’s a style of game we don’t see much of anymore. Alongside trying to win the race, players could get rid of opponents by causing targeted damage to their vehicle as they made their way around the track. The risk, of course, was that you could damage your own vehicle in the process and ultimately be unable to finish the race yourself.
With straight up races alongside the arena-based Destruction Derby mode, the second entry in the series really perfected the formula and was a lot of fun to play. While there weren’t as many cars and tracks as some other racers of the time, the pure fun and unique aspects of the game more than made up for it and provided some of the most memorable racing experiences on the PS1.