Our favorite driving games of 2019
Getting everyone to agree on something here at Autoblog is a daunting, if not impossible task, especially when it comes to cars. Apparently that doesn’t change when bringing up driving games. Everyone on staff offered a different answer when asked what driving game was their favorite of the year, and even the console they prefer to play that game on.
Of course, that means we've got several different games to cover and some impassioned opinions for and against them. Click on the image above to get started.
While maybe not the most traditional driving game, Rocket League holds a special place in my heart. I first discovered this game a few years ago, and like many, initially hated it. It's hard. Really, really hard. The object of the game is to play soccer (or various other sports in the "extra" modes) with rocket-powered cars that can powerslide, jump, and even briefly fly.
I play a ridiculous amount of Rocket League and sadly, I still kind of suck. The concept is pretty easy to wrap your head around, but the mechanics are brutal. There's no worse feeling than having a perfect shot lined up, leaving the ground at supersonic speeds so sure you're about to nail a flip into the ball sending it perfectly into the top corner of the opposing goal, and then completely whiffing and doing none of that. It's painful for the soul.
Over hundreds and hundreds of hours of play time, I've racked up 1,585 wins, received 220 MVP honors, scored 3,393 goals, and yet, I’m still barely any good. How do I know? There are ranks in Rocket League. Each rank has 3 levels and a further 4 divisions within each level. You start at Bronze 1 Division 1, then work your way up to Division 4, then you break through to Bronze 2 and start the process over again. To give some context, in order from lowest to highest, the ranks are: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Champ, and Grand Champ. Despite my intense love for the game, I'm generally only ever sitting around high Gold/low Platinum. It’s infuriating.
That said, I wouldn’t keep beating my head against the wall trying to rank up if I didn’t absolutely love the pain. The game is so much fun. It’s tense but relaxing, fast but calculated, devastating but elating. It’s available for PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PC. I own it for three of those because I’m an addict, but Xbox is my main home for the game. I’d probably see better performance on PC, but it’s easier to play on Xbox because that’s what my friends play on. It’s also easy to quickly rage-quit and open another game without too much trouble. And contrary to most esports games, Rocket League is most easily played with a controller, whether it be for the Xbox or one of Playstation’s DualShock devices.
I’ve painted a grim picture of my relationship with this game, but it’s a true labor of love. I would highly recommend it to anyone. It’s easier than ever now that it’s available on Xbox Gamepass for free (if you’re a subscriber, of course). It will be hard and you will struggle, but the first time you get an aerial goal or make a crazy backflip save and get props from your teammates (or even your opponents) in the chat, the frustration will be worth it.
Nice Shot! — Video Community Manager Erik Maier
Mario Kart 8
When the news dropped that Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled would be released in 2019, my nostalgia kicked into overdrive. Memories of my friends and family drifting for the perfect boost while launching rockets at each other on the first-generation Playstation had me excited to race as the bandicoot again. Never owning a Nintendo system, Crash Team Racing was the best kart racer I had ever played. That is until my fiancée and I bought a Switch with Mario Kart 8.
Immediately I was hooked. The characters, track design, power-ups, animations and music all show how many years the series has been working to perfect the kart racer. Nintendo officially sold me on Mario Kart, and this came as a huge shock. To be fair, I did buy Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled and beat the story mode. The developers delivered on what they promised with updated visuals and the same controls as the previous Crash Team Racing game. Sure, it has more items to win and unlock, but the lack of a split-screen online mode is a missed opportunity.
Mario Kart 8 for the Switch wins as my favorite racing game of 2019 with perfect four-player, split-screen, smash talking, addictive gameplay. I do wish they would release new tracks without the need to create an entirely new Mario Kart game. In the end, though, Crash Team Racing tried to bring me back, but Mario and his friends had already stolen my heart. — Associate Producer Alex Malburg
I've been watching Formula One for about a decade, starting with the 2009 season. I've been playing games from Codemasters' F1 series for just as long, picking up a new copy about every other year. Like with other sports video games, progress and improvements are incremental. Driver lineups are updated, cars are upgraded and tracks are added and subtracted to match the current season, but major updates are few and far between. In F1 2019, though, Codemasters' has done one hell of a job packing in new content.
The biggest news is adding an F2 campaign, meaning you can start a career mode and work your way up from the junior class to the big league. It adds another fine layer to living out my virtual F1 fantasy, starting as the young and talented rookie who shows up to conquer all in my path. It’s also given me more of a reason to watch F2 races in real life, something I admit I only do once or twice a season.
My other favorite thing about F1 2019 is the sheer number of classic F1 cars available to race. There are now 22 classic race cars like Emerson Fittipaldi’s Lotus 72, Ayrton Senna’s McLaren MP4/4, Damon Hill’s Williams FW18 and Jenson Button’s white and dayglo Brawn BGP 001, a personal favorite of mine. Previous F1 games have had classic cars, but the growing list is a good way to keep me coming back.
The gameplay itself is solid and challenging. The pace is quick (these are F1 cars), and there’s a lot to manage if you really get into it. You need to watch tire temps, engine temps, aero, wear, durability and more.
F1 2019 isn’t my favorite racing game, but it’s my favorite racing game since Forza 7 and one of the best games I’ve played so far this year. — Road Test Editor Reese Counts
Dirt Rally 2.0
While there are a couple games coming out at the end of the year I haven't played yet, my favorite racing game so far this year has been Dirt Rally 2.0. It starts with its refreshingly plain and simple gameplay. You pick a discipline, either stage rally or rallycross, one of your eligible vehicles, and you're dropped right into an event to start practicing and preparing your car. There's almost nothing in the way of contrived story, over-produced cutscenes or vapid dialogue. It's just you, the cars and the races. Only quick-loading screens separate you from the action.
Besides the streamlined interface, Dirt Rally 2.0's core racing is excellent and quite challenging. The controls are tight and responsive, and every car feels distinctly different, especially going between front-drive, all-wheel-drive and rear-drive cars. You'll definitely want to spend some time practicing with each of them to suss out their individual characteristics and make tuning tweaks to adapt them for your driving style and the unique courses. Dirt Rally 2.0 is also a rare game in which damaging your vehicle has real consequences. Do enough damage, and you may not have time between events to make repairs along with performance tweaks like different tires or suspension settings. It adds some extra strategy between races as well as the consideration to drive more aggressively and risk damage, or keep the car in good shape in hopes of improving in the next stage.
I play Dirt Rally 2.0 on PlayStation 4, but that's simply because it's my primary system. The game should perform just as well on Xbox One and PC, so pick it up for whatever system you use the most and enjoy getting a little dirty. – Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale