While the Nintendo Switch may lack the raw processing grunt of the Xbox One and PS4, fans of the racing genre are still well served on the hybrid console, with a steadily growing catalogue of fantastic racers. It may lack the killer driving simulators from rival consoles, but there are plenty of arcade thrills and spills to be had. The big advantage with racing on the Switch is that you can do it on the move. Give it a try on your next Uber ride; it's so much more immersive!
To help you keep on top of all those releases, we've rounded up the best examples of the genre – in no particular order – along with our verdict to help you avoid going off-road (unless that's what you're after, of course). The following games showcase different facets of the genre and are worth a look if you need a quick racing fix on your Switch.
To avoid any grumbling, we should note that the racing (or driving) genre is a broad one, and games such as Mario Kart are obviously very different in nature from Gear.Club Unlimited. Some games in our list feature motorbikes, some have a top-down perspective and some feature combat - from baseball bat to blue shell - but the objective of getting to a finish line in the shortest possible time is common to them all.
Later this year GRID Autosport is rolling onto Switch along with racers as varied as WRC 8, off-roader Overpass and FIA European Truck Racing Championship, so petrol heads have plenty to look forward to. In the meantime, these are the best racing games you'll find on Switch...
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Let's get the most obvious and essential racing game out of the way first. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe delivers a huge amount of racing goodness right out of the box, and it's a polished version of a Wii U entry that was only a proper Battle Mode away from being top of class. Now that issue has been addressed, what we have is arguably the best Mario Kart release ever seen.
It's the definitive Mario Kart 8 experience, content-rich and a delightful feast of comedic, cartoonish karting action. It's a game that continually raises a smile and, occasionally, induces that trademark Mario Kart rage as shells strike and positions are lost. It's addictive and unifying, unfiltered fun that draws in anyone daring enough to take up the wheel.
FAST RMX is as good as the Wii U original and then some. Updated visuals, more tracks, more vehicles; it was an utterly outstanding launch title for the Switch and it holds up very well to this day, keeping the futuristic high-speed racing game alive in the absence of F-Zero. It's not quite the same, of course, but with the console's ability to allow multiplayer on the go rolled in, this is without doubt essential for racing fans with a Switch.
Something of a genre-bender, The Next Penelope may be quite a short experience but it's one that will challenge your skills and dazzle you at the same time. Fans of the classic '80s series Ulysses 31 will appreciate the excellent adaptation of Homer's Odyssey, while those of you who like your gaming to be fast and intense are sure to be pleased by the thrilling racing, engaging shooter sections and overall variety in the experience. The amusing four-player mode picks up some of the slack when it comes to longevity; the short nature of the solo campaign is the solitary black mark in The Next Penelope's copybook.
Gear.Club Unlimited is an entertaining racing game that sits firmly at the casual end of the realistic racer spectrum. It can be a thrillingly immediate experience, particularly on the go, where you can blast through one of its sweeping courses in just a minute or so. While it's not a game without faults, you can likely pick it up quite cheaply now and we prefer the first instalment to Gear.Club Unlimited 2, which we felt was a backwards step in the series.
This is about as essential a retro release as you can get. The obvious inspiration for the excellent Horizon Chase Turbo further up the page, Out Run may lack modern spit polish but it has always been an infinitely playable game, and the new unlockables and online rankings only increase its longevity further. Those with the 3DS version will have to decide whether it’s worth buying what’s more or less the same game again in order to play it on their TV, but for everyone else with an interest in retro gaming, it’s a must-have.
When it all comes together, Road Redemption can offer some of the most thoroughly entertaining and over-the-top racing action you’ll find on the Switch. It’s a little rough around the edges and the performance could have done with a little optimisation prior to launch, but when a game’s as downright fun to play as this is, that’ll always be the overriding factor. The wait’s over, Road Rash fans: this is the modern spiritual successor you've been waiting for all these years.
Taken on its own merits, Team Sonic Racing is a fun karting game that doesn’t quite match Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in terms of either performance or sheer level of content, but still offers satisfying handling and should still keep Sonic fans entertained for a while. It’s impossible not to compare it to its predecessor, though, and in all the areas where Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed excelled, Team Sonic Racing is merely competent. It may not be standing on any karting game podiums years from now, but if you've somehow exhausted Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or you're a super fan of the blue blur and his motley crew, this is an alternative worth investigating.
While its controls can often be a little too unforgiving – especially when travelling at such high speeds – once you’ve got the hang of each vehicle's unique yet temperamental handling, GRIP: Combat Racing really opens up. If you’re in the market for a larger than life racer that isn’t Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, this could well be your next racing obsession, and it's now been updated with anti-grav Airblade vehicles which add a Wipeout flavour to the game's Rollcage-inspired gameplay.
Virtua Racing is by far the most impressive Sega Ages release to date, offering an incredible remaster that doesn’t just replicate the arcade game but actively improves its resolution and frame rate. Newcomers should be aware that it still only offers three tracks and one car, but those willing to accept this fairly meagre offering will find that the new 20-lap Grand Prix mode and the online leaderboards give it a much-needed boost of longevity. Not for everyone, then, but those who ‘get’ it will adore it.
Gotcha Racing 2nd is an generous slice of retro racing content with hidden depths; one you can play for two minutes or two hours and always have incredible fun. There is no single winning car combination so you will constantly keep coming back to get new parts and customise your four different designs in order to shave off seconds in the Grand Prix tracks and the game might even turn out to become a party favourite with your friends. Additive, fun and bursting with content for a sensible price, we recommend this second outing of overhead racing extravaganza even if you missed out on the first game.
It could benefit from some more tracks (as well as more environments), but Mantis Burn Racing offers simple-to-play racing entertainment across a range of events. Regular racing is fun, but so are the other events, particularly the battle ones as you race around trying to outrun the hail of bullets or perhaps purposely drop behind to take out your tormentor. As enjoyable as these modes are in single player, they work even better against other people and on Switch there are a number of ways to get your multiplayer fix. If you're looking for some more multiplayer racing action then Mantis Burn Racing is an excellent choice, and yet another must-have title for Nintendo's hybrid console.
As long as you’re playing it docked and willing to put the time in to master its helium-light handling, Rise: Race The Future eventually reveals itself to be a rewarding and visually fantastic arcade style racer with an interesting Challenges mode. Set in the near future, its cars can retract their wheels and act like speedboats whenever you enter a patch of water. It’s an effect similar to the anti-grav stuff in Mario Kart 8, although it has a far greater impact on handling here than it does in Nintendo’s game. Any time you hit water, your handling becomes a lot looser and you’re more likely to spin out if you aren’t careful. Its slightly blurry handheld visuals and the complete lack of multiplayer are disappointing, but persevere with its slippery steering and the payoff is a fun – if unforgiving – solo racing game.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is a visually phenomenal upgrade on a PlayStation karting classic, and one that faithfully recreates both its positives (its unique drift boosting system) and its potential irritants (30fps, tricky AI). It does bring a whole new set of issues – mainly lengthy loading times and the fact that playing offline stops you making any progress towards unlocking anything – but while these prevent the game from becoming an absolute must-have, they don’t sour the experience enough to stop us wholeheartedly recommending it regardless.
If you’ve been craving an arcade racer for your Switch, look no further. Horizon Chase Turbo is a hugely enjoyable love letter to a gaming era when the cars were fast, the music was catchy, the action was smooth and the sky was bluer than an Eddie Murphy stand-up routine. Its enormous selection of tracks, addictive World Tour mode and excellent local multiplayer make it an absolute must-have for anyone even remotely interested in the genre.
Not a bad little collection, hmm? Think we've missed one? As always, let us know in the comments.