Drag Racing Game: The Ultimate Guide to Race, Tune and Customize Your Car
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Updated on February 22, 2023, by Rhenn Taguiam: With the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and other official drag racing bodies going strong with their 2023 events across the United States, fans and newcomers to the field of drag racing might want to start getting into the sport through video games that focus on drag and not just plain racing. Aside from a Need For Speed entry with a drag racing mechanic, fans may also want to consider getting a game based on a hit racing series, as well as older entries from both the NHRA and the IHRA. While not necessarily extremely recent, some of these other titles provide interesting perspectives on the evolution of drag racing mechanics in the context of video games.
drag racing game
As with other Need For Speed titles, Need For Speed: Pro Street takes players to a classic NFS experience where vehicle customization takes a more visual front seat, and an assortment of racing variants gives players a lot to explore to maximize their playthroughs. However, compared to the open world, cop-chasing thrills of previous NFS, Pro Street takes players on a more professional route by encapsulating their races in tracks. Gone is the open-world element, and players instead interact with much of the game in a menu, giving the title a more compartmentalized experience.
Released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, IHRA Professional Drag Racing 2005 is perhaps one of the definitive drag racing titles to hit the PlayStation in the early 00s. While evidently lacking in some of the more visually-attractive features that often made racers like Need For Speed appealing to racing fans, the game is as straightforward as it gets for fans of the drag racing sport.
At its core, IHRA Professional Drag Racing 2005 has players buy drag racing cars, modify them carefully, and ensure everything is just right to ensure they perform their best in drag races. Those completely new to drag racing and would want to experience something bare-bones in the context of drag race gaming would want to give this game a shot. However, players would have to anticipate rather middling performance considering this is a budget racing game title.
While released just a year after IHRA Professional Drag Racing 2005, the NHRA Championship Drag Racing in 2005 for the PS2 is one of the most mechanically-complex drag racing titles at the time. Compared to the more bare-bones IHRA variant, Championship Drag Racing definitely tackles drag racing in the way fans of the sport probably loved the racing variant: each race is a puzzle. With players only having to press the pedal for five-second bursts, each moment quite literally counts.
Players looking for an authentic "classic" experience with drag racing may want to look into IHRA Drag Racing for the PlayStation 1. Although considered the second of the IHRA Drag Racing series of games, Drag Racing for the PS1 is the first of the series on the PlayStation. As with other racing games, IHRA Drag Racing does allow players to choose their vehicles alongside tracks to race on in its career mode, akin to an International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) experience.
However, where IHRA Drag Racing shines is in its depth of car management. Aside from being able to purchase parts, other statistics that may affect a car's performance throughout the race are provided for players to look into. Moreover, the game's "classic" look gives a strong arcade racing vibe to players, making IHRA Drag Racing a delight to partake in despite its technical issues.
Following and besting 12 predecessors is a hefty feat to pull for the Gran Turismo franchise, and yet, Gran Turismo 7 manages to meet expectations. Not only does the game feature 19 location with up to 27 different configurations, but it also features a whopping 177 cars of various types. On top of these is an extensive Campaign Mode and in-depth Sports Mode, and Arcade Mode offerings.
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While not necessarily a "hard" drag racing title, the "free-for-all" focus of Gran Turismo 7 definitely becomes a welcome sight to those new to drag racing or who want to experience a drag racing title with visually-stunning graphics. Those who want a more straightforward drag race can appreciate a more simplistic take of Gran Turismo 7 before taking on more in-depth drag racing titles.
Fans of racing games would look at Dirt Rally 2.0 for an extremely realistic take on the genre, particularly due to its nature. After all, given the franchise's focus on rallycross and rallying, it makes sense for the title to become extremely physics-driven. In turn, on top of being able to choose among up to 50 cars, matches feature an active weather system that affects the car's performance, as well as road surfaces that alter based on pressure, demanding extreme focus from players.
In turn, it makes sense for Dirt Rally 2.0 to have active drag racing components, despite not being its total focus. The game's various stages and matchmaking options allow players to engage others in one-on-one matchups mimicking that of drag races. Not to mention, the extreme realism of Dirt Rally 2.0's physics system is perfect for those who want to experience an extremely realistic drag race match.
The underground racing culture has become a prevalent theme in the Need For Speed franchise, with drag racing becoming a prominent component and game mode for many of its titles. Such is still the case with Need For Speed, released in 2015, and its drag racing component may have been the most flexible throughout the franchise yet. Thanks in part to EA's focus on the "Speedhunters" aesthetic, the game's urban car culture take gives drag racing a much-needed "stylish" makeover.
With regards to the drag mechanic itself, the 2015 title takes a similar approach to other drag racing games. Aside from the primary racing component, Drag Races in Need For Speed do require racers to perform great burnouts, keeping things at the right RPM range and securing a "perfect" launch to get an early advantage.
At first glance, The Crew 2 seems like a typical racing game. However, similar to the first game, The Crew 2 lets players become "the best of the base" in all manner of racing styles. Using its persistent open world, players can control vehicles outside cars, such as powerboats, motorcycles, and airplanes. However, where The Crew 2 shines is in its racing disciplines: Freestyle, Off-Road, Pro Racing, and Street Racing, opening players to dedicated drag racing matches.
Similar to other drag racing titles, The Crew 2's take on drag racing needs players to focus on timing their shifts. Unlike other racing games with extreme attention to realism, The Crew 2's drag races add a flavorful "casual" vibe to the mix, giving it a lighter yet straightforward approach, perfect for those who just want to experience drag racing without the complex mechanics.
Whereas The Crew takes players on a more "casual" multi-racing experience, Project Cars 2 ups the ante and takes players across various pro-racing tracks but with a focus on realism and intense physics. With the game allowing players to pursue careers in touring cars, rallycross, prototypes, GT, and open wheels, Project Cars 2 opens a lot of doors to various race types - especially drag racing.
Boasting multiple surface types that interact with the weather, Project Cars 2 becomes one of the best ways to experience drag racing as realistically as possible. Not only that, players can get to try drag racing with some of the wildest cars of choice, including open-wheel vehicles to futuristic-looking, top-of-the-line prototype cars. These, on top of the game's punishing physics, make Project Cars 2 a great way to simulate drag racing without introducing the sport's more intense mechanics.
It's not surprising that a drag racing game that follows one of the most popular drag racing governing bodies made its way to consoles. The most recent NHRA Championship Drag Racing: Speed For All is one such example, pursuing the same thrill offered by competitions of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), with players now behind the wheel. Compared to other racing games with a drag racing component, Speed For All takes drag racing front and center.
New and veteran fans of the genre would appreciate the focus on realism of the title compared to other racing games that focus on street racing. Aside from having 38 NHRA drivers who are famous in real life, the game couples its physics-based engine with real-world tracks. Not only that, the game does an excellent take on introducing newcomers to the intricacies of drag racing, making it a must-have game for those new to the sport.
Rhenn is a Manila-based content writer with a love for all things geek and pop culture, and science and technology. He has a BA Journalism degree, and has since then pursued making content about geek culture. Rhenn used to write for a couple of geek and gaming publications, and also served as editor-in-chief for Philippines-based What's A Geek!. He constantly plays video games but also takes the time to try out older titles. If he's not playing video games, he's probably playing TTRPGs.
The best racing games on Android push your reaction speed and your phone's hardware to their limits. They're also perfect for a commute, as each race only lasts a few minutes at most. But if you want to improve your racing technique, we recommend picking up an Android-compatible controller to gain a competitive edge.
Whether you're a fan of 2D arcade racers or ultra-realistic racing sims, we've found a racing game for you. But if you want to explore more visually impressive games, try one of the Android games with the most demanding graphics.