Racing Games Are Not What They Used To Be, And That’s Just Sad

The fading glory of a beloved genre marches on.

Story Highlights

  • Racing games have lost their sense of progression and any meaningful long-term engagement.
  • They’ve lost their identity by chasing popular trends while ignoring their dedicated fanbase’s needs.
  • The recent broken launches and lackluster content have given racing games a bad name.

Ever since I got Need For Speed: Most Wanted on my PlayStation 2 in the mid-2000s, I’ve consistently enjoyed racing games. The 2000s up till the mid-2010s were the time to be alive for an avid enthusiast of the genre, thanks to the plethora of quality games that graced us during that time. You had generation-defining titles like the first Forza Horizon, Need For Speed: Underground 2, Midnight Club 3, and many more.

Those games I just mentioned are the very reason I write this article while periodically shaking my head. As of early 2024, the same genre-defining franchises back in the glory days have either died out or become memes in the community. It’s a disappointing reality to see such an innovative category crumble into grindfests and artificial long-term engagement.

Progression In Racing Games Has Taken A Massive Nosedive

Most racing games back in the golden age had sensible progression; you started off with a modest car and worked your way up to get your favorite supercar. In some cases, you had a neat (albeit occasionally cringe) story to go along with it. That sense of progression made a worthwhile experience where your hard work and dedication to the game paid off in the end.

Now, it feels like the leading franchises within the genre have taken a backseat in this regard. That journey from being a low-class driver to owning the car of your dreams has gone completely, and the story in these games is either non-existent or treated as an afterthought. 

The BMW M3 GTR, arguably one of the most recognizable cars ever showcased in a racing game, gained its popularity only because Most Wanted portrayed its progression so perfectly. Compared to that era, the only “progression” left now is the formulaic weekly/monthly playlists that have devolved into mere grindfests.

Take the recent Forza Horizons as an example; Horizon 4 and 5 make it painfully clear that the only reason to return to them is the Festive Playlist. For those unaware, Festive Playlists are a mix of weekly and monthly challenges that, once complete, give you several rewards, including new cars. This ensures a stream of new content every week, except Forza Horizon 5 started re-adding old cars to the Playlists within 12 months.

festive playlist fh5
The Festive Playlists In Forza Horizon 5 | Screenshot by eXputer

Need For Speed, Gran Turismo, and even the recent Crew Motorfest have taken the same soulless approach, and the trick is honestly becoming stale. I want a genuine, non-artificial reason to come back to these games instead of a monthly cycle where I spend an hour a week simply completing the missions to make sure my inventory isn’t outdated.

Pursuing Generic Trends Over Catering To Your Dedicated Fanbase Is Taking Its Toll

Over time, it seems as though the genre lost its identity and started chasing random popular trends in hopes of reaching new audiences. No, Forza, the community wasn’t asking you to add a Battle Royale mode. This issue isn’t limited to content; developers are actively reducing that personalized feel in car selection, tone, characters, and even music.

Remember when Most Wanted (2005) had a solid list of adrenaline-pumping metal tracks? Or when Forza Horizon 1 and 2 had Rob Da Dank for their radio stations because he knew the environment he was working in? Those were good times, and now the music in racing games sounds so safe and generic that you’re better off listening to your engine revving.

Who was put in charge of FH5’s soundtrack and more importantly when are they getting fired?
byu/box-fort2 inForzaHorizon

I feel like the developers are repeatedly missing the bigger picture and making every racing game with an “everything-for-everyone” mindset instead of going for a concrete theme. Sure, this tactic might increase short-term profits, but it certainly doesn’t help with long-term progression. Giving players high-octane supercars right from the start ultimately makes every subsequent achievement seem insignificant.

The Unstable Launch Cycles Make Me Hesitant For Every New Racing Game

With the current state of gaming as it is with unfinished releases, it seems like racing games have been a major victim of this growing trend. Even the newest entries, like Forza Horizon 5, Gran Turismo 7, and Dirt 5, have come out with lackluster content, heaps of performance issues, and undelivered promises. However, the one example that highlights this issue to its maximum extent is the latest Forza Motorsport.

With talks of moving to a new engine and evolved Drivatar systems, Microsoft was basically promising that Forza Motorsport was going to be one of their most ambitious projects of 2023. When it came out, though, the game was anything but a complete package. The disappointingly low number of cars and tracks, the buggy AI and menus, and the visuals… they look falsely advertised and plain insulting compared to the trailers.

Why do many people hate forza motorsport 8?
byu/Electrical-Day-8768 inforza

I understand that these are massive triple-A titles that require tons of work, budget, and a healthy development cycle. But simply throwing money at a project won’t make it good, much less memorable. Take a look at Assetto Corsa Competizione, a 2019 title that’s praised by its dedicated community and had a great launch despite not being nearly as popular.


Racing games have certainly lost their charm as well as the core thing that made each title stand out just to maximize profit. I get it — profit is extremely important, but sacrificing your game’s quality and identity for it is not justified. Why not take feedback from your franchise’s long-term fans and ask them what they want in the next entry?

If you ask me, I want to see them bring back over-the-top customization so I can rice out my car to my heart’s desire. I want better community and mod support to add new cars, upgrades, and other forms of content to keep me engaged. Lastly, I want meaningful progression that makes the time I invest feel worthwhile.

These might not seem like monumental inclusions, but believe me, it’s baffling how so many racing games neglect these core mechanics. As someone who regularly interacts with this genre, I want to see it return to its glory days, and it’s truly a shame that “modern gaming standards” make that comeback so challenging.

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Daniyal is a Guides Writer and Editor at eXputer with over one year of experience in content writing. He's had a passion for tech and gaming for more than 15 years. Ever since his first console, the PS2, he's constantly branching off to different genres, and his go-to at the moment is the Souls experience pioneered by FromSoftware, which is evident by his 1,500+ hours of game time on Elden Ring. You can learn some more about Daniyal's gaming journey on his Steam & Xbox profiles.

Experience: 1+ Years || Mainly Covers Guides || Education: Bachelors in Computer Sciences.

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