25 BEST Need For Speed Games Ranked

Bolt down roads like never before with these top picks

Can’t curb your ever-growing love for racing games and have just stumbled upon EA’s most rip-roaring car series? You’re definitely going to want to know about the best Need for Speed games in the business that you can just pick up and start having one whale of a time with. These IPs do not come without packing a ton of action.

With that said, it isn’t like there’s a single Need for Speed game that you’ll have to consider playing; there are 24 entries in the franchise in total that you’ll have to pay heed to. Of course, sifting through each one to dig out points pertaining to your preference can be fairly difficult, similar to the BEST VR Games.

Therefore, we’re going to rank all the NFS games in order, so you can come to a definitive conclusion yourself and determine which one is the best Need for Speed game after all. With no further ado, let’s get those engines revving. 

The following is our cherry-picked collection of all the Need For Speed games that have managed to make the cut. Be sure to read until the end for the best results.

On a side note, please acknowledge that the selections ahead are purely objective, enlisted on the basis of player and critic reviews. Don’t mind if we add a pinch of personal preference in there as well. 

1. Need for Speed: Underground 2 

 the best need for speed game
Need for Speed: Underground 2
  • Developer: EA Black Box
  • Release Date: November 9, 2004
  • PlatformsPC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS

Critics call Need for Speed: Underground 2 the best Need for Speed game just like that. Back when this one came out, people went haywire as they simply couldn’t get enough of Underground 2’s high-speed greatness. There’s just something unique about the way the cars handle in-game, getting you hooked to the addictiveness.

Although you will need to play the original Need for Speed: Underground to understand the storyline entirely, the overall plot of the title at hand is nothing but brilliant. It keeps you glued to the storyline from day one and introduces a number of twists and turns to make things blurt out pure adrenaline. 

An exhaustive array of customization options, various online modes (albeit now dysfunctional), and a swath of vehicles await your attention in this masterpiece of a Need for Speed game. Everything from the skirts, spoilers, and headlights to hydraulics, doors, and exhaust tips can be switched up for other options in the game. 

Related: BEST Steam Deck Games

2. Need for Speed: Most Wanted 

best need for speed games
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
  • Developer: EA Black Box
  • Release Date: November 11, 2005
  • PlatformsXbox 360, PlayStation 2, PC, GameBoy Advance, GameCube, PlayStation Portable

Growing up, you have to be familiar with the legend that is Need for Speed: Most Wanted—more or less the best NFS game ever made. This title had it all during the period it first came out: Graphics, an incredibly compelling story mode, an array of cars to choose from, and a winning formula that just worked.

One of the critical points about Most Wanted that made it a hit upon release is its inclusive Career Mode. That is where you get to go toe-to-toe against Blacklist Racers for pink slips. In the case that you defeat these major street racers, you’ll get their car in return. However, the same goes the other way around as well.

Other than the high-stakes races, you’ve got a whole city to explore in the free-to-roam mode, which you play as part of the mainline Career Mode. When you’re exploring the open world of Most Wanted, you can trigger a police chase through irrational driving or anything of the like. It’s then up to the player to lose the heat or simply give in.

The story mode of Most Wanted is another part of the title that takes the cake. You begin your journey as an ordinary street racer, having arrived from a different city to Rockport—the game’s fictional world. As you begin to climb up the ranks, you come across a treacherous opponent who deceits you for your car. 

It’s up to the protagonist of the game to reclaim his snatched car, elevate his reputation, and face off Razor again in an epic finale. If you haven’t had a taste of what is otherwise one of the best Need for Speed games for PS2 out there, you’re heavily mistaken. 

Consider Reading: BEST Indie Games On Nintendo Switch

3. Need for Speed Heat

best need for speed game reddit
Need for Speed Heat
  • Developer: Ghost Games
  • Release Date: November 8, 2019
  • PlatformsPC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Moving onto a relatively newer iteration in the Need for Speed series, Heat is one of the freshest games to release with the brand’s name. Prepare to take on the role of a law-abiding citizen by day, but Paul Walker reincarnated by night as you partake in illegal street racing and adrenaline-fueled police chases.

During the day, though, you’re free to compete in one of the many officially licensed races. Doing so is going to reward you with money to spend on newer rides and their respective upgrades. Speaking of cars, though, Heat will have you driving more than 120 cars from over 30 different production companies. 

Similar to most Need for Speed games, Heat also puts the player through their paces by immersing the racer in a deep-dyed storyline. Things get way too intense at one point, placing you in a dilemma and warranting you to act quickly. The legendary BMW M3 GTR even makes a return in the game at one part of the epilogue. 

Since the game launched for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One right alongside PC in 2019, expect better than ever visuals and gameplay mechanics that will keep you hooked for days. Feel right at home with one of the most buzzing open-world games that give you a whole city to explore and wreak havoc in.

As for the car customization, Heat isn’t likely to top some of the other games we’ve got on the list. It does feature an easy-going night mechanic, though that no matter what you do, you won’t have to give up your car when the police catch you.

As compared to Need for Speed Most Wanted, where it’s quite likely to have the ending credits start rolling by losing all your cars, players can breathe a little easier when Heat is in the house. If you’re just after an exceptionally fun car racing game out of the NFS series, don’t miss out on the genius of Need for Speed Heat.  

Also, Read Our: BEST Anime Games On PS4

4. Need for Speed: Shift 2 – Unleashed

which one is the best need for speed game
Need for Speed: Shift 2 – Unleashed
  • Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
  • Release Date: March 29, 2011
  • PlatformsPC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Also known as Shift 2: Unleashed, what we have here next as one of the best Need for Speed games PS3 tends to have a habit of surpassing all prior games in the popular car racer’s franchise. Need for Speed: Shift 2 –Unleashed had the publisher making pretty solid claims when it first made landfall in 2011.

It was advertised to “redefine the racing simulator genre by delivering authentic and true-to-life dynamic crash physics, intricately detailed real-world cars, drivers, and tracks.” Let’s show by example one truthfully interesting facet about Shift 2: Unleashed that managed to impress us beyond at the time of the game’s release.

Whenever you hit another car during your race in the game, the tidbits and pieces that come flying off can appear on your car’s windshield. This level of immersion was something unseen before in racing simulators, hence the comparison with other racing simulators like Forza Motorsport

However, breaking the typical Need for Speed spirit here is an unfortunate no illegal racing policy. Shift 2: Unleashed isn’t the kind of NFS game one would normally expect, but it still manages to achieve the title of being called one of the best.

An Interesting Read: BEST Games To Stream On Twitch

5. Need for Speed Rivals 

best need for speed game ps4
Need for Speed Rivals
  • Developer: Ghost Games
  • Release Date: November 15, 2013 
  • PlatformsPC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Need for Speed Rivals does something different with the overall aura of the series. Although vastly identical to other, more popular Need for Speed titles, Rivals is known for its stunning visual quality of graphics, great steering control, and over-the-top vehicle customization potential.

It’s a title where you can play on the side of the police as well, just in case you were starting to feel a little too lawless. For instance, as one of the boys in blue, you can go on patrols or decide to embark undercover—whatever tickles your pickle the best way. 

Rivals are hailed as capable of pushing out hours and hours of endless fun for days on end. It’s a Need for Speed game where you can arm your vehicle with weapons as well, but not the overly dangerous kind that blast your enemies off the face of the Earth. However, do note that all this fun is for the cops, not the robbers. 

Sized-down weaponry for the policemen includes a spike trap to burst open the tires of an illegal racer’s car and even helicopter support for when you’re dealing with the big guns. As for the storyline, Rivals lets you choose your faction right from the get-go and continue both sides of the equation up until the end. 

Why Not Read: BEST Adventure Games Of All Time

6. Need for Speed: Most Wanted 

best need for speed games
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
  • Developer: Criterion Games
  • Release Date: 30 October 2012
  • PlatformsPC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire  

If reading the headline had you confused, you’ll be pretty delighted to discover that the iconic 2005-released Need for Speed: Most Wanted has been followed by a similarly-styled title. This one came out in 2012 for the major video game consoles of that time, such as the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, and is no less than a blast. 

The upgraded Most Wanted does not feature the same plot, but what it does sport will keep you hooked for a substantial period of time. The visual fidelity has been taken from one level to ten levels up, with the roster of vehicles thoroughly improved. 

Unlike other Need for Speed titles, Most Wanted pits you in a brimming open world with a ton of potential for mayhem. The selection of cars in the game has never been better, ranging from power-hungry supercars and exotics to muscle demons and lifelike street racers. No point in asking for more in this one—that’s for sure.

As for its on-launch reception, Most Wanted isn’t one of the best Need for Speed games on Xbox 360 for nothing. It went on to receive a bevy of well-grounded acclaim from magazines all over the world, not to mention nominations and actual wins at various events. You have to give it a shot on your gaming platform.

An Interesting Read: BEST Sniper Games On PS4

7. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

best need for speed game
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
  • Developer: Criterion Games
  • Release Date: 16 November 2010
  • PlatformsPC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, WebOS

EA has pushed out multiple NFS games with the title Hot Pursuit, so it does bear noting what iteration is being talked about here. This is the sixteenth entry in the mainline Need for Speed series that came out for various platforms in 2010. It’s actually a reboot of the original Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, released in 1998.

Truth be told, Hot Pursuit was an instant success on its launch. The game didn’t take long to appeal to the wide fan base of Need for Speed, showing off its focus on high-speed car races, eccentric weaponry, and a vast open world with a lot to do and explore.

Hot Pursuit managed to be one of the first Need for Speed games to come out with the “Autolog” feature. The latter is akin to a progression system that tracks your statistics and tells you where to go and what to do next. It’s pretty social and allows you to interact with your in-game friends too. 

The game is flat-out the great and we say this not just because of how it plays out at the end of the day, but due to a game award that literally says it. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit has been venerated with the accolade of “Best Racing Game” in 2010—the year of its release—at the Game Critics Awards

A Similar Read: BEST SNES Games of All Time

8. Need for Speed

best need for speed games
Need for Speed
  • Developer: Ghost Games 
  • Release Date: 3 November 2015 
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

No, this isn’t the very first Need for Speed game that comes across when reading the title for the first time. EA’s naming strategy can lead one to believe that. What we have here is the de facto reboot of the popular racing-simulating franchise that made landfall in 2015 for all major platforms. 

Unlike the rest of the titles hailing from the series, Need for Speed takes pride in the fact that it’s an online-only game. Sorry to those who expect some solo driving along the interstate—that just won’t be a possibility with the refreshed Need for Speed. It’s one of the several reasons EA calls this one the “Living Game.”

Developed by Ghost Games, Need for Speed expands on character customization extensively. Most other NFS games do not even come close to the level of modification detail offered by Need for Speed. The new and enhanced elements let you pimp your ride down to the most minute details, making the immersion next level.

A couple of other novel changes saw the light of the day with the rebooted Need for Speed iteration as well. A total of five gameplay modes are available at the player’s disposal to enjoy themselves in, including Outlaw, Speed, Style, and others. 

Despite being a commercial hit, Need for Speed did get bashed for its always-online nature. Players couldn’t even pause the game because of it, thereby losing the natural NFS spirit. However, when you’re attentive and can dedicate your time to the title, the ventures do turn out to be fun with everything that Need for Speed is capable of. 

Consider Reading: Best Soulsborne Games

9. Need for Speed: Carbon

best need for speed games ranked
Need for Speed: Carbon
  • Developer: EA Canada, EA Blackbox
  • Release Date: 30 October 2006 
  • PlatformsPC, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, macOS, GameCube, Wii, Zeebo, Arcade, Nintendo DS, PSP, PlayStation Portable, GameBoy Advance

Need for Speed: Carbon is chronologically the next entry in line after the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted, otherwise known as single-handedly the best Need for Speed game of all time. Carbon features the same protagonist as the previous game with a different take on the world and diverse new challenges. 

Making us understand the story of Carbon, the opening cutscene lets us in on an event that took place multiple years before Need for Speed: Most Wanted to happen. The protagonist was involved in a bust of a major race that featured high-league participants.

Due to a certain someone tipping off the police about the race, everyone except the protagonist gets arrested, and our hero takes off with the prize money and escapes just in time. This leads to the crew members believing that we’re the traitor who made all this happen. 

Fast-forward to the then-current scenario, the player is given cold shoulders left and right after returning to Palmont from Rockport. The former is where all the treachery above took place. Now, however, a deeply ingrained tale awaits curious Need for Speed fans as they uncover the real mystery and bolt down roads while doing so. 

Carbon focuses heavily on upgrading your cars and brings forth to the table a bevy of options for doing so. Right with that is a plethora of actually licensed vehicles at the time of the title’s development. Each car is classified in a certain tier, making it easy for the player to group and manage their assembly of vehicles.   

10. Need for Speed: Underground 

Need for Speed: Underground
Need for Speed: Underground
  • Developer: EA Black Box
  • Release Date: 17 November 2003
  • PlatformsPC, Xbox, PlayStation, GameCube

Need for Speed: Underground is a timeless classic that features one of the most interesting storylines in the whole series. As someone who dreams of being the best underground racer in all of Olympic City—the name of the in-game fictional world—our player starts out with humble beginnings. 

The protagonist has a friend called Samantha, who sticks by his side throughout the game, introducing the player to high-profile street racers and getting him to purchase more cars. The antagonist—Eddie—is a mean yet skilled racer with an unflinching status in the underground club. 

Somewhere along the lines, the player gets into a rough patch with Samantha, being compelled to race her in an unfortunate event and totaling her vehicle thereafter. However, things get back to normal after you make up to Samantha by getting her car repaired and teaming up with the gal again to exact revenge on Eddie.

The major difference you’ll feel while playing the first Underground as compared to Need for Speed: Underground 2 pertains to the absence of an open world and free-roam gameplay. Underground 2 was famed for featuring the latter, while the first Underground deemed it fit to roll without that gameplay mechanic. 

Some of the most popular modes in-game that players can enjoy include Circuit and Knockout Mode. Both of these offer the core Need for Speed experience, especially Knockout Mode, where you have to wreck the ever-loving life out of the opponent’s car. 

However, if you’re looking to up the ante a little bit, we’d have to nudge you toward the Drifting game mode. This is where things get a whole lot technical and demand the player to push their skills to a higher level. You get awarded bonus points in the case that you drift on the exterior edge of the tracks. 

The rip-roaring action, appreciable car customization, and a variety of game modes definitely make the original Underground one of the best, if not the best altogether. In the case that you’re in the mood for some classic rubber-burning thrill, do give it a go on your system.  

11. The Need for Speed

best need for speed games ranked
The Need for Speed
  • Developer: EA Canada
  • Release Date: November 1994 
  • Platforms: 3DO, DOS, PC, PlayStation, Sega Saturn

This is it, folks; The Need for Speed is where it all started, inspiring a dozen different developers, ideas, and notions to come forth and get the franchise to accomplish what it has today. The game launched for a console called 3DO when it was first released. Other platforms where the game is playable now are simply ports.

However, playing the game today in 2022 is a completely different story. Expect the graphics to be heavily outdated, right, along with the rest of the essential gameplay mechanics. That said, the latter isn’t the crux of the game being listed here. In fact, the point that matters is the impact of the title in the grand scheme of things. 

EA made sure that The Need for Speed would come out to feature the best racing game experience of that time. The title featured circuit tracks to burn rubber in along with a free-roam mode where the police would be more than willing to go hot on your tails. 

If you’re curious about the roots of the series, feel free to try the icon out on your system. At the time of its release, it truly was the best NFS game ever to come out, simply because of the fact that no more games were even developed yet. 

12. Need for Speed: Undercover 

best need for speed games
Need for Speed: Undercover
  • Developer: EA Black Box
  • Release Date: 18 November 2008
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, iOS, webOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry

Being honored as the twelfth game in the Need for Speed series, Need for Speed: Undercover comprises a nicely laid out story with a bunch of interesting turns and twists. It’s quite like what the title of the game depicts the storyline to be, featuring thrilling action and typical Need for Speed elements.

You go undercover as a cop and intend to hunt down an international crime syndicate known for doing unlawful business with stolen cars. You earn the trust of the gang at first, but little do they know what’s happening under the sheets. It’s surely been one of the best Need for Speed games for PSP in its time—no doubt.  

Some of the playable areas included in Undercover pertain to Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which is, in other news, the best-selling game of the entire series. Therefore, you’re definitely going to feel a sense of nostalgia as you chase down your opponent down the vast stretches of Tri-City Bay.  

13. Need for Speed II 

need for speed best games
Need for Speed II
  • Developer: EA Canada, EA Seattle
  • Release Date: 31 March 1997
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation

Need for Speed II is a direct sequel to The Need for Speed which we talked about higher above on the list. It launched three years after the release of the original title, bringing forth a series of notable improvements, such as an added roster of vehicles, true-to-life sound effects, and more gameplay modes.

The title didn’t come out to be available on as many platforms as its predecessor, and this has been a considerable gripe with Need for Speed II. It was only exclusive to Microsoft Windows and PlayStation, blocking out the likes of Xbox, GameBoy Advance, and Sega Saturn from joining in on the fun. 

While the music and sounds of the various cars revving up and hitting blazing fast speeds turned out to offer a notion of realism, the game, in general, turned out to have mixed reviews in terms of its performance on the PC. Many complained about drops in frame rate and the title’s overall consistency in the running smoothly. 

14. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2

 what is the best need for speed game
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2
  • Developer: EA Black Box
  • Release Date: 2 October 2002
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 packed all the pizzazz back in the day with its novel emphasis on outrunning the police as an illicit street racer as well as bringing down the insurgents as a proponent of the law. 

For instance, Hot Pursuit 2 made it possible to go off-road with the vehicles. Moreover, the level of car selection in the title was bigger and better than in any previous iterations. All the major car manufacturers had their hand in the title, including Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Porsche, Dodge, Lotus, and others.

As for the music, the game was the first-ever Need for Speed title to boast sanctioned techno and rock music from popular artists and singers. The developer was truly looking to go all in with Hot Pursuit 2, hence the reason the IP managed to receive favorable reviews from all over the planet. 

15. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered 

best need for speed game ps4
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered
  • Developer: Stellar Entertainment Limited
  • Release Date: November 6, 2020
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

To talk about the latest game in the series at the moment, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered brings a new level of detail to the franchise. It came out in 2020 as a doubled-down version of the original Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and had been making rounds across the world ever since. 

The overall reception of the game has been nothing but superb, and rightfully so, thanks to the number of visual enhancements that EA has incorporated into the game along with the developer. It’s Stellar Entertainment Limited’s debut Need for Speed game, and it’s safe to say that the company has done a great job with their first time. 

Some of the benefits of playing a 2020 Need for Speed game include cross-play functionality and a highly advanced Autolog system that works and behaves better than ever before. Talk about monitoring the activities of your friends and presenting challenges on the basis of that. Pretty cutting-edge, don’t you think? 

It’s one of the best Need for Speed games 2021 that seemingly has it all: Graphics, storyline, gameplay, and a catalog of tip-top vehicles. Personally, we can vouch for the fact that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered features a jaw-dropping selection of exotic cars that exist on both sides of the equation.

That is to say, the original cops vs robbers concept have prevailed yet again in this freshest iteration in the Need for Speed franchise. Feel free to drive the hottest supercars around as a seasoned racer or a virtuous law enforcer. There’s just no limit to the mayhem you can cause in the game.

One part about the title that solemnly enthralls us is how each racing side has a semblance of idiosyncrasy attached to it. As the police, you can employ tactical gadgets, support, and weaponry to take down racers. As someone who loves the thrill of the chase, it’s possible to utilize elite strategies of evading the cops.  

16. Need for Speed: Shift 

what is the best need for speed game
Need for Speed: Shift
  • Developer: Slightly Mad Studios
  • Release Date: 15 September 2009
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows Phone, Android, iOS, Symbian

Need for Speed: Shift is the predecessor to Shift 2: Unleashed. Although it’s quite not like its successor, Shift still manages to hold up on its own exceedingly well in terms of realistic car handling and vehicle selection. This was actually one of the first in the series to introduce a whole level of depth to the interior view during driving.

Unlike Need for Speed: ProStreet, which comes way before the release of Need for Speed: Shift, the title in question does not have a story mode with a progressive plot. Instead, you just hop onto the career mode, rev up your engines, and leave your opponents in the dust to earn money, score stars, and unlock higher levels. 

Some of the other breakthroughs that Shift managed to boast in its time include fairly detailed car customization options that range from mere aesthetic modifications to tip-top performance alterations. Moreover, the title lets you choose cars from 4 distinct tiers. Each tier employs a specific line-up of cars. 

When it comes to the best Need for Speed games ranked, Need for Speed: Shift doesn’t score too much of a godawful score. However, the fact that other, more relatively advanced titles gain precedence over it does nudge you toward exploring more options. 

17. Need for Speed: The Run

best need for speed games
Need for Speed: The Run
  • Developer: EA Black Box
  • Release Date: November 15, 2011
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo 3DS

Further up on the list is Need for Speed: The Run, rekindling the spirit of the franchise and restoring the rip-roaring gameplay back to its roots. This NFS title went on to acquire universal acclaim from die-hard fans of the series, not to mention a good overall reception from high-ranking publishing magazines.

Sure, it does come with its range of pitfalls, such as a half-baked plotline, but when it boils down to pure racing adrenaline, The Run does not fail to impress. As the proud 18th constituent of the mainline Need for Speed iterations, the title boasts a couple of unique features unseen in previous games of the franchise.

For instance, it’s now possible to exit your vehicle and move from one point to the other on foot. That said, don’t expect to be doing that all the time. There are limited zones where free-roam gameplay is available in that sense. Furthermore, the Pagani Huayra and the Porsche 911 Carrera S are two of the mascot cars for The Run. 

Speaking of which, being one of the biggest Need for Speed games of all time map-wise, the IP features a broad range of car selections too. Hypercars, muscle cars, street demons, supercars—you name it. What makes it one of the best in the business is its fantastic gameplay on top of redefined visuals. 

18. Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit 

need for speed best game
Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit
  • Developer(s): EA Canada, EA Seattle
  • Release Date: March 25, 1998
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 

It’s time to cast a lens on one of the OG titles again. Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit is titularly the third mainline game in the franchise, being one of the first to bring forth police heat to the table. You’ll actually be chased by cops in this high-stakes racer, thereby the name “Hot Pursuit.” Definitely a good way to spice up racing.

This is the original Hot Pursuit game that went on to inspire three more Need for Speed games of the same title. As compared to the IPs that came before this one, what we have here was the first to feature more advanced police AI that not only strategizes to take you down but your opponents during a specific race as well.

There are two different gameplay modes that Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit flaunts its players with. One is a basic race match-up where you can compete against up to 7 other racers. On the other hand, there’s the famous “Hot Pursuit” mode where the boys in blue are not going to rest until they hunt your illegal ventures down. 

19. Need for Speed: High Stakes 

the best need for speed game
Need for Speed: High Stakes
  • Developer: EA Canada, EA Seattle  
  • Release Date: 24 March 1999
  • Platforms: PC, Playstation

From a chronological perspective, Need for Speed: High Stakes comes right after the aforementioned Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit. The title at hand went on to win the Racing Game of the Year award handed over by a once-glorious magazine called Computer Gaming World. Why may you ask? Well, let us tell you why.

For one, this was the first Need for Speed game to let cars take damage and subsequently affect their appearance and performance. It instilled a notion of realism in the game, but a lot of prior work had to g into making that a reality. The developers had to talk it out with car manufacturers regarding the specific feature.

Furthermore, the graphical quality of High Stakes was quite superior to the rest of its counterparts in its time, not to mention a relatively improved artificial intelligence system that made car chases highly intriguing. It’s still one of the best retro Need for Speed games that you can try on your PC with the perk of an extra playable mode. 

20. Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed

Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed
Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed
  • Developer(s): Eden Studios, EA Canada
  • Release Date: March 29, 2000
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation, GameBoy Advance

If you’re a Porsche fan, Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed is the game for you. The developers decided to ditch the rest of the roster of cars for this title. That is to say, the title features vehicles from the brand Porsche whose models range from the years 1950-2000, the latter being the release year of Porsche Unleashed. 

The title features a highly enticing gameplay mode that takes you on the hard-willed journey of the German car manufacturer. In the game’s “Evolution Mode,” you start out with a Porsche 365, which is one of the first Porsche cars ever made in 1950, and end the ride with Porsche 995—a 2000-released speed demon.  

Critics praised the title for its depth, refined gameplay, appreciable visuals, and distinctive gameplay mode where you have to go through a storyline. Despite its release everywhere else, Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed failed to launch in Japan, unlike the rest of the Need for Speed iterations. 

21. Need for Speed: World

best need for speed games
Need for Speed: World
  • Developer: EA Black Box, EA Singapore
  • Release Date: July 27, 2010
  • Platforms: PC

Lo and behold, the first free-to-play iteration in the Need for Speed series. That’s right. This one includes only micro-transactions to purchase, and the base game is free. Or should we say it was free? Unfortunately, Need for Speed: World was taken down in 2015, right along with other EA games that were free to play. 

The title featured a variety of gameplay modes, such as Night Mode, Drag Mode, Team Escape Mode, and even Achievement Mode, so it’s needless to emphasize the versatility of World’s gameplay. However, Need for Speed: World, previously known as World Online, did suffer from certain pitfalls. 

For one, the handling in the game, along with the quality of the visuals, wasn’t up to the usual Need for Speed mark and major publishing magazines put out ratings for the free racer accordingly. It’s definitely not one of the best Need for Speed games out there, but it does suffice quite nicely as a placeholder on this list. 

22. Need for Speed Payback 

Need for Speed: Payback
Need for Speed: Payback
  • Developer: Ghost Games
  • Release Date: November 10, 2017
  • Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4

Need for Speed: Payback isn’t the best out of the total line-up of this franchise, but it’s not the absolute worst either. Set in a fantasy-slapped iteration of Las Vegas, Payback is the very first game in the series to sport an offline story mode where you don’t have to stay connected to the internet at all. 

While its major strengths revolve around offline playability, a generous roster of cars, and admirable visual graphics, Payback seems to falter where the other Need for Speed games shine. For instance, the title’s car handling isn’t on the level of something like Heat that came right after Payback. 

Moreover, one of the most negatively criticized aspects of this one was car customization, the major part of which appears to be locked behind a paywall. That is to say; Payback is more or less teeming with micro-transactions. Its storyline has potential but is unluckily riddled with sequences that don’t feel natural at all.

23. Need for Speed: Nitro 

Need for Speed: Nitro
Need for Speed: Nitro
  • Developer: EA Montreal, Firebrand Games
  • Release Date: November 3, 2009
  • Platform: Nintendo DS, Wii

Need for Speed: Nitro is a Nintendo-exclusive title that came out for the DS and Wii back in 2009. The focus of the game has been on pure adrenaline and fun-filled racing rather than any semblances of realism or vehicle modification.

If you’re a casual gamer who just loves racing around with not a lot of concern to show for other aspects of a racing game, Nitro can come across as passable for your taste. Although many would agree that the title becomes repetitive after a while, there are seemingly multiple different game modes to try in-game.

Cities such as Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Dubai, and more are all part of the many tracks incorporated in Nitro, making the aesthetic scenery no less than a breath of fresh air every time you start playing. If you’ve still got a Wii lying around, trying out Nitro won’t be the first of decisions, perhaps.

24. Need for Speed: No Limits 

Need for Speed: No Limits
Need for Speed: No Limits
  • Developer: Firemonkeys Studio
  • Release Date: September 30, 2015
  • Platforms: Android, iOS

Need for Speed: No Limits, otherwise called NFS No Limits, is a mobile game that launched for Android and iOS in 2015. The game is great on its own, but the reason it’s so far down on the list is simply because of its availability for mobile platforms rather than major gaming systems across the world, such as PC, Xbox, and PlayStation.

The developers concentrated on making the title as focused on illicit street racing as possible, with the traditional touch of cop chases mixed in between as well. Moreover, car customization is another fun part where you can tweak your vehicle’s performance and visual appeal to your heart’s content. 

The only major gripe with the game that perhaps does some justification to the game ranking in the lower stretches of the list is the lack of driving control for the player.

You don’t get to accelerate the car on your own since the game already automates that for you. All you’ll be doing in No Limits is controlling the steering wheel, and that’s about it.  

25. Need for Speed: ProStreet 

Need for Speed: ProStreet
Need for Speed: ProStreet
  • Developer: EA Black Box
  • Release Date: November 14, 2007
  • Platform: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable

Need for Speed: ProStreet is far from being the best in every sense of the sentence. In fact, many would refer to it as the worst iteration in the franchise though we’d only partially agree with that. ProStreet lets you in on a multitude of game modes revolving around legal track racing. 

In an attempt to blend arcade-style racing with simulation-style gameplay resembling the likes of Need for Speed: Shift, ProStreet manages to mess up here and there, leading to a hum-drum experience altogether.

If there’s one thing that the game does right, though, it’s definitely car customization. A range of options is available in that regard, allowing you to tune up exotic supercars and inexpensive four-door sedans alike.

With that said, ProStreet is awry when it comes to the hard-hitting hallmarks of the franchise, not to mention fairly average game mechanics. We wouldn’t say that it’s worth the time in 2022, especially when you’ve got a ton of other, far better options available at your disposal.

Takeaway

Need for Speed is probably one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, with its roots tracing back to the golden era of gaming. The origins of this series date to the period when the common man had nothing but a Windows PC to play their favorite games on. Fast-forward to 2022, we are faced with numerous options.

Over the course of the 25 years that various Need for Speed games have been developed and pushed out, their developers have been staying different save for a few instances. The history of Need for Speed has been marked by a company called Distinctive Software.

On the other hand, the recent-most developer that spearheaded Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered is Criterion Games, known for creating a bunch of other NFS games as well. The franchise has evolved drastically over time, and there’s no doubt about its presence that shaped the way racing games are played today. 

Some of the most jaw-dropping aspects of the best Need for Speed games include the constant thrill of the rush in the scenario of cops vs robbers, breathtaking visuals, high-velocity car chases, and, of course, a versatile variety of vehicles to make every car enthusiast jump in excitement.

Therefore, it’s just no wonder how the series became to be so successful. The robust sales figures of the IP have led it to integrate into other platforms as well, such as movies and real-life toys for children, i.e, Hot Wheels. To date, the collective number of sold Need for Speed titles crosses the 150-million mark. 

It would be nothing but terrific to have a next-gen Need for Speed game if we’re pulling out the fanboy within us. The level of advancement we have in the ripe tech-forward age of 2022, along with the availability of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S, would pave the way for an NFS title to create a buzz in the industry. 

A new Need for Speed game is rumored to be in the works, though, according to what sources tell us, but it’s still a matter of uncertainty here whether the next entry in the series will be able to fill the gaps or not. That is to say, several games in the franchise have turned out to be far lesser in quality than how they were anticipated.

Nevertheless, we still have some exceptionally enjoyable IPs to claw at, and if you’ve read our ranked list above quite right, you’ll no longer have to ask what is the best Need for Speed game. Do let us know down in the comments section your favorite pick out of the bunch. As always, eXputer wishes you good luck!

Was this article helpful?

Good job! Please give your positive feedback ⚡

How could we improve this post? Please Help us. ✍

Usama Qaiser


He is eccentric about Action games like Yakuza as well as his favorite JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Persona. Nowadays you can find him focusing his mana on writing guides at eXputer.

Related Articles