It’s Christmas, which means that a lot of people are giving each other gifts that range from useless to great.
I always got a new NASCAR video game for Christmas. I never missed a game from 1998, when I got my first PlayStation and EA’s NASCAR 99, to 2009, when I played NASCAR 09 on my then-outdated PlayStation 2. I played almost all of them at least once, even the computer games made by Papyrus and the few games made by Hasbro.
But with the release of NASCAR ’07, EA started to go downhill in a big way, and the fact that they had an exclusive licence (which has since ended) didn’t motivate them to keep the quality up. Now, NASCAR is using the old “open licence” method, which lets any developer make a game, in the hopes that this will lead to a better product.
Most of the games on this list came out between 1999 and 2005, when NASCAR video games were at their most popular. The rest are either out now or coming out soon, but since they haven’t had as much time to compare to the classics, they are listed last (with one notable exception).
Gran Turismo 5
GT5 is on this list because the game itself is so great, but it’s not a great NASCAR game. There are only two tracks—Daytona and Indianapolis—and about 11 cars, which is a lot less than most other games. But if you ever want to put Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson against each other on the Circuit de la Sarthe, here’s your chance.
Days of Thunder: Arcade
Some of you might think it’s crazy that Paramount and Viacom put out a game based on a movie that came out 20 years ago in 2010. You might just be right.
The game’s release has been delayed, so gamers haven’t been able to play it yet. However, the idea that you can race as or against movie stars like Cole Trickle, Russ Wheeler, and Rowdy Burns is still appealing to some of us.
NASCAR 2011: The Game
Since this game hasn’t come out yet, we can’t really give it a ranking. This is Activision’s first NASCAR game, though. Activision is best known for their Tony Hawk skateboarding games, but they also have some NASCAR experience. In the mid-1980s, they were Mark Martin’s main sponsor for a short time.
NASCAR 21: Ignition
NASCAR 21: Start the engine, we’re not going to play this game for very long. It’s the only NASCAR game that came out in 2021, and it’s not very good. There are a lot of unhappy people who bought this game, and it’s easy to find the negative reviews from players online. It was a mess of bugs when it first came out, and since we got it so late in the year, it’s unlikely to get many fixes. Since NASCAR 21: Ignition got so many bad reviews, it’s possible that the developers will skip it and move on to the 2022 game. If your money and time are important to you, you might want to skip this game instalment.
NASCAR Heat Evolution
We will start by talking about NASCAR Heat Evolution. This was the first book in the NASCAR Heat series, which is very popular. As they tried to win the Sprint Cup Championship, players could take part in short races or build up their teams. In the same way, there were a lot of challenges where you could try to reenact some of the most memorable parts of the season. Most players will find that the game plays a bit like a sim-cade, so it’s not the strict simulation that some fans may have been looking for. Even so, the game came out in 2016, so you can still play it on newer platforms, and since it’s an older game now, it won’t cost you too much. Right now, players can get the game for only $10 through Steam.
NASCAR 09 was the last game in the EA Sports NASCAR simulation series. Aside from the usual game modes, there were two interesting things that fans might have liked. For starters, players could build their own car, and there were a lot of ways to customise it to their liking. The other big part that stood out was the career mode, where Jeff Gordon showed you how to do things. Everyone was trying to build a good name in the business. This meant that players not only had to do well in the races, but also had to get sponsors to notice them. From there, it’s all about winning races and coming out on top in the different race series, like the NASCAR Nationwide Series or the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
NASCAR Heat 4
NASCAR Heat 4 is another good video game in the NASCAR Heat series. This time, the physics were changed to make the game feel more like driving in real life. You can even turn off some of the helps to make it harder for players. Most people thought this game was a big step up from the previous ones and gave them a good NASCAR experience overall. NASCAR Heat 5 is the latest game in the series, and fans aren’t sure which one is better. If you want the newest game and maybe more online competition, NASCAR Heat 5 may be worth the money, but NASCAR Heat 4 is still a lot of fun.
Daytona USA is likely a game you’ve played before. This is an arcade game that was made to look like NASCAR. It’s not even close to being a simulation of NASCAR, but players will race a stock car through different time trial courses. The arcade game was a big hit, and people were able to play it on multiple platforms, like Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. The game doesn’t have much to it because you’re mostly racing against the clock, but it was interesting to see how players handled the first lap to figure out how good they were. If players had trouble getting to the checkpoint on the first big lap, the game would let them race around the few obstacles. Those who are very skilled, on the other hand, will find opponents who will try to get in their way.