It’s time to race cars on plastic orange track, all the way through your house – as we check out the best Hot Wheels games of all time!
Though many of us in the UK grew up playing with Matchbox cars rather than Mattel’s Hot Wheels toys, when Mattel bought their closest competitor in 1997 it paved the way for Hot Wheels to take over.
Which includes not just taking over the living room – with elaborate circuits of bendy orange track and lots of loops, jumps and launchers – but also the video game space too. There have been plenty of Hot Wheels games over the years (and even some with great Hot Wheels DLC, such as Forza Horizon 3; Forza Horizon 5 is also getting the Hot Wheels treatment in 2022!) – but which are the best?
Let’s find out, as we take a look at the best Hot Wheels games of all time!
10. Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver (2013)
Despite the title, Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver is far from the top of the heap when it comes to the best Hot Wheels games.
There’s no plot, no campaign – not even any racing against competitors on actual tracks – with the game being made up of driving challenges, rather than races. Races are set in real world, fairly bland and empty environments such as deserts or bleak snowy forests.
Despite some repetitiveness, no true multiplayer, no track editors and that weird lack of actual racing, its gameplay is definitely not bad by any means – and the biggest saving grace for Hot Wheels: World’s Best Driver is that the soundtrack is superb. It’s not enough to push this one any further up the rankings, but just enough for it to squeeze into the top 10!
9. Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5 (2009)
Based on a short-lived CGI animated series, Battle Force 5 is much more story-based than many of the games that made it onto the best Hot Wheels games list.
The story in Battle Force 5 sees the titular team – who defend the Earth from nefarious aliens, entering from portals that have opened across the multiverse – in their fancy Hot Wheels cars, racing to free their teammates from multiversal bad guys. By driving. A lot.
Each car has a unique attack to take down enemies with and there are even episodes of the show to unlock through picking up various collectibles.
However, despite the unique setting, unusual vehicle design and accessibility for younger players, this game ends up being far too repetitive and simplistic to make it anywhere near the top end of the best Hot Wheels games list!
8. Hot Wheels: Velocity X (2002)
Though it came several years before Battle Force 5, Hot Wheels: Velocity X is another game that applies a sci-fi sheen to the Hot Wheels license.
It has a much more involved storyline than may be expected – a 14-mission Adventure Mode being the main attraction. Despite the colourful cars – 30 are available in-game – the game is quite dark in terms of its aesthetics. It does have some very Hot Wheels-esque track design though – with its crazy 3D, looping tracks. There’s a reasonably robust multiplayer mode too.
The problem is that the cars just aren’t very responsive, resulting in a game that feels pretty sluggish to play.
It’s a shame that it hasn’t been tuned properly gameplay-wise; the destructible environments and varied settings are excellent, but it does take a good deal of practice to get used to the unresponsive cars in the game.
The almost cyberpunk-esque style is definitely a fun combination with the Hot Wheels license, but we can’t help wishing that this one had been a bit more refined!
7. Hot Wheels: World Race (2003)
Another Hot Wheels game takes the sci-fi setting route, which was clearly quite a popular choice back in the 2000s!
And nothing screams ‘early 2000s’ more than Smash Mouth being on the soundtrack for Hot Wheels: World Race (sadly, it’s not All Star – which, thanks to Shrek, is definitely their most memorable song!).
With loops and jumps on dizzying tracks in volcanoes, mountains and space, this one certainly felt unique and varied, but the environments lacked detail and resolution, making it look a bit dated even when it was initially released.
Though a little derivative, this 35th Anniversary celebration of Hot Wheels has (appropriately) 35 cars to choose from and some excellent multiplayer action (up to four players supported on GameCube – sadly only two player simultaneous gaming on PS2).
Oddly, this game is based on an obscure CGI movie, which – like many Hot Wheels tie-in shows and films – was basically an extended and not very interesting toy commercial.
6. Hot Wheels: Ultimate Racing (2007)
Though Hot Wheels: Ultimate Racing is a handheld, PSP exclusive, it’s a genuinely enjoyable game that stops short of making it to the top half of the best Hot Wheels games list.
The reason for that is its brutal difficulty (seriously, this one puts up a hell of a challenge!) – despite gorgeous visuals, a great soundtrack and some solid track design (featuring elements from actual Hot Wheels playsets), it really does feel incredibly unforgiving.
Making the slightest mistake resets you in awkward places and some collectibles are placed in ridiculous spots; if you miss a single medal on a track, you have to redo the entire series of tracks in sequence again to grab it!
Up against tough competition on the PSP – just check out our best PSP racing games list to see what Hot Wheels: Ultimate Racing had to compete with – this unfortunately steep difficulty level meant that the game perhaps didn’t reach the audience it should have had, but despite the aforementioned issues, it still remains one of the best Hot Wheels games!
5. Hot Wheels: Extreme Racing (2001)
An edge that Hot Wheels: Extreme Racing has over its predecessor Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing is with the inclusion of transforming vehicles. No longer limited to cars speeding around a track, instead Hot Wheels: Extreme Racing features vehicles that can change from car to truck, plane or boat and back again.
The game also features weapon pick-ups, giving it a feel not unlike Diddy Kong Racing (which also featured a variety of vehicle types with weapons – check it out on our best N64 racing games list). However, with the game taking place in normal, non-toy-sized environments, it does feel more like a standard vehicle combat game than Hot Wheels specifically.
A great four player split screen mode – using a multitap on the PS1 – with 12 multiplayer tracks, is an excellent addition.
4. Hot Wheels: Race Off (2016)
Being a mobile game, Hot Wheels: Race Off couldn’t be simpler. Race events, time trials and stunt courses see you racing around the iconic orange track, with intuitive touchscreen controls. Ever played UbiSoft’s Trials games? Hot Wheels: Race Off was a bit like that, but with many famous Hot Wheels toy cars as the vehicles.
The 60-plus tracks on offer take place in a decent variety of environments, with a great collection of unlockable cars to collect.
Unlike so many licensed mobile games, Hot Wheels: Race Off was fairly balanced and could be completed with skill, rather than relying on predatory microtransactions to force players to open their digital wallets and spend real money to progress.
Competitive multiplayer modes meant that players could challenge their friends and even total strangers to races on the brilliantly designed tracks too!
Unfortunately, support for Hot Wheels: Race Off ended in March 2021; the game is no longer available to download digitally.
It’s a real shame, as this was an addictive, compelling game that made great use of the license; it’s even sadder that the Hot Wheels titles currently available to download are exactly the types of microtransaction-riddled monstrosities that give mobile gaming a bad name.
3. Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing (1999)
Though the N64 port was a bit lacklustre, the PS1 version of Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing was an excellent game. EA had the Hot Wheels license at the time, so it felt like an extremely polished and fully featured experience. The licensed soundtrack was excellent too, featuring bands such as Metallica and Primus. Yep, that’s Metallica contributing a track to a Hot Wheels game, of all things!
Though the toy aspect of the game was a missed opportunity – with tracks set in mountains, industrial areas and other real world locations – the tracks themselves felt like Hot Wheels in spirit, with crossovers, loops and other opportunities to collide with other racers dotted throughout their elaborate layouts. With 40 Hot Wheels cars to choose from, it didn’t slack on the vehicle selection either.
Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing naturally featured quite a bit of emphasis on using turbo boost, as you may have gathered from the title. An excellent game that was colourful, playable and an awful lot of fun.
2. Hot Wheels: Beat That! (2007)
A strange quirk of Hot Wheels video games is that so many of them don’t treat the vehicles as toys. Instead, players will usually race familiar cars around looping environments, but generally in ‘real world’, full sized settings.
To its credit, Hot Wheels: Beat That! does understand that it’s ok for a Hot Wheels game to actually be about small cars racing around big household environments – translating the toy experience into video games for once!
Standard races along with elimination races are on offer in Hot Wheels: Beat That!, with 12 different environments and over 30 familiar Hot Wheels toy cars to collect and race. Multiplayer racing and arena battles add to the experience too – even though these are disappointingly limited to just two players being able to compete, they’re excellent fun.
Hot Wheels: Beat That! has a very arcade racing-style feel – we love our arcade racing games at Retro Dodo and included a few of the most beloved titles ever on our best 90s arcade games list!
1. Hot Wheels Unleashed (2021)
Now this is how you do it! Hot Wheels Unleashed gets absolutely everything right when it comes to the Hot Wheels license – it’s hard to see how any other game could possibly match it for just how much mileage it gets from the toys it’s based on!
Racing toy vehicles around twisting, sometimes vertiginous (or even upside-down!) tracks through various locations in a house or other buildings, the orange plastic Hot Wheels track is everywhere (though this sometimes changes to specific colours when the track elements change – some of these carrying over from the toys themselves).
Players can compete in single player races and missions – with a huge campaign to get through and loads of cars (and other items) to unlock.
The tracks look suitably realistic in terms of how much they seem like genuine plastic objects (the modelling and lighting effects are simply stunning), but the real killer visual touches come with the cars themselves, which are jaw-droppingly rendered. They look incredibly close to their real-life counterparts and really do feel like toy cars when you’re in control of them.
You also have access to your own in-game basement, which you can decorate in any way you choose (and, in a lovely touch, is the backdrop for any races taking place in your basement), kitting it out with items and designs unlocked through play.
The track editor is absolutely stunning too, with a genuinely impressive level of flexibility and customisation on offer – creations can be shared online too. Splitscreen or online multiplayer options are also plentiful, with lots of race types to challenge other players on.
Despite leaning a little too much on microtransactions in order to buy more and more cars, there’s so many included in the base game that it’s hard to be churlish about this. The devs have clearly worked hard on bringing more content to the game – and have been including so many more cars to choose from (including DC and He-Man Hot Wheels cars, among others!).
Hot Wheels Unleashed plays brilliantly, looks stunning and is the perfect choice for the very top of our best Hot Wheels games list.
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.