From intergalactic tournaments to thrilling illegal street races, it’s time for the best PS2 racing games of all time!
The PS2 has one of the most impressive gaming back catalogues of any console. There’s a reason why it’s the best selling home console of all time, after all.
And, while some consoles have a very limited number of racing games, the PS2 was blessed with so many that I can hardly keep count.
Honestly, coming up with the 15 titles below was like taking a trip down memory lane for me, going back to the days of adrenaline-pumping couch-co-op matches and my first forays into online gaming.
Many of the titles in this list are part of successful series’. Some caught peoples attention, and some went completely under the radar.
You see, it takes a proper racing nerd to be able to compile the ultimate list of the best PS2 racing games of all time…
… lucky you’ve got me then, eh?
15. Crash Nitro Kart (2003)
Crash Nitro Kart kickstarts this list of the best PS2 racing games of all time with a bang (probably because someone drove into a nitro box…).
Following on from the success of Crash Team Racing (or CTR if you’re a cool kid), Crash and the team return with new characters, new tracks, and a new racing adventure.
As usual, Neo Cortex and Emperor Velo are to blame for the mess Crash finds himself in. Ol’ Velo has transported the racers to a distant world far away from their homeland, and they have to race against Cortex… or die!
Listen, if you like Crash Team Racing, then Nitro Kart will be right up your street. It also has that Diddy Kong Racing-style adventure mode for players to compete in, spicing things up when you’re sick of beating your mates in the multiplayer mode.
This is a cracking title to start our list, and it’s only going to get better from here on out!
14. Wipeout Fusion (2002)
Wipeout Fusion brings futuristic, pod-racer-style vehicles to a living room near you (or maybe just your own living room…).
Have you ever wondered what Formula 1 might look like in the future? I reckon the F9000 Anti-Gravity League might be a good guess. Can you imagine Lewis Hamilton zooming around in a hovercraft, throwing missiles at other racers?
Ok, it’s a little barbaric, but this is the future we’re talking about!
Anyone who loved F-Zero X or any of the other Wipeout games should click that Ebay link above and grab themselves a copy. It’s a classic title with plenty of racing modes to sink your teeth into.
Race through the aptly titled arcade mode to discover unlockable extras, or test your mettle on the challenge mode and prove to the universe who the greatest anti-gravity driver is!
Firing flamethrowers and gravity bombs is hard enough when you’re on a straight track, but try doing it while driving upside down and ‘loop-the-looping’!
Pick from eight teams from across the globe. My personal favourite; The Brazilian Piranhas!
13. Auto Modellista (2002)
Auto Modellista takes the 13th spot in this list of the best PS2 racing games of all time!
Some of you might have spotted this classic title in our list of underrated PS2 games. The sad truth is that people just didn’t gel with Capcom’s cel-shaded racer back in the day.
They might have digged Link taking a colourful-comic vibe in The Windwaker, but Sony fans wanted the real deal. That’s why games like Gran Turismo sold way better.
I’m here to tell you that this game rules no matter what it looks like. And anyway, what’s not to like about a game that looks like you’re racing in a virtual graphic novel?
Like games such as Need for Speed, Auto Modellista had some wicked customisation options. It also allowed up to 8 players to race against each other…
… not looking so bad anymore, is it!
I just can’t believe that 8 players could battle each other back in 2002. I still can’t play with more than 4 people on Super Mario Party even though there’s an online play option!
Honestly, if there’s one game in this list that you need to buy, it’s this one. It might not be the best, but it deserves to get its name out into the world.
Try it and let us know your thoughts on Facebook!
12. Sonic Riders (2006)
I’m a massive Sonic nerd, which is why Sonic Riders had to be included in this list. I’ve been obsessed with the blue speedster since the Mega Drive days, and the epic snowboard and grinding races on Sonic Adventure 2 Battle were always my favourite bits.
Using air boards, which I suppose is something Sonic invented on an evening off, the characters must knock back enemies while pulling off cool moves.
Collecting air for your board is a must along the way. It works a little like the checkpoints in other arcade racing games that up your available time.
So what’s Eggman up to this time? Come on; you didn’t think that he was sitting this one out, did you?
This time, moustache face has goaded Sonic and his pals into competing in a special tournament.
No points for guessing what the winner gets as a prize…
… yep, a Chaos Emerald!
Just look at that level in the pic above; it’s classic Sonic madness, with insane loops and jumps over drops that seem to go on forever. Choose your favourite character, check out their board stats, and get out on the course!
11. Burnout 2: Point Of Impact (2002)
Burnout 2: Point of Impact takes the 11th spot on this list of the best PS2 racing games of all time.
I still maintain that this is one of the best looking racing games ever, and it’s not even the best Burnout title. Unlocking those epic cars felt like winning the lottery too…
… it’s safe to say I got way too addicted to this game.
Let’s check out some of the different modes. My favourite, ‘Pursuit’, sees players using a police car to ram super swish cars in order to wreck them.
That’s how you unlock new rides, but don’t worry. They look funky fresh by the time they arrive in your garage.
Then there’s crash mode, which is basically a chance to destroy everything and everyone on the road, racking up points along the way in a flash destruction derby.
I think I’ve obviously got a penchant for blowing stuff up… which is kind of worrying.
Still, I also love racing the cars I’ve unlocked around all the epic tracks in this game. And, true to form, the PS2 makes every level look fantastic, operating way over what a console from the year 2000 should be able to do!
Charge up that boost meter and let rip in order to keep ahead of the pack. Players build up their boost bar by driving into oncoming traffic and not bashing into anyone, landing jumps, drifting, and generally being a badass.
It’s a great game, and super easy if you’ve ever spent any time driving in Italy like I have!
10. Midnight Club: Street Racing (2000)
Midnight Club: Street Racing is one for fans of the fast and furious films. It’s all about the underground street racing scene in New York and London.
You know the one; all those races that you can hear in the middle of the night but never see…
Well, this time you can get right into the heart of the action. Players control a bored cabbie trying to find a bit of excitement in his life. Instead of taking fares, he decides to join the Midnight Club.
Oh, and the rules are simple. Lose, and the winner takes your car home with them…
… I bet no one wants to challenge me in my camper van, then!
Unlike games like Wipeout and Crash Nitro Kart, there’s an element of strategic gameplay involved with Midnight Club. Being the better racer isn’t enough; you need to outsmart your opponent and work out what makes them tick if you’re going to go home with their wheels.
Both London and New York look ace in this game. They’ve been accurately represented with all of the major landmarks in place to provide the most realistic experience possible.
I’ve never been to New York, but I’ve played this game so much that I could probably make my way around it ok!
Have a bash at the multiplayer, take part in capture the flag, or get stuck into the career mode. However you play, you’re sure to have a blast!
9. Need For Speed: Underground (2003)
Need For Speed: Underground takes the 9th spot in this list of the best PS2 racing games ever made!
One thing springs to mind whenever I see this game cover – decals.
Part of the fun of this game was continually souping up your cars. It’s what made Underground such an epic title, with tones of real-life customisable parts to add onto your build to create a truly unique vehicle.
I’d spend hours in the garage adding vinyls and colour shades just to create the perfect ride. Then I’d unlock a new feature and do it all over again!
Let’s not forget that epic soundtrack too. Nothing says ‘Fast and the Furious’ like epic tracks by Rob Zombie blasting out of the speakers.
Like Midnight Club and many of the other titles below, Underground is based on the premise of illegal street racing. The seventh title in the series was also the first to include a career mode.
Previous Need for Speed games focused on fancy sports cars as opposed to imported cars too. It feels grungier, more secretive, a racing game that you feel cool while playing, almost as if you’re up to no good!
Race through Olympic City and become the best racer around. Underground was so popular that it spawned a sequel too… I wonder if it will appear further down this list?
8. ATV Offroad Fury 2 (2002)
Let’s step away from illegal street racing for a moment and focus on some good old fashioned off-roading with ATV Offroad Fury 2!
This game has some absolutely epic levels on it, so much so that it made me want to go and try ATV rallying in the Tunisia desert… which I did… badly.
I sincerely hope that you’ve all played the original ATV Offroad Fury. The sequel only improved on the original game’s brilliance, bringing 40 tracks and 20 gnarly ATVs to the table.
And, thanks to the PS2’s online capabilities, players could battle across the globe too!
This game is incredibly detailed, so much so that driving into water cleans ATVs off after they become dirty. Be careful though; staying in water too long teleports you out of there Lakitu Bros style.
Players can be thrown off their vehicles or become injured if other riders land on them. It’s a pretty dangerous sport, after all, and getting to the finish line isn’t always a guaranteed occurrence.
The multiplayer mode is probably my favourite part of the game. Pulling off tricks and landing on my mates never gets old… unless they’re the ones doing it to me, then it’s pretty tiresome!
7. Burnout Revenge (2005)
Burnout Revenge takes the 7th spot in this list of the best PS2 racing games. We’ve already established that I had every Burnout game under the sun, and Revenge had some of the best crashes and smashes to date.
The main feature of pumping up the boost bar returns, with players pulling off epic moves and stunning smashes in order to fill up the tank. Still, there’s another element that made me laugh with delight, and that’s Impact Time.
What could be better than seeing your epic crashes in slow motion? Nothing, that’s what. It’s like poetry in motion, and it also helps you to increase your Revenge ranking.
Better rankings open up new races, and winning medals unlocks new rides.
Players can utilise signature moves a little like wrestlers in WWE, pulling off special smashes that become trademark moves. You can also blow your vehicle up and get creative in the Road Rage mode.
And, you could also experience all of the brutal action with up to 6 friends online too. RESULT!
6. Juiced (2005)
The early 2000’s were all about street racing, and Juiced proved a fitting opponent to the Need for Speed Underground canon.
Like its competitor, players could customise cars, bet against outcomes, and speed around corners faster then the Flash in need of a toilet break.
With 52 vehicles on offer, there’s plenty of rides to get excited about. And get this; there are over 7-trillion different designs that you can come up with thanks to the vast customisation options…
… yeah, you’re gonna’ be playing this game for a long while!
Race around Angel City, unlocking cars, parts, decals, and more in the immersive career mode.
Take part in drag races (not the RuPaul kind), traditional races, and skill modes, stopping for a multiplayer match with your mates every once in a while.
I’ve never been in a racing gang, but I imagine the challenges that Angel City’s teams pose you as a player are pretty realistic. Race to win cars, organise events, and gain respect as you work your way to the top.
Sounds like hard work to me; I think I’ll just stick to messing around with decals in the garage!
5. XGIII: Extreme G Racing (2001)
The 5th spot in this list of the best PS2 racing games goes to XGIII: Extreme G Racing!
Dropping on both the GameCube and the PS2, this space-age super bike game sees players competing to become a futuristic racing champion.
Piece of cake, right?
Players can pick from one of six teams, each team comprising of two riders. And guess what? The races are anything but fair or civilised.
The aim of the game isn’t always to be the best. Players can sabotage the race using weapons, knocking back better racers in order to pick up the top prize themselves.
The available projectiles in this game make the Mario Kart bananas look like… well, bananas. With a hole host of gnarly missiles and destructive weaponry available to purchase with in-game currency, the gameplay is bound to be unpredictable at every turn.
Now all that’s left to find out is whether you’re quick enough to evade your opponents!
Weapons don’t appear on the track like in previous games, so you’ll need to be clever as to when you use them and make sure you don’t run out. Boosting depletes your shields too, so bear that in mind if you play with trigger-happy gamers!
4. Gran Turismo 4 (2004)
Gran Turismo 4 is up next, one of the most realistic racers of all time. I’ve never played a game with better backdrops on the PS2, and I’ve used it as a benchmark for many of the games that came after it.
You know you’ve got a good game on your hands when it comes with a Physics of Racing book. Yes, Japanese gamers had access to over 200 pages of technical driving tips and techniques.
I think that might have made me understand how to drive better in real life as well, never mind while virtually racing through Yosemite!
How many cars do you reckon GT4 has to offer?
The first GT game had 140, and now there are 700 different rides to choose from.
Yep, Gran Turismo 4 has some of the greatest cars ever made. Race with modern marvels or head back to the 1860s and show off your cornering skills in a vintage Daimler Motor Carriage!
Plus, if you consider that GT4 has 50 levels, then there’s a possible 35,000 different races to play.
If that isn’t value for money, then I don’t know what is!
3. Need for Speed Underground 2 (2004)
Need For Speed Underground 2 picks up the bronze medal in this list of the best PS2 racing games of all time!
This game brings back some memories… I remember playing this game with my Dad as a kid, souping up cars and taking it in turns to beat rivals and each other.
Underground 2 was an instant hit on pretty much every console, but we certainly got our money out of both the GameCube and PS2 versions back in the day!
Like the first Underground title, Underground 2 focuses on the illegal street racing world. There’s lots of rival racers to beat, all while taking corners way too fast and competing in insane challenges along the way…
… not a game that you’d use to practice for your driving test, then…
Try your hand at drag races or try to stay alive in a street race where the only rule is that there are no rules…
… I’ve always wanted to write that.
A new feature to enter the series is racing to a location ‘Crazy Taxi’ style in order to be papped by a photographer for a magazine. Now you can be that famous illegal racer running from the cops that you always dreamed of being.
And of course, there’s the thousands of decals and customisable parts to chose from. This is the game that keeps on giving!
2. Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition (2005)
Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition comes in at Number 2, almost taking the crown of king of the best PS2 racing games… but not quite.
MC3 takes everything we loved about the first games in the series and pumps it up to 11. It holds the best ever customisation parameters of any racing game that came before it, allowing users to go as deep as personalising every element of their license plate.
Yep, this is virtual pimp my ride right here!
In terms of gameplay, the general street racing theme is pretty similar to the previous titles. Gameplay is restricted to the US this time, however, and there are more vehicle types to choose from.
That’s right; players can now drive bikes, SUVs, choppers, Police cars, and muscle cars, just like they do in the movies.
In my humble opinion, this is the quintessential underground street racing game in terms of fast cars, high-speed thrills, and of course, creating that epic ride that you’ve always thought about purchasing. It’s a worthy addition to this list, but still, it couldn’t quite beat…
1. Burnout 3: Takedown (2004)
Burnout 3: Takedown is the best PS2 racing game of all time!
Yes, this is my all-time favourite racing game. It’s perfect from start to finish, with all of the best racing, drifting, and crashing action that the PS2 has to offer.
From the moment this game hit shelves, the critics went crazy for it. Pretty much everyone, including yours truly, heralded it as the greatest racing game ever. And don’t forget, this was at the same time as Need for Speed pretty much took over the street-racing genre!
With a whopping 170 levels spanning three continents, Burnout 3 could well be classed as a global gaming presence. The race tracks are phenomenal, as is the scenery in the background too. From the textured roads to the detailing in the trees and signs, everything about this game is fantastic.
And, don’t forget the main feature; unlocking those stellar vehicles!
Takedown boasts 67 different rides. I loved them all, but there’s definitely a favourite to choose from the bunch if you have really specific tastes in cars.
And let’s face it; who doesn’t like driving expensive beasts into the unknown at 151 mph?
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.