What are the best F1 games of all time?
Racing games have been popular with gamers since the arcade days, with several notable series offering different takes on the genre over the years.
There’s something both fun and meditative about zooming through race tracks in an awesome video game car, and few franchises do this better than F1.
That’s what we want to take a closer look at today: among all the titles F1 has offered, which are the best of the best?
The 10 Best F1 Games of All Time
There’s a huge market for sports-based video games, and that includes racing, perhaps most notably with the FIA Formula One World Championship games.
That’s why we take our research seriously, checking for the most reliable sources, from IGN to racing magazines, to give you the most accurate ranking.
Buckle up, gamers, because we’re about to race through the top ten best F1 games:
10. F1 2021
As you can probably guess from the title, this came out in 2021 as the 14th F1 game in the series.
This iteration marked the return of EA Sports as publisher after a hiatus of almost twenty years, when F1 games were published independently.
Fans of F1 know it’s more than just a series of races; there’s also a story mode that highlights the glamour and drama of racing.
The story mode of F1 2021 focuses on the strained friendship of two racers, and the antagonist who is fueling their feud.
In this iteration of the series, fans were treated to a feature known as Department Events, which prompted players with tricky scenarios.
Department Events is part of the Career Mode, where players focus on creating the perfect racing team and addressing issues that crop up.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about this game is that it features races that were canceled in real life because of the pandemic.
The next year’s title became one of the best PS5 racing games out there, thanks in large part to features that appeared in F1 2021.
9. F1 2002
F1 games release across multiple platforms, meaning you can use your preferred computer or console to cross the finish line.
In many ways, this title brought more of what fans had come to expect from the franchise, but it also drove the series forward.
For this one, publishers released to the handheld Game Boy Advance, in addition to the GameCube, PS2, Xbox, and Windows.
That wasn’t the first handheld device F1 ever released to, but it was definitely early days for F1’s mobile racing capabilities.
When we look back on the best GBA games, it’s clear the device came to be known for fantastic sports and racing titles.
This was the fifth installment in the already popular series that was giving competitor racing franchises a run for their money.
As is the standard for F1 games, it allowed players to experience virtual versions of the real race tracks for that year.
Fans love that real-world connection with the Formula One World Championship because it keeps them connected with races they are following in real life.
F1 2002 was a success with fans and critics alike, getting a runner-up nod from GameSpot for their Game of the Month award.
8. F1 Championship Edition
This 1997 release by developers Bizarre Creations came out for PlayStation and Windows only, a far cry from the multi-platform F1 games of today.
The developers left F1 after this and went on to make one of the best original Xbox games with Project Gotham Racing.
British publisher Psygnosis Limited handled the publication of this title that would later go to EA for a significant part of its history.
Psygnosis developed and released a lot of interesting games in their time, including other sports and racing titles and, of course, the Lemmings franchise.
In Europe, F1 Championship Edition was known simply as Formula 1 97, marketing the 1997 circuits it featured, which included the canceled Portuguese Grand Prix.
Two-player racing functionality was included in this game in the form of the split-screen view that was common in games of that era.
As this was a direct sequel to the 1996 release, critics and fans compared the two games and found this to be a significant upgrade.
The UK and Europe loved this game, with critics publishing praises for its graphics and challenging gameplay, and fans sending it straight to bestseller status.
North America was also on board, and both IGN and GameSpot reviewed it as a stellar installment in the genre.
Okay, hear us out on this one: It’s not a licensed F1 game, but there’s a good reason it deserves to be on this list.
rFactor uses an evolution of an F1 development engine, and in many ways, it is the spiritual successor of F1 Challenge ’99-‘02.
We can thank American developer Image Space Incorporated for the beauty that is rFactor, which came out in 2005 for Windows only.
The fun of this game comes in it being an online community that plays well with mods, making it the gift that keeps on giving.
Though developers themselves couldn’t provide official tracks from Formula One, modders were able to recreate what fans wanted, and they kept the game fresh.
Even without official licensing, this game managed to win the hearts of F1 gamers because it offered a truly unforgettable racing simulator.
Ten years after its initial release, rFactor found its way to Steam, much to the excitement of fans who wanted to pick it up.
Even later, NASCAR looked to the sequel of rFactor to learn about its physics for NASCAR’s own video game franchise.
6. F1 2019
This game marked the introduction of randomly generated driver transfers in the series, which added a level of realism for players.
Several official Formula One cars appear in this one, and it’s also fun to create liveries for generic cars with fictional sponsors in multiplayer.
Part of the success was the overall simulation updates, giving fans a more exciting sim experience while staying true to the racing genre.
In fact, fans of other sims like Car Mechanic, one of the best PS5 simulation games, might want to take this for a ride.
There was a DLC update for this game that focused on the real-life, infamous rivalry between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
Though F1 2019 came off the online stores in 2022, it sold well at its release and sparked many glowing reviews.
F1 2019 is another game that did great outside the US, reaching seventh in Australian sales, according to the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association.
The Independent Game Developers’ Association awarded F1 2019 the Best Racing Game of the year, and the game picked up many more nominations.
5. F1 2017
This is another of the F1 games that came out in what is now known as the Codemasters independent era.
From 2009 to 2020, Codemasters took full control of the F1 franchise, as EA stepped aside to focus on other titles.
The official version came out for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows, but macOS and Linux versions also came out the same year.
A major selling point for this was the inclusion of classic cars from years before, though critics found it to be less exciting than promised.
All circuits and driver teams from the Formula One World Championship that year were included in the release of F1 2017.
Autosport reported that the game signaled the start of an official eSport series launched by Codemasters to meet the growing gamer base of eSport drivers.
Taking part in eSports is no joke, as the prizes are high, and players need to prepare with the best hardware at home.
Many players who are in it to win it spend part of their eSport earnings on the best racing wheel stands and other materials.
4. Grand Prix 4
Also known as GP4, this is part of a Grand Prix series of Formula One games that came out exclusively on Windows.
Grand Prix 4 was released in the middle of the year in 2002, and it was a huge success because of its upgrades from GP3.
Licensing issues did prevent online play, which was a bummer, but gameplay was otherwise fantastic in this serious racing simulator.
Eurogamer reported that developer Geoff Crammond said the game “redefines our own benchmarks in terms of realism and playability,” and his vision panned out.
Because Formula One tends to be most popular abroad, we usually see these titles getting accolades in Europe or the UK.
This title is no different, taking home a Sports award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards that year.
It was also hailed by many American critics, who noted its massive updates in physics and graphics from the previous iteration.
Fans enjoyed the ability to create LAN parties with this game, still a popular way to game with friends at the time.
3. F1 Challenge ’99-’02
This is the last Formula One release before Codemasters temporarily took over the franchise, and wow, was it a fantastic game.
Codemasters also famously developed one of the games with the biggest open world maps in video game history, so they know something about creating epic experiences.
In a way, this game is the Formula One to Rule Them All, with representation for 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002.
Gamers get to choose from 44 different vehicles and 17 racing circuits that change slightly depending on the Formula One year.
Part of the appeal is the compilation of four entire F1 seasons in one title, but it’s also much more than just that.
Game Cube, PS2, Xbox, and Windows players all got a chance to speed down the Formula One circuits with this 2003 title.
There were significant upgrades to graphics and physics, with special attention paid to Windows users whose computers might have lower specs.
In addition, this was a mod-friendly game, giving it lasting power on the PC, as modders refreshed the experience over and over again.
2. F1 2010
Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360 players all got a chance to race the best in the Formula One 2010 circuits with this game.
It also marked the first F1 game to come out on the Xbox 360, and Xbox racing fans were pumped.
There’s so much to say about F1 2010, from its gameplay to its graphics, but one of the most exciting details is the weather system.
The Codemasters team had a goal to make F1 2010’s weather the most dynamic in gaming, and that effort showed in the finished product.
Writing for IGN, reviewer Martin Robinson said, “wet weather driving is both a joy and a nightmare,” as the system reduced both traction and visibility.
That innovative weather system and pushed the envelope for what was possible in sports gaming, bringing us to the future of the sports genre.
Though it was up against heavy hitters like FIFA 11 and more, F1 2010 won a BAFTA for Best Sports Game that year.
Today, F1 2010 is remembered as one of the greatest installments in a long history of excellent F1 racing games.
1. F1 2020
Formula One cars have been a virtual luxury for gamers since back in the Atari days – anybody remember Pole Position, one of the best Atari games of that era?
Things have only improved from there: in addition to being one of the best racing games, F1 2020 has a special place in the hearts of racing fans.
That’s because it represents the first year of the pandemic, when many races in the actual Formula One World Championship had to be canceled.
Fans who looked forward to the thrill of the race every year were able to live out what they were missing in 2020.
This time, the game featured no fictional racers and instead focused on the intended 22 circuits and 20 racers of the real event.
Sixteen classic cars are also available to drive in this game, dating all the way back to the 1988 McLaren MP4/4.
There’s also the addition of a rear-view mirror feature that allows players to enjoy a more in-depth and realistic driving experience.
For many racing fans around the world, Formula One is the ultimate event, with exciting circuits, cool cars, and superstar racers.
The fact that we get to join in the fun on our PCs and consoles is great, and the variety of titles is even better.
If your steering wheel has been collecting dust, it may be time to give it a spin with a few of these fantastic games.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best F1 games of all time:
- F1 2020
- F1 2010
- F1 Challenge ’99-’02 (2003)
- Grand Prix 4 (2002)
- F1 2017
- F1 2019
- rFactor (2005)
- F1 Championship Edition (1997)
- F1 2002
- F1 2021
Which of these games do you brake for? Leave a comment below.
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