With the vast improvements in technology over the last few decades, driving simulators have become much better and some are very realistic. There are plenty of racing games on the market, but what are the best non-racing free-roam driving games?
The 5 best non-racing free-roam driving games are:
We have compiled this list of non-racing, free-roam driving simulators for those that just want to drive around and enjoy the experience of driving, rather than racing. Each of these games brings a lot of unique features to the table, but there are some key things to bear in mind when buying one.
What To Look For In A Good Free-Roam Driving Game
First of all, perhaps the most important factor for a free-roam game in particular, is the size of the map or driving area that you can explore. Some games have massive maps, and some of the games on our list have some of the biggest of any game. If the game area is too small, you will quickly run out of road and things can quickly become boring.
Another aspect of a good free-roam driving sim is realistic driving physics. If you are looking for a lifelike driving experience, you will want the vehicles to feel like the real thing. Each of the games on our list have their own set of driving physics, and some are better than others. If realism isn’t the most important thing for you, then you can pay less attention to this.
You might also want to consider how realistic the game is in general. Some driving games will offer a highly realistic driving experience that emulates everything from turning signals to wheel force feedback. Realism is often not the main goal with free-roam simulators, but good, realistic immersion can make the game more enjoyable.
How It Looks
Regardless of whether or not you want things to be realistic, you will want the game to look good. Some of the games on this list are relatively old, but they still have good graphics that not only make the game look more realistic but make it much more fun to play. With free-roam driving games, the main goal tends to be enjoyment, and how it looks can play a big part in this.
More generally speaking, the game does have to be enjoyable. This means that it should have the right balance between fun and playability, while also providing entertainment in the way it looks and feels to play. This can be achieved by including some other game modes. Although we have put a focus on free roaming on this list, some of the games do offer other game modes too.
Location can also play a big role in making a free-roam game good or bad. You might be looking for a game with real-life landmarks and regions, or you might prefer a game with a fictional environment. Some of the games on this list have huge maps that are based on real countries and even continents, while others have put a focus on the finer details.
Vehicle selection will also play a role when choosing a driving game. If you want to drive a race car around city streets, for example, you will want to make sure the game you opt for gives you that option. There are other options out there for your average city car, with others being devoted solely to trucks and other larger vehicles.
Compatibility is another important aspect of a driving simulator, and this will be very dependent on your own particular setup. We have games on this list for consoles and PC, but you will need to make sure you pick the right one for you. There is also the element of equipment compatibility, which is key if you want to be able to use your wheel, pedals, and gear shifter.
There are lots of important things to consider when choosing a free-roam-focused driving simulator. Regardless of whether or not you want a realism- or fun-focused driving simulator, we have compiled a list with something for everyone. Below, we will go into more detail as to why these games are the best free-roam driving games on the market.
KEY POINTS• You want a large map to provide hours of fun gameplay
• How the game looks is also key, and realism may be important too
• Having lots of vehicles to choose from will boost the game’s replay value
Released: 2007 | Platform: PC
City Car Driving was initially released in 2007 but has seen multiple updates since then. It is only available on PC but is the perfect choice for those that want to spend their time driving around some cityscapes while testing their driving ability. The game is designed with a focus on driver training.
Realistic Driving Conditions
One of the main goals of City Car Driving is to provide the player with the most realistic driving conditions as possible so that they can learn how to maneuver on the road in the correct manner. This is to allow first-time drivers or those that want some extra practice to do so in realistic situations without any real danger, while also providing some entertainment as well.
The game implements what it calls “Smart” traffic, and so the other vehicles in the game are designed to behave as if driven by real people. It also uses elements of unpredictability, which means you have to be on your toes just like you do in real life. There is even a dynamic day, night, and weather cycle in City Car Driving, which helps to keep things interesting and even more realistic.
With realistic traffic and road layouts, and a number of environments ranging from some based in the UK and Europe, and others in North America and even Australia, there is a lot of driving to do. There are a lot of different cars to choose from as well, which means you will never get bored of trying out various vehicles in the game on the multitude of road environments.
A Fun Driving Sim
Aside from these features, the game can also prove to be very fun to play. Although not the best game graphically, and the driving physics leaving much to be desired, City Car Driving offers some very realistic driving conditions and is a good choice for learners and advanced drivers alike. It works well with wheel and pedal setups and is a good way to learn how to use a gear shifter.
- Lots of realistic features
- Good for practicing driving skills
- A lot of vehicles to choose from
- Not the most realistic driving physics
- Graphics are fairly poor
- Only available on PC
2. Euro Truck Simulator 2
Released: 2012 | Platform: PC
Another great free-roam driving sim, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is aimed particularly at those that want to drive heavier vehicles. Like City Car Driving, it was initially released a fairly long time ago but has seen steady updates since then. This means it lacks some clarity in the graphics department, but it more than makes up for this with its other features.
The massive open world map paired with the realistic road layouts makes for a unique and almost endless driving experience. It's perfect for those that just want to drive, drive, and drive some more.
Fun Game Modes
The game provides plenty of gameplay via its extensive career mode that sees you effectively start your own trucking company, ferrying various freight around Europe. The game utilizes realistic road layouts and traffic behavior, and like the first game on our list, you are expected to adhere to the highway code. Everything from turn signals to correct maneuvering is essential in ETS2.
A lot of care has gone into the way Euro Truck Simulator 2 looks, and not just in terms of graphics. The way the roads look and feel is great, while the condensed cityscapes feel like real places. It can take hours of real-world time to arrive at your destination, which is an impressive feat for any simulation game. This can make for some very relaxing gameplay.
Plenty Of Trucks
The base game comes with 17 different trucks from 7 different manufacturers, which gives you plenty of choices. The map is huge, and so there are potentially limitless combinations of trucks and roads to try. This makes Euro Truck Simulator 2 an excellent game for HGV fans, but it is also worth trying if you simply want to explore Europe at a casual pace on your computer screen.
- Huge map makes for hours of gameplay
- Realistic road and city layouts
- Lots of real radio stations included
- Only trucks are available
- Graphics are not the best
Released: 2013 | Platform: PC
Next on our list is BeamNG.drive, which is an open-world driving sim with plenty to offer. The game boasts a soft-body physics engine, which essentially allows for realistic damage modeling. This sets it apart from a lot of driving sims, especially racing sims, where damage is not as important, as the idea is to just not crash the car anyway.
In BeamNG.drive, you are given free rein to destroy the vehicles, and the various in-game scenarios even encourage it. However, it is not just the damage that is realistic, as the driving physics themselves are also highly lifelike. You will be able to feel the difference in weight and control with each car that you drive, making way for nearly endless combinations.
The game’s focus on realism ends there, however, as the main goal is to provide gamers with a fun simulator that shows what can happen when you drive very badly. The encouraged crashing is what makes this game unique, and there is a vast open world to explore with a large number of cars available, making for near endless possibilities.
The focus on fun is what sets BeamNG.drive apart from a lot of driving sims out there. You are sure to spend hours driving around the multiple environments finding new areas and ways in which to crash your favorite cars.
- Large open world
- Realistic damage physics
- A lot of fun
- Graphics and sounds are not realistic
- Focused more on crashing than driving
4. The Crew 2
Released: 2018 | Platform: PC, Xbox One, and PS4
The Crew 2 is not an exclusively free-roam game, as it does have a built-in story mode alongside hundreds of races to play, but it is still on this list for several key reasons. We will focus on the free-roam aspect of the game, however, but bear in mind that if you do want a free-roam game with other game modes to choose from, this could be your best choice.
Massive Map Of The USA
By far the most interesting part about The Crew 2 is its massive free-roam map. The game bases its playing area on the USA, and it does so in a fashion that can mean you are driving for 45 minutes in real time at top speed in a supercar to get from one coast to the other. There are lots of different cities to explore on its continuous map, with plenty of towns in between as well.
Each region is based on the real thing, meaning you can indeed drive from New York to LA, or from Chicago to Miami. There is traffic in the game, but it is definitely not designed to be a driving simulator in the same fashion as City Car Driving or Euro Truck Simulator 2. Nonetheless, the size and realism of the map is enough to make for plenty of fun driving anyway.
Compatibility & Cars
The game is compatible with most steering wheel rigs, which means you can set yourself up for a realistic drive across the country in your dream car or simply see how fast you can go down the highways. There are more than 180 cars to choose from in The Crew 2, with some customization available as well. Each one drives differently from the next, so you have lots to try.
Although the driving physics are not the most realistic, and the game puts a strong focus on racing, you can enjoy The Crew 2 in a free-roam fashion almost endlessly. It presents some beautiful American scenery in a unique fashion, along with a wide range of cars to choose from.
- Massive USA-based map
- Lots of cars to choose from
- Racing game modes available if you want them
- Driving physics are not very realistic
- Always-online requirement to play
5. Forza Horizon 5
Released: 2021 | Platform: PC and Xbox One
Finally, we have Forza Horizon 5. This game is similar to The Crew 2 in the way that it is primarily a racing game, but it also presents a massive map to play on for as long as you like. Forza Horizon 5 does also have other story game modes to try, but the free-roam aspect of this game is obviously what put it on this list, and is also why it is such a popular title.
Huge Mexico Based Map
The amazing thing about Forza Horizon 5 is the detail in the game map. This time you are based in Mexico, and you can drive around real cities and picturesque locations. You can enjoy some truly magnificent scenery in Forza Horizon 5, and so there is nearly endless room for free roaming.
With more than 500 cars to choose from, Forza Horizon 5 has one of the biggest car collections in the driving simulator industry. You can play using any of these cars with your sim racing rig, and so you can go for a casual drive through the Mexican countryside in your favorite supercar, or you can opt for an off-road vehicle instead if that is more your style.
Like The Crew 2, its physics are not up there with the likes of Project Cars 2 and proper simulators such as rFactor. However, the game does offer a fun driving experience and is an ideal choice for beginner sim racers that want to have some fun and explore a massive open world in the process.
- Massive Mexico-based map
- Huge number of cars to choose from
- Compatible with most sim racing rigs
- Not available on PlayStation
- Limited realism in the driving experience
These 5 games each offer varying levels of realism, exploration, and car choices. Most of these games are available on PC, but there are a few options for console as well. The absolute best choice if you’re not interested in any racing is City Car Driving, but Forza Horizon 5 is great if you want the best graphics and the option to do some racing when you feel like it.
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