Sim racing is growing in popularity, and it is becoming more accessible for beginners. There is no need to have the best and most expensive setup, and there are plenty of games that provide a great experience without being overly complex. But what are the best racing sims for beginners?
The 5 best sim racing games for beginners are:
These games are a good place for beginners to start in sim racing, but that doesn’t mean they are not good for advanced racers too. However, we will go into each one in more detail below, and you will hopefully be able to make an informed decision as to which one is right for you whatever your experience level.
What To Look For In A Beginner Racing Sim
There are lots of different things to consider when choosing a sim racing game, even if you are a beginner. The most important when choosing one of your first sim racing games is playability. This is not a measure of how easy the game is to play, but, rather, how easy it is to setup and use as a sim racer.
Some racing sims out there are very advanced and require extensive setup to be able to be used properly. This is not ideal for beginners who want to focus on the racing and the fun side of things. This brings us onto the idea of fun factor, as this is something that beginners will put a lot of focus on. If the game is not designed to be fun, you won’t want to play it.
Next up we have the difficulty level. As a beginner, we assume that you have limited skill when it comes to sim racing. This means you will want to go for a game that allows for lower difficulty levels, be that in terms of AI that you are racing against or features such as force feedback. Obviously as you progress as a racer, you will want more variation in the available difficulties too.
You also need the game to be compatible with your chosen platform. A lot of beginners start out on console. Therefore, if you are on either PS4 or Xbox One, you will want to make sure that you pick a game that is compatible with whichever one you are on. Most of the options we have selected below are compatible with both, with the others being compatible with at least one of those consoles.
That is not to say that you can’t start out on PC, as in fact many do. However, consoles appear to be more widely used in the beginner sim racing world, and PCs tend to be much more expensive. Price, though, will rarely play a part in the decision as to which game to go for, as most are similarly priced or can be bought second hand very cheaply.
Realism vs Playability
You may wish to also consider the realism of the game, as some of the available options offer extremely realistic playing conditions. This ties in with the difficulty level, however, as the more realistic the game then generally the more skill required to race well on that game. With that said, the options on our list are still very realistic by most standards, while still being very playable.
Other features that you may want to consider include the graphics and the sounds. For any game to qualify as a good choice for beginners it needs to look and sound great too. You may also want to pay attention to the game modes on offer, such as multiplayer to play with your friends, and story or career modes if you like an element of progression.
Now that you know what to look for in a good sim racing game, what sort of setup do you need to get started?
Beginner Sim Racing Setup
You definitely do not need the most expensive setup in order to get started with sim racing. You can get by with simply a game pad if you really want to. However, at some point you will want more immersion, and in order to get the most out of the games we have listed below, there are a few minimums that we recommend you sort out first.
Just The Essentials
The two main things you will need to get the best start possible are a steering wheel and a set of pedals. These are the fundamental components of any sim racing rig and are usually the first items people buy. You can find some relatively cheap gear and belt-driven wheels on the market, and then a potentiometer or even a set of load cell pedals can cost under $500 (but you don’t need to spend this much).
Other components to consider include a decent console or PC setup, as well as a good screen with a high refresh rate and resolution. You will also want to invest in a comfortable chair, but in terms of extra peripherals you really don’t need to bother. You can add in handbrakes and gear shifters once you start to get the hang of things.
The 5 Best Sim Racing Games For Beginners
1. Project Cars 2
Released: September 2017; Platform: PC, Xbox One & PS4
Project Cars 2 was released in late 2017 and is renowned for being the most popular racing sim for both PC and console. The game balances a lot of playability with plenty of realism and is thus a favorite of beginners and advanced racers alike. This game has featured on a few of our lists of the best sims, and for very good reason.
Plenty Of Game Modes
First of all, let’s talk about the game modes. There are a few different gamer modes to choose from, and these allow you to play the game the way that you want to play it. If you are looking for a progressive game mode, then the career mode is the right choice for you. Being able to play and progress through championships in different racing disciplines gives plenty of variety to new players.
If you would rather play with your friends or other people from across the world, then you can make use of the multiplayer game mode instead. There are various disciplines, as we have said above, and these include things like open wheel racing and rally racing as well. This is ideal, as it gives beginners a chance to try out some new driving styles in different cars.
Lots Of Cars & Tracks
Speaking of cars, there are over 180 vehicles to choose from, and they are all accurate models of the real thing. You can use these cars on the 140+ tracks available for the game, which cover 60 different locations. These tracks can also be played under different conditions, with the dynamic weather option bringing even more variety to the game.
Overall, Project Cars 2 offers a great all-round game for both beginners and advanced racers alike. For beginners, it is the perfect option if you are looking for something that is highly compatible with both platforms and peripherals like a steering wheel, as well as a lot of realism. Without being too complicated, PC2 gives beginners a good look at the potential of sim racing.
- Very realistic gameplay
- Beginner friendly
- Lots of cars, tracks and game modes
- Not the best multiplayer game mode
2. Gran Turismo Sport
Released: October 2017; Platform: PS4
Gran Turismo Sport is a PS4 exclusive game, which is another very realistic racing sim without being overly complex. The game is supported by motor racing’s governing body, the FIA, and so is renowned for its competitive aspects. As it is a PS4 exclusive, this game is obviously not an option for beginners on other consoles or on PC.
Although not very platform compatible, the game has plenty of different racing setups, from entry-level all the way through to some very advanced rigs. There are plenty of different game modes to try in GT Sport, ranging from different time trial-style modes through a career mode, as well as multiplayer.
For beginners looking for a bit more competition, you can take advantage of the FIA backing in all of its competitive multiplayer modes. There are daily races that you can take part in, and these come in various different forms, where you will be pitted against opponents of a similar skill level to you. This makes the game very beginner friendly, as you won’t be placed against top players.
Lots Of Variety
There are more than 320 cars to choose from in GT Sport, which can be used on more than 80 different track layouts. The realism of the game is up there with some of the best racing simulators on the market, but once again you do not need to be a very skilled player to get the hang of the racing experience. Using the time trials and daily races are great ways to improve too.
One of the selling points of Gran Turismo Sport is its compatibility with VR. Although probably not a necessity for beginners, it is still a nice feature to have in any sim racing game. With all of the vehicles and tracks to choose from, along with the realism and ease of use, GT Sport is a great game for beginners that gives a good taste of the competitive side of sim racing.
- Great competitive racing sim
- Lots of cars and tracks
- Realistic but not too complex
- Only on PS4
- Career mode is not very structured
3. Assetto Corsa
Released: December 2014 (PC) and August 2016 (Xbox One & PS4); Platform: PC, Xbox One & PS4
Next on our list is Assetto Corsa. This is a game that is very popular on PC but is also available on consoles too. It features plenty of different game modes to play and a good variation of cars as well. Like most sims, there are plenty of different settings to play around with to customize your experience, but beginners will not need to worry too much about these.
Different Game Modes
When it comes to choosing a game mode in Assetto Corsa, you have a lot of choice. There is a good campaign mode, which allows you to enjoy an aspect of progression whilst also improving your skills as a racer. There are also custom championships that you can create, as well as the usual game types such as time trials and various other arcade-style game modes.
Assetto Corsa is one of those racing sims that is designed to bridge the gap between a fun arcade game and a high-quality racing simulator. These games are often called simcade games, and Assetto Corsa is one of the best on the market. It provides a good balance of fun with a high level of realism and detail that gives you a real sense of speed and immersion when playing.
Fun & Realistic
There are more than 175 cars to choose from in Assetto Corsa, and plenty of different tracks to try out as well. With such variety, beginners will have lots of different combinations to try to allow them to find what works best for their specific driving style. Compatible with most peripherals, and offering a good balance of fun and immersion, Assetto Corsa takes the number 3 spot on our list.
- Good balance of fun and realism
- Decent selection of cars and tracks
- Available on most platforms
- Multiplayer is not well designed
4. Dirt Rally 2.0
Released: February 2019; Platform: PC, Xbox One & PS4
Dirt Rally 2.0 is the latest in Codemasters’ famous rally series. Designed to give players a realistic take on one of the world’s most exciting motorsports, it does a good job of making things easy enough for beginners but challenging enough for those with a bit more skill. The game looks great, and it sounds brilliant too, making for a very fun playing experience.
Plenty Of Rally Cars
In terms of cars and tracks, there is a decent selection that will keep beginners entertained. There are around 80 vehicles to choose from, which is impressive for a discipline-specific racing sim. When it comes to tracks, there are lots of variations of 26 real-life locations to try. You will be able to have hours of fun trying out different combinations of cars and courses.
When it comes to realism, Dirt Rally 2.0 does a good job of making sure it feels real when used with a steering wheel and pedal setup, whilst also allowing the game to be very playable on a gamepad. As usual you will need at least a basic racing rig in order to get the most out of this game, but if you are an absolute beginner, without a setup, it is still a lot of fun.
There are plenty of settings to play around with in Dirt Rally 2.0, but you don’t need to mess around with too many of them in order to have a good, realistic playing experience. There are various game modes. Although the point-to-point rally courses don’t make for the most exciting multiplayer experiences, the rallycross tracks are a lot of fun with friends.
Not Just For Rally Fans
Overall, Dirt Rally 2.0 provides the ideal gaming experience for players of any experience level, as it even performs as a good simulator for advanced racers. If you are a fan of rally racing and have never tried a racing sim before, this is the perfect game to go for. Even if you are not a rally superfan, it is definitely worth trying it out.
- Decent selection of cars and tracks
- Very beginner friendly
- Realistic rally simulator
- Rally discipline only
5. F1 2019
Released: June 2019; Platform: PC, Xbox One & PS4
Fully Licensed F1 Fun
Finally, we have F1 2019. This is another discipline-specific game, but not just for fans of F1. If you are a motorsport fan then, yes, you will definitely enjoy this game. However, even if you have never watched an F1 race in your life, this game still has a lot to offer. There are lots of fully licensed cars and tracks to choose from, making for some very varied gameplay.
F1 2019 provides a realistic take on one of, if not the most, exciting motorsports and it does so whilst still making it very accessible to those who have never played a racing game before. Playing well on both a wheel and on a controller, you will have no trouble at all getting to grips with the controls and the gameplay dynamics of this racer.
When it comes to different game modes, there is plenty of variation to keep even veteran players occupied for hours. There is a new addition of the Formula 2 series too, which allows you to try out the lower division in the open wheel discipline for something a little bit different. Then of course there is the story mode, which takes you through your very own F1 season.
The gameplay of this title is very intuitive, and it won’t take long for you to start recording fastest laps and winning championships. Even if you are not a fan of open wheel racing, F1 2019 is still a really good choice if you are looking for a realistic but easy-to-play sim with a lot of variety to offer, and of course one that pays attention to the all-important fun factor.
- Realistic take on Formula 1
- Good progressive career mode
- Decent selection of cars and tracks
- Multiplayer not the most optimized
- Only Formula racing available
Although these are our favorite sim racing games for beginners, there are still plenty of other options out there on the market that we would deem suitable for those who have never picked up a controller or set up a wheel and pedals. These games, although not quite as good as our selection, are still very sound options if you are looking for somewhere to start.
The first game that we would recommend as an alternative to the ones above is Forza Motorsport 7. The Forza series is well known for offering reasonable simcade type racing games, usually with a focus on fun and multiplayer capabilities. It should be noted that this game is only available on Microsoft Windows and Xbox One, but if you have one of those platforms it is a good choice.
The game offers a massive selection of cars, totaling more than 700. This may be overwhelming for beginners if you don’t know where to start, but it does mean that you have a huge amount of choice. There are 30 locations, each with different layouts, and so there is a vast number of potential combinations of tracks and vehicles.
Another game you may wish to try is Grid. This game is compatible with Windows, Xbox One, PS4 and even Google Stadia, and presents a more arcade style of racing game that is very beginner friendly. There are lots of game modes that you can enjoy, and the game works brilliantly on a controller and fairly well with a rig setup.
One of the defining factors about this game is the way the AI works. They are designed to change their behavior depending on how you interact with them. Thus, if you drive dangerously, they are more likely to get aggressive towards you. This adds an element of challenge within the game to try and improve your race craft.
These two games are good choices if you don’t fancy any of the beginner-friendly options we gave above, but what about the next step up? Below, we will list a few of the more advanced games that you might consider trying once you have built up some more experience and are ready to take on something a little bit more challenging.
The Next Step Up
All of the beginner options we listed above offer a good balance between realism and fun. However, there are a few very realistic options that, although still fun to play, put more of a focus in the game on simulating what it is actually like to drive the cars. These options offer a lot of setup and customization, and they can be overwhelming for beginners.
One of these options is rFactor 2. This is a game that is designed to be a simulator and is used as a training aid by actual race car drivers before they go out on the track to race for real. With excellent driving physics and a huge amount of customization, this is the kind of simulator you would go for if you had a fair amount of experience. It is not one you would play with a gamepad.
iRacing is another racing simulator, and it again is sometimes used by real race car drivers to hone their skills and get a feel for certain cars and tracks. It is a subscription-based game, and there are plenty of regular competitions held across the world where the winners earn actual cash. With extremely realistic gameplay, and a high level of competition, Racing is for the more experienced racer.
As we have said, these games are shooting for maximum realism and therefore function as excellent simulators, but they are not as accessible for beginners. This is why we didn’t include them on our list, but if you want to know more about these games you can check out our list of the most realistic sim racing games on the market.
There are plenty of different sim racing options out there on the market, but not all are great choices for beginners. There are some key things to look out for when choosing your first sim racing game, and these can make or break your experience. Knowing what the key things are will allow you to make an informed decision as to which one to go for first.
If you are an absolute beginner, then there are some games such as Grid and Forza Motorsport 7 which will offer a reasonable racing experience. However, Project Cars 2 and Assetto Corsa, as well as Gran Turismo Sport, will provide more realistic, but still fun, alternatives. If you are looking for discipline-specific sims, then Dirt Rally 2.0 and F1 2019 are your best options.