Do You Need A Shifter For Sim Racing? (The Truth)

When building your sim racing rig, be it your first or your fifth, there are some parts that are just essential. But beyond a seat, wheel, and pedals, some may wonder if they really need much more. One often debated question is whether you need a shifter for sim racing.

You don’t need a shifter for sim racing, but it can be vital for the immersion with some racing styles, and very useful in general. For games where the real life version of the car has paddle shifters, a manual gear shifter won’t be important, but for other racing games it may be essential.

If you prefer rally sims or sports car and classic car racing, a gear shifter can be the most important tool you have to get the power where you need it and when, but for others it might not be that useful. Below, we provide everything you need to know to decide if you should buy a gear shifter.

Is A Gear Shifter Necessary For Sim Racing?

A gear shifter is not an absolute necessity for sim racing, but it can help improve your skills and lap times. Plus, some types of racing are far more difficult without a shifter. Rally and vintage car racing are almost impossible without some way to go between distant gears quickly.

But when it comes to Formula 1 or touring car championships, a sequential or gated shifter is not needed, because these types of cars are designed to use paddle shifters instead. The same goes for many modern sports cars or supercars, where the paddles are mounted to the wheel, and thus a stand-alone shifter is not needed for immersion or success.

Luxury Or Necessity?

Some sim racers view shifters as luxuries – something that is not needed for what they do but would be nice to have. And while not everyone needs one, almost anyone can make use of a shifter in some capacity, if for nothing else than to try out a new game or game mode you may have overlooked at some point.

But even for games that really benefit from a shifter in the immersion department, like rally racing for example, it’s not absolutely essential to invest in a shifter. It’s always worth considering your budget, and whether spending your money on another part of your setup would be more worth it in the long run.

What Sim Racing Games Benefit From A Shifter?

Sim racing games that benefit from a shifter include:

  • DiRT Rally 2.0
  • iRacing
  • Gran Turismo 7
  • Anything with classic cars

There are several sim racing games that benefit from having a shifter attached, due to the style of driving in those games. Titles such as DiRT Rally 2.0 and Gran Turismo 7, which feature a wide range of cars from all over motorsports, make great use of shifters. A sequential or H-pattern shifter greatly improves immersion when you’re driving a car that has that type of shifter in real life.

You can also use a stand-alone or plug-in shifter in games that don’t feature cars that use them, but often times you will want to keep both hands on the wheel, like in the case of Formula 1 or in cars that have paddle shifters from the factory. A shifter can also be a gateway to other types for vehicles or racing events for players who focus on F1 or touring car championships.

Which Type Of Shifter Is Best For Sim Racing?


This type of shifter is what most people think of when you say shifter. The gears are laid out in an H-shaped pattern and are used in some road and drift cars, older vehicles, and classic racing cars. These are the de facto manual option for drivers who need to change gears frequently, or skip gears – i.e. 4th to 2nd, or 1st to 3rd to 5th etc.


Sequential shifters mimic modern rally and rally-cross transmissions and are also used in NASCAR and trophy trucks. Sequential shifters go through gears in order and operate by a simple lever press – forward for gear down, back for gear up, or vice-versa depending on the setup.

Paddle Shifters

Paddle Shifters are likely the type of shifter that your sim racing kit came with. Due to their ease of use, and how easy they are to implement. These types of shifters really shine in Formula 1 or any modern racing car style, like touring cars and most modern sports cars. Paddle shifters are great for making quick gear changes, and you can use them while turning the wheel.

The 4 Best Shifters For Sim Racing Beginners

1. Fanatec Clubsport SQ V1.5 Shifter

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One of the most premium shifters available, this peripheral was designed to replicate the feel of a Porsche 911. It is made entirely of metal which offers a top-shelf driving experience. This shifter is compatible with PC and consoles if using a Fanatec wheelbase, and it can be used as a sequential or H-pattern shifter.

2. Thrustmaster TH8A

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Constructed of aluminum, this shifter can be set to sequential or H-pattern, and it has an excellent feel while driving. While this shifter can be used with any wheel on PC, you will need a compatible wheelbase on consoles, as it only works with the Thrustmaster T500RS, Ferrari F1 Wheel Integral T500, T300RS and T300 Ferrari GTE (PlayStation) and the TX Racing Wheel (Xbox).

3. SSH Newt

A cheaper stand-alone product, this shifter uses an innovative method to switch between sequential and H-pattern. The SSH Newt is compatible with most non-Logitech wheelbases using the DriveHub software. This product also offers lots of customizability with different color bases and brackets, while still offering a reliable, solid product at a price point that won’t break the bank.

4. Logitech Driving Force Shifter

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While this may be the lowest priced option, the Logitech Driving Force Shifter holds up well and performs its job as it should. This shifter is one of the few that is solely an H-pattern style and is specifically designed to work with Logitech’s suite of racing peripherals. This shifter is made mostly of plastic and faux leather, which offers a solid feel, but still feels a bit like a controller as opposed to part of a car.

Do You Need A Clutch Pedal To Use A Sim Racing Shifter?

You will need a clutch pedal for the best in-game performance and immersion if you’re using an H-pattern shifter, even though it may not be essential. But if you plan on using a sequential shifter, or the paddle shifter on your racing wheel, then you will not need a clutch.

If you’re using a dedicated H-pattern gear shifter as part of your sim racing setup, you likely want the full, immersive experience. For that reason, it’s quite key to also have a clutch pedal, as otherwise shifting gears won’t be truly as it would be in a real car. For sequential shifters you may not need one, and you don’t need one for paddle shifters.

Final Thoughts

You do not need a shifter for sim racing, but they can add to the immersion and improve your overall racing experience. A proper sim racing shifter can be very useful in rally games and any other sim racers in which you drive a car that normally has an H-pattern or sequential shifter.