There are hundreds of game genres, and sim racing is one of the most popular. However, within the broad category of sim racing there exist three individual subcategories, and one of these is made up of what are known as “simcade” games.
A simcade is a racing game that’s in between an arcade game and a racing simulator. The word “Simcade” is a portmanteau of “Simulator” and “Arcade,” which symbolizes the balance that these games try to achieve between fun and realism, putting a focus on playability.
However, in order to fully understand what a simcade game is, you also have to know what it is not. That is where it helps to learn what the other two categories, arcade racing games and racing simulators, involve. Only then will you be able to pick the right game for you.
What Do Racing Games Consist Of?
Before we dive into each category in more detail, let us first consider what a racing game of any kind involves. Knowing what to look for when comparing types of racing games will allow you to make a better decision when considering which game or category is the best for your own preferences, as well as your level of experience and the quality of your sim racing setup.
The first thing that you might want to consider is the visual aspect of any racing game. No matter what genre you go for, the way that the game looks is very important. Over recent years, the quality of the graphics of games of all genres has increased substantially, and some racing games out there look truly incredible. Graphics tend to vary more by game than by category.
Cars & Tracks
The number of tracks and cars in the game might also play an important role when it comes to choosing a racing game. Some games are packed with lots of real car models, while others go for simplicity with fewer options but more customization. The same thing applies when it comes to tracks, as some games contain hundreds of variations of layouts, while others may only have a few.
Finally, you should also consider what kind of playing experience you are looking for. As we go through each category, we will discuss this in more detail, but it is worth mentioning here so that you bear it in mind when reading on. You have to consider whether or not realism is important, or if you are just playing to have fun. This is probably the most important factor to consider.
What Is A Simcade?
A simcade is essentially a racing game that puts no particular focus on fun or realism, but instead tries to find the balance between the two. Lots of the most popular sim racing games fall into this category, and for good reason. Simcade games try to find this balance as it helps to bring a reasonable racing experience to a wider audience. More people want something in between fun and hyper realistic.
The games usually offer players a wide range of vehicles and tracks to choose from, while also giving some adjustability when it comes to performance customization. This means you will most likely find your favourite car on a simcade game and be able to customize things like tire wear and fuel consumption, but not have to worry about too many other options affecting your experience.
Simcade games tend to be compatible with a wide variety of setups too. They can often be played using a controller, but they are also usually optimized reasonably well for basic to more advanced sim racing rigs. This means you will be able to go around the track with your controller or your wheel alongside your pedals, gear shifter and handbrake with reasonable ease.
Note: What exactly constitutes a simcade racing game is a highly contentious subject, so some people may disagree with our picks below. We've tried to pick the ones that best strike the balance between pure arcade fun and realistic racing simulators.
The Best Simcade Racing Games
Some of the big names in the sim racing world, such as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport, are good examples of simcade games. Both of these game series offer plenty of cars and tracks to suit sim racers of all levels of experience.
The games also offer some reasonable room for customization, alongside in-game options for controlling some of the finer aspects of your car. These include things like brake biases and weight distribution, which can help to up the realism factor. However, these games are also designed to be fun and highly playable, and that is why they are good examples of simcade racing games.
There are also genre-specific simcade games, like the F1 series or even the myriad rally sim racers out there. These can seem difficult to get to grips with if you’re used to pure arcade racers in the past, but they do tend to fall short of the kind of experience a true racing simulator can offer.
What Is An Arcade Racer?
Arcade racers are games that put a lot of focus on fun and pay less attention to the realism of the racing experience. This doesn’t mean that arcade racers don’t put any focus on realism in a more general sense, as they do often provide extremely high-quality graphics and realistic car models.
However, they don’t offer realistic driving physics. These games tend to contain plenty of room for progression with career modes and sometimes even story modes. This allows the racer to play the game in order to reach certain milestones or gain achievements.
This adds to the fun factor of these games and makes them more appealing to those that like to play games to escape reality, rather than experience it in a video game setting.
These kinds of games are almost exclusively designed for use with a controller, rather than a full sim racing rig. This makes them easy to play for gamers of all experience levels, while the ones that do support steering wheels and pedal setups can offer a reasonable introduction into the use of these pieces of equipment. However, they offer little in the way of force feedback and control.
The Best Arcade Racers
The range of games included under the term arcade racer varies from the truly fun-focused classics such as Mario Kart and Track Mania to the more intermediate arcade racers that include games in the Need for Speed series. The former are clearly devoted to the fun aspect of racing games, while the latter can involve some truly lifelike visuals – along with fun police chases!
Other games like the Forza Horizon series or The Crew 1 & 2 use a lot of realistic car models and lifelike settings, such as beautiful stretches of countryside and well-crafted cityscapes. They also offer some scope for customization and tuning, but they lack a lot of the realistic driving physics that simcade and simulators offer. They’re often described as CaRPGs instead.
What Is A Racing Simulator?
Racing simulators are games that put their focus on realism at the expense of not usually appealing to the mass market of general gamers. They are fun, often more so than a lot of other types of games due to the high level of immersion, but their true goal is to create a lifelike racing experience.
Their focus on realism extends from the graphics and visuals to the sounds of the cars and the feel of the tracks. Their cars and tracks are often laser scanned to make them even more realistic, and they will usually also offer an element of dynamism with weather and day/night cycles as well. This can make them more challenging for beginner sim racers.
They are often used as tools for real drivers to train with, and so the level of detail in some of these games is immense. They may include hundreds of car tuning options, alongside realistic track dynamism that goes further than simply getting wet in the rain, by emulating the effects of rubber and debris on the track surface, as well as air and track temperatures.
These are some of the finer details that can actually have a negative effect on the fun factor for beginner sim racers, making them hard to get used to. However, for more advanced racers, these are some of the aspects of the games that make them even more enjoyable. They are definitely geared towards more experienced sim racers with top-end racing rigs, and definitely not a controller.
The Best Racing Simulators
The best racing simulators include:
- rFactor 2
- Assetto Corsa
One of the most popular racing simulators is iRacing, which puts a lot of focus on realistic driving physics along with a well-crafted competition system. This usually matches you up with drivers of similar ability, which can make for very lifelike racing conditions. Other options such as Race Room and Assetto Corsa also fall into this category.
The rFactor games are perfect examples of realistic racing simulators, as they are often used by real driving teams to train their racers before sending them onto the real track. They provide a lot of immersion when paired with a high-quality racing rig, and they are good emulators of what the driver and the car go through when racing 50+ laps of a real circuit.
Which kind of racing game is best for you really depends on your level of experience, how much focus you put on fun, and how much you value the realism that these games provide. If you like fun and enjoy sliding around street corners in your favorite touring car, an arcade racer would be the right choice for you.
However, if you have a decent sim racing setup, and you want to put yourself to the test, a racing simulator is definitely worth considering. However, if you want something that sits in the middle of these two, then a simcade is the one to go for.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.