Whether you’re into motorsports in real life or not, racing video games offer the exhilarating experience of sending luxury cars around tight asphalt turns or dirt tracks in ways you’d never dream of doing out there in the real world. Add a racing wheel and pedals to the mix and things get even more immersive as you suddenly have to drive your vehicle almost exactly as you would a real car.
And with so many great racing games compatible with steering wheels on PS5, Xbox Series S or X and PC, there’s no shortage of excitement, whether you want realistic simulation racing or more frenetic fun driving around open worlds. It’s a significant investment to get a good setup, but it’s worth it if you’re a fan of this type of game.
My current favorite racing wheel is the Thrustmaster T-GT II wheel, which includes a separate tri-pedal pad. It’ll set you back a hefty $800, but its high torque and real-time power feedback mean it offers an extremely realistic racing experience, letting you feel everything from differences in ground texture to tire slip when cornering too fast . It’s sturdy, comfortable to hold, and works on both PS5 and PC.
While you can get a variety of racing frames and stands to play in front of your living room TV, I just propped mine up against my desk, put the pedals on the floor, and played through my existing monitor.
Once you’re set up, you’re ready to race. These are some of the best racing games I’ve found that benefit the most from the added realism of using a set of wheels and pedals.
Available on: PS5, PS4
A PlayStation icon, the latest iteration of Gran Turismo delivers exactly what you’d expect from the series; photorealistic graphics, a fleet of cars to choose from and rigorously modeled real-world racetracks from around the world. The game is stunning and lets you dive deep into the world of car mods and tuning if that’s your thing.
It is best played with a set of wheels and pedals, allowing you to feel exactly like behind the wheel of cars such as McLaren, Aston Martin, Dodge or many others. Of course, it’s not perfect; earning money is slow and, yes, arguably, you can just buy more with in-game microtransactions, as if paying the hefty $70 (£70) price for the game wasn’t already enough.
But if you want to experience tracks like Silverstone or the iconic Nürburgring in pristine detail behind the wheel of some of your favorite cars, GT7 is a no-brainer for PlayStation owners.
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Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox, PC (via Steam)
If you’ve become addicted to Netflix’s Drive To Survive series, then it might be time to make your own foray into the world of F1 racing. F1 22 maintains its formula of putting you behind the wheels of the biggest, most powerful, most expensive race cars on the planet, sending you around real race tracks and challenging you to take the best racing lines.
You can create your own racing team and battle with names like Verstappen, Hamilton, LeClerc and Norris as you progress through the game. The physics feel great with a racing bike (although how they in fact compare to real-life F1 racing, no idea) and despite the often relentless focus on ‘proper’ driving, the game remains fun and pleasantly challenging.
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Available on: Xbox, PC
The Forza Horizon series has been my favorite racing franchise since its launch, and the fifth generation is no exception. Set in Mexico, Horizon 5 maintains the gorgeous open-world landscape, letting you send a huge variety of real-life cars flying down volcanoes, over sand dunes or around sweeping tire-squealing coastal roads.
I completely finished the game on the Xbox Series X using a standard controller, but trying it out with a wheel and pedals was a huge revelation for me. It was more difficult at first, but I quickly fell in love with how much fun it was to actually drive my Bugatti Chiron at top speed around the map or practice my drifting skills in one of the Hoonigan vehicles.
It’s an extremely fun game and worth playing with a racing bike and pedals.
Available on: PC
If Forza Horizon’s attitude is “drive it like you stole it”, then iRacing’s is definitely “drive it like you borrowed it from your boss and your career is over if you get even one scratch on it”. You won’t find any driver assistance, auto-braking or steering guides here, nor any sort of rewind mechanic or even a mini-map of the track you’re on.
Instead, iRacing is all about pure realism, with tracks and physics modeled with brutal accuracy and a focus on real skill and knowledge of the tracks and cars to do well. Unlike the others on this list, iRacing is an online subscription game where progression is achieved by racing in races against real players at specific times of the day. Continuing your journey doesn’t just involve winning; instead, you earn your next license by driving safely, avoiding colliding with other cars or going off the track.
As a result, it’s probably the least “fun” game on this list, but its laser focus on realism means it’s the closest you’ll ever get to actually feeling like you’re behind the wheel of a race car on a track, and so Real-life pro racers are reportedly using iRacing as a training ground.
Available on: PS5, PS4, Xbox, PC
When you want to ditch the smooth asphalt tracks in favor of some rain and mud, Dirt 5 is the game to look to. This rally racer leans less on the hardcore simulation elements of others in the series, instead offering more accessible arcade-style gameplay that I really enjoyed.
The variety of tracks is good, the graphics are stunning and power sliding the numerous vehicle types around rough turns felt great with my steering wheel and pedals. There are driver assist options (which I used because I’m here for fun, not a car physics lesson), but you can adjust them to your needs.
The career mode itself is pretty forgettable, but you’ll keep coming back for fun races and gorgeous settings.
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Available on: PS4, PS5 (backwards compatible), Xbox, PC
I loved that Dirt Rally 2.0 took me back to playing the original Colin McRae Rally on the PS One in 1998. It’s a similar game to be fair, with full length rally courses set in beautiful locations in rally countries like Wales, Greece and New Zealand. Thankfully, the graphics and physics have improved somewhat over the last 25 years, with wonderful visual effects and car controls that react to the environment, weather and vehicle damage.
The tracks are well modeled and making good time means focusing on your driving, making full use of the brake pedal and keeping a close eye on what turns or jumps are ahead. It’s much more of a rally simulation than Dirt 5, but it’s still accessible enough for racing tourists like me to fire up and have endless fun sending your car around tight corners.
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