Drifting in real life can quickly get expensive, especially once the bug bites and you want to spend every waking minute destroying rubber mercilessly. Thankfully, for those times when you can’t just jump in a drift car and lay down some lines, there are plenty of racing video games out there to help you get your drifting fix. Now all racing games aren't necessarily great for drifting, so I’ve rounded up my pick of the bunch. If there are any you think I should have included, let me know in the comments section below…
Generally speaking there are two types of racing video game – arcade and simulation, with varying degrees of realism in-between. As the name implies, simulation games tend to take a bit more time, energy and mental investment in learning and mastering drifting in them but the satisfaction from getting it right is fantastic, and can actually improve your real-life drifting. In fact, many pro drifters today drift digitally in their spare time to keep their eye in. Arcade racers, on the other hand, are focused on you being able to pick up a control pad and start sliding within minutes, so are ideal for a lazy Sunday afternoon in front of the TV. Whatever your choice, there’s something for you in this list. So switch on your computer or console, grab your pad or wheel and ready your thumbs for some sideways action – here are my top picks for video games to drift in, in no particular order…
Considered by many to be the number one game for drift realism. If you’re a PC gamer with a racing wheel and pedals, then Assetto Corsa is your jam. The physics are uber-realistic and, thanks to a huge online community, there are plenty of user-created tracks as well as classic Japanese circuits like Nikko, Meihan and Ebisu, plenty of JDM drift cars and drift ‘mods’ that make the game a joy to play. The title was recently released on Playstation 4 and Xbox One too, and while it’s still fun, the modding community can’t fettle with the console versions like it can the PC game, so you won’t get the full AC drift experience.
The Xbox’s premier racing series might not be up there in terms of all-out realism with some of the more simulation-based PC racers, but if you’re a console gamer who wants to get your drift on then it’s a pretty good option for pick-up-and-play sideways action. With a huge selection of circuits, cars and tuning options there’s plenty to get your teeth into. Many will say that Forza Motorsport 4 was the pinnacle of the series’ drifting physics (plus, it had the legendary Fujimi Kaido touge hillclimb), but there’s still plenty of ways to get sideways on the latest version, Forza Motorsport 6.
No list of racing games would be complete without the daddy, the original, the most iconic console racer there ever was – Gran Turismo. My choice of the series for drifting is Gran Turismo 2 – not only is it a great retro title for sliding around on, but it’s the game that served as a educator towards JDM makes and models more than anything else for me. Gran Turismo 2 taught me all about drift classics such as the Silvia PS13, the Mazda RX-7 FC3S and the Silvia S15 Spec-R Aero. The game also features a nice selection of circuits and plenty of tuning options. Good times, good times indeed.
Much like Assetto Corsa, RFactor is a full-on racing simulator that’s been designed to be modded by PC gamers. Expect to find all your favourite tracks and cars available for download, as well as mods that make the drift element in the game more realistic. You really need a good racing wheel and pedal setup to take advantage of RFactor, but it’s worth the investment – there’s a large community of online drift fans to tandem with and improve your skills.
Race driver: grid
From the same team that brought us the legendary TOCA Touring Cars, GRID is a frantic, tyre-screeching, gear mashing, rev screaming interpretation of virtual motor racing. Few games have captured what it's like to be inside a drift car as well as GRID did. With the camera shake to the smoke, the noise and disorientation, you simply have to play GRID in first-person mode. The game even has drift competitions, complete with overly-excited Japanese commentary and proper licensed D1GP drift cars, liveries and all. The handling is very arcade-like, but it's still well worth picking up.
Forza Horizon 3
What Forza Motorsport is to racetracks, Forza Horizon is to the streets. The Horizon series features more arcade-like handling compared to the Motorsport series, but there’s no denying the fun that’s to be had #drifting in Horizon. The latest game, Forza Horizon 3, is set in Australia, and with everything from mountain roads to the outback and ocean vistas to slide through, along with Forza’s huge selection of cars and modifications, and a huge online community, there’s plenty of tandem fun to be had.
Need For Speed
Quite possibly the most gorgeous racing game to date, the latest installment in the long-standing Need For Speed series will have you questioning what’s CGI and what’s video footage. Tuning options are extensive, to say the least, with everything from wheels to bodykits and engine swaps at your fingertips. The game is backed by a host of official industry brands and ambassadors and, as you’d expect from a NFS game, it’s all set out on the gritty city streets. Handling is on the arcadey side, but that doesn’t detract from the fun – this is an easy to pick up, fun to play title that you should definitely take for a spin.
Live For Speed
Yet another PC-only racing simulator, Live For Speed isn't as well known as it should be, but paved the way for the likes of Assetto Corsa and the original RFactor game. There are only a limited number of fictional cars and circuits in the game, but the track editor allows you to configure your own layouts with cones in an autocross stylie. The graphics and sounds are a bit basic, but the physics are very good, and there’s a large online #drift community too.
CarX Drift Racing
If you prefer to do your #gaming using only your thumbs then iOS and Android-owning drift fans should pick up CarX Drift Racing from their relevant app store. While there are racing modes available, we don’t really care about all of that and, as the name of the game implies, it’s all about the drifting. The physics, although slightly arcadey, easily rival some of the console-based efforts, and they’re perfectly matched to the action of steering by tilting your phone. An online mode lets you drift in tandem against other racer’s ghosts too. There’s a large range of cars available, all of which look suspiciously like real-world models but are named otherwise, as well as a range of tuning options and a new ‘ultimate’ tuning model that lets the technically-minded tweak everything from suspension height to steering Ackerman angle.