Formula One games are the closest that fans like me can get to a Formula one experience. Most of us will never know what it must be like to sit in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car—flying across the start/finish line towards the first corner at 330 kmph or more. All while knowing that even the smallest of miscalculations will have you hopelessly careening towards the tire wall, with an uncomfortably lightweight chassis the only protection from certain death.
F1 games are usually the entry point for casual motorsports fans into the world of sim racing. They are unlikely to be attracted to serious sim games, but you can be sure that they would reach for the game with Lewis Hamilton on the cover staring back at them.
It’s easy to forget just how many licensed F1 games there have been over the years. Nowadays, you get one main game per year, but that wasn’t always the case. For example, six different official formula one games have the full 2000 season in them. Today we’ll look at some of the best Formula One games ever produced.
If you’re looking for some F1 merchandise, check out the awesome stuff at the official F1 store here.
These are our top 15 Formula One games that are worth trying:
1. F1 2020 – Codemasters (2020)
It may seem unimaginative and predictable to include the most recent formula one game as one of the best, but you can’t deny the fact that F1 2020 finally delivered on what a lot of people have wanted for years in an F1 game.
F1 2019 introduced driver transfers, but its sequel took that feature up a notch with my team career mode. Not only can you design and create your team, pick an engine supplier but also have any driver from that year’s F1 grid or the 2019 formula 2 lineups as your teammate.
The other teams also changed drivers, and they’re forced to have one of those retired, which is possible, meaning after several seasons, you end up with something barely recognizable to real-life F1.
And that’s just a career mode since F1 2020 also has a wide variety of classic cars, short versions of four circuits, some alternate championships with different rules, and improved ERS mode over f1 2019. After years of feeling and minor improvements, some decent ai opponents, and two entire seasons of formula 2 content.
No other game on this list has any junior series representation. There are certain things we’d like to see improved or added to F1 2020, and hopefully, Codemasters carry on the series upward trajectory.
2. Grand Prix 4 – Geoff Crammond (2002)
For many, this is the pinnacle of Formula 1 games, and it’s hard to argue against that. Grand Prix 4 has brilliant driving physics and crash damage, as you would expect from a pc F1 sim game, but it’s the little details that sell this.
The AI drivers make mistakes and how often they do is dependent on the driver in question, as is their aggression. If a driver retires for whatever reason, fully modeled and animated marshals would come out and push the stricken car out of harm’s way.
The game released by Microprose in 2002 featured individual 3d models for each car which completely blew any other F1 game out of the water. It had a weather system enhanced beyond anyone’s belief and a damage model where cars could fail and parts could be broken.
On top of that, there’s a whole range of possible mechanical failures, and you have complete control of your car in the pits. It’s hard to think of another F1 game with that level of focus on realism and attention to the tiniest of details, which is why the Geoff Crammond Grand Prix series is badly missed.
Technology has, of course, come on leaps and bounds since 2002 but its time and the level of immersion this racing game was able to produce makes this one of the best F1 games of all time.
3. Formula One 97 – Bizzare Creations (1997)
Bizzare creations came out of the blocks firing with this game on the PlayStation, and what a game it was. Not only have Bizarre Creations been responsible for producing this beauty, but later on, they also produced the project Gotham, which was also much loved.
Back to Formula 1, not only did it look pretty awesome, but it was accompanied by fantastic-sounding formula one cars and the legendary Murray Walker to go with it. As a kid racing on the Formula One games was great, but the thing that made it was when the likes of Murray would commend me on an amazing overtake for the lead, a feeling that would give me goosebumps.
You can even choose to have random car failures turned on, and it’s entirely possible your car could break down on the final lap of the race. Even visor tear-off strips could be a factor if you played in cockpit camera, and you would have to manually tear one off when your visor got too dirty 11.
It’s also worth quickly acknowledging that this game came out during the heyday of cheat codes in video games, so going back in time to Silverstone in the 1960s or even to a potential future with wipeout-styled cars, both are things you can do in formula 97.
4. F1 Championship Edition – Studio Liverpool (2006)
This was the final game produced by Studio Liverpool before Codemasters took over publishing and developing duties. This was quite some send-off, and it’s all the more impressive considering that this was a launch title for the PlayStation 3 in Europe.
You get a lot of the perks that made the studio Liverpool game so great such as real-life TV graphics, commentary by James Allen and Martin Brundle, as well as a TV mode which meant you could convincingly replicate the experience of watching a real-life Formula 1 race.
Outside of this presentation, there’s the ability to customize the starting grid. Whatever you want in both the above-mentioned tv mode as well as. Formation laps were featured for the very first time, a feature that Codemasters wouldn’t integrate into their series for nearly another decade.
The career mode would force you to start with one of the backmarker teams, and you had to genuinely deliver on track consistently to attract the top teams, whether that be to land a race or a test driver role.
5. Formula One World Grand Prix – Paradigm (1998)
This game was honestly one of the most exciting and enjoyable games I’ve ever played. For fans, what made this game are the amazing graphics compared to the PS1 games at the time and the challenge mode, which gave you a collection of scenarios from the real 1997 season to try and replicate.
Imagine this, you get put into David Coulthard’s McLaren, and you have just four laps to hold on to an amazing victory for the Australian Grand Prix to take McLaren’s first victory in three years. It was quite simply the coolest yet most stressful game mode ever.
Other aspects of the game included an impressive weather system with options for torrential rain, an excellent replay system, and the cars were much easier to control with a Nintendo 64 analog stick instead of a d-pad.
6. rFactor – Image Space Incorporated (ISI) (2005)
As we are doing our top 15 F1 games ever, rFactor has to feature as a fantastic racing Simulator. When it came to realism in 2005, nothing could come close as it took over the reins from the Grand Prix series. The engine itself was the ISI motor 2 engine featured in several official licensed f1 titles before.
Once this game was released, it set a new benchmark for home racing simulation as the tracks were at an outstanding level of detail, and players had to consider tire performance, which hooked F1 fans.
It didn’t stop there either, as the game’s level of detail and accuracy was unreal for its time. Remember, even professional racing drivers of the BMW F1 team used it to sharpen their skills and prepare for race events. To this day, rFactor continues to be used, highlighting the amazing success of the franchise.
7. F1 Challenge 99- 02 – EA Sports (2000)
There’s not much else that needs to be said other than it’s the original rFactor except before that came out. With four years of licensed F1 content, you could get the great driving physics and car damage model we all know and love from rFactor. Along with what was, for the time, great graphics, you were pitted alongside AI that was fun to race against.
Unlike its console counterpart developed by a different company entirely, it didn’t have a proper career mode, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t manually race from the start of the 1999 season up until the end of 2002.
The continued modding support that this game has to this day with almost every f1 season available to download and use is a testament to how ahead of the curve this game was and in many ways still is.
8. Grand Prix Legends – Papyrus (1998)
Grand Prix Legends was released in 1998, and it is still played by thousands of Formula One fans around the world. The game was produced by Papyrus, who is famous primarily for its NASCAR and INDY CAR simulations. The developers dwelled in the history books and made a game centered around the 1967 season inspired by Grand Prix.
With no downforce, no slick tires, and no run-off jobs, this game perfectly captured the difficulty of racing in the 1960s. The level of accuracy Grand Prix Legends goes into is unmatched by many developers even today. If, for example, Graham Hill didn’t race in a specific Grand Prix that year, he won’t in Grand Prix Legends either.
The same goes for the cars and the upgrades, as it perfectly replicates how the teams would develop and replace their cars in 1967. The graphics of the surroundings may be lacking by today’s standards, but one should not forget that this game is over 20 years old. If you were to compare it to F1 98, Grand Prix Legends is miles ahead. GPL’s handling model is still considered one of the toughest and most rewarding to master out of all the racing sims.
Similarly, the damage model is also one of the most realistic, as cars can retire for many reasons, not just collisions and engine failures. Many avid SIM races still clock hundreds of hours into this game, and many modes available make this game a must-play F1 game for fans worldwide.
9. F1 2016 – Codemasters (2016)
Codemasters has been making Formula one games since 2009, and F1 2016 is, without a doubt, amongst its best version yet. The previous two editions were lackluster at best, and the pressure was on for 2016, and they certainly delivered.
The addition of a 10 season long career mode provided a massive injection of context and immersion. The Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car have been added to the game for the first time; this will surely improve your F1 experience.
Manuel starts, manual braking for the pit lane, improved damage model, race preambles, increased race engineer communication, formations laps, detailed telemetry, and a bustling hospitality area in career mode all make this deserving of a top 15 slot.
10. F1 2013 – Codemasters (2013)
F1 2013 was, for its time, the best racing game available. It had introduced many radical features that no other developers had even thought of. For a start, It had some great new offerings in the scenario mode. The scenario mode ranges from using a safety car situation to close the gap on arrival to nursing a broken gearbox past the checkered flag.
It builds on 2012s Champion’s mode by placing your custom driver into 20 testing race challenges. Some challenges even mirror real-life scenarios. These challenges are great fun to compete in, and because each takes no more than a few minutes, you’ll find yourself returning, again and again, to attempt them on harder difficulties.
On top of that, mid-session saving is finally available across all modes, which means you can leave erase at any stage and return to your safe state whenever you want. The classic mode allows you to race in some of the sport’s most famous cars around ventured circuits. It has some very nice era-specific TV graphics, optional color grain, and the voice work by Murray Walker to get a nostalgic feel.
Also, improvements to the lighting and audio design bring each race to life. The cars are more fallible to uncertainties, and handling varies widely depending on how your vehicle is set up and what weather and track conditions are like. The Pirelli tires fall off the cliff in an instant, and managing your rubber is much more engaging than previous editions.
Racing incidents around the track occur more frequently – and if you find yourself involved in one, expect your pit crew to radio immediately with a box box box. All of these little touches combine to make racing an F1 2013 a must-play.
11. Ascetto Corsa – Kunos Simulazioni (2014)
The diversity of content that’s available makes Ascetto Corsa an interesting proposition. When it comes to replicating the ins and outs of the F1 Championships of today and yesteryears, it’s not your ideal one.
But thanks to a vibrant modding community, Ascetto Corsa has been able to produce a wide array of cars from the pre-war era right up to today and even the proposed 2022 cars, and the same goes with circuits.
The core game and its DLC provide for a handful of the current f1 calendar, but you can get 90% of your way to a complete 2021 season with third-party mods. The mods can also improve the graphics, gameplay, and pretty much anything the talented modding scene can turn its mind to.
12. iRacing – iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations (2008)
When it comes to competitive online racing, iRacing is the best. They have the market cornered and for a good reason. Strong physics, great content, and excellent multiplayer online racing make iRacing a potent force in the market.
The F1 cars that are available in iRacing have solid physics, tire models, and immersive gameplay. When you’re driving one of the F1 cars in iRacing, there’s no doubt that you’re getting an engaging, challenging driving experience and the same goes for the circuit side of things.
iRacing has the best selection of high-quality tracks of any sim, and around half of the current f1 circuits are included in glorious laser scan precision, but you’re not likely to see any of the one-offs.
13. F1 2010 – Codemasters (2010)
Now, to be honest here, given this was Codemaster’s first effort on the PS3 and XBOX360, F1 2010 could lay a rather solid base for the foundation to build on. With a brilliant level of personality and presentation featuring agent driver interviews, personalized motorhome, F1 2010 had something that was never seen before.
With an engaging career mode, an option to play split-screen, and an online multiplayer mode, the game created a unique identity for itself. The way that cloud cover, grandstands, and over-hanging track markers are accurately reflected on the car chassis when playing with cockpit view serves to increase the level of immersion.
Though the game was broken with equal car performance making it too easy and curbs made to make every car jump, Codemasters F1 2010 started a lot better than some other sporting franchises did in their initial releases.
14. F1 Mobile Racing – Codemasters (2020)
As you might expect from an F1 game bearing the Codemasters logo, F1 Mobile Racing is an impressive-looking beast. The game features all the official teams and drivers from the 2021 Formula One Season. It tries to bridge the gap between the occasional and the diehard, offering short blast races that you can tailor to your skill level.
The tracks are recreated perfectly, and it also has a real-time multiplayer mode that allows players to have duels with each other. The game is free to play, perfect for fans on the go, and players can even win in-game prizes by beating other players.
As we live in the age of smartphones, the F1 mobile racing perfectly recreates the fun of playing a captivating F1 sim game.
15. F1 Race Stars – Codemasters (2012)
What happens when you combine Super Mario Kart with Formula One. Well, you get F1 race stars. F1 Race Stars is undoubtedly an excellent game, with lots of visual appeals. It is a spin-off from the usual Formula One video games and is the first kart-racing game developed by Codemasters.
In the game, you play as charming caricatures of real-life drivers – the likenesses are strong, and they look as if they’ve been carved from colorful vinyl. Like the F1 season, tracks are set across the globe, from UAE to the USA, Italy to Brazil.
Each one is an endearing condensation of that country’s most iconic landmarks and icons. This is not the ideal game for serious F1 gamers but something every F1 fan should try.
We may not agree on the ranking, but we can all agree that the joy of playing these games is boundless. They have been part of our childhood and remain a crucial part of our love for the sport. With new developments coming in gaming, we can only wonder what the next generation of Formula One games would be like. What are your favorite Formula One games? Let us know