Gaming in general is getting pretty expensive these days, especially if you start diving deep into sim racing and all the associated gear. However, it doesn’t have to break your wallet - there’s a plethora of free racers from hardcore sims to full-blown arcade games to sink your teeth into.
We’ve picked out our favourites, ranging from PC simulators down to the most casual of mobile games and everything in between.
1. Copa Petrobras de Marcas
Copa Petrobras de Marcas is the creation of Reiza Studios that brings Brazilian racing to the PC, allowing you to compete under licensed manufacturers across some of Brazil’s most impressive race tracks. Here’s a free sim that doesn’t skimp on handling and customisation options.
Just for the sheer quirkiness, Copa Petrobras de Marca has appeal - but there’s a genuinely good appeal in this sim-focused title. Effectively an advert for oil company Petrobras, the game is full of licence Brazilian trace tracks and a whole host of touring cars for you to go wheel-to-wheel with. Granted, it’s best played with a wheel and locks you to cockpit view, but it’s a great and unusual taste of South American motorsport.
2. CarX Drift Racing 2
Mobile racing games can often be one-dimensional - usually with side-scrolling button tapping or strategy games masquerading as a racing game. However, CarX Drift Racing 2 is a bonafide drifting simulator and quite a good one at that. Cars aren’t licenced (though it doesn’t take an expert to tell what they’re mimicking) but the handling is convincing. There’s a paid-for console and PC version too, though the mobile take isn’t that far from as polished - and supports Bluetooth controllers.
Trackmania has a special place in our hearts. The old-school among us may remember Nations Forever as the go-to, free-to-play choice for an arcadey time trial fix. Well, Trackmania is here essentially as a remastered and upgraded version of our beloved. It captures the spirit of the original, but with better graphics and more platforms to play on (as well as PC, it’s on Xbox and PlayStation)
Get Trackmania here
4. RaceRoom Racing Experience
RaceRoom is free to play, to begin with at least, though we’ll note early you’ll have to pay for access to the vast majority of content. That said, as an entry point to sim racing, it’s a good place to start - with excellent driving physics and year-round competitive multiplayer events. It’s a bit like iRacing for those strapped for cash.
5. Hutch Top Drives
Top Drives is similar to Top Trumps, but the aim of the game is to collect the different car cards and race them either online or against the AI on your mobile. The game features over 1600 officially licensed cars for you to collect and race, from Bugatti and Pagani to Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and even Caterham. You’ll be able to put your cars to the test in a range of different racing environments, such as drag races, circuits or hill climbs, and it’s free to download on your mobile. Hutch Top Drives will satisfy your inner car collector and can be played anywhere you bring your phone.
6. Extreme Off-Road Cars 2
With nine off-road trails to compete on and five cars that you can choose from, Extreme Off-Road Cars 2 presents a true test of your technical driving abilities and invokes creative manoeuvres. It’s played directly from your browser, so you can jump straight from Facebook or whatever and into a Bowler-tuned Range Rover. From there, feel free to begin your ascent to the summit of a set of very questionable hills.
7. Death Rally Classic
This game is modelled around the basic principle of competing in championships to earn points and win prizes like many of the games here, except for one lethal rule: your opponents can pelt you with bullets throughout the races. This brutal twist, paired with the charming throwback graphics mean that Death Rally Classic offers hours of fun at no cost to you whatsoever.
8. Asphalt 9: Legends
Asphalt games have been consistently among the best mobile racers out there, and Asphalt 9: Legends continues that trend. The arcade-focused racer is a bit like a mix of Outrun mixed with Need For Speed, offering very drift-heavy racing and a variety of licenced and customisable cars. It’s free-to-play on mobile, Xbox and PC - though does come with the caveat of microtransactions laced through. That said, you don’t have to spend a penny to have fun with it.
9. CSR 2
Drag racing games are among the most common forms of mobile racers, but none do it better than CSR 2. It’s packed with real-world cars, a variety of permanent and limited-time challenges plus even competitive online multiplayer. The gameplay is simple - requiring you to time a launch and gear changes right - but very addictive too.
10. Real Racing 3
If you’re looking for a taste of Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport on your mobile, Real Racing 3 is your best bet. Developed by EA, it’s a racer with a much heavier simulation focus than any mobile game has a right to be - plus the graphics are impressive too. As well as using touchscreen controls, the game even supports Bluetooth controllers and the physics are convincing. It’s a fun and accessible way into simulation racing, and all for free.