Let’s get this out of the way: CSR 2 is not on this list. Neither is Forza Street, nor any drag racing game.
Yes, you could argue that these are the quintessential mobile racers. The genre was born on mobile, after all. And they’re great, ingeniously retooling the format around the demands of players who frequently only have a single spare digit to play with.
Perhaps we’ll write a list of the best mobile drag racers one day, but for our money they’re not proper racing games. In DG Towers, steering still matters.
And so does variety. We’ve covered everything from graphically breathtaking, mechanically impeccable racers like Real Racing 3 and Gear.Club to Mario Kart Tour and Hill Climb Racing 2, at the other end of the realism spectrum.
As ever, please tell us what we got wrong in the comments below.
The Best Android Racing Games 2021
It’s hard to overstate the impact of Real Racing when developer Firemint unleashed it upon the world way back in 2009. It looked like a console game. It played like a console game. It was mind-blowing. While other studios have mostly caught up, Real Racing 3 remains one of the prettiest and most playable racing games on mobile. It’s free, too.
Gameloft is a curiously divisive studio, with a very long record of mostly solid games that belies its indifferent reputation among mobile game fans. But there’s no arguing with Asphalt 9: Legends. Sure, it’s derivative, but it’s also huge, gorgeous, and lots of fun, taking advantage of the home terrain to beat Need for Speed at its own game.
The latest version of the Rush Rally series is the greatest. It’s fast and furious, it looks stunning, and there’s a whole raft of courses and cars to unlock and play. The game captures the frantic, split-second drama of rallying almost perfectly. And on top of all that it’s a premium release, so what’s not to love?
There are those who would argue that top-down racers are altogether a better fit for mobile. Reckless Racing 3 puts forward a compelling case. This gorgeous and frantic racing game from Pixelbite sees you steering a variety of vehicles around 36 different routes and six different environments. There are 28 vehicles to choose from, a ton of modes and events, and all the powersliding you can eat.
Is Mario Kart Tour the best kart racing game on mobile? Probably not. Nintendo has had a decent stab at making games for smartphones, but you can tell its heart isn’t really in it. Even so, come on, this is Mario Kart. On your phone. And thanks to a series of game-changing updates since launch you can now play it in landscape and against up to seven other players in real time.
Is KartRider Rush+ the best kart racing game on mobile? Yes. Nexon’s contribution to the genre, released last year, is everything you could ask for in a kart racer, with console-quality visuals, tons of modes, over 45 tracks, and regular updates and events. It may not have the branding of Mario Kart Tour, but it has everything else.
Gear.Club arrived on Switch a year after it came out for mobile, and it fits right in on the big screen. This stunning racer from Eden Games boasts fully simulated engines, suspensions, and aerodynamics, slick visuals, and a comprehensive garage system that allows you to upgrade your vehicles “beyond their maximum capacity”. Yep – these cars go up to 11.
Sometimes you just need to do one thing really well, and developer Aquiris absolutely nailed it with Horizon Chase. This classic arcade racer walks a fine line between retro and modern, with a Out Run-esque aesthetic and gameplay style brought up to date with slick, stylish 3D graphics. It’s a joy to behold, and an even greater joy to play. There are 92 tracks, ten cups, 40 cities, and a soundtrack from the guy who wrote the Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge music.
Yet more evidence that your smartphone can do it all, Rebel Racing is another stunning, meaty arcade racer that looks sensational and plays like a dream. Set in a variety of sunny West Coast locations, Rebel Racing sees you tearing around on highways, beaches, mountain tracks, narrow roads, and race tracks, with an Burnout-esque emphasis on arcadey recklessness.
We’ve spent a lot of time banging on about high-end visuals and console-quality presentation in this list. Retro Racing doesn’t possess either, and it doesn’t look like much at first glance. But this flawless slice of top-down racing fun is a challenging and thrilling reminder that all you need is some well-crafted tracks, responsive controls, and perfectly weighted vehicle physics.
Data Wing might just be the most acclaimed title on this list, with an average user rating of 4.8 from over 280,000 reviews. Not bad for a game that doesn’t even look like a racer. Dan Vogt’s stylish modern classic sees you racing a little neon arrowhead against other neon arrowheads in a slick, minimalist, utterly beautiful gameworld. Not all of the 40 levels look like tracks, and you can do unusual stuff like thrusting off walls, but this is a racer through and through, and a brilliant one at that.
If Horizon Chase pays tribute to arcade racers of yore, Final Freeway straight up recreates them. Taking inspiration from Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge 2 and other games of that ilk, it sees you racing a fancy red sports car through a variety of environments, and while it’s not the best or most comprehensive racing game on this list, it is the most authentic recreation of the Commodore Amiga era. A buck well spent.
Dirt Trackin 2 goes deep on a very specific type of NASCAR-style stock car racing, in which you tear around and around a single dusty circuit. It might be dull if it weren’t for the frantic Max Max-esque jostling for position in a crowded pack. This is a simulation with an arcadey feel, featuring five different car models, a career mode, and a mixture of real-world and fictional drivers and tracks.
And now for something completely different. Hill Climb Racing 2 is the only racing game on this list that you play from the side. This vaguely Trials-esque racer is both anarchic and challenging, with races that see you flipping, bouncing, and backflipping through a variety of environments, trying to use the chaotic terrain to your advantage. With tons of vehicle customizations, online multiplayer, weekly activities, and more, Hill Climb Racing 2 is a racing game for people who don’t like racing games.