It used to be that every new system launched with a brace of racing games. The GameCube started with Crazy Taxi, Wave Race: Blue Storm, and XG3: Extreme G Racing. PlayStation 2 had Midnight Club: Street Racing, MotoGP, Ridge Racer V, Smuggler’s Run, and Wild Wild Racing. Xbox got underway with Mad Dash Racing, Project Gotham Racing, and RalliSport Challenge. Xbox 360 launched with three and PlayStation 3 had four. The Wii had three racing games at launch. In this console generation, the Xbox One launched with two racers and PlayStation 4 had one. Wii U launched without a single racing game in the day one line-up. Switch launched with just Fast RMX, a decent racer but is a budget, download-only title. We’re over a year and a half into the lifespan of Nintendo’s latest console and the choice of games for racing fans is pretty slim. So, where are the racing games on Switch?
There are hundreds of games available for Switch and loads more arriving every week. Despite this wealth of titles for the system, there are currently only two titles that would be described as realistic racers.
These are the rather lackluster Gear Club Unlimited and the passable MotoGP 18. You can thicken the field out a bit if you include vehicle-based games with racing elements (like Monster Jam: Crush It!) or 2.5D racers (like the heavily underrated Mantis Burn Racing). I don’t think it can be a hardware limiting issue as both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 had loads of quality racers and Switch is massively more powerful than those. After all, if the Xbox 360 can run the physics system of the Forza franchise then surely Switch can handle something similar if not more advanced.
What we do have an abundance of on Switch are ports of phone games, cheap and cheerful indie Steam titles, and kart racers; quite often they tick more than one of those boxes. Having budget titles is great but sometimes I want to play a really quality, AAA title. I would argue that the only AAA racer currently available on the system is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. MotoGP 18comes close to being AAA but that series has faded over time and the Switch port isn’t particularly great. What the system is really missing are titles like Need for Speed or The Crew. While neither of these games is particularly stunning on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, they are most definitely AAA titles.
Electronic Arts have not really embraced the Switch as other publishers have. The Switch would be a great place to reboot Need for Speed, though. What that franchise needs is a return to the basics. No bells and whistles, just a fun arcade-style racing game. Give us a generic story about a policeman going undercover in the underground racing scene, I don’t mind. Just, please, make it a fun racing game. EA have come close in their last two entries in the series but have ruined them by trying to force extra stuff into them. 2015’s, plainly titled, Need for Speed had some OK racing but they made it always==-online which ruined the experience a lot of the time. 2017’s Need for Speed: Payback was a pretty good game that was ruined by EA’s lust for more money. It wasn’t just that they added loot boxes to a racing game; it was that the entire upgrade system relied on them. If you wanted to customize your car then you had to hope and pray that a loot box would give you the part you need. Heck, if they just put in a normal customization system into that game and do whatever they had to graphically to get it on Switch, I would buy it day one.
There is one developer out there who’s absence from Switch I miss the most. That developer is the racing geniuses at Codemasters. If this British developer decided to port their games over to Switch, then we would have 3-4 AAA racing games on the system straight away. The Switch has been out for less than two years, Codemasters has already released five great racers on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. They are probably best known at the moment for the DiRT franchise and the F1 games. These are truly great racing games and would be warmly welcomed on Switch. It’s not just these titles, though. They have also released a new Micro Machines racer and (the criminally underplayed) ONRUSH. Both of these games could have a lease of new life if they were ported over to Nintendo’s system. Come on Codemasters, join the party on Switch!
For my money, there are currently only two racing games worth my time on Switch. These are Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Mantis Burn Racing. Mario Kart is the premier kart racing game and great for young and old, beginners and experienced racers alike. It’s one of the best-looking games on the system. In fact, I would go as far as saying it’s one of the best-looking racing games of this generation. The art design is second to none and because it doesn’t aim for photo-realism, instead focussing on bright colors and stylised images. In my eyes, it betters many games on the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One because of this. Mantis Burn Racing is a smaller title compared to Mario Kart 8 but is the best top-down racer I have ever played. It looks great, plays better, and is a budget title. VooFoo Studios really knocked it out of the park with this game. I should also say that I have heard good reports of Fast RMX, though I have not yet played it.
The future isn’t completely bleak for racing game fans on Switch. There are a couple of titles which I’ve got my eye on and am hoping for good things. The first is V-Rally 4 from Kylotonn Games. Kylotonn have been home to the WRC games for a few years now and have really improved it over that time to become a great rallying series. This reboot of the V-Rally series has had very mixed reviews on other consoles but I’m still holding out hope for the Switch version.
The next game I have my eye on comes out in just over a week— GRIP: Combat Racings It skews to the side of kart racing as it involves the use of weapons, but it looks like it has more of a focus on the actual racing. The game has had positive reviews as it has made its way through Steam Early Access. Here’s hoping that the full console release brings us a really fun game. 2019 will see the release of Gear Club Unlimited 2 and Super Street: The Game. These games have a lot to prove as I wasn’t a fan of the first Gear Club Unlimited and Super Street was not good when I reviewed it on Xbox One.
Racing games used to be everywhere on consoles. And to some degree, they still are on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. For some reason, though, they just aren’t coming to Switch. I really hope this changes, as I love the genre and being able to play them on the go would be great.