NASCAR Video Games: Power Ranking the Top 25 Driving Games Ever

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2011

NASCAR Video Games: Power Ranking the Top 25 Driving Games Ever

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    The evolution of NASCAR video games since the original one, Richard Petty's Talladega, was released in 1985, has been extraordinary. Driving games have gone from very basic to extremely complex over the past 26 years.

    The quality of NASCAR games has begun to slip over the past couple years after Electronic Arts decided not the renew its contract to create the game after releasing NASCAR 09.

    That is not surprising, however, because any company that agrees to a contract must create the game from scratch. EA had the base setup for the game ready each year and just added to it.

    Eutechnyx is the most recent developer to produce a new game, releasing NASCAR The Game: 2011 earlier this year. It garnered mixed reviews.

    Here is a list of the 25 best NASCAR video games ever created.

25. NASCAR The Game: 2011

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Eutechnyx

    Available on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii

    Positives: NASCAR The Game: 2011 does an excellent job with its damage features. Whether it be the realistic crashes or the resulting debris on the track, it is well programmed. It also has a spotter feature, which helps guide the driver throughout the race.

    Negatives: Although the damage is the best part of the game, many gamers think that accidents occur too frequently throughout the race. It has the tendency to ruin the flow of the game. Also, some of the drivers in the game, such as Danica Patrick, have never actually competed in Sprint Cup.

    Being the first year that Eutechnyx made the game, improvement is almost guaranteed moving forward.

24. NASCAR Racing (1994)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Papyrus Design Group

    Available on: MS-DOS, Macintosh, PlayStation

    Positives: NASCAR Racing had fields as large as 38 and nine of the tracks run during the previous season. There were some very realistic features, such as engine failures, that made the game more enjoyable. It was also the first game to include several real-life drivers in the game.

    Negatives: Although it did have real drivers, it didn't include some of the biggest faces of NASCAR, the most noteworthy omission being Dale Earnhardt. Also, a NASCAR game can't be considered complete unless it includes Daytona International Speedway, which this game did not.

23. NASCAR Revolution (1999)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Stormfront Studios

    Available on: PC

    Positives: NASCAR Revolution included some of the sport's biggest names, most notably Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon. It also has a lot of different options when it comes to tracks and car features. The graphics were also above par for the time period.

    Negatives: Keeping control of the car in the game was always a monumental task. It seemed like there was layer of ice on the track for the entire race. Limiting the game to PCs, which often struggled with the animations, also hurt the game.

22. Days of Thunder (1990)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Beam Software & Argonaut Software

    Available on: Many platforms

    Positives: Based partly on the movie of the same name, Days of Thunder was the second NASCAR game released. It came at a time when racing fans had just one game available to them and it broke the drought. Following its release, NASCAR games became common place.

    Negatives: The graphics appeared to be straight from the Stone Age, even for this period of time. The options were limited and if it weren't for the long drought it broke, it probably would have been widely avoided.

21. NASCAR 98

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: PlayStation & Sega Saturn

    Positives: The graphics in NASCAR 98 were a step up from the prior attempts to create a NASCAR game. There were also ample options available when it came to setting up your car prior to a race. EA Sports also came out with a collector's edition, that had some bonus features.

    Negatives: This was EA's first attempt at a NASCAR video game and it showed. The game didn't have much polish and there were still some bugs that were evident. The game had just 12 tracks and could have benefited from about a half-dozen more.

20. NASCAR 99

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: PlayStation & Nintendo 64

    Positives: Much like its predecessor, NASCAR 99 had graphics that set it apart from its competitors. It had most of the big names in racing at the time and provided a pretty realistic set of cars. Most of the obvious errors from the previous year were fixed.

    Negatives: After setting up the base for the first year's game, a much bigger improvement was expected when the new version came out. However, many people were disappointed, as the amount of changes and upgrades were minimal.

19. NASCAR SimRacing (2005)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: PC

    Positives: NASCAR SimRacing had a very high amount of real drivers, not only from the highest NASCAR level, but from the Busch Series and Truck Series as well. The graphics were consistent and didn't break up like many previous PC games.

    Negatives: The biggest problem with the game was involving cautions. Whenever a car would pass another one under caution, they would be disqualified. Unlike most other computer game glitches, a patch was never released to fix the problem.

18. NASCAR Rumble (2000)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: PlayStation

    Positives: NASCAR Rumble focused less on long, drawn-out races and more on quick matchups to generate interest. There were a lot of different car options and the cars were more fancy than their real counterparts.

    Negatives: There were only so many different options for the types of things you could do in the game, so once you completed all of those, the game was pretty much useless.

17. Kyle Petty's No Fear Racing (1995)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Leland Interactive Media

    Available on: Super Nintendo

    Positives: Kyle Petty's No Fear Racing gave gamers the unique option of creating their own track to add to the tracks already available. It wasn't strictly based on NASCAR, giving it more creative freedom.

    Negatives: If the game had overall ratings, Kyle Petty would have been a 99 overall and nobody else would have been close. That is the upside of having your name on the game apparently.

16. NASCAR Heat 2002

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Monster Games

    Available on: PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance

    Positives: NASCAR Heat 2002 received positive reviews from several outlets prior to its release. It had really good graphics and provided gamers with an alternative to the countless of EA Sports games at the time.

    Negatives: It never caught on with the general public, most likely to the EA Sports media blitz promoting NASCAR Thunder 2002 that came out around the same time. Also, the in-game options were somewhat limited compared to the EA games.

15. NASCAR Arcade (2000)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Sega AM3

    Available on: Arcade

    Positives: If you have spent any time at a bowling alley in the past decade, you have probably come across this machine. It was a very realistic look at the world of racing, including having to shift manually, something that is impossible to emulate in a console or PC version.

    Negatives: The options were limited to just three tracks. Of course, you would have to travel to a location that had the game and it cost a little bit of cash to play.

14. NASCAR Racing 4 (2001)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Papyrus Design Group

    Available on: PC

    Positives: NASCAR Racing 4 illustrated what can happen when one company, in this case the Papyrus Design Group, sticks with a project for the long term. The cars were vastly improved from their original effort in 1994. There were 43 cars and Daytona International Speedway was an option, major progress.

    Negatives: There were still a lot of fake drivers in the game, which is always something that irks gamers. For the most part, it isn't a problem if somebody you watch every Sunday passes you in the game, but when Joe Blow from Kokomo is doing the passing, it's not as easy to take.

13. NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube

    Positives: NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup brought about a major shift in the way EA Sports approached NASCAR games. They added “Flight to the Top” mode, which was a tremendous idea. They also added new ways to view the race.

    Negatives: Since the entire game was overhauled from the previous year, it was almost like starting a franchise from the beginning. The multi-player aspect of the game was also pretty weak.

12. NASCAR Kart Racing (2009)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: Wii

    Positives: NASCAR Kart Racing was the first NASCAR game released on Wii. The game was different from most other NASCAR games, and uniqueness is always intriguing. The animated characters were very close to their real counterparts.

    Negatives: It was the last NASCAR game created by EA Sports. So, it was like their senior year of high school, they did the work, but they didn't go the extra mile to make the game special.

11. NASCAR 06: Total Team Control

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: PlayStation 2 & Xbox

    Positives: NASCAR 06: Total Team Control allowed players to switch to a teammate's car if they were eliminated to excessive car damage. There were also several more options that allowed the race teams to work together and actually matter. The career mode had improved because of the team involvement.

    Negatives: Other than those improvements from the previous year, the rest of the changes were minimal. The graphics were average at best.

10. Bill Elliott's NASCAR Challenge (1991)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Distinctive Software

    Available on: Many platforms

    Positives: There is something to be said for being first and Bill Elliott's NASCAR Challenge was the first game with NASCAR involvement. The in-car view gave the gamer a look into what it is like to be on the track racing against one of the most famous drivers in the world, Bill Elliott.

    Negatives: The graphics were quite bland and playing the game got awfully repetitive after awhile. Bill Elliott was like Superman in the game, while the fake drivers weren't very competitive.

9. NASCAR 07

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Xbox

    Positives: The biggest improvement in the 2007 version of the game is the pace at which the car moves on the track. It wouldn't be obvious if you hadn't played any EA Sports NASCAR games prior to this one, but if you had, there is a much quicker speed to this game.

    Negatives: Once again, the amount of improvement from the previous year is very low. However, when you already have so many features, the pressure isn't as large to make big changes. That usually leads to a sense of complacency.

8. Richard Petty's Talladega (1985)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Cosmi

    Available on: Commodore 64 & Atari XL

    Positives: The first NASCAR-based game that was ever released, Richard Petty's Talladega finally game gamers a taste of car racing. The game had 3D graphics that were few and far between at the time, which really put it on the map.

    Negatives: The game didn't include any NASCAR drivers, that being due to not having a license to do so. It also had a feature called turbo boost, which is always a bit sketchy for cars already traveling at high speeds.

7. NASCAR 08

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

    Positives: The NASCAR 08 for PlayStation 2 made solid strides over the previous year, adding in the car of tomorrow as well as some other features in career mode. ESPN's coverage also makes in appearance in the game, just like it did in reality.

    Negatives: The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions were disappointing to both critics and fans of the franchise. Several popular features, including the Whelen Modified Tour, were left out.

6. NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona (2002)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Monster Games

    Available on: PlayStation 2 & GameCube

    Positives: NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona was the predecessor to the “Flight to the Top” feature by EA Sports. In this game, gamers would start by racing on dirt tracks and eventually work their way to Daytona for the sport's biggest race.

    Negatives: There were still a lot of fake drivers in the game and the graphics just couldn't keep up with EA Sports. Couple that with the fact that EA Sports had the financial backing and this turned out to be the last NASCAR game created by Monster Games.

5. Gran Turismo 5 (2010)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Polyphony Digital

    Available on: PlayStation 3

    Positives: Gran Turismo 5 represents the first time in the series that NASCAR was included in the game. The graphics are very good and the overall game in a breath of fresh air for games used to the EA Sports version of NASCAR games.

    Negatives: There are only a select few NASCAR tracks available in the game. The game's hype kept growing as the release date kept getting pushed back and thus, it was nearly impossible for the game to match the hype.

4. (2010)

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: Motorsport Simulations

    Available on: PC

    Positives: The sheer volume of available cars, tracks and options on this site is amazing. The graphics are tremendous and there are plenty of other players on the site, so whenever you want to play, there will be a game. Some professional drivers use the site for practicing on certain tracks.

    Negatives: There is obviously a cost involved with joining the community and the computer requirements for optimal play are pretty high.

3. NASCAR 09

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: Many platforms

    Positives: Gamers are trained by Jeff Gordon on the best way to advance through career mode. Fully customizable cars were also offered by EA Sports in NASCAR 09.

    The series had been suffering through declining sales numbers and this appeared to be a very good last-ditch effort by EA Sports to save the series, but it failed.

    Negatives: Once players got into the racing portion of the game, not much had changed to improve the experience from previous years.

2. NASCAR Thunder 2003

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: Many platforms

    Positives: NASCAR Thunder 2003 had a pretty in-depth career mode that lasted for up to 20 seasons. Gamers could manage all aspects of a driver's career and battle against a full field of 43 cars.

    It showed continued improvement over the prior year's game, and it looked like EA Sports had finally found a groove in making NASCAR games.

    Negatives: When playing with more than one player, the race field would be cut down from 43 to 18 cars, making the race much too easy.

1. NASCAR Thunder 2004

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    Courtesy: Wikipedia

    Developed by: EA Sports

    Available on: Many platforms

    Positives: NASCAR Thunder 2004 added a new feature called “alliances and grudges,” which worked exactly how is sounds. Drivers would work with their allies to take out their enemies.

    This feature would become a staple under different names in the coming years. It is widely considered the most complete NASCAR ever created.

    Negatives: The only negative about the game is that most people were expecting an even bigger jump following the 2003 game, but it didn't meet some high expectations.

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