The Top 10 Racing Games for the iPhone

Racing on the iPhone

There’s no denying that that seldom-mentioned gizmo known as the Apple iPhone (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?) is an extraordinarily versatile and useful bit of kit. Whether it’s making calls, listening to music, figuring out where you’re going, seeing what’s next on your schedule or something entirely different, the iPhone can handle it. But in addition to doing useful stuff, this little device can do thousands of fun, frivolous things, like gaming. Even racing games are present in scores in the App Store, and some boast graphics, control precision and amounts of features and content that would have been impressive on a desktop PC or video game console not so long ago.

But which ones are the best of that genre? You know, the ones that you’ll keep playing even as your doctor is calling you with the results for that test for that thing you might have contracted doing that thing with you-know-who. Anyway, here are our top ten, in no particular order.

Asphalt 5

Asphalt 5 screenshot

Gameloft’s Asphalt franchise has become one of the standard bearers for the racing genre on mobile devices; no surprise, then, that it’s on its fifth and best iteration. With an armada of licensed, beautifully rendered and tunable vehicles running the gamut from the Mini Cooper S to the Ferrari FXX Evolution, the player is definitely spoiled for choice when it comes to what he or she will drive.

And drive you will, with game modes like one-on-one battles, drift challenges and cop chases included alongside straight-up racing. When you tire of single player action, Asphalt 5 supports up to five other players. But all in all, this is one game that will make you carry a charger with you at all times, because you’ll find yourself burning electricity (and time) on this one. Price: $4.99


DrawRace screenshot

This clever top-down title from RedLynx eschews the control scheme norm, because instead of tilting the phone to drive in real time, you trace out the optimum line around the track with your finger before the race even starts. The concept is novel, yet extremely intuitive.

But there’s more to DrawRacer than simply drawing a route that hits every apex; you also have to take speed in to consideration, meaning you have to draw more slowly through the turns so the AI driver doesn’t overcook it through the bends and lose time. There are only 20 tracks, but multiplayer options abound, so it will stay fresh for quite a while. Price: $2.99

SlotZ Racer

SlotZ Racer screenshot

Remember that slot car set you had growing up? Remember how fun it was trying to find the limit of how fast you could take a corner without flying off the track and under the sofa? British developer Strange Flavour does, which is why they came up with SlotZ Racer.

Published by Freeverse, this title only uses one button to drive, but as with the real thing, there’s more to it than that. Throw in a good variety of cars, a surprisingly in-depth track editor (seen above) and support for up to four players on the same iPhone, and you have winner. Price: $4.99

GTS World Racing

GTS World Racing screenshot

The only constant is change, and when it comes to games for the iPhone and other mobile devices, they have only gotten more sophisticated with time. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean some of the early ones are any less fun. Witness GTS World Racing.

This oldie-but-goody from Astraware boasts 16 international locations with four tracks each for an impressive total of 64. The graphics may be primitive relative to more recent titles, but they allow the game to run smoothly with minimal pop-up of scenery. That being said, there are only three cars from which to choose, and the game is strictly single player. But sometimes, simpler is better. Price: $3.99

Cro-Mag Rally

Cro-Mag Rally screenshot

You know what the problem with most cartoonish kart racing games is? Far, far too few are set during the Stone Age. You know, when motorsports technology was at its zenith? Yeah, it’s a shame there aren’t more of those. Thankfully, there’s one for the iPhone called Cro-Mag Rally.

Developed by aptly-named Pangea Software, Cro-Mag Rally is a port of a Mac game and was, like GTS World Racing, one of the earliest racing titles for the iPhone, but its tight controls, long tracks, lively graphics and wacky power-ups (Homing pigeons FTW.) have given it lasting appeal. However, some will scoff at the lack of multiplayer options. Price: $2.99

Need for Speed Shift

Need for Speed Shift screenshot

Another port from other platforms is Need for Speed Shift, the latest installment in Electronic Arts’ seminal racing franchise. Though it won’t be mistaken for the PC or PS3 version, the iPhone rendition is mighty impressive nonetheless, with 20 customizable cars and three cities (Chicago, Tokyo and London) with a total of 18 tracks.

Gameplay itself is highly customizable, with four difficulty settings and four camera views, including a very cool cockpit view to get you through race events like sprints, duels, eliminators (where last place at the end of each lap is knocked out) and drift events. You can even play your own music during the race. Throw in multiplayer support and you have a game well worth its high-ish asking price. Price: $6.99

Fast & Furious: The Game

Fast & Furious: The Game screenshot

If there’s one thing video games based on TV shows, movies and the like are known for, it’s that they’re almost always rubbish. Of course, there are some exceptions; GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 is one, and Fast & Furious: The Game for the iPhone is another.

In addition to featuring game modes like drift race, pursuit and drag racing (the latter switching the emphasis from steering and braking to timing your shifts) in addition to normal racing, players can unlock new cars and tracks by playing through story mode. And you can upload races to YouTube. How cool is that? Price: $0.99

Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D

Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D screenshot

Another game based on a pre-existing property – this time a long line of console games – that hits almost all the right buttons, Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D is another top notch cartoony kart racer.

Between the vivid graphics, tight controls (the great steering algorithms make it easy to get used to the automatic acceleration), variety of modes and, perhaps most importantly of all, a relatively small file size (7.1 megabytes), it’s pretty easy to forgive the lack of a multiplayer option. Price: $2.99

Fastlane Street Racing

Fastlane Street Racing screenshot

In the realm of video games, the line between providing a challenge and providing frustration is thinner than a sheet of tissue paper that’s been run over by a small moon. Ergo, Fastlane Street Racing – with AI that’s equal parts Jesus, Chuck Norris and Juan Manuel Fangio – flirts with disaster in terms of producing fun while racing.

Thankfully, there’s also checkpoint racing, which lets you focus on the clock rather than opponents. Other praiseworthy features include spectacular graphics (easily in PSP league) and a low price. Whether those things are enough to overcome the stout difficulty level depends on player preference. Price: $0.99

Real Racing

Real Racing screenshot

You say you want a super realistic portable racing experience but don’t want to invest in a PSP with Gran Turismo? Firemint’s Real Racing just might be what you’re after. You like jaw-dropping graphics? They’re there. Nearasdammit telepathic controls? Ditto. AI that doesn’t drive like it? Yep. Multiplayer support for up to six? Of course.

Granted, you can’t change the appearance or setup of your car, and said cars aren’t of the licensed variety, but with a driving experience this immersive and compelling, will you really notice? Price: $4.99

Disagree with any of our picks? Is there one we left out? Chime in below!