You don’t need a console to put the pedal to the metal, with plenty of incredible racing games available to play on your Android mobile device. And while the screen may be smaller, the thrill of screaming over that finishing line remains very much the same. Here are our picks of the top tire-screechers to play on a smaller screen.
With the new mobile racing game Offroad Unchained, the entire world of offroad racing awaits you on the road. And it's completely free of charge. Here you get behind the wheel of numerous racing cars, which you also equip with upgrades. In addition to a career mode, the focus is primarily on multiplayer, in which you compete in real time with drivers from all over the world in PVP races on gravel, snow or in the deep forest.
Dirt Bike Unchained
Red Bull’s brand-new racing game for Android and iOS is the best way to experience the thrill of moto racing on the go. Using an elegant control system, it’s up to you to navigate your way down courses from across the world, nailing jumps and tricks and unlocking new bikes, gear and recognisable real-life riders as you go. Can you unlock your very own prized Red Bull helmet? Also, be sure to read our recent feature about how Dirt Bike Unchained was made.
Horizon Chase: World Tour
For gamers of a certain generation, the best racing games weren’t defined by realism, lap times and pixel-perfect recreations of famous tracks: they were about weaving in and out of oncoming traffic and drifting to banging chiptunes, desperately trying to make it to the next checkpoint before the timer ran down to zero. Horizon Chase: World Tour is a faithful recreation of the sub-genre defined by Sega’s classic OutRun, perfectly ported to phones – with almost 100 tracks to blast through. Unlike many other mobile games, it’s not a free-to-play title with in-app purchases, but you can still play the first five tracks for nada to see if it’s your jam still (it is).
Need for Speed: No Limits
A triumph of ongoing care from developers EA, Need for Speed: No Limits first hit small screens way back in 2015, but with continuous tweaks and additions over the years since, the game has remained at the head of the pack for handheld racers. Both looking and playing the part, Need for Speed: No Limits has a wealth of modes (including the brilliantly competitive elimination tournament), tracks and vehicles to keep drivers busy for a long, long time. If this continues to get the love it has since its initial launch, there’s a good chance this will be the Android racer to beat for many years to come.
Bike Unchained 2
A cycling game with enough action and adrenaline to make our list of the best racing games for Android, Bike Unchained 2 does an incredible job of translating the thrill of hurtling down a mountainside to touchscreens. This is slopestyle and the aim is to get to the bottom in both the fastest and most impressive way possible, throwing tricks as you thrash your way ahead of the competition. There’s plenty of gear to unlock, as well as a whole workshop full of real-world bike parts to build from – what are you waiting for?
Asphalt 9: Legends
Mobile studio Gameloft have spent decades figuring out how to bring fullscale gaming experiences over to smartphones, and nine iterations into their hit racing franchise, it’s fair to say they’ve got it sussed. Asphalt 9: Legends focuses on the simplest delights that realistic graphics provide – thrashing a licenced Ferrari or Porsche (or any top supercar, really) around – whilst keeping the touchscreen action streamlined and extremely silly. Want to take your mate out in eight-person multiplayer by throwing on the handbrake and dropping a 360 in the middle of the street? Go for it.
There’s a certain romance attached to the open road – hell, there’s even a whole sub-genre of film about just that, from Vanishing Point to Easy Rider. #DRIVE, the endless driver, looks to capture the feel of those movies, encouraging players to select a destination, then hitting the road until you get there (yes, that does sound like a sat nav, but no, it’s not like that). Control is limited to braking and drifting, and while the game is excellent at capturing a sense of tranquility and calm as you glide through glorious locales, it’s also surprisingly challenging – testing the player with obstacles, ongoing traffic, and the need to actually manage your vehicle’s resources to get to your destination. Less a racer and more a road trip game, #DRIVE is an idiosyncratic delight that captures the highs and lows of those long, long drives.
Mario Kart Tour
If you need a primer on Mario Kart at this point, really, where have you been this past quarter of a century? Hiding under a blue shell somewhere? What you may not have realised however is that everyone’s favourite kart racer is now available to play on Android smartphones (And iOS too), and has received an important upgrade under the hood in the months since launch: online multiplayer. Throwing banana skins at your friends to trip them up has never been so socially acceptable.
Long before Codemasters’ GRID series returned to consoles in 2019, delivering a masterclass in revitalising a series through a heady mix of realism and pure, no-holds-barred thrills, mobile gamers were treated to the arrival of GRID Autosport – which managed the very same feat, only on a smaller screen. Brilliantly authentic, GRID Autosport eschews the bells and whistles to deliver a stunningly realistic, and incredibly tough, racing simulator. Endlessly customisable controls and beautiful visuals only add to the fact that, as far as mobile racers go, Grid Autosport may well be at the head of the pack.
A long-standing favourite on the Android racing scene, players new to Thumb Drift would do well not to underestimate its brilliant simplicity. Tasking racers to drift around a track with no more than, you guessed it, your thumb, the game’s stripped back style makes for an incredibly addictive experience, but one that can initially test the patience of the most hardened of mobile gamers. Players will be rewarded with insta-fail as soon as they even graze an obstacle, and Thumb Drift can be mind-numbingly challenging, but its just-one-more-go appeal will see your skill improve quickly, and you’ll be tearing around its tracks with a deft flick before you know it.
CSR Racing 2
NaturalMotion Games’ CSR Racing 2 is one of the most popular racing games on mobile, and it’s not hard to see why. First launched way back in 2016, the sheer wealth of content in CSR Racing 2 ensures we could still be playing the incredibly generous drag racing title for years to come. Gameplay may be relatively simple, but it’s in the beautiful loop of victory, currency, customisation where the game comes to life. Visuals were stunning on release and are still eye-popping today, and while the racing itself can sometimes seem like an afterthought, the feeling of achievement when your vehicle becomes a souped-up speed demon is tough to replicate.
Grand Prix Story 2
Those who are familiar with Kairosoft’s wonderful brand of management sims through their excellent Game Dev Story and Hot Springs Story (yes, really – a spa management sim) will know what to expect from Grand Prix Story 2, the follow-up to the equally excellent 2011 original. For everyone else, you’re in for a wonderful surprise. Not a racing game per se (races are actually simulated) Grand Prix Story earns its place on this list thanks to the sheer addictiveness of its gameplay, which puts you in charge of a budding race team and asks that you build it into a fierce winning machine. Staff management, vehicle customisation and part acquisition all come into play as you race (well, manage) your way to your goal. Deeply charming and incredibly compulsive, Grand Prix Story is a brilliant racing game, just without the racing.
Dirt Trackin 2
Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and the unique charms of Ratbag Games’ Dirt Trackin 2 show you don’t need a mega-budget to provide a brilliant racing experience. Racing on tiny tracks with ludicrously overpowered vehicles, Dirt Trackin 2 may not be the most polished game on this list, but it’s certainly one of the most fun. Similar to rally, but on unbelievably tight tracks, Dirt Trackin 2 provides a stern challenge to those used to more traditional racing, and its excellent career mode and brutally competitive multiplayer make this a no-brainer for those happy to get down and dirty.
Nitro Nation Drag & Drift
Nitro Nation’s title is no misnomer – this high-octane street drag racing title promises speed and delivers in spades, though what’s more surprising is the level of depth in the off-track offering. Not dissimilar to CSR Racing 2 in its approach to grind-happy progression, Nitro Nation is fiendishly addictive once you delve into the myriad of options available to customise your car to get that crucial edge. Races are tough and there’s a number of handsomely-realised tracks, but it’s the incremental progress when fine-tuning your vehicle that makes Nitro Nation a true timesuck.