In 2015, rallying has hit the mainstream. Alongside circuit racers like Forza 6, GT Sport and Project Cars, offroad games like DiRT Rally and SL:RE are giving gamers the opportunity to speed through stages, blast through jumps and pit their driving skill against the elements. However, this isn't new phenomenon – offroading has always been an important part of the racing game experience.
Rally games have formed some of the best, most memorable racing experiences across platforms, from old school arcade cabinets, right up to consoles like the PS4. Over the last twenty years, we’ve powerslid, hand-brake turned, and Scandinavian flicked our way through countless offroad racers. Here are some of the classics.
Richard Burns Rally
Named after another great British rally champion, Richard Burns Rally isn't as well known as its McRae counterpart – but it should be. Released in 2004 on the PS2, Xbox and PC, it combined achingly pretty graphics with some of the most realistic handling and physics models ever seen in a rally game. Despite being released 11 years ago, Richard Burns Rally is still being played, and has been updated and modified every year by a dedicated online community. Originally designed to be an offline only game, modders even gave Richard Burns Rally a fully featured online mode, years after release.
Still one of the best rallying games ever made, Rally Cross hit the original Playstation in 1997, and impressed gamers with its revolutionary – at the time – visuals and great gameplay. Unlike the pristine stylings of Sega Rally, Rally Cross perfectly represented the rough and ready side of rallying, and forced racers to navigate through sand, mud and water as well as a range of challenging topography. Big bumps would see your car’s suspension struggle, and finishing first required expert navigation though some seriously demanding terrain. Throw in an exciting Season mode, head-to-head mode and some great looking cars, and Rally Cross has to go down as one of the best.
Sega Rally Championship
A must have fixture in every arcade, Sega Rally Championship brought rallying to the masses. Designed to set itself apart from conventional titles like Ridge Racer, Sega Rally took to the dirt to try something different – and the rest is history. Released in 1995, Sega Rally Championship was groundbreaking: For the first time ever, it used different surfaces such as gravel, dirt and tarmac, all with their own unique handling characteristics.
Sega Rally Championship has an impressive garage too: players were able to drive legendary cars like the iconic Toyota Celica GT Four, as well as the cult Lancia Delta HF Integrale and Lancia Stratos HF. Although released on the Sega Saturn and later the Game Boy Advance and Playstation 2, the arcade version of Sega Rally Championship represents the most pure, engaging form of the game.
Colin McRae Rally
Launched in 1998 on the Playstation and PC, Colin McRae Rally is still rightly regarded as one of the best rally games of all time. Produced with technical insight from the late British rallying legend, it couldn't quite nail the visuals, but it did capture the endurance and hectic nature of the sport.
Putting you behind the wheel of McRae’s championship winning Impreza and many other classics, the game barked instructions of your co-driver and forced gamers to navigate through tricky terrain as fast as possible. Throw in the need to make repairs between stages, and Colin McRae rally is still one of the most complete, rewarding rallying games you’ll ever play.
Although it took its name from Colin McRae’s rallying series, 2009’s DiRT 2 saw a huge change of direction for gamers. Gone was the gritty, simulation focused feel of previous games, and in its place a whole new range of fictional stages.
Instead of official rally cars, gamers were granted access to a weird and wonderful world of rallycross racers, desert buggies and everything in between. However, the highlight of DiRT had to be the career mode. Putting you in the shoes of an up-and-coming racer, DiRT combined a progressive story with accurate handling and stunning visuals, to create a unique rallying title.
Probably the best official game to be released for the World Rally Championship, WRC 3 was released in 2003 and raised the bar for rallying games. Thanks to its official license it featured every driver from the championship – except for McRae who had licensed his name to his own game – as well as the 14 official locations of the season.
Despite its official moniker, WRC 3 didn't take itself too seriously, though. In addition to all the cars of the competing in the championship, WRC 3 also featured Extreme editions of each car; ridiculous-powered beasts that represented the fictional ‘final-form’ of each car.
V Rally 3
Before V-Rally 3 Infogrames had already created one of the best rallying series to be released on consoles, but V-Rally 3 solidified that reputation.
The first V-rallying outing on the PlayStation 2, V-Rally 3 picked up the pace, featuring 80 drivers, including six real ones, and a huge selection of cars to choose from. There were six locations on offer, with four stages each, meaning V-Rally 3 packed in 24 stages all together. From the fast flowing jumps of Finland to the quick Asphalt of Germany, each one was rendered in exquisite detail, helping to create the most gripping, authentic game of the V-Rally series.