These Are the 10 Best PS2 Racing Games, According to Metacritic

A blast from the past with these phenomenal racing titles.

by Kenneth Araullo
Image: Electronic Arts

The PS2 has a long and storied history for games across all genres, but if you want to learn the best PS2 racing games then you’ve come to the right place. Check out our comprehensive list of the best racing games on the venerated PlayStation 2.

What Are the Best PS2 Racing Games?

Below is a rundown of all the best PS2 racing games:

  • Street Racing Syndicate
  • ATV Offroad Fury 4
  • NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona
  • Road Trip
  • Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero
  • Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition/Remix
  • Gran Turismo 4
  • Burnout Revenge
  • Need for Speed Most Wanted
  • Burnout 3: Takedown

It’s worth noting that this list is based on Metacritic users’ scores rather than critics’. Different gamers may hold different opinions on some of the games on this list depending on subjective taste and other factors.

Without further ado, here is a comprehensive breakdown of the best racing games on the PS2.

10. Street Racing Syndicate (8.7)

Release date: August 31, 2004

Notable for: open-world gameplay, Japanese import racing scene, one of the first street racing games

Despite an overall middling critic score of 62, Street Racing Syndicate holds a lot of sway over the hearts of players who grew up with a PS2 thanks to its authentic street racing action that featured 50 licensed cars from various Japanese manufacturers. Street Racing Syndicate was Namco’s answer to Need for Speed: Underground, which was released the year prior. It was also notable for featuring raunchy dance videos, which players can unlock as they progress further in the game. Street Racing Syndicate is also multiplatform, making its way to GameCube, the Xbox, and Windows PCs. It also has a devolved Game Boy Advance version, which lacks a lot of the features that are present in the home console and PC versions.

How to play it today: Street Racing Syndicate is still playable on PC via Steam or GOG

9. ATV Offoad Fury 4 (8.8)

Release date: October 31, 2006

Notable for: rival mechanic, inclusion of MX motocycles, Supertruck and dune buggies, new mini games

The last entry in the ATV Offroad Fury series was also the best one yet, as it revitalized offroad madness with the inclusion of some absurd dirt monsters. For the first time in the series, ATV Offroad Fury 4 allowed players to ride and race MX motorcycles, Supertrucks, and dune buggies, often to chaotic and hilarious results. ATV Offroad Fury 4 also includes a brand-new story mode, new mini games to sift through, and an all-new rival mechanic that allows CPU opponents to take revenge on you should you hit them during races. A special adaptation was also released on the PlayStation Portable called ATV Offroad Fury Pro, with communication capabilities between consoles allowing for vehicle exchanges and upgrades, shared online communities, and the ability to share user-created circuits.

How to play it today: Outside of emulation, there is no way to play ATV Offroad Fury 4 today as it is exclusive to the PlayStation 2.

8. NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona (8.8)

Release date: November 11, 2002

Notable for: four different NASCAR racing series, incredible authenticity to actual NASCAR races.

To date, there is only one game to feature the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series, and that game is NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona. Many NASCAR gaming enthusiasts consider this one to be the absolute best NASCAR video game thanks to its realistic progression, unique features, and the actual inclusion of brands for the vehicles. However, it’s worth noting that to hit the targeted E for Everyone rating from the ESRB, publisher Infogrames censored all tobacco and alcohol brands. Legendary Mark Martin’s No. 6 Viagra car was also altered slightly in order to meet the censorship requirements. NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona featured the four mainline NASCAR racing series at the time, including the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series, the Featherlite Modified Tour, the Craftsman Truck Series, and the NASCAR Cup Series.

How to play it today: Outside of emulation, there is no way to play NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona today, as it is exclusive to the PlayStation 2 and the GameCube.

Related: Need For Speed Unbound Review

7. Road Trip Adventure (8.8)

Release date: October 26, 2002

Notable for: combination of racing and adventure elements, anthropomorphic cars, large, seamless world

The weirdest entry on this list, Road Trip Adventure is not your regular racing game. It is an official entry into the Choro Q series of video games based on Japanese toy company Takara’s toy cars of the same name. In English-speaking markets, these are known as the Penny Racers, and in Road Trip Adventure they take centerstage as the characters in a weird and wacky world populated by anthropomorphic cars. Racing takes a backseat here, as most of the game involves managing economies to upgrade your car to win races, as well as partaking in a variety of minigames. The game is also beloved for its creative world, which is fully explorable and cyclic, allowing players to drive through all areas in one go and return to their original location.

How to play it today: Outside of emulation, there is no way to play Road Trip Adventure today, as it is exclusive to the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation 3.

6. Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero (8.8)

Release date: June 9, 2001

Notable for: unique racing rules, replicated Tokyo highways for courses, 165 cars in total

The only Tokyo Xtreme Racer entry to make its way to PlayStation 2, Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero is another cult entry on this list thanks to its weird racing mechanics, vast array of cars, and actual simulation of Tokyo highways. Instead of regular racing rules, players have SP bars that consist of health bars for both the player and their opponent. Hitting obstacles and lagging behind your opponent decreases your SP bar, with the one to lose their entire SP bar declared the loser. In terms of its street racing roots, though, the game still features upgradeability and an authentic illegal underground racing experience.

How to play it today: Outside of emulation, there is no way to play Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero today as it is exclusive to the PlayStation 2.

5. Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, DUB Edition Remix (8.8)

Release date: April 11, 2005; March 13, 2006 (Remix)

Notable for: inclusion of motorcycles, wide variety of cars, amazing list of licensed songs, great customization

There was a point in time when Rockstar Games was not only known for their Grand Theft Auto series but also for their beloved arcade racer, Midnight Club. Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition and its Remix version are widely considered not only one of the best racing games on the PS2, but across all platforms. The game takes place in a variety of real-life cities, and players can participate in tons of races utilizing different types of highly customizable vehicles, including tuners, luxury sedans, SUVs/trucks, exotics, muscle cars, sport bikes, and choppers. The Remix version adds 24 vehicles, a new city to drive in, 25 new licensed songs, and more. In terms of capturing the authentic feel of the 2000s and early Fast and Furious movies, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition takes the proverbial flame-decked cake.

How to play it today: Outside of emulation, there is no way to play Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition today as it is exclusive to the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PlayStation Portable.

Related: The 10 Best PlayStation 2 Games Of All Time

4. Gran Turismo 4 (8.8)

Release date: February 22, 2005

Notable for: amazing realism for a PS2 game, more than 700 cars, in-depth mechanics detailed within a 200-page manual

Widely considered to be the very best entry in the long-running series, Gran Turismo 4 elevated the Gran Turismo name from the PlayStation racing game to the premier racing simulator of its time. It is still considered by many to be quite ahead of its time thanks to the realistic driving mechanics that have been praised by non-gaming racing professionals, most notably Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame. The game’s popularity helped it become the third best-selling game on the console and ensured that every iteration of the PlayStation has a Gran Turismo title to this day.

How to play it today: Outside of emulation, there is no way to play Gran Turismo 4 today, as it is exclusive to the PlayStation 2.

3. Burnout Revenge (8.9)

Release date: September 13, 2005

Notable for: traffic checking feature, wide variety of cars, amazingly fun multiplayer experiences

The fourth entry in Electronic Arts’ series of intense racing games, Burnout Revenge is another highly rated title that showcases incredibly complex crashes, burnouts, and wipeouts on the PS2 hardware. What made Burnout Revenge quite special was the inclusion of several new features that challenged players to perform more absurd feats; a Vertical Takedown requires you to land on a rival car after soaring through the air, much like a dive bomb but with two-ton machines. The inclusion of online multiplayer was also a welcome addition to the game, allowing players to crash cars to their hearts’ content even from different locations.

How to play it today: Burnout Revenge is still available via backwards compatibility on Xbox consoles, as the game was ported over on the Xbox 360.

2. Need for Speed Most Wanted (8.9)

Release date: November 15, 2005

Notable for: iconic cars, amazing story and career mode, great soundtrack, in-depth police chases

Ask any racing game enthusiast their list of favorite games, and very rarely will you see someone skip over Need for Speed Most Wanted. When talking about a video game steeped in illegal underground racing culture, this is the one that stands out the most. Need for Speed Most Wanted’s story and career mode are still quoted today as one of the strongest in any racing game thanks to its over-the-top and intriguing characters, the cheesy dialogue associated with the mid-2000s, and the phenomenal soundtrack. Combine that with a variety of real-world cars, deep customization options, and a dynamic open world that features exhilarating police chases, Need for Speed Most Wanted is a racing game that still holds up very well to this day.

How to play it today: Outside of emulation, there is no way to play Need for Speed Most Wanted today as it has been delisted on most storefronts.

1. Burnout 3: Takedown (9.0)

Release date: September 8, 2004

Notable for: revolutionary crash mechanics for its time, aftertouch mechanic for more creative and destructive crashes, amazing soundtrack

Considered by many critics and players alike to be one of the best racing games of all time, Burnout 3: Takedown elevated the series to whole new heights following the uncertainty that came with its Electronic Arts acquisition. On the contrary, EA is credited with revitalizing the series and racing games as a whole, a far cry from the way most gamers see them today. A lot of what made the following entries in the series memorable were born from this game, including aftertouch takedowns, which allowed players to cause much more serious pileups and crashes, the reworked boost mechanic, brand-new modes such as Road Rage, and more.

How to play it today: Outside of emulation, there is no way to play Burnout 3: Takedown today, as it is exclusive to the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

- This article was updated on February 14th, 2023