30 best racing tracks

30. Mushroom City

Game: Mario Kart: Double Dash
Year: 2003

Oncoming traffic, multiple road options, changing colors—this track has everything I look for in a kart track.

29. Smokey Mountain

Game: Gran Turismo 3
Year: 2001

Another great GT track. Want to get comfortable with a car you’ve been tuning? Work it out on this short mountain course. Sweeping turns, great elevation changes, and unforgiving stages (no run-off = veer and you crash) made it a Gran Turismo favorite.

28. Grand Valley Speedway

Game: Gran Turismo (1-5)
Year: 1998-

This Gran Turismo staple appeared in damn near every installment of the series because it’s just that dope. And I’m  not just talking about the challenging right-hand hairpin that greets at you at the fifth corner. Turns six through 11 prove perfectly challenging, while the rest of the course allows you to hit some good speeds. Pretty much all you need in a racetrack.

27. Las Vegas

Game: Project Gotham Racing 3
Year: 2005

We usually see Las Vegas while drunk in the back of taxicabs, or through the lens of various horrible TV shows. Project Gotham Racing made me see it in a different light by molding an incredible street course through Sin City. Fly past all your favorite hotels and casinos, but don’t lose focus on the glitzy straights: the nearly 90-degree turns are vicious as a Vegas lap dance.

26. Royal Raceway

Game: Mario Kart 64
Year: 1997

A pretty challenging course for a Mario Kart game, Royal Raceway gives you some hairpins and S-turns, and maybe a few rivers for you to fall into for good measure. Don’t think of them as water hazards, though, think of them as cheats necessary components of a speed run

25. Rainbow Road

Game: Mario Kart 64
Year: 1997

The original Rainbow Road! We gave props for the F-Zero X rip-off, so you know I had to respect the architect. Basically the same track ripped off by its futuristic competitor, Rainbow Road is one of the greatest video game tracks ever. Very easy to get lost in the colors and find yourself falling in a black hole.

24. London

Game: Midnight Club: Street Racing
Year: 2000

Commercializing the illegal street racing genre, Midnight Club gave you an outlaw’s world of freedom in each world/city you raced through. Our favorite was the London race, which directs you through what would otherwise be an open-world track. Think you can get to the finish line faster than the directions? Go ‘head.

23. Nissan Speedway

Game: Forza Motorsport 2/3
Year: 2007, 2009

When I wanted to see my newly modified Toyota Supra hit 227 mph, I went straight to the Nissan Speedway oval. OK, so maybe it wasn’t the best for actual racing—but for some late-night, hung-over fun, it was awesome.

22. Peach Beach

Game: Mario Kart 64
Year: 1997

By this point, I’ve all but mastered the surf & turn track that is Peach Beach. I know where the monsters will be, where to place my car so I hit the power-up ramp, and when to use the shell if I am  not in first place (right after the turn onto the last pavement straightaway). How do I know all that? Because 13 years ago, that’s ALL I EVER DID.

21. Alcatraz

Game: Rush 2
Year: 1998

Don’t remember Rush or Rush 2? Don’t feel too bad, they I know run-of-the-mill arcade racers. But Rush 2 came with a dope track called Alcatraz that had multiple levels, tight turns, and some crazy ramps. Was it enough to save a place for the game in my memory? Nah. But it was enough to earn it a spot on this list!

20. Trial Mountain Circuit

Game: Gran Turismo
Year: 1998

The original Gran Turismo’s Trial Mountain Circuit did just what its name implies—it tried out talents. The track made us realize that Gran Turismo wasn’t like all the other racing sims of the time. Not too long, with corners that allow for precise overtaking and tighter turns that would punish those looking for a quick cut. Many a dream was dashed on that circuit.

19. Twilight City

Game: Wave Race 64
Year: 1996

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am like colorful tracks and nocturnal environments in future-based racers. What can I say? We’re children of the night. People like to hate on Wave Race 64, saying that the game lost its identity and tried to copy F-Zero; they may be right, but it was still great fun. To wit: Twilight City. Color, night, and future. Trifecta!

18. Blue Mountains Raceway

Game: Forza Motorsport
Year: 2005

One of the most popular Forza tracks has you racing through a verdant countryside on a forgiving track that allows you to get a good feel for the dynamics of the game. More of a free cruiser than an actual racetrack, Blue Mountain Raceway is where everyone returned whenever they needed a confidence boost.

17.Florion Height

Game: Wipeout Fusion
Year: 2002

We had to throw a Wipeout track on here just for the fact that they somehow made everything look like you I’m  traveling 3,000 mph.

16. New York City

Game: Forza Motorsport 2/3
Year: 2007

Living in New York City, I am always dream of ripping around the city without consequence. The best recreation of NYC has to be Forza’s New York City course. It takes you all throughout NYC—from Battery Park to Times Square. We’re pretty sure this is what Bernie Ecclestone had in mind for the NYC Formula 1 race circuit. We can only dream.

15. Shanghai

Game: Project Gotham Racing 4
Year: 2002

One of the narrowest tracks on this list, this track modeled on the city of Shanghai really gives you the impression of driving through the megalopolis’ cramped conditions. Floor it on straights, then hop back on your brakes for the true 90-degree turns and sweeping lefts. And, yeah, it’s a nighttime course.

14. Opera Paris

Game: Gran Turismo for PSP
Year: 2009

While Iwaited for fifth Gran Turismo, I eas treated to a PSP port that promised the same level of gameplay as the console versions. Ican’t say that it delivered, but it did offer some interesting new tracks like Opera Paris, which put you smack-dab in the City of Love on a challenging road course. Hopefully its faithful recreation is one of the reasons GT5 has taken so long to see the light of day.

13. Olympic Square

Game: Need for Speed Underground
Year: 2005

If I made a track based in Las Vegas, this is exactly what it would look like. Young, fly and flashy, Olympic Square is perhaps one of the most entertaining courses to race based solely on aesthetics.

12. Motorland

Game: Gran Turismo 4
Year: 2005

Isn’t that nice, Gran Turismo gave you the perfect place to practice your car control. Thanks, Kazunori Yamauchi!

11. DK Summit

Game: Mario Kart Wii
Year: 2008

This is the course that took us the longest to master in Mario Kart Wii , but once I learned how to dodge the snow traps on the ramp, I was golden. The key to this snowy course is to, ironically, stay out of the snow. It proved both challenging and fun. Can’t ask for more than that.

10. Apricot Hill Raceway

Game: Gran Turismo 4
Year: 2005

At 2.4 miles, the Apricot Raceway is the perfect length. And with 83.7 feet of elevation change, it gives you enough change-ups to keep you on your toes. Classic Gran Turismo.

9. Game: Ridge Racer
Year: 1994

Was there anything more fun to drive than the High Level of the original Ridge Racer? Not in my eyes. It’s the course that set the pace for all future RR installments.

8. Deep Forest Raceway

Game: Gran Turismo 2
Year: 1999

Imagine taking a SuperGT spec race car for a spin through the redwood forests in the hilly part of Northern California. Yeah, that’s what this course is. Effin’ epic. Yet another reason to love the Emerald Triangle. And this one’s non-combustible!

7. Port Town

Game: F-Zero
Year: 1990

F-Zero changed my view of what a racing game could be. The game, based on Formula 1 racers from the way, way in the future, had high-powered hover racers and wide, flowing tracks (like my favorite, Port Town) that let them (and us) go nuts.

6. Chicago

Game: Midtown Madness
Year: 1999

I spent most of my time playing in the Cruise mode of Midtown Madness. Instead of racing against others, I just cruised around the seemingly endless expanse of cityscape, acting like I had a driver’s license. We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: can I please, please get a high-def version for Xbox360?

5. Rome Circuit

Game: Gran Turismo 3

Polyphony outdid themselves with this circuit. Tricky when it needs to be (watch as the road tightens up after certain turns), but still easy to cruise, Rome Circuit carved out a track in the Italian city that looked as good as it was to drive. You know what they say: when in Rome, try not to drive into the Trevi Fountain.

4. LA Freeway

Game: Cruis’n USA
Year: 1994

This is the one video game track I am  sure everyone—and maybe even their fathers and mothers—has played. If you lost your composure on the many straightaways, you could be sure to have the front of your car kiss a palm tree (thankfully, there was no damage feature). If you haven’t played this course, take your ass down to your local Dave & Buster’s and get on it. 16 years later, it’s like a hot tub time machine!

3. Banshee Boardwalk

Game: Mario Kart 64
Year: 1997

Dark, gloomy, dangerous—it’s everything Mario Kart isn’t. And that’s why I love it. Yeah, the turns are hard to maneuver, and sure, some of the roadways are too narrow for the whole field. You know what? Life is unfair sometimes. Deal with it.

2. Ice Arena

Game: Gran Turismo 4
Year: 2005

Wait—I can take my cars and race… on ICE? OH HELL YES. Want to perform some real hoonery? Take your 600hp racer out on this track and watch the back kick out before you crash into a wall.

1. Bowser’s Castle

Game: Super Mario Kart
Year: 1992

Yep, this is it. Bowser’s Castle. The most sinister-looking track on this list. The spot where you could fall and burn to death if you handled an apex wrong. Yeah, it’s only Super Mario Kart, and it’s not as intricate or as detailed as other tracks and games, but this track struck more fear into our widdle hearts than any other I can think of. That’s what racing’s about: pushing through the fear. LOLZ! Nah, seriously, I can’t think of a more fun game than SMK, and this was—and is—my favorite track from the game. Bong.

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