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National Video Game Day - Our Top 5 Favorite NASCAR Video Games

From the arcade to the cell phone, video games have taken the world by storm. The arcade and simulation racing genre has grown just as large as others. Many of the drivers in the motorsports community have played console and pc-based racing sims for the last two decades. Our team has as well. Below is a list of our Top-5 Favorite NASCAR Video Games.

5. NASCAR Thunder 2004

EA Sports' Thunder Gaming Engine introduced in 2002 was the the first major gaming experience to include full fields of Cup Series drivers and a full racing schedule. Their inclusion of multiple driving paint schemes with each driver made the game even more realistic to the passionate NASCAR fans.

The 2004 installment featured then 1x Winston Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart on the cover and was known for the in-depth career mode that it offered. In career mode, the player would invest money into R+D, employees, sign sponsors and even work on property development.

The game allowed players to participate in a 20 year career in hopes of winning the Cup Series Championship and included online play for Playstation, Xbox, and PC users.

4. NASCAR 2000

"Go Buddy, Go Go Go!" the spotter would yell at the start of the NASCAR 2000 video game presented by EA SPORTS. This new millennium game was the first of a new generation, featuring the EA 'Cyber' Athlete. In the game, pit crews were fully animated and had the possibility of making mistakes. This variable made for an interesting evolution of gameplay between the player and the AI.

Multiplayer split-screen mode was included and legend commentary duo Bob Jenkins and Benny Parsons were in the booth to call all of the action. A somewhat limited roster was included in this game, but all three major racing manufacturers of Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Ford made the cut. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Sr. was in the game as the cover athlete, as were retired legends including Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough.

3. Gran Turismo 5 (2010)

Sit back and relax as Sony's Polyphony Digital studio straps you into Gran Turismo, 'The Real Driving Simulator'. The fifth generation of Turismo was the first to include a license from NASCAR. In the NASCAR portion of the game, which was exclusive to the Playstation 3 console, drivers were able to go through a driving school led by 4-Time Cup Champion Jeff Gordon.

A limited amount of drivers were included in the first patched release and only Daytona and Indianapolis were included as tracks from the Cup Series Schedule. Despite this limited availability of drivers and track, the physics and online stability of this game were exceptionally popular with fans. The draft/wake effect was able to be modified from somewhat ineffective to over-exaggerated which made for a variance of both tandem and pack style drafting.

Sony would extend the license with NASCAR to future releases and are expected to be continuing their relationship heading into the release of Gran Turismo 7 this holiday season.

2. NASCAR Thunder 2003

Thunder 2003 from EA SPORTS was their first game to have a fully animated experience. From the cars to the pit crews, to the fans, to the flying aircraft after the national anthem. Their pre-race festivities included MRN's legendary team of Barney Hall and Joe Moore and the presentation was as if you the player were living the race weekend.

The game included legendary drivers and lots of Busch Grand National drivers as well becoming the first game to include then young-guns Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne amongst others. The career mode has the player seeking the opportunity to earn the seat of a retiring racer en route to their first championship and was known for realistic difficulty from rookie to champion.

Added game modes including the Thunder Plate Licenses and Lightning Challenges put the player into a must win scenario for new unlocks including paint schemes, free pole positions, extra race tracks. Players could also unlock exhibition events such as the All-Star and the Shootout Event at Daytona.

The game didn't cut corners and had graphics superior to most racing games at the time. Every time we listen to 'Steppenwolf' we think of NASCAR Thunder 2003's great album of rock music as well. Dale Earnhardt Jr. graces the game's cover and many drivers including Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty have video cameos in the arcade sim.

Honorable Mentions

  • NASCAR Rumble

  • NASCAR Racing 2003 Season

  • NASCAR 98'

  • NASCAR 2005 : Chase For The Cup

1. NASCAR HEAT 4 (2019)

704Games' production of NASCAR HEAT 4 isn't necessarily the best game ever made, but it falls in line as our favorite. This game is responsible for cleaning up years of growth on a low-income studio attempting to give racing fans what they want in a motorsports experience. Their continued support of the teams and drivers and fans was apparent in this release and the expansive career mode was the closest a game had come to the Thunder Series games in nearly 20 years.

Their marketing team's success in including every major driver across multiple series has been unmatched. They helped fund the release through an expansive DLC package that included hundreds of paint schemes to the player, and alcoholic branded sponsors.

The online play of this release eliminated long-time glitch lags and 'bumper-car' effects in which players were unable to make casual contact with one-another in previous releases.

NASCAR Heat 4's soundtrack included a variety of rock, country, and folk music from independent artists and allowed players to compete for a spot in the annual NASCAR PRO LEAGUE. The major graphics improvements in the Heat 4 release from the previous installments of the Heat series were notable from the start. It was a win from the day it released.

Did we match your picks? Tell us your thoughts on where we got it right and wrong.


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