Car racing games are fun because they usually allow you to go onto speeds you’ll probably never reach in real life, let alone on public roads. Gran Turismo lets you race some of the world’s most exciting cars on the most exciting tracks. While the Need For Speed franchise lets you be a street racer in some very cool cars. All that without the risk of being arrested in real life. But there’s more to racing games than just the racing for us car enthusiasts: the customization aspect.
Tinkering with cars can be just as fun as the racing itself. In fact, at times we spend more customizing our cars than actually racing them. A lot of desirable cars are often expensive and somewhat unattainable in real life. That’s why we like the option to customize them in our games, modifying them to our heart’s content and personalize them the way we would if we actually own them. We’re taking a look at what we think is the best car customization games that you should try:
Best Car Customization Games: Arcade Racers
The Crew 2
We’ll start off with one of the more casual games. The Crew 2 actually isn’t just a car racing game, you can also switch to airplanes and boats while you’re on the move. There are also motorcycles in the game if you feel driving a car is too cumbersome. The game starts off with you picking an avatar and then you begin your journey as a multi-talented racing/stunt driver. From there on you compete in events throughout the United States (yes, the game takes place in the US with real landmarks) to gain as many social media followers as you possibly can and progress through the story.
While the story of The Crew 2 leaves a lot to be desired, that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for the customization, and The Crew 2 does offer that. Keep in mind some vehicles offer a bit less customization than others. For example, you can modify the Pagani Zonda F in the game to the extent where it looks like a Zonda R or a Zonda C12 S, or do what I did: a mash of both. Because why not? Meanwhile, other cars such as the Ferrari F12 have a more limited customization option. Also, the performance modification isn’t exciting either, as you have to acquire random loots to upgrade and it’s really just a matter of getting a higher number. Definitely not for the tuners.
The Crew 2 isn’t perfect, but it offers decent customization for the cars, with over 114 cars to choose from, and 180 vehicles including airplanes and boats. The game also has a more arcade-like physics model, so it’s pretty easy for most people to get in and go. If you want a casual racing game with customization, this is the one for you.
Need for Speed Heat
If you don’t want to be a social media superstar driver and want to be a street racer instead, then Need for Speed Heat is definitely for you. The NFS franchise has seen some sub-par games in recent years, but Heat is a return to form even if it’s just an old NFS recipe that’s been modernized. You can either race during the day as a legal street racer, or race by night and race illegally while trying to avoid getting arrested by the cops. That’s more like it.
A big improvement in the game though is the tuning system. You can modify the appearance of the cars by installing body kits, wheels, and of course, big spoilers. And you can also upgrade the performance by buying aftermarket parts (which are licensed parts by the way). For the extremist, you can even do an engine swap to get more performance. One of the coolest features is the exhaust note tuning. You can actually tune how your car’s exhaust sound by adjusting the tone, overrun, and pipe resonance. This is the sort of thing we petrolheads spend hours on.
Of course, the game isn’t perfect. In true NFS fashion, it still has a very arcade-like physics model, meaning the handling isn’t realistic. And another downside is that there’s no cockpit view in the game, so you’re stuck with either the chase or nose camera. It isn’t a deal-breaker for most people, but it’s worth noting. That being said, the modification aspect of the game is very satisfying.
Best Car Customization Games: For the Motorsport Enthusiasts
Let’s switch gears, shall we? Get it? Car pun. No? Okay, sorry. Anyway, if you’re looking for something more realistic, then Assetto Corsa is probably for you. Assetto Corsa Competizione, or ACC for short, has been the go-to choice for racing simulator enthusiasts. It’s on the complete opposite of the spectrum to NFS Heat, but if you’re looking for a simulator, then Assetto Corsa is for you.
Admittedly, the game doesn’t actually have a lot of customization options. So why is it in our best car customization games list you ask? Well, the game still allows you to tune the settings of your car. Quite extensively, in fact. Tuning in Assetto Corsa is mostly about getting the most performance out of your car though. However, if you’re playing on PC, you can check out the video below to see how you can mod your cars in Assetto Corsa:
Project Cars 2
Project Cars 2 is also quite similar to Assetto Corsa, it has a more realistic and simulator handling model compared to most other games. The game also has 182 cars and 46 tracks for you to play with, but unfortunately not much in the way of visual modification. However, you can still tune your car’s settings to your heart’s content. Much like Assetto Corsa, tuning in Project Cars 2 is all about getting your car set up right and going as fast as you can.
Project Cars 2 also have a “story mode”, where you start out as a junior racing driver and choose the league you want to focus on, and then make your way to the big leagues. It’s definitely not for the casual gamer and more for the motorsport enthusiast. If you are, then you’re going to love Project Cars 2. That being said, if you just want to jump in your favorite supercar or race car and go, you can do that as well in Project Cars 2.
Slightly Mad Studios has released the sequel, Project Cars 3. However, the sequel is a much more casual and arcade-like game that’s neither here nor there. If you’re a motorsport enthusiast, definitely try Project Cars 2 instead. Keep in mind that if you’re playing on a D-pad, the cars may feel twitchy and tail-happy, so you will need to make adjustments to the controller settings. It’s a game best experienced on the simulator wheel.
Gran Turismo Sport
Gran Turismo is one of the most successful racing game franchises of all time, it would be sacrilege not to include it in our list. Unlike Assetto Corsa or Project Cars 2, GT Sport is more casual. The performance tuning has less depth, and therefore less confusing for casual gamers and petrolheads alike. Cosmetic upgrades aren’t really the GT Sport’s strength either; all you can do is change the wheels, make your own liveries, and lower the car.
The game does make it up by having amazing graphics. And the engine sounds have significantly improved since the last game, gone are the vacuum cleaner-like sounds you heard in Gran Turismo 6. I also personally prefer the handling model in GT Sport compared to Assetto Corsa and Project Cars 2. It’s not quite a simulator handling model, but it is closer to that than ever before. It strikes a good balance between the simulator and arcade handling model, which I like. This means the game is enjoyable on both the controller and a wheel.
When GT Sport was launched, the game had a measly 160 or so cars. But has since grown to have over 300 cars and 82 track configurations for you to play around with. The game also has an FIA-certified National and Manufacturer Series Championships. There’s a huge eSports community behind the game, so if you’re thinking of getting into eSports racing, Gran Turismo is the way to go.
Before You Buy Gran Turismo Sport
Keep in mind that GT Sport is a Playstation exclusive, so you will need a Playstation 4 to play the game. However, we don’t suggest that you go out of your way to purchase a PS4 just because of GT Sport. The biggest problem with GT Sport is how it has strayed a little too far from previous iterations of the game, and how it puts too much emphasis on the online racing aspect. The offline arcade mode is still a lot of fun to play with, but if you used to play past versions of the game, you’re going to notice how different it is and you might be disappointed.
We recommend getting a PS5 instead and wait for the Gran Turismo 7 to come out. Critics and enthusiasts believe that GT7 will be a true return to the Gran Turismo roots. That being said, if you already have a PS4, then by all means give it a go. They’re quite cheap and usually on sale for about $20 on the Playstation Store.
Formula 1 2020
The motorsport enthusiasts have to try this latest installment of this F1 game by Codemasters. It revolves around one racing discipline so there isn’t much in the way of customization. However, you will need to tune your car properly every time you go racing. You’ll have to find the right settings as every track is demanding in its own way. Incorrect settings mean you will lose time around the corners or get left behind at the straight by your rivals that are running a lower downforce setting.
F1 2020 also allows you to build your own team, acting as both a team principal and driver at the same time. This means you control what sponsors go on the car, what colors your team use, and what upgrades you prioritize over the season. There’s also a story for those of you who aspire to be a racing driver. In this mode, you’ll start as a Formula 2 driver making your way to the top of the F1 podium.
Forza Motorsport 7
Microsoft’s answer to the Gran Turismo franchise? Forza Motorsport. If you own an Xbox instead of a Playstation 4, then the racing game you have to try is Forza Motorsport 7. The new Forza Motorsport 8 is due to launch any day now, but in the meantime, you can play Forza Motorsport 7 on either Xbox or PC.
Forza Motorsport 7 falls into the Sim-cade category. Not quite a simulator, but still more realistic than an arcade racing game. Exactly like GT Sport. However, GT Sport does have the edge when it comes to graphics. The detail and reflections on the car look far better in GT Sport. The environment in GT Sport also tends to look more realistic. But Forza Motorsport 7 boasts over 700 cars available for you to play with. Suddenly GT Sports collection of around 300 cars sounds a little underwhelming. Forza also offers more customization than its Playstation counterpart with significant visual customization available. So, if you like personalizing your car, then you have to try Forza Motorsport 7.
Best Car Customization Games: Open World
Grand Theft Auto V
If you just want to customize cars and roam about freely, then GTA V is the game for you. Sure this is more of an open-world game that mostly revolves on doing crimes to earn money, but there’s tons of car customization option in the game. This is why we have to include it in our best car customization games list. Sure, you can’t tune the settings of the cars in GTA V, but you can upgrade their performance. More importantly, lots of cars have tons of cosmetic upgrades that you can choose from. From custom body paint, body kit upgrades, and even roll cages.
Sure, the cars are basically an off-brand ripoff of real-life cars, but there’s a large variety of cars that you can choose from. Not to mention a lot of them actually look really good. Also, if you want to race cars, there are race events in GTA V that you can play with, especially in online mode. Whether you want to steal cars for a living, or you want to spend hours modifying cars, you can do it all in GTA V.
Keep in mind that, unlike previous GTA games, there is no money cheat for you to use to earn money quickly. So you’ll have to grind both on story and online mode to be able to afford these cars. Or you can also buy in-game credits with real money for your online gameplay.
Or if you want to drive real cars in Los Santos, you can install GTA V mods. Provided that you’re playing on PC, of course.
Best Car Customization Games: Build Your Own
Car Mechanic Simulator 2018
So far we’ve talked about racing games and their customization options. But what if you want to be a car mechanic and don’t actually want to spend years learning about cars? Well, if there’s a simulator for being a goat, there’s certainly a simulator for being a car mechanic.
You can play Car Mechanic Simulator 2018 on PC, Xbox, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and even iOS and Android. As the title suggests, you play as a car mechanic and the game lets you own, build, and fix cars. However, the game does come with off-brand and almost unrecognizable cars by default. We recommend installing mods for Car Mechanic Simulator so you’ll get some amazing and real cars in the game instead.
Also, the game does have a level system where you unlock various things as you progress. If you don’t feel like grinding, you can use cheats on Car Mechanic Simulator so you can skip the grind and immediately have fun with the game.
Automation is completely different from any other games on this list, and it takes car customization to another level. Instead of just racing cars like other racing games or fixing cars like Car Mechanic Simulator, Automation allows you to design your own car from the ground up. You will be able to design everything from the engine, the headlamps, and even the tow hitch. Afterward, there are several test tracks where you can test out your car and see just how fast it will go. If you ever dream of designing your own car and building your own car company, this is about as close as most of us will get to that dream.
Automation lets you choose what your engine layout is going to be, what materials will it be made from, the bore and stroke of the cylinder, and it even lets you decide the compression of the engine. Afterward, you can put it in whatever chassis you like. A 2.0L inline-4 engine in a hatchback? A little lacking in imagination but you can. A big V12 in a saloon car? Of course, you can do that. A tiny four-cylinder engine in a supercar body? No idea why you would do that but the point of this game is that you can do pretty much whatever you like.
If you’re a car enthusiast and the engineering side of things is just as exciting to you as the racing side, then you have to try Automation. It’s currently only available on PC, but it isn’t a particularly demanding game, so you can play even on the most basic PC or laptop.
Best Car Customization Game Overall: Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 probably strikes the best balance between a fun racing game and exciting car customization. The game takes place in Britain where you take part in a racing festival to earn money. Amazing graphics, a good physics handling model, and wonderful sound
engineering of the cars are just the frosting of the cake though. The wonderful cake itself is the over 400 vehicles you can play around with and the extensive modification options. From the Peel P50 to the Mercedes-Benz Unimog, Forza Horizon 4 has got it all.
Forza Horizon 4 allows has almost limitless options for car customization, and that’s why it has to be on this best car customization games list. You can swap the wheels, install body kits and spoilers, and of course, you can swap engines. Want to put a V12 in your Toyota Supra? Yes, you can. Want your Peel P50 to have 300 horsepower? A terrifying prospect, but you can. You can also adjust downforce, springs, your car’s differential, and more.
It’s largely similar to NFS Heat, but if anything the world feels richer and more immersive. The next installment in the game is of course looming on the horizon. Get it? But anyway, Forza Horizon 4 is still an amazing game and a great way to spend your time. It’s available on both Xbox and PC.
Best Car Customization Games: Honorable Mentions
There are of course tons of racing games out there we haven’t mentioned. They haven’t made it to our list either because the customization options aren’t satisfying enough. Or because they’re simply not as good as the other racing games we have mentioned. However, they do deserve an honorable mention:
- GRID 2. This game is admittedly not quite as great as GT Sport, Project Cars 2, or Forza Motorsport 7 for various reasons. Customization is also largely limited and nowhere near as extensive as the other games that we have mentioned. However, it’s still a pretty good racing game and it’s available on all platforms.
- RaceRoom. You’ve probably never heard of this game before, but we don’t blame you. If you’ve tried Assetto Corsa or Project Cars 2 and don’t quite like it but want a simulator game, then you can try RaceRoom. The customization is mostly limited to tuning the performance of the cars, but it’s still a good racing simulator game that we recommend trying.
- GRID Autosport on iOS and Android. If you don’t have a PC or console, or you want a racing game to play on the go, then we recommend GRID Autosport. The customization is also limited to tuning the car’s performance to get the best out of it. But it’s still a fun game to play on mobile with lots of tracks to race at, including one of my personal favorites: the Sepang International Circuit.
Best Car Customization Games: Final Words
As you may have noticed, we have a pretty mixed list here in our list for best car customization games. That’s because there are a variety of automotive games out there each with its own focus. Some focus on the visual customization, others focus on the tuning and racing aspect of the game. While some games just straight-up lets you build your own car. We hope this list helps you to pick the right car customization game for you the next time you feel like modifying cars for hours on end.