Wccftech’s Best Sports and Racing Games of 2019 – Challenge is On
Being a big Manchester United fan, this year hasn't been the best for me when it comes to sports. Being a fan of the motorsport Speedway, a dying sport here in the UK, it's been yet another poor year for me in racing. Fortunately, videogames have performed better than usual in the sports and racing game genres, giving me something to satiate my desires (no Speedway though).
This doesn't mean it's all gone to plan. Sure, Codemasters have hit it out of the park and EA & Konami have both performed well with their annualised titles. On the other hand, 2K certainly fumbled with the terrible release of WWE 2K20 and the digital casino that is NBA 2K20. One thing to note is that indies have really come in strong, particularly focused around the extreme.
So, continuing with the tradition set last year, I'll be giving you the best sports and racing games of the year. Only new and released titles, so no remakes or currently-in-early access titles will be listed. Also, only games that we've actually played - though we don't necessarily have to have reviewed the game - are eligible.
Cricket 19 (8/10)
Genre: Sports. Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
Cricket is incredibly popular when you look at the sheer number of people who play and watch the sport. The core issue it has is that this support is very localised around a certain number of countries (England, Australia, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh and New Zealand to name a few). The downside of this is that cricket games have and rarely ever will be massive selling titles, at least not until either the sport spreads in popularity or the price of video games become more affordable in nations outside of the UK and Australia. In addition to this, the quality of cricket games have been notoriously poor, though Big Ant Studios have been striving to alter this.
Two years ago they released Ashes Cricket, a great cricket game and by far the best cricket game ever released to that day. This year, they released Cricket 19, an even better outing. With enhancements to the AI, making the competition more of a challenge than ever before (with the exception of bowling). With the increased challenge comes a massive amount of freedom to play any type of Cricket you want, with a wealth of customisation and control options.
Here's what I said about Cricket 19 earlier this year:
Cricket 19 has enhanced beyond Ashes Cricket, Big Ant Studios previous outing and then the best cricket video game around. Enhancements to AI have further improved this, though doesn't completely perfect the game with a few issues here and there. Altogether though, this is still a very strong and polished game and one that any fan of cricket should be interested in.
Genre: Racing. Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
This is essentially three games in one. It's hard, almost impossible to pick one Codemasters game over the rest from 2019. This has undeniably been the finest year in the history of the developer with three excellent racing games, each of them arguably the best in their respective areas. F1 2019 is an outstanding release in their annualised titles, bringing pure F1 simulation to the people. DiRT Rally 2.0 is an excellent follow-up to their long-running Colin McRae series and an outstanding rally sim. Finally, GRID makes a successful comeback, being one of the best arcade racing games around.
Each game has proven to be excellent in their own way, though there have been a few shortcomings or not completely realised features. None of that has mattered though, thanks to excellent racing throughout and one particular core aspect - the AI. The AI throughout has shown the attention to detail given by Codemasters and deserves all the praise it gets.
DiRT Rally 2.0 (8.5/10)
DiRT Rally 2.0 far surpasses other rally titles and other games that feature, though don't specialise in rallying. With an extensively detailed roster of cars, where each of them feels, handles and reacts differently, on tracks that actively degrade through constant use, changing the lines you'll have to take, this is a game that will keep you thinking. Best of all, unlike its prequel (to an extent) and other racing sims, it's accessible thanks to a bevy of assists that you can change to suit your needs. A game that only features a few downsides, the primary one being a shallow career mode and some minor bugs here and there. All things considered, DiRT Rally 2.0 is the premier rally experience you could hope to have.
F1 2019 (9/10)
F1 2019 is yet another excellent racer developed by Codemasters. With a wealth of positives, such as the improved feel of the racing, as well as how great the game looks and a number of new gameplay features, the game was bound to shine. The minor negatives, such as new modes like the Senna/Prost challenges feeling shallow, are minor blips in what is an otherwise outstanding game.
GRID is, by and far, one of the best times I've had with a racing game. Thanks to a great mixture of arcade and simulation, with a wide variety of options to let you cater the game to you, it's suitable for everybody. Not only that, thanks to the nemesis system and AI race-master, as well as the 400 unique AI personalities within the game, each and every race genuinely feels different. Simply put, GRID looks, sounds and plays great and is arguably the best all-around game from Codemasters.
Football Manager 2020 (9.5/10)
Genre: Simulation (Sports). Platform: PC (Core Game). Nintendo Switch & Mobile (Mobile Version).
Football Manager 2020, again? Naturally, it was going to make this list too. If only because you may not have read the strategy and simulation games list. As always, this is the best simulation of the sport, the beautiful game, in the world. To read more about why Football Manager 2020 is a fantastic game, check out our best strategy and simulation games of 2019.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2020
Genre: Sports. Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
Playing football in video games has been a two-team competition now for decades, with the question each year being "Which is the second-best football game, behind Football Manager?" This year, it's almost impossible not to give the award to Konami and Pro Evolution Soccer 2020. Why? Konami, after being delivered an almost fatal blow in 2019 came back strong and made massive investments into PES and the results show.
Featuring some of the most realistic ball-kicking gameplay in the history of gaming, having brought in legendary midfielder Andres Iniesta as a consultant to work on the physics of the ball and improve the movement of players and the gameplay in general, PES 2020 proves itself to be far and above the best football game on the market. What is most important is that PES has finally gone a little into FIFA territory by allowing itself to be a little more arcade-like.
Sure, they don't have the licenses that EA have, but if the quality on the pitch is better, it's hard not to give it the award. More than on the pitch, the elements around are far improved, with more personality in the master league, giving you more of a story as you work your club to the top, feeling the frenzy of the markets and pressure of the press. FIFA has Volta and the licenses, PES has the overall gameplay and gives you the best feel of the sport.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill
Genre: Racing. Platform: PC.
Despite them being different in quite a few ways, this choice was between Lonely Mountains: Downhill and The Descenders. Why between these two? Well, they're both based on bicycles and both will feature you wrapping yourself around more scenery than the world's biggest green panther. There's just something undeniably fun and thoroughly beautiful about Lonely Mountains: Downhill, which is all the more impressive due to it being a voxel-based game.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill is simple in its idea. You're on a mountain bike, you start at the top of a mountain and you go downhill. As you're going down, particularly in your first attempt at any route where you have no challenges, you get to explore multiple side paths that will eventually let you shave off valuable seconds. By far the most important to me is that you get to see some downright exquisite scenery in what really seems like a living, breathing, world, thanks to the rustle of the trees, the running of water, birds flying through the sky and everything else that you'd find on a mountain.
What makes it all the better is just how much fun you'll have with this game. You build up a massive amount of speed, taking some downright crazy and impressive jumps, braking and attempting to stop at the drop of a hat, all while you see your wheel churning up the soil. As well as the fantastic visuals and brilliantly-fun gameplay, there's a lot of challenges to complete, unlocking new equipment, cosmetics, areas and more.
Sports and Racing Games of 2019 - A Year in Review
As I said earlier in this piece, there's just no doubt that 2019 has been the year of Codemasters. If any studio has dominated the racing scene, it has certainly been them, with an exceptional roster of titles. I think what has really worked for me is the stepping up of indie titles, particularly ones like Lonely Mountains: Downhill, Descenders and WHAT THE GOLF? In the same vein, I can't help but be happy with the output from some long-running series, such as Trials Rising and the best outing yet in the WRC franchise, with WRC 8.
- FIFA 20 (official site)
- WHAT THE GOLF? (official site)
- WRC 8 (8/10)
- Descenders (official site)
- Assetto Corsa Competizione (official site)
- Trials Rising (7/10)
Naturally, there's a chance that games that deserve to be featured have been missed - we can't play everything - and you're free to tell me how much of an idiot I am as a result of that. Each and every game mentioned here is more than worth you giving some of your time to it. Now we're coming to the end of 2019, just keep an eye out for our most anticipated sports and racing games of 2020.