These 5 Driving Video Games that are the Closest to the Real Thing

video game playerPlaying Super Mario Cart in multi-player mode is among the most competitive and addicting video game experiences ever. But when you’re driving or racing (legally) in the real world, you’re not likely to drop banana peels behind your ride to ward off tailgaters or get shrunk to the size of a Matchbox car by a magical bolt of lightening.

Some driving-themed video games are larger-than-life experiences packed with enough make-believe effects to transport us away from reality for a while. Others, however, aim to recreate the experience of the open road or racetrack as accurately as possible. We’re zipping through memory lane to run down the best versions of these games:

The most realistic driving video games ever released on different gaming platforms.

Atari 2600: “Pole Position” (1983)

Atari brought the virtual driving experience out of the arcade and into your basement. As simple and repetitive as the console game was, it set the stage for the evolution of video game racing, throwing sharp curves and competing cars at your open wheel racer. Best of all, it convinced a generation of wannabe tween drivers that they could already dominate on the real roadways, leading to failed driving tests and sky-high car insurance rates.

Arcade: “Daytona USA” (1993)

Before energy drinks sponsored rides and drivers were actually fined for exchanging in post-race fisticuffs, NASCAR existed as a simple escape from reality for the nation’s 99-percenters. And if these folks didn’t attend the actual storied racetrack, then they could stop by their local arcade with a fistful of quarters. This was one of the first games that simulated real driving, with a wheel, pedals, a stick shift and even a restrictor plate hot-glued to the back – wait, that was just a giant was of gum. Anyways, “Daytona” allowed for two-wide action with multiple players and crude 3-D rendered tracks. It was almost cooler than borrowing your parents’ station wagon for a joy ride around the cul de sac. Almost.

Sega: “Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II” (1992)

Haven’t heard of Senna? One of the top Formula Drivers ever, the Brazilian was killed in an accident in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. This game, now an afterthought of his legacy, is widely believed to be the best racing game for the Sega platform. Acclaimed for its “realistic physics,” the cartridge was assisted by Senna’s input on everything from track design to cover art – the storied driver is pictured in a sharp bowtie celebrating victory. And if you have a Sega Master System, Game Gear or Mega Drive laying dusty in the corner, you too can visit victory lane while paying homage’s to one of the sports forgotten champions.

PlayStation II: “Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec” (2001)

When Gran Turismo was towed from the arcade to the living room, dorm room and man cave, it marked a dramatic leap forward for just how closely the virtual behind-the-wheel experience could simulate the real-world experience. With more than 150 cars to choose from, 80 races and 20 licensed tracks, “Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec” also brought several special effects to the table to ante up the realism, such as reflections and sun glare. So be sure to wear your shades.

Xbox One: “Grand Theft Auto V” (2013)

Playing any Grand Theft Auto game is like looking in the rear-view mirror. Who are you? Are you the one who competes the challenges and achieves the goals of these wildly engrossing, open world action-adventure games? Or are you the one who simply runs around carjacking strangers, harassing police and living out your sociopathic fantasies. We’re not here to judge. While Grand Theft doesn’t always offer the most realistic driving gameplay – you can usually walk away after launching your vehicle off the top tier of a parking garage – the vastness of the interactive world extends far beyond the shoulder of the road. And the little details, be it behind the wheel of a car, crane or watercraft, drive home a different sense of reality. There is a reason “Grand Theft Auto V” made $1 billion in just three days. The game is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows.

We don’t suggest that video games are a suitable substitute for driver’s education classes or driving lessons with mom and dad. But these games offer a down-to-earth perspective on driving, racing, and the rules of the road – with a little fun mixed in.

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