The video game industry is one of the biggest in the whole wide world. “How big?”, you may ask. In 2020, the global valuation of the video game industry was $173.7 billion! Experts say it’ll reach $314 billion by 2026. And there are games for everybody today. And of course, racing games have been there for decades now. We’re sure most of us have played at least one racing game growing up. For some of us, the games were the doorway to get into cars and the automobile industry in the first place. We’ve had some pretty great racing games like the Need For Speed series, Gran Turismo, Burnout series, and the Forza games. For us racing fans and gearheads, the feel of picking your favorite car and blasting through a race at high speeds is the level of escapism that few other things can provide.

These games have set the bar to a high quality of driving dynamics, graphics, and gameplay. But today, we will be focusing on one of the features that can get overlooked. We’re talking about the world design in these games. Sometimes, we don’t want to compete in races and smash the throttle all the way down. Sometimes, we just like to chill and cruise around in the game’s world in a free roam mode. So what games provide a great experience in terms of world design, environments, and beauty? Here are 10 such examples.

9 Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit

A Gumpert Apollo police car in pursuit

We got this gem all the way back in December 2010. If you’re familiar with the Burnout Games, then you must have heard of their developers Criterion Games. The gameplay was fresh and in terms of world design, they knocked it out of the park. The game takes place in Seacrest County, which is an amalgamation of Northern California, Washington State, and Oregon.

A Mitsubishi Evo X running over a spike strip

There are no cities in the game, just a bunch of highways leading you to various places. But the places are diverse, you can drive around airports, forests, deserts, and dangerous mountainous roads. Oh, and there’s also a remastered version with better graphics.

8 Burnout Paradise

burnout paradise

This is the game Criterion worked on before the NFS we just mentioned above. Burnout games exist for the sole reason of giving you thrills and nothing else. The unique thing about this game is that there are no predefined race courses. You can take any route you want through the city.


The city, named Paradise City, is a combination of New York, LA, and Miami. There’s variety already and on top of that, the city is full of various jumps, shortcuts, smashable billboards, and stuff like that to keep it adventurous and exciting.

7 Test Drive Unlimited 2

Test Drive Unlimited 2 Gameplay
Via New Game Network

TDU:2 is a cult classic among racing game enthusiasts. It may not be the perfect game overall, but driving in it felt amazing. One of the key factors is the locations the game takes place in. The game features 2 locations, Oahu, Hawaii, and Ibiza, Spain.

A large chunk of the open world is just stunning to look at. They’re both popular destinations in the real world, and if you haven’t been there, you can play the game and see why people think that. Yes, the gameplay was okay, and the storyline was cheesy. But who cares when you can just cruise in your car in the beautiful scenery for hours without getting bored.

Related: The 10 Best Racing Games For Real Gearheads

6 Need For Speed Most Wanted 2005

The M3 GTR in a race | Marko Sokolovski

Most Wanted 2005 is arguably one of the greatest Need For Speed games ever made. It has been 16 years since the game launched, it still holds up today, and that says a lot about its timelessness. Apart from the amazing gameplay, one of the key factors behind the original Most Wanted’s success is the environment. The game world consists of a fictional Rockport City.

It takes inspiration from multiple cities in the Pacific Northwest. There are grimy industrial complexes to long highway stretches to curvy mountain roads in the game along with downtown areas and everything in between. The game takes place during the daytime, but the city gives off an eerie vibe and calmness at the same time and one can’t easily forget that.

5 Need For Speed: Heat

Need For Speed Heat Gameplay
Via Guides4Gamers

The latest entry in the long-running NFS series takes place in Palm City, a fictional Miami. The game features both daytime and nighttime, and the city looks visually stunning during both times. There’s the downtown area with neon lights for checkpoints during the night, seriously, you need to see it at least once.

Then there’s the Everglades, and also a Cape Canaveral area where you can drive up to the rocket. This is one of those games where the gameplay or the story isn’t that great, but the game still gets positive reviews due to the amazing open world.

Related: Relive Your Tuner Car Youth With This Crazy Need For Speed Video

4 The Crew 2

The Crew 2 beta  Ubisoft
Via: YouTube

Like what you saw about Miami? Now how about the whole USA? This 2018 game from Ubisoft and Ivory Tower features the whole country from Seattle to Miami to have fun in your vehicle. See how we said vehicle and not just car? Because you can have anything from cars to bikes to boats to monster trucks to planes. There’s also a freaking helicopter to ride in the game.

The Crew 2 beta
Via: YouTube

The map is obviously a scaled-down version of the country, so it’s more like a ‘greatest hits’ type collection of cities, monuments, and famous places like the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, White House, and stuff. As a racing game, it’s decent, but for simply free-roaming, it’s nearly unbeatable.

3 Forza Horizon 4

via Forza Horizon 4

The Forza Horizon games need no introduction. They are big, amazing, and technical marvels. The third installment taking place in Australia nearly missed out on getting on this list, but the fourth entry cannot be denied. Forza Horizon 4 takes place in a fictional Great Britain. Not only is it refreshing to have a racing game that’s not set in the US, but the level of detail in this game is amazing.

It’s got areas of Scotland, England, and a bit of Wales too. The map feels huge, and the game developers nailed the look and feel of the place. Lots of beautiful countryside areas, a couple of mountains, and also a big city for good measure.

Related: We Rank The Best Racing Video Games Ever

2 Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown

An Aston Martin and Range Rover next to each other.
Via: Nacon

This may seem like we bent the rules a bit. The game isn’t released yet. But we know about its world design, so we can talk about it. The trailer and map reveal are out, and we are beyond excited to play it. The game will take place on Hong Kong Island!

We’ll get some amazing views of the ocean, mountains, and infrastructure. Another amazing thing to look out for is the geometry of narrow roads and tight corners. If the driving mechanics are sorted, we’ll have a blast going through the streets of Hong Kong Island.

Related: These Are The Coolest Upcoming Racing Games

1 Forza Horizon 5

Gameplay of the Lamborghini Huracan in Forza Horizon 5
Playground Games

This is the latest game (at the time of writing) to release, and you’ll instantly see that from the photos and videos. This time, the latest Forza Horizon game is set in Mexico. And trust us, you’ll see Mexico in a whole different light than what you see in movies.

The game world in FH5 is very vibrant, colorful, and packed to the brim with beautiful landscapes ranging from mountains, deserts, cities, ancient ruins, volcanoes, and breathtaking scenery. There are so many vehicles in the game, that anyone can find something they love and have a genuinely great time cruising around.

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