Tips on How to Play Racing and Driving Video Games

Information on car handling, race types, and more

Hands using video game control playing racing game on tv

Jasmin Merdan / Getty Images

Racing games have been around for decades, but the genre has changed quite a lot since the days of Pole Position and Out Run. If you want to improve your driving skills, here are some basic tips you can apply the next time you get behind the digital steering wheel.

Games Have Changed, But the Concept Is the Same

As technology has advanced, it's introduced true-to-life graphics, exceptional gameplay physics, and a more realistic batch of racing games.

Screenshot from Need For Speed: Undercover
EA

These days, there are hundreds of variables to consider while trying to gain the advantage, but one thing has remained the same. Make it to the finish line first or beat the clock to win. This applies to almost any racer, with the exception of some combat racing games like Mario Kart and Twisted Metal.

While crossing the finish line first is almost always the solution to winning in a race, newer games may grade drivers on other factors such as style, car performance, and racing tactics.

Knowing How to Handle Your Car Is the Key to Victory

Becoming familiar with the racing game controls is key to achieving victory. The consoles on the market have similar, yet slightly different controllers. In addition, there are no set standards on what button or trigger performs what action (for example, gas, brake, boost, steer, and other moves).

Screenshot from Forza Horizon 4
Microsoft Game Studios

Also, each game offers a unique set of options. Learn how these options work and how to customize each option to your advantage. The easiest way to get acquainted with the controller setup is to practice in-game. If there are options to change the controller layout, set it to something you're comfortable with.

Control Is Important, So Use a Comfortable Controller

Every gamer is different. Some have small hands, while others have large hands. Some prefer the directional pad, while others prefer the analog stick. Some prefer to ditch standard controllers and use a racing wheel. The only person that knows what controller is best for you is you.

PlayStation DualShock4 Controller
Pixabay

Each console comes with a standard controller, but there are third-party console accessories available, including controllers. Perhaps one of them fits your needs better than the Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo offerings. Try different controllers while at a friend's house, at an electronics retailer, or in a video game store like GameStop.

Know the Type of Racing Game You're Playing

There's a difference between arcade racing games and simulation racing games. The biggest difference is that an arcade-style racing game plays freely, while a simulation racing game is structured.

Screenshot from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Nintendo

Most racing titles fall under either the arcade or simulation sub-genres, but many contain elements of both, as well as gameplay mechanics from other types of racing games. For example, Electronic Arts Need For Speed series is considered an arcade racer, but it also has elements of the street racing game genre.

The importance of this is two-fold. First, it shows how racing games are evolving. Second, it serves as a prime example of the range of gameplay types available in one video game.

Racing Lines — Keep Them Clean and Tight

A racing line is the ideal route to take while driving on a track and includes tactics such as cutting corners and veering to the left slightly before a right turn to maintain higher speeds. Learn these tactics as you play and become familiar with the various courses, tracks, and routes.

Screenshot from Gran Turismo 6
Sony

Drifting Can Help — But It Can Also Be a Major Slow-Down

Sliding the rear end of your vehicle around a corner is considered drifting. While it may get you around an upcoming turn a bit easier, it should be used sparingly.

Screenshot from Forza Horizon 4
Microsoft Game Studios

Some games award you in some fashion for drifting, and taking a corner at 140 mph is fun, but it will ultimately slow you down.

Proper Braking Delivers Higher Speeds

Brakes are meant to slow you down. When used properly, brakes help you reach higher speeds through curves and corners. Most racing games have a standard brake and an e-brake.

Screenshot from Asphalt 8
Gameloft

Use the standard brakes when taking moderate corners, no brakes when taking light curves, and use the e-brake when you're going too fast to complete the turn without smacking into something. Using the e-brake during a hard turn results in drifting and slows you down.

When braking, throttle the brakes like you would in a real-world situation. Holding the brake down fully for a short amount of time slows you down. Proper braking in racing games gives you more control and allows you to hit the racing lines dead on.

Drafting Other Racers Increases Speed Over Straight Areas

Not every game supports drafting (following another car closely to gain speed using their trailing wind). When you play a game that supports drifting, use it whenever possible. It's like free gas.

Screenshot from Forza Motorsport 6
Microsoft Game Studios

The objective of a good draft is to get as close to the upcoming car as possible. You will gain speed by doing this, and as you near the rear end of the vehicle, pass it and head to the next victim.