One note to arcade gamers out there – I’m not like you. A racing game which involves lasers, explosions, high speed collisions and impossible driving lines isn’t for me. The emphasis here is on driving and not on distraction! Here then are my top 5 driving games, something for everyone and each title a winner. This is a real world review, I’ve play-tested the titles listed below for hours. Oops! Note that each title has some advertisement elements, but that in each case these can be removed with a small in-app purchase if needed. On with the countdown, then.  In reverse order (got to keep the tension up!):

5. Bike Racing 2014

Ah – and you thought ‘driving’ necessarily meant in a car! I wanted to put in a bike racing title too and, after trying a lot of rubbish, ended up with the rather fun Bike Racing 2014. It’s not perfect – the in-game music can’t be turned off (without killing all sounds), plus the racer animation and controls feel a little slow and sluggish at times, but then I’ve never ridden a super-bike, so what do I know!? The only concession to gaming gimmicks are nitro packs that you have to ride through to collect and stay competitive, but otherwise it’s a matter of staying upright, not hitting any walls and beating your competitors. Moreover, when you do crash, there’s the complete sense of rag-doll physics as your battered and broken body is draped across the scenery. Which sounds about right. This being a game though, you’re back up and riding in a few seconds. Phew!

4. School Driving 3D

No, don’t laugh. This is part driving school, part precision game. In a set of virtual cities, populated by AI cars and pedestrians, your job in each lesson/challenge is to take to the road and, basically, obey all the rules. So points off for forgetting to indicate, points off for going over a kerb, points off for going too quickly or slowly – the game is Strict, with a capital ‘s’! As with most of the games here, you play to win points which can then be traded up for different vehicles and arenas. Each car/truck can be panned or zoomed and generally viewed from any angle, even while in motion, plus there’s even an in-cab view. Incredibly slick, School Driving 3D is part fun, part education and all challenge – see how far you get!

3. Pocket Rally

A somewhat simplistic take on rallying, by modern all-singing, all-dancing game standards, Pocket Rally is saved by the perfect rallying physics and degree of challenge involved. Think getting around a right angled corner on a muddy or dusty track at 90mph, by judicious use of brake and accelerator, together with steering just before the corner, so that you end up going round ‘sideways’. It’s a terrific experience when you get it right, trying to attack each course in order to beat the target time. These times are set to be tricky and they are – there are many hours of rallying here if you want to keep progressing (‘Just one more try….’) The virtual worlds are small but perfectly formed, with terrain, obstacles and textures that are very detailed. In addition to the default ‘behind’ camera viewpoint, you can ramp up the adrenaline factor with a ‘hidden’ in-car viewpoint (tap the stats panel, top-left) – tear round a course at top speed from this camera angle and I guarantee you’ll start sweating! Though arguably needing more courses and options (in the future), Pocket Rally is ultimate fast, fluid, realistic and a terrific game.

2. Mini Motor Racing

An unlikely title from a driving viewpoint -literally, this sees you controlling a car from above – a long way above. The cars are ‘mini’, effectively, racing around rallycross-style tracks, under your control with a virtual steering wheel. It’s harder than it looks, not least because when the car is coming towards you, left is right and right is left, etc.! The idea has been done before, in a variety of ‘mini’ driving games, but never with the style, depth and fluidity in Mini Motor Racing. The graphics, lighting, sound effects, game modes (including Wi-fi multiplayer) all impress hugely. And, as your car slams into the back of the race leader with a satisfying crunch, punting him off the track, I can guarantee that you’ll be smiling!

1. Real Racing 3

No prizes for guessing the winner, of course. Real Racing 3 is the benchmark against which every other mobile driving game has to be measured, and for good reason. Based around touring, road and high performance sports cars – and phone graphics performance permitting(!) – the realism and speed of Real Racing 3 has to be seen to be believed. Play it on a 1080p screen on a Snapdragon 800 or above and prepare to be blown away. The scale of the real world tracks and their 3D detail, the speed with which the textures fly by, the sense of immersion in a real racing world, are nothing short of stunning. In theory, you’re racing against online friends and stangers(!), using ‘Time Shifted Multiplayer’, but there are clearly liberties being taken here, in that how can the online, visible car you see in front of you, driven by your ‘friend’ weeks ago, respond to your presence/overtaking? Plus you always start at the back. As did your friends when they played…. Oh heck, who cares, it’s challenging, it’s fun and there are occasional bragging rights! Are there caveats, other than your phone being fast enough? Sure – with all its tracks and cars loaded you’re looking at a couple of Gigabytes gone on your phone’s internal disk. These don’t all have to be downloaded at once, but you’ll need them all eventually, as you progress. The heavy freemium aspect to Real Racing 3 was criticised at the start, but we’ve since seen many ‘copies’ and freemium culprits that go much, much further. I’ve been playing Real Racing 3 now for three months and have never paid a penny – the in-game money and gold coins are acquired through daily racing and spent by buying new vehicles and speeding up ‘servicing’. If you’re prepared to wait (i.e. get on with your life) for a few hours after a particularly hard-fought race then you won’t need to spend coins on anything other than actual performance-enhancing upgrades. Gaming on mobile tends to be in snack-sized sessions, and Real Racing 3 turns out to be more or less perfect for this! So, install Real Racing 3 (which takes a good ten minutes or so!), get comfy and get set to be as close to ‘real racing’ as you’re ever likely to get. It really is that good.

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