The most famous racing cars in video games allow us to transcend real life in the most unimaginable ways. These digital rides are not just pixels and code, but cherished icons that represent a thrilling intersection of the gaming and car communities. From kool karts to sensational Skylines, the most famous video game cars have the unique ability to take us on the most unforgettable rides!
Video games are the ultimate escape from reality, a gateway to infinite universes far removed from our everyday existence. From the retro car games of the 80s to today’s billion-dollar blockbusters, each one presents challenges to overcome, stories to unravel, and worlds to discover. Whether it’s racing round the world’s most famous circuits in F1, the over-the-top rides in Rocket League or chasing through the streets in Need for Speed, the most famous cars in video games are as iconic as they are awesome!
Buckle up and let’s hit the digital superhighway as we look at the top ten most memorable cars in video games.
Note: for some of these entries, we use the word ‘car’ in its loosest possible sense!
One of the most famous video game cars of all time, the Nissan Skyline in all its various guises, has appeared in dozens of games franchises including Forza Motorsport and Need for Speed . But it was Gran Tourismo that was the game that helped popularise the Skyline among a global audience outside of Japan, and made gamers fall in love with its brutal power. In the realm of virtual racing, the Skyline is often revered as one of the must-drive cars in the video game world. The Skyline’s popularity was further cemented by the ‘Fast and Furious’ film franchise, enhancing its iconic status.
M12 Force Application Vehicle ‘Warthog’
When you absolutely, positively must traverse the toughest terrain imaginable and take down everything in your way at breakneck speeds, the Warthog from the iconic Halo series is the vehicle you need. Debate rages on as to whether it’s a car, a tank or an ATV, but whatever it is, the Warthog is one of the most memorable cars in video games.
Ferrari Testarossa Spider
At a time when most cars in video games were generic and unlicensed, OutRun, made by Sega and launched in 1986, licensed the iconic Ferrari Testarossa and gave players the opportunity to virtually drive a car that many could only dream of. The coolest part about one of the most famous racing cars in video games history was that it was a convertible, and Ferrari only ever offered the car in real life as a hard-top coupe. In fact Ferrari did make one convertible Testarossa as a gift for the company’s chairman Gianni Agnelli.
BMW E46 M3 GTR V8
A legendary car in a legendary game. The M3 from ‘Need for Speed: Most Wanted’ is one of the world’s most popular cars featured in video games. If you had a PS2, chances are you fell in love with the iconic blue and silver M3. The cover car for the 2005 edition of the game, the squeal of the tyres and close-ratio gear shifts still echo in the ears of early 2000s gamers!
Ford GT LM II
The creators of Gran Tourismo 4 paid homage to one of the greatest supercars ever made with a Le Mans-spec Ford GT, which appeared in one of the coolest retro car games in history. The car’s appearance in one of the most epic video game intros ever remains an abiding memory of GT4. As part of a game series that has always emphasised realistic driving physics and a wide selection of authentic, meticulously recreated vehicles, the Ford GT LM stands out as a true superstar.
If you’re Max Rockatansky and Chumbucket and you need to survive in a brutal post-apocalyptic world, you’re going to need one of the most famous video game cars ever created. The rugged and intimidating Magnum Opus from 2015’s Mad Max was perfectly suited to the game’s wasteland setting, with a massive array of customisable options including deadly weapons and performance upgrades, from flamethrowers and thunderpoon launchers to improved engines and reinforced armour.
No list of famous racing cars in video games is complete without mention of Super Mario Kart, probably the most famous of all the retro car games from the 90s. The karts in the game aren’t individually named or vastly different in design, as they were in later games in the series, but as truly iconic cars in video games go, they remain unsurpassed.
Rocket-powered cars playing football was always going to be a hit video game! Rocket League was launched in 2015 for the PS4 and Windows, and the star player was Octane, a cross between an Italian hypercar and a dune buggy. It was perhaps unfairly known as a ‘jack of all trades’ because of its versatility but it quickly gained a reputation as the car to have.
Ice Cream Truck
Sweet Tooth, aka Needles Kane from the Twisted Metal franchise, drives a suitably scary vehicle. It may well be one of the most frightening cars in video games folklore, especially with the giant menacing clown head on top. OK, so it’s an ice cream truck rather than a car, but it’s armed with napalm ice cream cones, surely one of the funniest and most original weapons in the pantheon of retro car games!
The G-6155 Interceptor is a symbol of the golden age of gaming. Spy Hunter, one of the most memorable and iconic retro car games of all time, was released as an arcade game in 1983 and was heavily influenced by the spy genre, especially the James Bond films. It even had machine guns, oil slicks, smoke screens, and missile launchers. As such, the car’s cool gadgets – it could seamlessly morph into a speedboat, a motorcycle, or remain as a car – the high-speed chases, and sleek design strongly resonate with fans of spy-themed action, making it one of the most famous video game cars ever.
The Car’s The Star
This fascinating intersection of the automotive and gaming worlds showcases how deeply ingrained car culture is, extending its influence into digital life. It speaks to the confluence of technology, design, and fascination with speed and power. The most popular cars in video games have such a profound impact that they’ve crossed back over into the physical realm, influencing real car design, appearing in films, and even being built as fully functional vehicles. Yes, Batmobile, we’re looking at you!
The most famous video game cars serve as more than just a means of in-game transportation. They provide an emotional connection, a sense of identity, and a taste of city streets, dystopian wastelands, post-apocalyptic worlds or high-speed race circuits for gamers who will probably never experience such things in reality. They frequently spark intense debates over design, performance, and handling characteristics, but more than that, they capture the imagination and become a central part of gaming culture.