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The Best NASCAR Video Games of All Time According to Metacritic

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NASCAR video games are some of the best ways to introduce younger audiences to the sport. Some video games, however, have taken on lives of their own. They are still beloved to this day even years after their initial release.

A select few have been known as some of the best. What are the greatest NASCAR video games of all-time according to Metacritic?

6. NASCAR Dirt to Daytona

Metacritic Score: 85

User Score: 7.7

The final game of the original NASCAR Heat series, NASCAR Dirt to Daytona did something that no NASCAR game before it had ever done. It included the feeder system, and it made for a unique career mode experience. As opposed to the EA Games at the time, which only included a Cup Series career, NASCAR Dirt to Daytona allowed players to work their way up through the NASCAR ranks.

The mode starts off in the Dodge Weekly Racing series, essentially street stocks, then the modifies, then the Trucks, then, finally, to Cup. The game is not perfect as it does not include every NASCAR track or every NASCAR driver because of licensing, but it has its’ own charm. As is evidenced by the reviews, the game is loved, even if it is not perfect.

5. NASCAR Thunder 2002

Metacritic Score: 85

User Score: 8.4

The one that started it all. NASCAR Thunder 2002 was the first game in the iconic “NASCAR Thunder” series, and it did a few things that had not been done in EA NASCAR games before. It was the first EA Sports NASCAR game to include full, 43 car fields and all of the NASCAR race tracks.

That may seem incredibly basic now, but, in those days, having a full field of cars and every race track in the game was a big deal for consoles. It may not have the same depth as its successors, but fans still love this game. As is evidenced by the current high score on Metacritic.

4. NASCAR Thunder 2003

Metacritic Score: 84

User Score: 8.5

The middle of the iconic “NASCAR Thunder” series, NASCAR Thunder 2003 improved on what was in NASCAR Thunder 2002. The main thing the 2003 edition added was depth. The career mode was given some depth, and the game steadily seemed to improve.

It may not be as iconic as the other EA Sports NASCAR games, but that’s not because of quality. As is evidenced by the Metacritic reviews, a few fans even prefer this game over a certain other NASCAR game that will be on this list later.

3. NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup

Metacritic Score: 87

User Score: 8.3

NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup served as a bit of a rebranding for EA Sports’ NASCAR franchise. It was the first game under EA Sports exclusive NASCAR license, and EA Sports took advantage. For the first time since NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona, a NASCAR game included all of the NASCAR feeder series from the modifieds, to Trucks, to Xfinity, and, finally, Cup.

The career mode was completely revamped as well, now branded as “Fight to the Top”. It may not have been as original as some of the other NASCAR games on this list, but it is still highly regarded by fans to this very day.

2. NASCAR Thunder 2004

Metacritic Score: 88

User Score: 8.6

The final installment of the iconic NASCAR Thunder series was NASCAR Thunder 2004. The game offered an incredible amount of depth never before seen in a NASCAR game. From the career mode, to the challenges, to the rival system, to the presentation, there is seemingly something for everybody.

On Metacritic, 10/10s reign on the user reviews site even on reviews given back when the game was released. The game stands the test of time, which is something that is hard to do. As impractical as a remaster may be, there is a reason why many ask for a remastered version of this game.

1. NASCAR Racing: 2003 Season

Metacritic Score: 89

User Score: 8.2

The original king of NASCAR racing simulation, NASCAR Racing: 2003 Season, or NR 2003, still holds up to this very day. The game was released 20 years ago, and the community is still just as active to this very day on this game. The incredible mods, racing leagues, crash reenactments, and on, and on, and on created from this game are simply incredible.

The company who created this game, Papyrus, later was sold and went on to create iRacing. iRacing may be modern, but NR2003 still holds a certain charm to many people. To those my age, it gave us incredible content such as TNTMan93’s Idiots of NR2003 series.

These are some incredible NASCAR video games that created some great memories for many fans of NASCAR. Hopefully a new NASCAR game in the near future will create those same memories for other new NASCAR fans.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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