5 Best Realistic Drifting Games: Best Drift Simulators
In this guide, I take a look at the very best drifting games and drift simulators. I'll show you the 5 best games and sims for drifting, and explore what makes a good drifting game.
When many of us think of realistic racing simulators, our mind goes straight to sims such as iRacing and Assetto Corsa where you can jump into a GT3 car or an F1 car and get the closest possible realistic racing experience.
However, there is a huge subgenre of sim racing with a massive community, and that is drifting. Those who like to spend more time going sideways than perfecting the best lap time require a drifting game that is both realistic and accessible.
Many racing simulators simply aren’t created with drifting in mind, making them unsuitable for drifting. But the great news is that there are some racing games and simulators that are perfect for drifting.
In this guide, I’ll look at the best drift games or simulators that allow for the most realistic virtual drifting available.
What makes a good drifting game?
For a racing game to be good for drifting you’ll need a combination of elements. The first being a good selection of drift cars.
Some games such as Assetto Corsa Competizione offer very realistic driving physics, however they only feature GT cars, which are entirely designed to go fast and not slide. This makes ACC completely unsuitable for drifting.
Instead, opting for a game that has a good selection of road cars that can be modified to become fantastic drift cars, or drift specific cars should be your starting point.
After this, you’ll need a game that has realistic orientated car physics. Many racing titles like to include the option to easily initiate drifts by tapping the brake or focus more on arcade-like driving physics. These include games such as Need for Speed or GRID.
These titles may be very good fun to pick up and play, offering exciting racing and drifting, but they aren’t realistic in the slightest. If your goal is to emulate a real-world drift car and master your technique, you should opt for something more realistic.
The next thing you should look for is a good range of tracks or environments. Most racing games and simulators will provide a range of real-world environments and tracks. And many of these are ideal for drifting. Other titles may allow you to create your own course by placing down cones or customising your environment.
The final ingredient is the ability to customise your cars or install mods to improve your drifting experience. Games like Drift 21 and Forza Horizon 5 allow you a lot of customisation of car which will help you tune each car to be better at drifting.
Other titles such as Assetto Corsa may require mods to improve the drifting. Mods can adjust some physic-based elements to improve drifting, or add completely new cars and tracks to drift around.
The first drift game I’m going to recommend isn’t a drift game at all. However, it is one of the most realistic racing titles currently, and it also allows for incredibly easy modding. Check out our guide on how to install mods in Assetto Corsa.
Assetto Corsa has one of the biggest communities of any game, despite it being almost 10 years old. Creators are still releasing and supporting mods, and there are thousands of mods available.
One of the main reasons Assetto Corsa is so popular is due to its driving physics, which are incredibly detailed. The game can also be completely customised to perform exactly how you’d like.
If you boot up the base Assetto Corsa game, it looks at first glance to be fairly limited. However, by installing an app called Content Manager, a whole world of mods and customisation is opened.
Content Manager for Assetto Corsa gives you a completely new UI to jump into sessions and it completely replaces the original Assetto Corsa UI. You can also manage all of your settings, content and mods directly from Content Manager.
Some of the best drifting mods for Assetto Corsa include the Drift Workshop Street Pack 2018. This mod adds a range of new drift-focused cars to Assetto Corsa including the Toyota AE86, Nissan Skyline R32 and more.
You can find a range of individual car packs such as the Supra Drift 1.5JZ Switchriders pack that add specific drift-focused cars into Assetto Corsa. And many of these mods are completely free to download and use.
Finally, there are hundreds of track mods that add new tracks to the game. One of the best is the Buxton Raceway pack which includes a drift specific track layout.
Drift 21 is a drifting game that has been built from the ground up to be a comprehensive drifting simulator. While its physics aren’t necessarily the most true to life, it does offer a great drifting experience and allows drifters to physically build their own drift cars.
Starting at the top, Drift 21 offers a range of real-world cars, including some absolute staples within the drifting community. You’ll find cars that are perfect for going sideways including the Nissan 180SX, Toyota GT AE86 and a range of Mazda and BMW cars.
You can take any of these cars and customise them in your own virtual workshop. Drift 21 allows you to add a range of modifications from cosmetic upgrades, right down to changing out engines, upgrading your suspension, brakes and more.
The unique part of the car workshop is that you can manually walk around your car, remove parts and install new upgraded components. This allows any budding car mechanic to feel right at home and learn the exact parts that affect just how good your car is at drifting.
There is a wide selection of laser scanned tracks from around including the legendary EBISU complex. These tracks feature a variety of different configurations, and you can attack them however you like across a range of game modes. You can progress through a single player career, upgrading your car as you go, or you can compete against other drifters online.
Overall, for drifters who want a single package that is ready to go, without worrying about installing mods, Drift 21 offers a great out-of-the-box drifting experience.
CarX Drift Racing
CarX Drift Racing is a game focused entirely on drifting, bringing the world of drifting to PC and consoles. There aren’t too many drift games that are console compatible, so we thought we’d best include CarX Drift Racing.
The core drifting in CarX Drift Racing is incredibly good, with each car feeling distinctively different from each other. Cars with large V8 engines feel incredibly different to drive compared to those with smaller turbocharged engines.
While I’m on the subject of the car list, it is incredibly extensive, however, there is one big caveat. And that is that none of the cars in this drifting game include their real name. Each car, despite looking almost identical to its real-world counterpart doesn’t feature any official badging or naming.
A Mazda MX-5 for example is referred to as a Panther in CarX Drift Racing. This lack of real world licensing doesn’t affect things too much when you’re out on track, but it can make finding a specific car a little trickier.
Other than this, there are a lot of features in CarX Drift Racing. There are a good number of tracks that are specifically designed and curated with drifting in mind.
There is also customisation included, although not to the extent of some other games on this list. You can modify certain aspects of your car by installing upgrades. But it doesn’t go as in-depth as some other drifting games.
Overall, for a console-specific experience, CarX does a decent job of bringing drifting to sim racers, despite it not being the most realistic recreation.
rFactor 2 is the second car simulation included on this list where drifting isn’t the primary focus. rFactor 2 instead aims to compete in the hyper-realistic sim racing field alongside heavy hitters such as iRacing.
This simulator has one of the best tyre physics of any racing simulation currently and is incredibly popular due to its continued support over the years. There is a large community around rFactor 2, with it being chosen as the sim of choice for big events such as the Le Mans Virtual Series.
Much like Assetto Corsa which I spoke about earlier, rFactor 2 has a huge modding community. There are a large number of mods available, and they are relatively easy to install.
Some mods focus entirely on drifting by adding new drift-focused cars and tracks into rFactor 2. Car mods such as the Nissan 240SX and BMW M5 are perfect for bringing drifting into rFactor 2.
Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 has been included on this list as it is one of the most popular racing games currently. The approach of Forza Horizon 5 is completely different to any other game on this list.
You get access to a completely open-world environment set in Mexico. Here you can buy, customise and upgrade cars with the goal of competing in a variety of events across the map to progress.
While Forza Horizon 5 wasn’t built solely with drifting in mind, the semi-realistic game physics allow for some of the most enjoyable drifting of any game on this list.
There are specific drift challenges in Forza Horizon 5, but the most enjoyment comes from finding your own lines throughout the map, of which there are plenty. You can create your own challenges while choosing a completely custom course layout and then share it with others online.
The amount of customisation and the cars on offer is better than any other game in this guide. You can choose from hundreds of cars, and customise each of them to be absolute beasts at certain tasks. While not all cars will be good at drifting, you can find some incredibly unique cars, and convert them to become drift monsters.
Most cars allow for complete engine swaps and the addition of drift-specific part upgrades. You can then jump into the car setup to tune your car to be better at going sideways than straight.
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Forza Horizon 5 wasn’t built from the ground up for drifting, but it does offer in-depth and enjoyable drifting. You can very quickly jump into Forza and be drifting within minutes without the need for a comprehensive set up process. Forza is a title that I go back to time and time again, just to have some quick fun.
Choosing the right gear for drifting
Depending on which title you choose to be your drift game of choice, you’ll need a different set of gear. Some games such as Forza Horizon 5 can be enjoyed with a controller, and they allow you to go sideways very easily with a controller. However, others such as Assetto Corsa and rFactor 2 are a bit harder to play with a controller.
To really get the most immersive drifting experience you’ll really be after a racing wheel and pedal set up. This will allow you to really throw your car around and have the highest amount of control while doing so.
There are so many racing wheels to choose from when jumping into drifting for the first time, but below I’ll recommend a few of the best options.
Fanatec drifting option
One of the very best racing wheels around is the Fanatec CSL DD. This wheel is a direct drive racing wheel which is capable of producing strong and very realistic force feedback.
You can buy it in two versions, a 5Nm version and an 8Nm version. This number refers to the amount of maximum torque available. It’s essentially a strength setting, the higher the number, the more powerful the force feedback will be.
8Nm of peak torque is a fantastic point to start at, with no real need to go higher than this. The CSL DD is also relatively affordable, starting from €349.95/$349.95.
To go with the CSL DD, I’d recommend picking up a circular steering wheel which is ideal for drifting. Fanatec also have you covered here with a few drift-specific steering wheels. The ClubSport Drift Wheel Rim would be my wheel of choice, although wheels such as the P1 V2 and the NASCAR wheel are also great options.
Finally, you can pick up a set of pedals from Fanatec to complete your setup. I’d highly recommend a three-pedal set to give you full control of the clutch which is essential for drifting.
The Fanatec CSL pedals are the most affordable pedals on offer, with the three-pedal set coming in at €199.95/$199.95. That set includes a load cell brake pedal which is incredibly important to achieve a realistic braking feel.
MOZA drifting option
Racing Wheel – MOZA R5
Compatibility – PC
Price – £529/$529
Where to buy – Buy from MOZA
There are alternative options if you don’t fancy picking up Fanatec products. MOZA Racing offer very similar products in terms of performance. Their R5 bundle includes a 5Nm direct drive racing wheel, with a set of pedals and a steering wheel. It also comes with a table clamp which is ideal for quickly setting up your racing wheel.
If you are opting for the MOZA racing wheel bundle, I’d recommend upgrading to include the load cell brake pedal. This will give you a third pedal so you’ll have a clutch.
You can also look to upgrade the steering wheel as the ES steering wheel that is included in the bundle features a flat bottom which isn’t ideal for drifting. Opt for the CS Steering wheel or the RS V2 steering wheel for a completely circular option.
Logitech drifting option
Our last recommendation is the most budget-friendly option. The Logitech G923 has been the king of budget racing wheels for a few years. It comes with a set of three pedals, including a clutch, the wheel base and a steering wheel, all for under £350/$350.
This makes it much more affordable than the Fanatec and MOZA wheels above. But it does only produce around 2.3Nm of torque, making it around 50% as powerful.
The steering wheel also isn’t entirely circular with a small kink at the bottom. Despite this, the wheel is light, and easy to drift with, making it a great option for those who fancy a low cost racing wheel.
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