As one of the first game genres to embrace VR, sim racing has successfully transitioned from the ‘very early adopter’ stage (using Oculus development kits) to the ‘early adopter’ stage (the first-generation consumer headsets). Now that the majority of PC racing sims support VR, there are several compelling options to try.

Update (10/6/17): Following the recent launch of Project CARS 2, this top 5 list has been overhauled. Every title has been re-evaluated based on its current VR features and performance.

From mid-2014 until early 2016, when the Rift DK2 was essentially the only hardware option, software support in racing simulators was a nightmare. Since then, the situation has improved, but each software solution featured here can still be considered a work-in-progress.

The HTC Vive launched on April 5th 2016, a week after the consumer Oculus Rift. The headsets shared similar specifications and, for seated games like racing sims, should have delivered a very similar experience. However, that was definitely not the case. In terms of getting development kits into the wild, Oculus had more than a two-year head start, the effects of which are still apparent today; at launch, the Vive was poorly supported by racing sims, and in some cases remained totally unsupported for months. Assetto Corsa (2014), for example, was functional on the Rift DK1 in Early Access in 2013 and had solid consumer Rift support by May 2016, but only received Vive support in March 2017.

The situation continues to improve; with the exception of Automobilista (2016), every PC racing sim (in active development) now has some form of VR support for the Vive and Rift. Below are our top five recommendations – please note, the list is weighted towards the VR implementation, not the ‘simulation value’. The truth is, depending on your sensitivity to particular contributing factors, one could justify listing these titles in almost any order, as they all feature a functional, competent VR mode – many of their differences are nuanced.

SEE ALSO
Best Steering Wheel & Pedals for Newcomers to VR Sim Racing

5. RaceRoom Racing Experience

Photo courtesy Sector3 Studios

RaceRoom Racing Experience (2013) is the only ‘free-to-play’ sim on the list (most content requires purchasing). After the studio endured a challenging transition from SimBin to Sector3 in 2014, the game began to improve significantly, with a clearer direction towards realism. Today, the presentation is becoming more consistent, with many impressive track environments and detailed cars, representing the DTM series particularly well. Unlike the others on this list, the game offers three different physics models – ‘Novice’, ‘Amateur’, and ‘Get Real’, which are effectively driving assist presets. Even on the most ‘hardcore’ setting, handling is on the forgiving side, but it is a very enjoyable drive, thanks to its powerful audio design and impressive AI.

VR support in RaceRoom landed for Rift and Vive in January, and despite using a relatively old graphics engine, Sector3 delivered a solid implementation. Performance is strong on both headsets, the menus and HUD work well, and it supports supersampling and world scale adjustment.

Photo courtesy Sector3 Studios

However, due to an outdated, 180-degree steering animation, along with an incomplete, poorly-proportioned driver model (with no torso), RaceRoom’s VR experience has suffered. iRacing (2008) also used 180-degree rotation for years, but has since reworked the animations across most of its cars. Sector3 has been improving in this area – every new car they release has an animation that does well beyond 180, and features a complete, more-realistic driver model. But the old steering and driver model still feature in many of the cars, including the popular DTM and GT3 series. The cars with the old animations also seem to be the most inconsistent in their default head position, but the game does allow for cockpit camera/seat adjustment.

There are other signs that this title wasn’t originally built with VR in mind – the cockpit mirrors appear distorted and aren’t very usable (but there is a ‘virtual mirror’ option for the HUD), and there are jarring transitions during loading, and the opening panning camera shots before each race can feel uncomfortable in VR. RaceRoom’s widely praised audio doesn’t come across as well as it could in VR either, as it doesn’t support surround or spatial audio.

RaceRoom

4. Assetto Corsa

Photo courtesy Kunos Simulazioni

Assetto Corsa is a very popular sim, recognised for its intuitive physics and attractive visuals. Unlike most PC racing sims, it gives a significant amount of attention to road cars, giving the title a more mainstream appeal. Many prestigious brands are represented, including a vast collection of Ferrari and Porsche race and road cars. It also supports ‘mods’, and is now the go-to sim for user-created cars and tracks. Sometimes criticised for being a ‘hot-lap sim’ due to its basic career mode features, Assetto Corsa doesn’t offer the best single player experience – although its AI has improved. However, the game’s public multiplayer lobbies are very popular, making this the best choice for those looking for a quick race against human opponents.

The combination of slick visuals and sublime handling meant that even in the Oculus DK2 era—where no in-game menu system meant a limiting and painful setup process—Assetto Corsa was still worth trying. Since May 2016 however, the Rift has enjoyed much-improved support, and now Vive owners don’t have to mess with unofficial hacks for support as the game now natively supports OpenVR. An ‘IPD slider’ in the sim’s OpenVR app offers a solution to world scaling on Vive, and there is quick access to a cockpit camera adjustment.

Today’s VR experience on Assetto Corsa is fairly painless. Unfortunately Kunos aren’t planning to implement a proper VR menu system, so you still need to launch the sim from a desktop view (although it is possible to operate this from a virtual desktop app). Once you’ve loaded a track, Assetto Corsa is stunning in VR, with smooth performance even on large grids, and excellent steering animations across all cars. The motion-to-photon latency is typically very low, improving your connection to the car and delivering a highly immersive experience. If your priority for VR immersion is low latency combined with high-quality visuals, Assetto Corsa strikes the best balance on this list.

Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. The curved HUD and in-sim menu system isn’t the most elegant or intuitive, and the mirrors are inaccurate, rendering a single FOV across all cockpit mirrors. The basic ‘surround’ audio implemented on the Rift is welcome, but it still doesn’t work when using the Vive, and it can’t match the spatial audio system of Project CARS 2.

Assetto Corsa

3. Live for Speed

By far the oldest product on the list (first seen in 2002), Live for Speed’s evolution has been painfully slow at times. In stark contrast, its VR updates across the last couple of years have been remarkably rapid—often industry-leading—implementing Rift and Vive support before either consumer hardware had even launched. The sim remains an impressive example of uncompromising driving physics, but visually it struggles to compete against the more recent titles, particularly with its ageing selection of (mostly) fantasy car models. Live for Speed is an ongoing project; 15 years of development updates have resulted in a unique, feature-laden simulation. The core driving experience is excellent, combining intuitive handling with strong force feedback.

Despite its dated visuals and fictional vehicles, Live for Speed remains a very interesting sim as a VR showcase. Its system requirements are very low, delivering 90Hz performance on sub-minimum spec machines, with a streamlined setup and comprehensive options to fiddle with. There are considerations for VR users not found in other sims, like a HUD-based keyboard (combined with a gaze-based pointer) for entering text, and a dedicated ‘walk’ mode intended to improve the experience of exploring the track environments in VR ‘on foot’.

Since version 0.6Q in September 2016, Live for Speed has featured stereoscopic mirrors, an effect first seen in Codemasters’ experimental VR support for GRID Autosport (2014). Live for Speed remains ahead of the competition here – it is the only racing sim on the list with the feature.

Interior and side mirrors in all other sims essentially appear like digital screens rather than reflections. iRacing and Project CARS 2 manage to move the mirror view relative to head position, but they’re still not stereoscopic. It might seem like an insignificant feature, but the effect of depth in mirrors has a remarkable impact for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it helps to mitigate the low resolution of current VR hardware; it’s hard enough to see distant objects in the main environment, and certainly troublesome to see detail in mirrors (many VR users opt to use a larger ‘virtual mirror’ as part of the HUD). Stereoscopic depth allows the eyes to resolve detail more easily. Secondly, there is the natural sensation of looking in a mirror—we expect them to work in a certain way, and it’s jarring when they don’t.

Due to the close proximity of the mirror itself, your eye’s convergence reflex is in full effect; when the virtual reflection is faked and appears as a ‘screen’, you’re having to look at the details as a close object, messing with your focal distance in an unnatural way. In Live for Speed, you look ‘through’ the mirrors as in reality, and focus on distant objects in the reflection in the same way as looking straight ahead.

The effect is so convincing that I genuinely feel a heightened sense of presence, particularly when leaning up to the rear view mirror and seeing my own reflection (wearing a helmet) making exactly the same movement. All VR racing simulators should have this feature; unfortunately a mirror is one of the most performance-sapping elements to render. But once they do, ‘virtual mirrors’ on the HUD will likely be a thing of the past as they become completely unnecessary when the ‘real’ mirrors are so good.

With huge performance headroom, Live for Speed always feels responsive in VR. Thanks to minimal latency on inputs and the 1:1 head movement in the stereoscopic reflections, LFS achieves a level of body presence that is a step above all other driving sims, despite the fact that the driver model is presented in very low detail by modern standards. It ticks almost every box for VR sim racing nirvana – perfect tracking, low latency, surround audio, 1:1 steering animation, and stereoscopic mirrors all contribute to powerful immersion, but it is let down by its dated visuals and a choppy world movement relative to head position – apparently due to the sim’s 100Hz physics update rate not matching the 90Hz rendering.

Live for Speed

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  • Albert.CR

    How about a similar article about Racing Sims for the Vive (if any?) … Driving games is my favorite genre and I was looking into buying a rift for my cockpit setup, but the Vive is too enticing… there’s not much info about racing sims for the vive though…

    • Vince Stimpson

      The Vive is like the Annie Oakley of HMD headsets – Anything the Oculus can do, the Vive can do better. The Vive has a sitting mode and calibration in the newest beta. With it, it’s possible for developers to treat the Vive very similarly to the Oculus. Expect to see more and more developers officially support the Vive for sitting experiences, especially after its release in April.

      • zzkkttrr

        Actually there are advantages and disadvantages to both the Vive and the Oculus. Personally, I’m going for the Rift because it’s more comfortable on the face, has less screen door effect, and will have better motion control (when it’s actually released).

        • Vince Stimpson

          Sorry, I meant from a developer perspective. Hardware wise, both headsets have their strong suits. I much prefer the tracking tech in the Vive but Oculu certainly has much better optics and comfort.

          Oculus’ touch controls are also leaps and bounds over the Vive’s controllers. Ergonomically and functionality speaking. Vive will always be king in tracking, but they could learn a thing or two in design, from Oculus.

          Either way, both headsets will work great for racing sims. All you need next is one of these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQLF06rwzVE

        • realtrisk

          Who says it has less screen door effect? Have you tried both of the consumer release hardware?

          • Joe Holliday

            I’ve tried both and confirm the screen door effect is worse (or at least more noticeable) on the Vive than CV1, and that small text on HUDs and gauges are easier to read on the CV1. That being said, I enjoy the overall experience of the Vive better and ended up going with that.

    • Tommy Cheatham

      So far I haven’t seen *any* racing sims list support for the Vive, which I am concerned about — I had both headsets preordered before I finally decided that room scale was more important to me than the design of the Rift and cancelled my preordrr with Oculus.

      The lack of driving sims is disappointing, although I really do expect them to add Vive support to most if not all of them. The only driving sims I know of with Vive support are Euto Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator, and neither of those are racing — and they’re not even listed as having Vive support on Steam.

      • realtrisk

        I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Any game that supports VR is going to want to support the two premier headsets. Give it a few months and I’ll bet they all will.

      • Jib

        I think this is mainly because Oculus Rift developer kits have been in the wild for 3 years and HTC Vive Dev kits have only been available to developers for less than 1 year. so it might take some time for them to catch up.

  • George Vieira IV

    Nice read. Almost the entire reason I ordered a RIft was for Sims. Hope all the games I play will implement VR well.

    Somewhat off topic recently Microsoft announced that a Forza was coming to PC. I wonder if they will give it VR support. With Gran Turismo getting VR on the PS4, I’m hopeful.

    • Kalabalik

      Forza on PC won’t even come with wheel support so hoping for VR isn’t something I’d hold my breath for sadly.

      • George Vieira IV

        I hadn’t heard it wasn’t coming with wheel support. Seems odd since the console version supported them.

        • realtrisk

          It’s pathetic, really. I want to support the game to support them bringing the titles over… but with that kind of half-baked realization, I hate to support a shoddy port… What do you do?

        • Kalabalik

          It’s a super slimmed down “demo” version to be released on the windows app store.

    • Pre Seznik

      Forza will be a straight up port which means no added features and probably xinput wheel support (as in, not the one you currently have hooked up to your PC).

      • George Vieira IV

        Well the one I have is a Fanatec with Forza branded on it, and an xbox button would that help :P

        Why bring Forza to PC if it’s not going to utilize anything it it offers? Trying to be a demo for the Xbox One?

        • Pre Seznik

          You’re in luck as that specific wheel has Xbox support, but besides that and the Logitech G920 – no PC wheel has Xbox support and therefore Forza most likely won’t be made to work with any of them.

          As for the second part of the question, the answer is probably console parity (which is the worst possible thing for a PC gamer). Same thing happened with Rise of the Tomb Raider on the Windows Store (which had no support for SLI, borderless window only operation and doesn’t support modding).

          • George Vieira IV

            Ah, well that’s awful. I hope Microsoft with their talk of console upgrades will just kill the current xbox, in favor of a Steam Machine like box, so console parity won’t be as terrible a thing, since it would pretty much be a PC.

          • realtrisk

            Three wheels have PC/Xbox support. Thrustmaster TX, Logitech G920, and Fanatec Clubsport V2 with appropriate rims.

    • nebošlo

      Don’t expect VR in Microsoft games until and if Project Scorpio supports it. And even then only for newly released games.

    • GunnyNinja

      I’m from the future. No it won’t.

  • BigTake0ver

    Great piece! I look forward to the day where they all just work, but in the meantime it’s great to get coverage of the state of VR sim racing. Keep the articles coming.

  • realtrisk

    A better name for this piece would have been “The Five Racing Titles that Currently Support VR.” Also, your order of quality is a joke. Dicking around with trying to coax Assetto Corso to work, having it lock your computer, not displaying any HUD info… vs Project CARS, which just works when the headset is turned on? Calling Assetto Corsa the better experience is retarded. I tried it ONCE and it was way too much trouble to be worth it. I’ve run Project CARS with it many times, in comparison. The shadows are a problem, but whatever else it is you’re blathering about (I can’t even understand your complaint) isn’t a problem at all.

    And rating Dirt Rally at 4? Now I know you’re clueless! Dirt Rally is the single best experience I’ve ever had in VR! The visuals are flawless and the quality is amazing! Here’s the order any SANE VR sim racer would put the titles in, when taking into account all angles, from graphics quality, VR support in menus, to ease of use:

    5. Assetto Corsa
    4. Iracing
    3. Project CARS
    2. Live for Speed
    1. Dirt Rally

    • AC works great now on the Rift and Vive (with the Revive patch). Full in-game menu support, supersampling options (via .txt config editing).

      AC also has arguably the best force feedback support out of all of these games.

      • Ddrivrlife

        Your opinion of course, but I doubt you’ve been exposed to good force feedback . Try a direct drive wheel. iRacing is pretty much above all in that department. AC does ffb well for the belt driven wheels I’ll give you that. But best ffb overall? I don’t think u would agree after trying out a bodnar or Osw and comparing both

      • nebošlo

        Full in game menu support isn’t really there as long as you need a mouse to use it. It’s definitely not practical.

        • Matt

          Agreed. It’s junk – I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

    • Ddrivrlife

      AC is an abomination of a sim. Im tempted to do a live video special, to demonstrate all the bullshit that goes on whenever I try to boot it up. every time there’s new bullshit. plus It’s a collection of the worste menu design philosophies. who’s bright idea was it to set the osd up the way they did? Who the f*** wants to reach for a mouse when they’re driving?!!!! How hard would it have been to just make the various functions scrollable like iracing’s black box? AC: unstable, unreliable, And most times completely disfunctional. I am constantly astonished at how many sim racers out there believe this game is worth their time. Though I suspect they’re the ones that feel iRacing wasn’t for them, or just aren’t keen on real competition.

    • Joe Holliday

      I just tried them both side to side, and Assetto Corsa game me a better experience than Project Cars (via ReVive) overall. I was able to access the menus in the headset on both games though.

    • nebošlo

      Your anecdotal experience doesn’t seem to be reflected in my own. Asseto Corsa always worked perfectly (and I play often) and seemed to work much better in terms of how it felt in VR compared to Project CARs, which I even helped crowdsource.

      • realtrisk

        I wrote this comment a YEAR ago, dude. Way to dredge up a totally irrelevant comment on a topic that has changed drastically since it was written. With your own anecdotal experience, no less.

        • nebošlo

          It worked perfectly a year ago as well. Not my fault this news article was on the front page yesterday.

          By the way, I agree with your top 2 choices with LFS and Dirt, you’re just wrong about AC :)

          • realtrisk

            From your post below: “Full in game menu support isn’t really there as long as you need a mouse to use it. It’s definitely not practical.” So by your own words it is far from “perfect” even today. And those main menus…

            I love AC, it’s my favorite simracer by a country mile. I bought a DK1 just to play AC in VR. I upgraded to a Clubsport V2 to improve the experience. But I’m not such a stupid, blind fanboy I’m going to call it “perfect” or even close to it, because that’s just plain retarded.

          • nebošlo

            I said it works perfect, not that it is perfect. I think it’s both “stupid” and “blind” for you to have missed that. The only thing “retarded” here is my decision to care enough to point out your mistake.

    • Matt

      Seriously, AC’s implementation is very half-baked and shouldn’t have been released without proper usage. Project Cars should be the gold standard of VR racing game implementation with gaze selection and ease of use.

    • Jean-Sebastien Perron

      AC was my favorite for years on PS4 (non-vr), when I got the Oculus I bought it again to play in VR, after 5 minutes I asked for a refund. There is nothing in VR, you have to be in front of your pc screen to make it work. AC should not even be considered VR. RaceroomVR and Project Cars 2 are the best after iRacing.

      • realtrisk

        I agree. It’s frustrating. When it works, it is absolutely wonderful in VR, but getting it working is a nightmare, and it has a tendency to suddenly stop working after having worked for a while. Kunos is falling behind other devs in the VR department, and they don’t seem to care. I keep holding out hope that they’ll fix it, because AC is still my favorite sim…

      • Nick Kiewik

        Don’t agree. AC is my go-to race game for VR. So your main gripe is the menu not being in VR? The actual driving in VR is very good. Had no troubles getting it to work with revive nor my Rift later on. I do agree iRacing is better overall.
        PC I didnt like in VR, not sure i will give PC2 a try. PC2 allegedly has still similar problems to PC1 regarding driving physics.

  • You can try it live in Dublin, see http://www.simotion.ie/event-hire/real-car-simulator/

  • Irgendwo

    Its funny how people always complain about the menu and interface of AC when I actually could not care less about this. What counts for me is the driving experience which is like 10x better in AC as in Project Cars or any other current VR ready racing game. I am on board from day one of Project Cars and AC and since day one AC is more stable and better as Project Cars under any condition. Project Cars is a ridiculous resource eater, needs like the double pc power to accomplish the half. Yes, I can control the menu without a mouse (wow!) but it is at least equal annoying in the current version. The fact is that graphics and specially head tracking is much smoother in AC and when we start talking about realism its complete over. Give me a break with Project Cars which handles like a Arcade Racer anyway. Specially in combination with a Full Motion cockpit Project cars is the worse choice in my eyes…. but hey, I guess everybody has his own opinion in the end. :) I just wish some of the commenting people here would know how to configure their PCs the right way. When I read comments like “it was way too much trouble to be worth it” or “all the bullshit that goes on whenever I try to boot it up” than I have to smile since my 13 year old son gets this down without a hassle!

    • nebošlo

      Of course. Obviously. But tribalism demands that you pick the worst part of what you don’t like and harp on that as if it’s the most important thing, ever.

  • George Vieira IV

    I agree about the mirror support, it’s more important than you’d think.

  • NooYawker

    I’ve only played project cars and it’s obvious these games aren’t much fun unless you have a steering wheel setup. For me anyway.

  • Louis Alpoim

    c’est faut iracing et pcars 2 gere aussi les miroir stereoscopique ,je sais je les ai tous les 2

  • Carey Tordsen

    If you were going to teach a 15 year old some basic driving skills, would any of these titles be appropriate?

  • MosBen

    Any recommendations for non-sims? I like Burnout, Carmageddon, and cart style racing games, but never cared for things that required tons of precision.

  • MaXyM

    Regarding DR and its wheel rotation. I spent hundreds of hours with this title in VR, and really cannot say the rotation is not as accurate as expected. Maybe it depends on proper rotation setting and calibration. I’m using G25, with full rotation allowed in drivers and calibrated in DR.

  • yag

    Not a racing sim but indeed the good old Richard Burns Rally is very playable in VR with a mod : http://www.kegetys.fi/rbrvr-v1-5-fix-for-latency-camera-options/#comment-2869 (playable on Rift and Vive via OpenVR)
    For most rally-simmers, RBR is still the best and even have been enhanced thanks to the mod community (updated cars, better graphics, better physics…)

  • Ragbone

    I hope some new VR driving games come out soon, even some that allow you to just have a nice drive without racing. It would also be good to have a driving learning game (I’m surprised there isn’t) and also a VR Carmageddon mod :D.

    I’m using the Logitech G29steering wheel with peddles and gearstick and am playing Euro truck 2, Dirt rally, Project cars (buggy with clutch) and Assetto corsa (Buggy with clutch).

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    You forgot GPBikesVR (there is a free demo) you inferior pussy cage racers.

  • Erik Smit

    AC Is perfect for me.what a sim.i buy n AC tshirt also.

  • Hivemind9000

    Please create a new article when you update this list, so we can discuss the pros and cons of latest games rather than wade through out-of-date comments that are 2 years old.

    • Nathan Maxtro

      Sort by newest.

  • El_MUERkO

    I haven’t bought DIRT 4. Nor will I buy any further DIRT games until VR Support is implemented. It’s a great pity because I loved VR DIRT.

  • MosBen

    I appreciate that this list is specifically for sims, and thus not really the place for this, but I as someone that doesn’t really care about super accuracy in my driving games I would LOVE some kind of VR arcade racer for the Rift.

    • Nathan Maxtro

      With Microsoft launching its VR platform, its odd that Forza 7 doesn’t have VR.

      That’s a missed opportunity.

  • ummm…

    project cars 2 with vive is amazing. i was a heavy user of assetto and rfactor2 and rr3 until pc2. now i really dont find a reason to go back to any of the others except for rfactor2 for their realism and tire model. assetto was really great, but no weather hurts my desire to turn it on.

    the bottom line is I HAVE TOO MANY SIMULATIONS and can’t divide my time between them.

  • Chispi

    Special mention should be made of one of the simulators that the best experience I have had with the Oculus, is a motorcycle simulator called GP Bikes and is simply spectacular.
    Since the beta 12b the game creates a separate shortcut for the VR and works very well.
    http://www.gp-bikes.com/

  • 9397 Racing

    “RaceRoom Racing Experience (2013) is the only ‘free-to-play’ sim on the list (most content requires purchasing)”

    -> You can say the same for LFS

  • Evan D

    At some point, Dirt 4 devs slipped TrackIR support in a patch without mention. The only reason I can think that they would add a feature like that and not tell anyone is that they are laying the groundwork for a VR re-launch.

  • rist

    Critical Gravity on Steam <3

  • Looking very nice :)