Here’s everything that happens when you lose your 118-hour Forza Horizon 5 save

Forza Horizon 5
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studio)

If there’s one moment that unifies us all as PC gamers, across all fandoms and arbitrary delineations, it’s the “oh hell, here we go” we say to ourselves when a game from our Steam library asks us to sign in to Xbox. Since the earliest days of Games For Windows Live, this login screen in its various forms has long signaled the stirring of dark forces. As soon as you begin entering your email address in one of these things, nearby crops shrivel and die, dairy spoils in the fridge, the local townspeople have trouble conceiving. Bibles catch fire.

Look, it just never goes well.

So when I recently reinstalled Forza Horizon 5 after a lengthy break, I was immediately on edge when I launched it from Steam and found the Microsoft equivalent of the Malleus Maleficarum staring back at me: sign in with your Xbox ID. 

I did, of course. I wanted to play Forza Horizon 5 again and this dark ritual was my only way back into that preposterous ‘festival’ where hypercars razzing up and down highways counts as a headline act akin to an Arctic Monkeys set. 

I felt something was wrong, right in my bones

But I felt something was wrong, right in my bones, as soon as I watched the ‘Syncing…’ progress bar inch its way along my screen. Did it always used to do that? Hang on, did I ever even have to sign in this way when I was playing it at launch? Where’s it syncing from, the cloud? But which cloud? Steam’s, or Microsoft’s, or the Forza servers themselves? What if they sync from the wr- 

Oh f… flip, I’ve lost all my progress. 

No, that can’t be right. I must have signed into the wrong account or something. That can’t be right. 

I’ve lost all my progress.

Cloud strife

Forza Horizon 5

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studio)

As I sat there, suddenly chilled to the bone, watching a Corvette airdrop out of a cargo plane, and listening to excited voiceovers welcoming me to the Horizon Festival Mexico where I’ve already spent 118 hours, I started thinking – thinking about all the time I’d put into this game at launch. All the cars I’d accumulated, some of them rare seasonal rewards only now purchasable at the auction house for many millions of credits. I felt like that chap from Newport who threw a flash drive with $181m of Bitcoin into a landfill. 

Had this happened in Skyrim, there might have been a glimmer of hope. But in an online game released in 2021, no chance, mate

I exited the game, restarted it, and signed in again, making damn sure I was using the right account. I was. I got to googling solutions, finding many others who’d seen their save files abruptly wiped and all their progress gone, but no solutions. This being a live service game, it’s not as easy as dragging a save file backup into a directory. The servers are always monitoring you, checking for tampering. Cheating. Had this happened in Skyrim, there might have been a glimmer of hope. But in an online game released in 2021, no chance, mate. 

My 1993 Renault Clio Williams. Gone. My Italdesign Zeruono. Gone. My Raesr Tachyon. Nothing but virtual dust, now. 

I’d been an early adopter of the game’s most profitable AFK races, too, leaving the game playing itself for hours at a time back in the days when the resulting electricity bill wouldn’t have cost the same as an actual hypercar. All for naught. 

I did, however, have one line of inquiry: Forza’s official support. If you ever find yourself in the same situation, and I’m typing that with my fingers crossed that you never do, the support team can actually help you. They helped me too. Here’s what to do. 

A partial fix

Forza Horizon 5

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studio)

Follow the steps in this guide. Once you have a fresh save and sufficient progress in that new game, the Forza support team can restore some of your lost progress. They can’t return the actual save file or hand back your XP level, skill points, or event progress, but they can return your inventory. Your credits, cars, wheelspins, and all the other bobbins you won on wheelspins instead of the cars and credits you wanted: emotes, horns, clothing items, etc.

Like a grief counselor, the support team will only help you if you completely let go of the past

It feels like pouring apple cider vinegar over road rash, manually deleting all your save files at directory level. Like a grief counselor, the support team will only help you if you completely let go of the past, burning all your ex’s things in a sad ceremonial bonfire in the garden. Only then, and after having played the first two hours of the game from a fresh save until online features are unlocked, are you invited to raise a ticket. 

I did the steps. I played the game’s opening again, in stunned silence. I raised a ticket and explained my situation. And then I waited. 

And while I did, I realized there was more riding on this than cars and wheelspins. Forza Horizon 5 was released at a point last year immediately after I lost my job, and immediately after my then-girlfriend moved in with me. Those things happened on the same day. 

It was a tough winter, that one, and by the time spring broke the following year, the relationship was no more. But as the promise of a happy future burned down around us, we had sat and played a bit of Forza now and then. She’d hardly played games before, and seeing how she’d react to a massive open world of things to smash into was wonderful. Which cars would she pick? What events would she decide to do? Oh wow, she’s actually beating ‘pro’ difficulty AI. Ok.

What began as panic and embarrassment during Forza Horizon 5’s launch week – what will she think about this new job I have as a freelancer playing this game all day? What if she suspects this is what I’ve been doing all along, and there never was a previous job? – became an unlikely bonding ritual. I’d even save the Horizon adventure chapters when they unlocked for her to do later on.

New horizons

Forza Horizon 5

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studio)

And look, I don’t want this to become one of those ‘Dark Souls cured my eczema’ features. I only bring it up to say: I wasn’t really fussed about losing the Italdesign Zeruono. What had got under my skin was the sense that those memories of playing the game together had somehow been wiped. 

What had got under my skin was the sense that memories of playing the game had somehow been wiped

Important memories. 

Particularly with live service games that ask us to live our lives in them to some degree in order to progress, we probably put more in there than we realize. How many of us lived vicariously through our Destiny 2 characters during lockdowns? Just how much did those shanties in Sea of Thieves get us through the isolation?

For their part, Forza’s support was exemplary. I received a response within just a couple of hours of raising a ticket, and within 24 hours, it had restored my entire inventory. Thank you, Persephone. 

It’s a pretty awkward process in-game, mind you. Everything from your previous inventory – cars, credits, wheelspins, customization items – is gifted back to you individually. That meant I had 522 messages to click through one by one to restore everything. 

But now here I am. The Italdesign’s back in the garage, along with 450 other motors, some of which we drove across Horizon Adventure chapters in a different life last year. There are all the seasonal reward cars I grinded for, and the credits balanced I cheesed AFK races for. It’s not all back. Some things are just gone, and you have to accept that. But at least I’m filthy rich and have a garage full of hypercars. 

Phil Iwaniuk

Ad creative by day, wandering mystic of 90s gaming folklore by moonlight, freelance contributor Phil started writing about games during the late Byzantine Empire era. Since then he’s picked up bylines for The Guardian, Rolling Stone, IGN, USA Today, Eurogamer, PC Gamer, VG247, Edge, Gazetta Dello Sport, Computerbild, Rock Paper Shotgun, Official PlayStation Magazine, Official Xbox Magaine, CVG, Games Master, TrustedReviews, Green Man Gaming, and a few others but he doesn’t want to bore you with too many. Won a GMA once.