The release of the original Real Racing (£1.99, iPhone) filled us with joy, and not just because it was a great game.
Back in 2009, iOS still had a real fight on its hands trying to convince people that it was a 'proper' gaming platform. Critics claimed otherwise, arguing iPhones and iPods were nothing more than repositories for fly-by-night lightweight titles. For real games, they said, you needed a Nintendo DS or a Sony PSP.
Real Racing proved otherwise and was one of the key releases that cemented the place of iOS in gaming. This wasn't some simplistic game that you'd finish in an hour, but a fully-fledged racing title that could stand proud next to the very best handheld racers on any platform.
You got dozens of events, 48 cars to unlock, 12 tracks in varied environments, online multiplayer, beautiful graphics, and controls geared specifically towards iOS devices. At its launch price of £6.99, it was quite expensive compared to most other iOS titles, but Real Racing's fans felt it was worth every penny.
The game subsequently appeared in 'HD' (£2.99, iPad) and also as a freebie, in the form of Real Racing GTI (free, iPhone). For cash-strapped racing-game fans, we still recommend Real Racing GTI, which has several modes (Quick Race, Time Trial, GTI Cup), despite costing precisely nothing.
Then at the very tail end of 2010, sequel Real Racing 2 (£2.99, iPhone; £4.99, iPad) appeared, improving on the original in pretty much every way: up to 16 cars on screen! More cars to unlock! Extra locations! Better controls!
When we originally reviewed the game, we felt it had a touch too much grinding, seemingly trying to eke out extra hours from its career mode, but amazingly Real Racing 2 nonetheless remains the best simulation-style 3D racer on the platform. In fact, Real Racing 2 sets such a high standard that it's tough to find anything that compares.
When it comes to career-orientated sim-style racing, our only other recommendation is GT Racing: Motor Academy Free+ (free, iPhone) which also has an HD incarnation (free, iPad). GT Racing isn't as polished as Real Racing 2, and it boasts an underlying freemium model that's mildly irritating, but the courses are both demanding and attractive. Also, entry is free and we happily played for a few hours without ever feeling the need to spend cash.
In order to not cut this If You Loved brutally short, it's necessary to explore other sub-genres within 3D car racing. Real Racing 2 might have simulation-style track racing sewn up, but there are plenty of other types of racing game.
Rallying, for example, has long been a popular subject for videogames. Rally Master Pro 3D (£2.99, Universal) is an excellent handheld adaptation, with 27 challenging and diverse tracks. Note that if you're finding the game a bit gruelling, try using the digital controls, which seem to offer more precision than their tilt counterparts.
You Cruise by Mazda MX-5 (free, iPhone) is also worth a look for rally fans. Although you're driving a shiny sports car in what amounts to an app-shaped advert, the game is actually a pure time-attack racer that put us in mind of a simplified Sega Rally. It's old-fashioned and, sadly, lacks Retina graphics, but for free, it's a lot of fun.
You Cruise also happens to be a decidedly arcade-style driving experience, and for those who prefer racing games with thrills and aren't terribly concerned about realism, there's plenty of choice of those iOS.
If you fancy mooching about the seedy underworld of car crime, Need for Speed Undercover (£1.99, iPhone) fits the bill. It's pretty old and so looks a tad basic, but there are plenty of missions and the cars handle brilliantly, which for us, propels it ahead of more modern iOS fare like Fast Five.
However, EA's own Need for Speed Hot Pursuit (£2.99, iPhone; £5.99, iPad) is even better. It strips out Undercover's slightly ropey storyline and video cutscenes, but ramps up the chase-and-smash gameplay, also enabling you to play the part of the ram-happy cop or nefarious crim. It's fast, playable and, if you're getting on a bit, feels a lot like someone's updated classic arcade game Chase HQ and injected it into your iPhone.
And as anyone who's old enough will testify, Chase HQ was fab. That said, Hot Pursuit isn't the fastest racer on the system - that honour goes to Asphalt 6: Adrenaline (69p, iPhone; £1.49, iPad). To say Gameloft's racer shifts at a fair old pace is a massive understatement - at times, the hyper-real racing feels more like you're desperately trying to guide a missile than a car.
The thing is, Adrenaline is pure arcade grin-inducing pleasure - a total blast that's a very different proposal to Real Racing 2's realism, but every bit as essential. The fact it's only 69p (and just a bit more for the superior iPad version) doesn't hurt either.
Perhaps surprisingly, the iOS racing games that come closest to matching Adrenaline for sheer, well, adrenaline, are decidedly retro fare. Final Freeway 2R (69p, Universal) apes '80s classic OutRun, with you hurtling along in a red sports car at insane speeds.
Elsewhere, 8 Bit Rally (69p, Universal) brings to mind the Lotus series that appeared on early 1990s computers, where you fight your way to the front of a grid of 20 cars, all seemingly driven by people who love weaving and don't understand the concept of rear-view mirrors.
Both are undoubtedly a nostalgia trip for people who remember such games from the first time round, but with modern controls and polish, they're suitable for anyone who has the need for speed.
Additionally, they - along with everything else in this round-up - showcase the depth in 3D car-racing games for iOS. From Real Racing 2's simulation fare to Hot Pursuit's crim-smashing larks to Final Freeway 2R's respectful and considered 1980s arcade tribute, there's truly a top-notch racing game for everyone on iOS. Anyone who argues iOS isn't a proper gaming platform clearly needs to check their oil pressure.
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