Forza Horizon 3 is our favourite racing game of 2016. The prize is awarded by PC Gamer staff through voting and debate. We’ll be posting an award a day leading to Christmas, along with personal picks from the PCG team. Keep up with all the awards so far here.
Phil: A brilliant midpoint between arcade and simulation, Forza Horizon 3 takes the Forza series’ obsessive love for cars, and works it into a brilliant open world full of variety, challenge and simple, joyful fun. This is a game that rewards you for racing well, for completing challenges, for smashing signs, or for just mucking about in a big field. The car handling isn’t fully realistic, but it’s a good enough approximation that each of its many vehicles feels different. They’re (mostly) a joy to drive, too. The car physics are pitched just right – the transition in and out of skids rarely feeling uncontrollable, but rather an intentional expression of your ability. It’s all set on the best map of any Forza Horizon game. Australia is an inspired choice of setting, offering a range of terrains from jungle to desert. It’s vibrant and varied, and full of great places to drive.
Andy K: There’s something about the handling in Forza that just feels right. The developers somehow translate the action of holding a button down and nudging a small rubber stick from side to side into feeling like you’re controlling a powerful, weighty vehicle. Whether you’re screaming along a highway in a Pagani Zonda or skidding around a city in a bouncy Ford Mustang, every car has a distinctive personality and an almost tactile feel in your hands. And besides that, it’s just a lot of colourful, light-hearted fun. Forza revels in the joy of motorsport in a way that’s utterly infectious, and Australia is the perfect setting for its many races, stunts, and daft set-piece events.
James: Horizon 3 is whatever game you need it to be. If you’re into realistic street racing, just take off all the driver assist features and go in and tweak your car down to the tiniest variable—it has all the simulation trappings of its originator. Or you can turn Forza’s Australia into a van-only event in which you win every race with ease. Slap a dumb skin on the side of that sucker and make it look like an off brand coke can, turn down the AI, and start a new, perfect van life.
Evan: Just a relentlessly positive racing game. The setting is wide-open and idyllic, the narration is peppy and playful without being annoying, and you’re earning rewards at every turn. Some awful stuff happened in 2016. On the other hand, we got the second coming of Burnout Paradise.
Tom M: Forza Horizon 3 is the closest I’ve come to meditating while playing a game. Bounding over small hills, drifting through bushes, coming as close to oncoming traffic as possible, all to watch that skill multiplier climb higher and higher. It’s a zen practice within modern gaming, and all builds up to that terrifying when I think I may have pushed it too far. Slow down, pump the breaks, try not to flip as I let the six figure number violently shaking above my car cash-in. Is there racing in Forza? I can’t be sure. I was too enraptured with just driving some damn cars.