Last updated: September 30th, 2021
Featured image: Hoonigan Racing
Drifting is a spectacle to witness. Watching drivers deliberately turn their cars sideways while remaining in absolute control is captivating in a way that’s hard to describe.
If you’ve gotten into drifting a real car, you’ll know just how quickly costs can add up, especially if you get deeper into the scene and want to do nothing more than burn rubber all day. Luckily, there’s a digital solution for your drifting needs that’s not so hard on your wallet in the form of racing simulations. However, not every racing game is suitable for drifting, so in today’s post, I’ve gathered a selection of the best options for when it comes to driving sideways.
Contents / Drifting links:
Luckily, for those times when you can’t just jump in a drift car and lay down some lines, there are some racing simulations out there to help you get your drifting fix. Not all racing games are necessarily great for drifting, so in today’s post, I’ve rounded up my pick of the best options when it comes to driving sideways.
While I do love to watch drifting, personally, rally games are more to my tastes when it comes to gliding around corners, so should there be any drifting titles I might have missed or that you think are worthy of mention, leave a comment below with the name of the game. Additionally, I’ve highlighted a few pieces of sim hardware that may be of particular interest when it comes to drifting.
Sim vs Arcade
We’ll get to all that in just a second, but before we do, let me address a couple of points regarding racing games in general. Typically, racing games are divided into two categories; simulation and arcade. Many games blur the line between these two groups, and they all have different levels of realism, but on the whole, we can usually decipher what type a game is by looking at certain attributes.
In general, simulation games take more time and energy to learn and master than arcade games. However, the gratification factor is typically higher due to the mental investment made to get it right. Furthermore, driving and drifting in simulations can even enhance your abilities in real life, and this is why a lot of professional drivers have taken up sim racing over the past few years, as it helps them keep their skills honed when they’re not on the racetrack.
Conversely, arcade games focus on letting players start driving within minutes, and these games are often played by people who just want to use a video game controller rather than sim racing hardware like a wheel or pedals. These games usually include driving assists and basically offer a much less realistic experience.
As you can probably guess, here at SimRacingCockpit, we’re not all that interested in the arcade side of things. This doesn’t mean to discredit arcade games for what they are, which is something to have fun with, but they are by no means realistic in terms of gaming physics. Now, this is where the big issue comes for drifters looking for an authentic driving experience, as the sim drifting community is well-served by arcade titles, but those who crave an accurate drifting simulation will find their choices limited.
Sim Drifting Communities
On the whole, drifters don’t get much love from game developers, and the opportunities they do have to enjoy sim drifting exist on the shoulders of a modding community that bring proper drifting assets into titles like Assetto Corsa and Live For Speed. I’ll go into more detail about these two games soon as they are at the forefront of the sim drifting world.
Appreciation for the modders seems to stretch through most parts of the virtual drifting scene, as these people enable the options that attract most new members to the community. Thanks to some modders’ efforts, you can drift on a large variety of maps with a wide choice of cars. For example, you can visit legendary places like (the now very badly damaged) Ebisu Circuit or even Akina Touge from InitialD.SHIFTER (SOURCE)
While still growing, the community of dedicated drifters and drifting-enthusiasts is still a relatively small but tight-knit group. Without significant gaming developers’ backing, these drift enthusiasts are putting in their own work to keep the scene growing. So, let’s check out some of the best drifting games and gear that’s currently available.
Despite its release in 2012, rFactor 2 is probably the most realistic game you can get today in terms of physics. It’s a comprehensive racing simulator designed to allow modifications from PC gamers but currently offers no support to console users. This game allows you to download many of the world’s best and most famous cars and racetracks, and for drifters, there are some amazing drifting mods available to boost realism.
Some of its features like tyre deformation and tyre damage are yet to be beaten by other gaming developers, and the way tyres behave in a racing simulator is a crucial factor in determining how realistic it feels. This is because it allows you to feel grip loss, and it also lets you know when the car is at its limit when cornering. rFactor 2 is also fantastic in how it relays force feedback to your steering wheel, giving you the feeling and information needed to get the best slides.
The mods in this game make it easy to add tracks and cars, making the game perfect to learn the basics of car reactions. You can fully customize the game according to your needs, a considerable element to consider if you’re a beginner. Also, the game features multiple weather conditions and continues to be regularly updated, with a large community of online drift fans to tandem with and improve your skills.
rFactor 2 Mods – useful links:
Drift Mods thread (reddit)
Live For Speed
Like rFactor 2, Live For Speed is only available for PC, but unlike rFactor 2, this racing simulator doesn’t exactly get the credit or recognition it deserves. Created all the way back in 2002, Live For Speed was the inspiration for the likes of the original rFactor and Assetto Corsa, being one of the first racing simulators to allow users to create their own drift mods.
While it only has a handful of unlicensed cars and tracks, the in-game track editor lets you build your own circuits and add cones to create obstacles, leading to hours of fun driving around your custom tracks. Graphically, it is a bit rudimentary, and the sounds are not exactly the best in the industry, but the gameplay and physics are excellent. Some drift community members swear by it as the most authentic drifting simulator, and the game has a reasonably substantial amount of regular players considering its niche spot in online motorsports.
Speaking of eSports, LFS is one of, if not the only, (again, correct me if I’m wrong in the comments) simulator to offer online drifting competitions. The Lislon Drift Challenge is a drift competition with a qualification stage and a final and also features a pair run single-elimination tournament.
With an unlimited number of stages to identify the strongest drivers on a specific track, the Lislon Drift Challenge uses pre-selected judges to score drifters on the following criterion: Style, Line, and Angle. In pair runs, refereeing is carried out by simultaneous (blind) voting in each of the referees’ chat boxes. If you would like to learn more about the Lislon Drift Challenge, head over to the news section on the LFS website.
LFS Mods for drifting – useful links:
LFS Released Mods on Driftmods.net
LFS Drifting community – Facebook
Considered by many as one of the most excellent overall purebred simulators, Assetto Corsa is also known as one of the best games for drift realism. Released in 2014 on PC and in 2016 on PS4 and Xbox One, the PC version of Assetto Corsa is customizable like rFactor 2, but with a more significant number of mods. However, it’s important to note that while the game is available on consoles, only PC users can enjoy the mods and get the whole drift experience.
The physics are uber-realistic and, thanks to a vast online community, there are plenty of user-created tracks, and classic Japanese circuits like Nikko, Meihan and Ebisu, plus plenty of JDM drift cars and drift mods that make the game a joy to play.
The game can be straightforward or extremely hard in terms of difficulty, depending on the car you want to drive, making it the perfect game for beginners’ training and learning. The fanbase is more extensive than rFactor 2 and LFS, and it’s easier to find people at your skill level to compete against if you search in forums online.
What sets this game apart from its competitors is that it doesn’t only offer racing. You can also set up track days with your friends or drive on mountain roads. This simulation is almost a sandbox that you can customize according to your needs. So, if you want to get into sim drifting, you can’t go wrong with this game.
Assetto Corsa Drift Mods – Useful links
Sim Drifting Gear
Of course, if you want to perform the sickest slides, you’ll need some top-end gear to get your car going sideways, and what better hardware to make that happen than the Fanatec ecosystem who support drifting quite well. Check out our guides to wheels/wheelbases, pedals, shifters, and handbrakes. I’ll mention some products here that you can find more info on in that guide, but one product that didn’t feature in my article that I’d like to highlight is the Clubsport Wheel Rim Drift.
When it comes to drifting, you’ll want to opt for a larger deep dish wheel rim. The Clubsport Wheel Rim Drift was made precisely with this in mind, and features brushed and anodized Aluminum and is covered in genuine leather.
I’d recommend pairing this with a set of ClubSport V3 Inverted pedals, just like the guys at Drift Games who installed Fanatec products into a retro arcade-style gaming rig to create a superb drifting rig.
This is Fanatec’s top-shelf pedal set option, and the benefit to this style of pedal set is that the turning points of the brake and clutch are on the top side like in real cars, so it feels more realistic.
Finally, what drift set-up would be complete without a handbrake, so why not grab yourself the ClubSport Handbrake V1.5, which is made entirely of metal and comes in a true-to-life size. This shifter’s analogue sensor allows you to initiate drifts comfortably and perform complicated manoeuvres while maintaining vehicle control.