Racing games have been around ever since the first home computers were available, and these days there’s no shortage of great driving simulators. Here, we’re looking at the best games for the PC which allow you to play online and race against others.

The best thing is they're free to play, although they might require you to pay if you want to get extra cars, upgrades or access different tracks.

Don’t agree with the selection? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.

1. Need for Speed World

The Need for Speed series is one of the longest-running and best-known. NFSW is a massively multiplayer online racing game launched in 2010 by Electronic Arts. It has excellent graphics, loads of cars to drive and plenty of action.

As well as racing against other players around the globe, there are also single-player events. You can buy in-game SpeedBoost for real money and use it to buy cars and other items, but you don't have to spend any cash to have fun and progress in the game.

 Best online racing games

2. Trackmania Nations Forever

Like Need For Speed, Trackmania Nations Forever is all about online gameplay against friends and strangers. It isn’t really a simulation, though. Instead, tracks include loop-the-loops and jumps, so it’s much more about having fun than spending time tweaking your gear ratios and wheel camber.

The game also includes a single-player mode with plenty of maps which you can unlock by winning medals in previous maps.

 Best online racing games

3. Racer

Dolphinity Racer is a hard-core simulator which is almost too realistic. It’s definitely not for those who want a quick blast – you’ll need to practice to get the most out of this game which places a huge emphasis on making the cars drive and handle exactly as they do in the real world. In fact, Racer is the basis for professional simulators, such as those used by car manufacturers and racing teams.

As well as Windows versions, it’s also available for Linux and Mac OS X.

Best online racing games

4. Driving Speed 2

From Wheelspin Studios, Driving Speed 2 is more of a game than Racer, but it’s still quite realistic. Make too many mistakes (i.e. crashing) and your car will pick up damage.

There are four V8 muscle cars and two touring car circuits. There’s online multiplayer, but it’s rudimentary: you’ll have to manually host games and give your IP address to others so they can play.

Best online racing games

5 Asphalt 8: Airborne

Originally a smartphone / tablet game, you can now get Asphalt 8: Airborne for Windows 8 via the Windows Store.

It’s an out-and-out arcade racer and, as the title suggests, is a lot like TrackMania. Tracks include jumps where you can do 360-degree flips and barrel rolls. There are 47 cars to drive, including the Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari FXX and Pagani Zonda R and they have newly recorded sounds. For free, it’s well worth downloading.

 Best online racing games