Touch, Tap, Play proudly presents you with The Best Need for Speed Games of All Time, and we will Rank the NFS Games in descending order.
Every gamer has at least heard of EA’s Need For Speed franchise, which is one of the mainstays of one of the leading companies in the development of computer games for decades.
The series debuted with The Need for Speed in North America, Japan (under the Over Drivin’ title through High Stakes), and Europe in 1994. Need for Speed is a series of racing video games that aim to win races in various game modes, including traffic and police. Aftermarket customization of video game vehicles was a factor first introduced by the Need for Speed series after the release of the film The Fast and the Furious; the feature was included in every Need for Speed title developed by EA Black Box from Need for Speed: Underground through Need for Speed: Undercover.
The NFS series is among the best-selling video game franchises. Electronic Arts considers one of the reasons the series has remained so popular is because “the series has long been an ever-evolving franchise, one that changes up its focus, mechanics, and style every couple of years.”
Have you checked out our Need For Speed Dedicated section?
There are many Need For Speed titles, which we have ranged in our list. Fasten your seat belts, let’s go:
- 1. Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)
- 2. Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004)
- 3. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (2002)
- 4. Need for Speed: Underground (2003)
- 5. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered(2010)
- 6. Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (1998)
- 7. Need for Speed: Most Wanted Remastered(2012)
- 8. Need for Speed: Unbound (2022)
- 9. The Need for Speed (1994)
- 10. Need for Speed Rivals (2013)
- 11. Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed (2011)
- 12. Need for Speed: High Stakes (1999)
- 13. Need for Speed: Shift (2009)
- 14. Need for Speed: Heat (2019)
- 15. Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed (2000)
- 16. Need for Speed II (1997)
- 17. Need for Speed: Carbon (2006)
- 18. Need for Speed: ProStreet (2007)
- 19. Need for Speed: The Run (2011)
- 20. Need for Speed™ (2015)
- 21. Need for Speed: Nitro (2009)
- 22. Need for Speed Payback (2017)
- 23. Need for Speed: Undercover (2008)
1. Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012)
This is our No.1 Pick on this list! NFS: Most Wanted was an excellent racing game that offered everything one could want. It had a diverse open world, thrilling cop pursuits, an enjoyable progression system, split-screen multiplayer, and stunning visuals.
While Underground two may be the choice of many for nostalgia, Most Wanted has become the benchmark against which every new NFS title is compared.
Some earlier titles, such as Underground, had a unique identity, while games like Hot Pursuit 2 had open-world racing. However, Most Wanted was the first game that combined both elements.
2. Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004)
Whenever a new Need For Speed game is released, fans clamor for it to capture the essence of what made Underground 2 so special. Some even call for a complete remake. Although other NFS games have tried to evoke the neon-drenched street racing vibe, few have combined it with the personality and focus on drift racing that made NFS: Underground 2 such a standout title.
3. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (2002)
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 was a significant milestone for the series as it successfully combined several elements into one package. For the first time, the game featured enjoyable daytime racing, a diverse and beautiful map, and a thrilling cop chase. Although other NFS titles have prioritized aesthetics, only a few have offered great racing mechanics that are easy to learn and not excessively arcade-like.
4. Need for Speed: Underground (2003)
The success of its sequel often overshadows the first installment of Need for Speed: Underground. However, its neon-drenched streets and aesthetic began a visual style that the franchise would embrace for years.
While the tracks may not have been perfect, the game combined enjoyable racing, stunning visuals, and thrilling cop chase, making it one of the best early Need for Speed titles.
5. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered(2010)
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered is a unique diamond in the whole NFS Series.
The Hot Pursuit sub-series was rebooted in 2010 with a greater emphasis on speed and police chases. Both teams have access to weapons such as spikes and EMPs, making races at 250mph through the mountains even more thrilling. However, the action sometimes took precedence over the actual racing.
6. Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (1998)
Looking back over several decades, Oldies but Goodies accurately describes this flagship of the EA company, which the older generation of gamers still talk about with a nostalgic smile.
The third game in the series, Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, introduced the Hot Pursuit name, focusing on the cop chases more than ever before. Not only were the races exciting and fast-paced, but Hot Pursuit overhauled the graphics, making it the best-looking game in the series. This wasn’t the last we’d see of the subtitle either.
7. Need for Speed: Most Wanted Remastered(2012)
Following the release of the 2005 game with the same title, the 2012 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted Remastered had big shoes to fill.
While it did not match up to its predecessor in terms of personality, and the multiplayer integration was inconsistent, it featured many enjoyable events. The driving mechanics were the best, and the city’s visuals were impressive.
8. Need for Speed: Unbound (2022)
The latest addition to the Need for Speed series, NFS Unbound, is a refreshing change of pace. The game stands out for its unique over-the-top art style, with customizable stylized cell-shaded smoke that’s left behind when performing burnouts and drifts. NFS Unbound has many improvements, providing a more complex and challenging handling model. Players can corner vehicles between grip and drift depending on traction control settings and vehicle drivetrain.
The game is challenging, with a strict calendar system that requires day-to-day event management and harsh penalties for getting busted by cops. This provides a legitimate challenge that’s fun to overcome, but players who prefer to avoid calendar deadlines may not enjoy it.
Earning money to buy vehicles is also more difficult due to the high cost of cars and the harsh penalty for getting busted and losing one-time events. However, this is a refreshing change of pace from games like Forza Horizon that give cars out easily. In NFS Unbound, players have to earn their vehicles, which is very rewarding.
Criterion’s return to the series in NFS Unbound is likely to be a hotly debated topic among fans, but it’s a breath of fresh air that provides a fun and challenging experience.
9. The Need for Speed (1994)
The initial game in the series, The Need For Speed, had a strong start, and as a result, we’ve witnessed over 20 NFS releases since then.
The graphics received high praise during its time, the arcade-style gameplay was delightful, and the tracks were exceptionally well-crafted. It introduced elements that became identifiable with the series in the following years. The rest is history…
10. Need for Speed Rivals (2013)
NFS Rivals marked the first entry of the Need for Speed franchise on the current-gen consoles. It was a game that combined the weapons-focused cop chases of Hot Pursuit with the varied open world of the two Most Wanted games.
The game featured a map that was the most diverse and comprehensive in the entire series. The drifting mechanics were a lot of fun, and the various weapons added a layer of tactics to the racing. However, the only issue was that the cops were a little too powerful, particularly later in the game.
11. Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed (2011)
Need Fros Speed: Shift 2 is NFS’s second and final attempt at track racing, bringing slight improvement compared to the first Shift game.
However, it still served as a decent alternative to popular titles like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. The game still maintained its arcade-style gameplay, which made it easy for racing beginners to enjoy, but it also required more strategy than the series’ street racing counterparts.
12. Need for Speed: High Stakes (1999)
Unleashed in 1999, the fourth installment of the Need for Speed franchise, NFS: High Stakes, was a soft reboot.
Although the police chases were entertaining, the game couldn’t compete with Gran Turismo 2, released a few months later. Even though the graphics were improved and the new career mode was well-designed, it failed to match up to the level of its competitor.
13. Need for Speed: Shift (2009)
NFS: Shift was the first attempt by the Need for Speed series to create a track racing game.
It differed significantly from Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport’s simulation style but offered a unique blend of Need for Speed style and streamlined action. However, some series fans missed the cops, dramatic crashes, and street racing that were prominent in the usual NFS games. Hence, this put off many people from trying out Shift.
Nonetheless, Shift was commendable and helped keep the NFS formula fresh.
14. Need for Speed: Heat (2019)
After being disappointed by 2017’s Need for Speed Payback, many gamers were initially skeptical about Need for Speed Heat. However, this open-world street racer surprised many with its impressive performance.
Heat is a marked improvement, incorporating several elements from some of the franchise2017’st beloved games. Although it took several attempts, developer Ghost has finally created a racer that remains true to the roots of Need for Speed, resulting in a fittingly faithful experience.
Heat may not be revolutionary, but it is fast, fun, and sigfranchise’sbetter than the underwhelming Need for Speed Payback from 2017.
15. Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed (2000)
Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed, a game that exclusively showcases the cars of the legendary German company, received a more comprehensive range of reviews than any other game in the Need for Speed series.
While some reviewers appreciated the new structure, more like mini-games designed to showcase each of Porsche’s cars, others found it too Porsche’snd frustrating.
16. Need for Speed II (1997)
Need For Speed II, the second game in the series, introduces new and exciting features to the world of racing. Offering high-performance cars and open-road racing, with beautifully rendered scenery that adds to the overall experience.
Similar to the first Need For Speed title, players have been allowed to choose from a variety of high-performance machines, such as the Dodge Viper, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, Mazda RX7, Toyota Supra Turbo, and Acura NSX. The game also includes split-screen two-player racing, which allows players to compete with friends.
NFS 2 mainly received negative reviews due to poor graphics, both in terms of the settings and cars and an unsatisfactory frame rate. These issues were highlighted as inferior to the first game and other competitors. Although the racing was still enjoyable for most players, it was ultimately considered a disappointing follow-up.
17. Need for Speed: Carbon (2006)
Need For Speed: Carbon was released after Most Wanted and suffered from being compared to its predecessor. While Carbon was still an excellent street racing game with plenty of style, it lacked the intense cop chases that made Most Wanted famous.
The main story is located in Carbon Canyon. Racers compete for territory in the city below. It brings some new features while removing others, offering an improved graphics design, excellent Autosculpt customization, a different progression system, and an all-around solid take on the game. The game’s stogame’sing involves FMV-heavy content, similar to Most Wanted. It is a decent update to the previous year’s gamyear’sviding deep and enjoyable racing. However, it is not a revolutionary or brilliant game.
In the era of annual iterations of NFS, Carbon struggled to keep up with the pace and failed to match the success of its predecessor.
18. Need for Speed: ProStreet (2007)
Need For Speed: ProStreet wasn’t a bad game. Ingame audio failed entirely. It continued focusing on street racing but lost the insanity and overwasn’top fun of earlier games in the series. It was okay; it was just one of the more boring entries.
As in previous years, EA Mobile is releasing a mobile edition of Need for Speed alongside the yearly console-specific version. This fall’s ProStreet differs from past editions, such as Underground and Mosfall’sed, by focusing on sanctioned street races instead of back alley drags. Competing in these races will require you to showcase your skills with flashy rides and slick rifts, attracting thousands of spectators.
19. Need for Speed: The Run (2011)
Need For Speed: The Run was a critical difference for the entire NFS series, as it moved from an open-world format to a linear campaign with a story that played between races. However, this strategy did not work as expected.
The story needed to be more serious, and the racing mechanics seemed inferior to those in previous entries. This was particularly frustrating since racing was more central to the game than ever. Since The Run, Need for Speed has returned to its roots, focusing again on open-world racing.
Unlike its earlier entries, Need For Speed: The Run showcases a vast collection of races set against real-life areas, including New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. A wide range of real-life cars is unrestricted for players to drive.
In Career mode, you are entitled to take the role of a street racer partaking in a large-scale race from San Francisco to New York. The goal is to win the race against varied odds.
Despite receiving extensive marketing and heavy promotion from its developers, the game received mixed reviews from critics after its release.
20. Need for Speed™ (2015)
In 2015, Ghost Games rebooted the series, but unfortunately, it was a mixed bag. While the game was visually stunning and felt good, it was spoiled by several issues.
The online-only requirement made it difficult for some players to enjoy, and the events could have been more varied. The live-action story was painfully cheesy, and the game had some frustrating bugs. Although there were some positive aspects, it’s an entry that’s best remit’sred.
21. Need for Speed: Nitro (2009)
Need For Speed: Nitro was a game exclusive to Nintendo platforms, specifically the Wii and DS.
It was created with younger racing game fans in mind, and while the actual gameplay was decent, it had less content than earlier games in the series. The game needed more tracks and cars to make it worth switching platforms.
22. Need for Speed Payback (2017)
Playing Need For Speed: Payback was generally satisfying, thanks to its diverse map that stands out from previous games in the series. However, it was stained by a few critical flaws.
Firstly, the storyline attempted to be an action-packed, Fast and Furious-style film but ultimately fell short of expectations. The worst issue was the poor implementation of microtransactions. If you wanted to upgrade your car reasonably, you had to spend real money, while in-game upgrades were largely dependent on luck, pushing players to spend even more real money.
These two significant problems turned Payback into a frustrating experience that was not worth the time and effort.
23. Need for Speed: Undercover (2008)
To enhance the gaming experience, Need For Speed: Undercover tried to showcase the battle between cops and racers by adding extensive highway networks to an already vast map.
However, the game ended up being one of the most boring ones in the series, with most of the events having to be more exciting and the game world devoid of life. Besides, it experienced tough technical issues during launch, rendering it unplayable for many players.
Thanks for checking out our list of the best Need For Speed games. Which game in the series is your favorite? Have you tried the latest release, Need for Speed Unbound by Criterion? Let us know your thoughts, and keep coming back to Touch, Tap, Play for more updates on gaming.
We are hiring game guide writers!
Touch, Tap, Play is looking for experienced writers to produce guides for popular mobile and Nintendo Switch titles. If mobile gaming is your passion and you want to get paid to create guides, you’re in the right place. Check out our job ad today!