Everyone loves rivalries, even if they only exist in the hearts and minds of fans. Why this is – probably has many varying causes, but one central theme is the need to believe one thing is superior to another. In any good rivalry, fans will argue, x is better than y because of some factor that is totally mutable from an outsider’s perspective. Indeed, it is rare when, from all perceptions, two seeming rivals are actually of equal quality and merit, peers more than anything. When it happens in video games, we all benefit.
When it comes to modern racing games, two series tower over all the others: Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, avatars for the genre for Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 respectively. Some critics might argue that comparing these two series is quite unfair, given Gran Turismo’s emphasis on simulation and Forza Motorsport’s broader gameplay options. You don’t really have an arcade-like experience with Gran Turismo like you do on Forza Motorsport; conversely, few games can match Gran Turismo’s ability to simulate everything down to the most infinitesimal details.
What the debate between the two games ends up devolving into is a discussion over individual gamer preferences. That is, are you an Xbox fanboy or a Sony fanatic? Even with that bias, there still remains fundamental differences between the two games, none of which make one series better than the other, but which do make one experience better suited for certain players than others.
If you love simulations and endless attention to detail, Gran Turismo has your number. If you’re looking for that classic arcade experience on steroids, Forza Motorsport is the answer to your prayers. Again, both are really solid games and there is probably a huge overlap between the fanbases of the two.
Developed by Polyphony Digital and debuting with its first installment way back in 1997, Gran Turismo prides itself on the recreation and simulation of real-world vehicles, licensed from the manufacturers themselves, and wowed players upon its debut with beautiful graphics and tight controls. The original game reportedly began development in 1993, taking a whopping five years to complete. But all of that effort into the new game was worth it: Gran Turismo is Sony’s most successful franchise, with over 77 million units sold across all Sony systems to date.
Turn 10 Studios’ Forza Motorsport originally hit the first Xbox in 2005 and was a smash hit for the system upon release. Like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport is a simulation racing game and has licensed vehicles from real-world automobile manufacturers. It features locations across the globe, both real and imaginary, and allows players a great deal of customization with their cars. Separating itself from Gran Turismo, especially in the beginning, is Forza’s robust multiplayer community and accessible, pick-up-and-play style. Gran Turismo can be a commitment, while Forza encourages long and short sessions.
Again, much of the rivalry between the two series boils down to the Xbox/PlayStation dichotomy.
Being an older series, Gran Turismo is also more wedded to traditional concepts of what a Gran Turismo game should be. Forza Motorsport, on the other hand, is bold and adventurous, with spinoffs like Forza Horizons which features dirt track racing and a somewhat zany storyline wherein the player competes in a festival of mayhem and high-speed antics.
Again, Gran Turismo doesn’t lack an arcade mode, it’s just not the most rewarding mode in the game for most players. In fact, it might be a little daunting at first. Forza, on the other hand, prides itself on an arcade atmosphere and encourages players to do what they will. The heart of Gran Turismo is simulation of racing, while the soul of Forza is a racing game itself.
Gran Turismo’s more serious nature also doesn’t lend itself to the destruction of other cars and vehicular mayhem you can get in some modes of Forza. While players of the Gran Turismo series would never expect such features, Forza’s inclusion of such things helps remind you to not take things too seriously. This, more than anything, probably makes it accessible to the average gamer in a way that Gran Turismo is not.
Then there are those that would say Forza is what you start playing and Gran Turismo is what you end up playing. This may be true, but to imply that there is a superiority of gameplay between the two is a bit disingenuous.
In the superficial areas both games are absolutely dynamite. There isn’t an installment of Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport that isn’t a gorgeous game with a well-executed and appropriate soundtrack and sound effects to rock any system. Both games take details in this area very seriously and you can hear the distinct exhaust notes of the various cars. As for graphics, the two series both lovingly recreate cars and go out of their way to make it as authentic as possible. Where they differ is in their racing environments. Gran Turismo is dead set on recreating a photograph while Forza is more open to a bright and loud environment. This is not a surprise given Forza’s many modes and open-ended approach to playing it.
So is the rivalry worth its heat in argument? No, not really. Both games are stellar with high-production values, near flawless execution, and enough gameplay to satisfy even the most thorough gamers for months. Gran Turismo’s online community has caught up somewhat to Forza’s, but Xbox Live’s strength in this area has rubbed off on Microsoft’s racer. As for the question of which game to choose, it really boils down to what system you own and, secondly, how much of a fanatic you are for racing games.
Because like we said earlier, in a rare case in any industry, racing game fans should want to own both of these series as they are unmatched in their genre and represent the best of video games in general.