Most of us will never have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a high-horsepower racecar and tear around world-famous tracks, but with a home racing simulator, you can get incredibly close to that experience without leaving your house.
You Don’t Need Everything at Once
Before we get into the juicy stuff, it’s important to highlight that you don’t need everything on this list to enjoy racing sims. If you have nothing more than a standard console or PC gaming setup, you can still play and enjoy any racing sim with a great level of immersion without buying anything that’s specifically for racing sims.
If you want to improve an already excellent experience, you can do it in bits and pieces, slowly building up your racing sim rig as finances allow. So don’t think of this as a list of must-haves, but a list that adds up to the most immersive version of what home racing sims can offer.
1. A Console or PC
Your racing sim software has to run on something, and that will be either a console or a PC. Hardcore racing sims lean much more on CPUs than GPUs, so higher-end PCs with many CPU cores tend to be the main choice to handle all those simulation threads.
That said, current-generation consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X have powerful 8-core, 16-thread CPUs, so they have no trouble running sophisticated sim software. There’s no right answer here, and it’s mainly dictated by your budget and which specific racing sims you want to play.
Consoles are the best choice from a barrier-to-entry point of view. They’re an affordable plug-and-play solution, but many popular racing sim software titles are PC exclusive.
2. Racing Software
It’s hard to say whether the choice of platform or software is the most important since it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. Your platform limits which racing sims you can use, and if there are particular sims you want to play, you must use platforms that support them.
Gran Turismo 7, for example, is only available on PlayStation. Forza Motorsport, on the other hand, is exclusive to Xbox consoles, but it’s also available on PC. Popular hardcore sim iRacing is (at the time of publication) a PC-exclusive title. Other similar serious simulators, such as Project Cars and Asetto Corsa, are available on PC and console, so you have the freedom to pick the platform that’s right for you.
Every racing sim has its pros and cons, unique quirks, and different communities. You may have to try a few different ones until you can find one that works for you.
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3. Wheels, Pedals, & Mounting Solutions
Once you start looking at peripherals like racing wheels and pedals, you’re moving out of the casual space and into the more serious section of the hobby. After all, you’re buying peripherals that, unlike a controller, can only be used with racing titles.
There are wheel and pedal setups for virtually any budget, but the major division in wheels is between those using gear or belt drives and those using direct drives to provide force feedback. Direct drive wheels are the most expensive, but the wheel is directly mounted to a motor, providing the most powerful and realistic wheel force simulation.
The leap in price is substantial, however, so most people should probably start with some of the better belt or gear drive wheels. Logitech’s G923, for example, is an excellent wheel and pedal set and supports an optional gated shifter.
Logitech G923 Racing Wheel and Pedals
The G923 strikes an excellent balance between quality and price. This is one of the best wheel and pedal kits before you move up to direct drive wheels. Just make sure you get the right version for your console!
Speaking of pedals, the most basic models only have a brake and accelerator, but getting one with a clutch pedal for software that supports it is well worth it, especially if you also want a stick shift in addition to the paddle shifters that virtually all wheels come with today.
Marada Racing Wheel Stand
The Marada wheel stand is a solid place to mount your wheel and pedal kit and is compatible with virtually all of the most popular wheel and pedal kits on the market.
You’ll also need to mount your wheel, pedals, and optional shifter. Most wheels come with clamps that let you attach them to a desk for PC racing, but the optimal solution is to get a wheel stand or a racing cockpit with an integrated wheel stand.
Wheel stands let you permanently install all the bits and pieces to a frame that you can pull into position when you want to race and put in a corner when you want to play something else.
4. Racing Seats and Cockpits
If you have the space (and the budget!), you can invest in a racing sim chair or cockpit. A racing chair can be anything, but we’re mainly referring to racing-style gaming chairs; this is a great combo with a wheel stand, and you can still use the seat for general gaming when the stand is put away.
Racing sim cockpits are a bit more involved. This is essentially a combination of a racing chair and a wheel stand. It’s all one unit, and all your racing peripherals are attached to the framework. There are also usually mounting points for one or more monitors, and sometimes even a place to mount your PC or console.
GTR Simulator GTA Simulator Cockpit Chair
With great adjustability, compatibility with every wheel and pedal kit on the market, and a comfortable racing chair, the GTR is a great mid-range racing sim cockpit, although you can't mount a screen on it.
While this is perhaps the ultimate in-home sim racing setup, it’s not one you can put away when you’re not using it. So be prepared to dedicate floor space to these sorts of rigs permanently.
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5. Screens or a VR Headset
The type of display setup you use for your home sim racing rig can significantly influence immersion. You can only use a single display if you’re sim racing on a console. So you can simply use the same TV you already do.
Your author has done this for his budget home racing sim setup. A 70-inch TV, a PS5, and a wheel and pedal kit connected to a wheelstand.
Combined with a comfortable racing-style gaming chair, it’s plenty immersive, so you may not have to add anything to your current console setup in this regard.
If you’re using a racing cockpit with monitor mounts, you can mount a single monitor for use with your console, but if you’re going the PC route, you can connect multiple monitors. Assuming you have the GPU to drive three monitors’ worth of graphics.
While triple-monitor setups have long been considered the pinnacle of home racing sim rigs, the rise of good VR (Virtual Reality) has brought a strong alternative option. On PC, you can use an inexpensive Meta Quest or any of the more premium headsets to put yourself in the car.
While you won’t get the same sharp detail as with a screen, driving in VR offers advantages beyond immersion, such as unmatched situational awareness, almost as good as really sitting in a car and looking around. Since racing helmets affect your peripheral vision anyway, racing in VR isn’t that far off from the real thing.
If you’re a console gamer, then your only option is PlayStation when it comes to VR, and with the release of the PSVR 2 for PS5, that’s the best option. So far, Gran Turismo 7 has confirmed support for VR, but you’ll have to confirm support for each individual racing sim game on PS5.
6. Motion Platforms
If you’ve ticked off everything on the list so far, you already have a pretty sweet home racing sim rig, and for most people, it’s enough to stop there, but there’s one final ingredient that only the most hardcore racing sim fans use: motion platform.
By mounting your compatible racing cockpit on one of these ingenious machines, you can simulate the movement of the car’s body and, to some extent, the rotational driving forces. This is the ultimate in simulated immersion, and most of the latest models have special features for VR.
This is all great, but the elephant in the room is the price. A motion platform will almost certainly be the most expensive part of your rig, and we’re talking thousands of dollars here. It’s an incredibly sophisticated and niche device, so this isn’t a surprise, but it does mean that most of us who love racing sims can only look on with envy as the lucky few play with these toys.
Next Level Racing Motion Platform v3
One of the leading motion simulators on the market, whether you're into racing or flight simulation, the Next Level will literally move you into another world.
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