5 of the Most Realistic Dirt Bike Racing Video Games

the first dirt bike game was called Excitebike

Dirt Bike Games that Bring the Track to You

The first dirt bike game, called Excitebike, made its debut in Japan in 1984 and received it’s American release a year later on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). While some dinosaurs like me might still think that seems like it was yesterday, in reality, that was 35 years ago! While Excitebike is still one of my favorites, the video game industry has made leaps and bounds from the 8-bit, side-scrolling days of old.

realistic dirt bike video games

So, children of the ’80s and video game lovers of all ages, let’s shake off our collective cobwebs! Take a look at some of today’s best and most realistic dirt bike racing games.

MTX Mototrax (PS2, Xbox, PC: 2004)

IGN.com Rating – 7.2/10

Technology in video games advances so quickly, so it’s funny that MTX Mototrax looks almost primitive by today’s gaming standards. However, if you ask anyone who regularly played dirt bike video games in the early 2000s, they would tell you that MTX Mototrax is one of their favorites.

The game begins touring around dirt biking legend Travis Pastrana’s compound and features racing and stunt modes to challenge players in every way. It is also one of the earliest dirt bike games to have more realistic features. For instance, one feature lets you prep your shocks for stunt jumping by manipulating the controller toggles. It also has a first-person POV mode available to put you closer to the action. If you’ve never had the pleasure of giving this one a spin, take a look at some real gameplay.

While Mototrax is very impressive for its time, let’s talk about some more up-to-date dirt bike games.

dirt bike games for Xbox

MX Vs. ATV Reflex (PS3, Xbox 360: 2010)

IGN.com Rating – 7.8/10

Something you’ll probably notice by looking at our list is that 3 of our 5 games are from the MX video game franchise. This is for the simple fact that no matter what game console you’re using, the geniuses at Rainbow studios make some of the best dirt bike games.

One of the landmark additions to this iteration was true-to-life track degradation. As you spin your tires through the mud, you can actually tear it up just like in real life, which forces the player to carefully consider how they’re racing.

This title also added the Reflex control system. Rather than controlling your rider and bike as one unit, in this release, players controlled the vehicle with the left analog stick and the rider with the right analog stick. This means more realistic leaning during turns, which allow you to get a virtual reality feel in your gaming experience.

Check out this gameplay footage and see for yourself!

dirt bike games for all game consoles

MUD FIM Motocross World Championship (PS3, Xbox 360, PC: 2012)

Metacritic Rating – 5.6/10

MUD has mixed reviews for one simple reason: there are only 12 tracks in the game. This dirt bike game might not have the most variety, but it makes up for that in how many people it allows you to play with. MUD is able to get up to 12 players in a single race.

So now you’re not racing against faceless AI with no real stakes. In this dirt bike game, you’re racing against your 11 other friends who are in the room with you (or on their own PCs at home). Everyone is going for the glory of those bragging rights for being able to outrace 11 other real people. The game also has a similar track degradation feature to the dirt bike game listed above, and it can prove to be a challenging play for even the most hardened joystick warriors.

It also has really great graphics! Watch that gameplay video to see how effectively the game developers use light and shadow to make the track more difficult to see, which gives the player a bigger challenge!

playing dirt bike games is so much fun!

MXGP3 (PS4, Xbox One, PC: 2017)

Metacritic Rating – 7.8/10

MXGP3 is regarded by a lot of players as one of the best dirt biking game titles ever released for any video game system. The graphics are gorgeous and the gameplay feels real and authentic. Real riders who know the difference say this feels like the real thing.

Track degradation effects the way you ride. Even more, you can bump other riders, and you feel like you have actual weight when your jumping. No more of the hanging in zero-g crap, this is the real deal Holyfield.

Take a look at the GOPRO setting this rider is using and tell me that doesn’t feel like the real thing. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

rip it up on your virtual track when you play dirt bike games

MXGP Pro (PS4, Xbox One, PC: 2018)

Metacritic Rating – 7.5/10

Milestone birt bike games continue to outdo themselves with the MX series. Replacing what would have been MXGP 4, we have the Pro title, featuring the newly enhanced Pro physics. It has won awards as one of the best Xbox games of 2018 as well as for being one of the most talked about video games of 2018 by Metacritic.

Players love it as well! They praise the game for its progress in the feeling of physics as well as how clean the audio sounds. While Excitebike might have sounded like a toy dirt bike in a tin can, with this game you can almost smell the gasoline.

Take a look at some gameplay in all of it’s 1080p 60fps glory. Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

get ready to play your favorite dirt bike games

Get Ready to Play these Dirt Bike Games

So there’s the list of our favorite dirt bike video games of the new millennium. A few of these are available for purchase on Steam, so check them out, we highly recommend them!
And if you feel like getting on a real dirt bike to get some unmistakable authenticity, take a look at our list of the best dirt bike tracks around the U.S.A.!

What Do Motorcycle Video Games Get Wrong About Riders?

motorcycle video games aren't like this real life rider

Why Motorcycle Video Games Can’t Hold a Candle to the Real Deal

Every kid who owns an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation probably has a motorcycle video game. Even the older folks who remember spending summer afternoons in the arcades remember the Sega Manx TT Super Bike game. Leaning in and out of those curved tracks holds a special place in many peoples’ hearts.

But there’s nothing like actually swinging your leg over a bike and taking off down the highway. Motorcycle video games aren’t like the real deal. 

 

you cannot replicate riding a bike like this one when you're playing a motorcycle video game

 

A big reason why there’s nothing quite like it is that motorcycle video games still haven’t gotten it right. As far as technology and game developers’ ideas have come, they still can’t quite get the exact feeling for riding a real-life bike. So what are motorcycle video games and virtual reality missing when it comes to the real-time thrill of hitting the open road on two wheels?

Where Grand Theft Auto Falls Short as a Motorcycle Video Game

Just like with your favorite movies and tv shows, it’s hard to get all of the details right in a motorcycle video game. One reason why this happens is to make creating content a little bit easier by skipping some of the finer details. For example, when a lawyer watches Law and Order, they’re going to notice those details. The same can be said when a real gearhead plays a motorcycle video game. There are some parts of the experience that just don’t translate perfectly.

 

Would you rather be this rider in real life or play a motorcycle video game?

 

Countersteering

 

One of the more nuanced parts of riding is the concept of countersteering. For the non-riders out there, countersteering is how a rider turns their bike at higher speeds. It is the process of using your body weight to lean and steer the bike rather than turning your handlebars as you would at low speeds in order to change direction.

This is a more sophisticated use of physics and body language than many motorcycle video games are able to incorporate into their controls. It makes sense that this is something often left out.

Also, we need to consider that the majority of people in the world are not riders. Their perspective on steering comes from steering a car. The idea of countersteering just seems counterintuitive to most people. So, unfortunately, one of the subtle challenges and rewards of riding a bike rather than driving are left out of motorcycle video games.

For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a really simple youtube video that perfectly explains it.

 

Riders like this guy need to keep their heads straight and that nuance is left out of motorcycle video games

 

Keeping Your Head Straight

 

In addition to countersteering, another thing that people tend to notice about motorcycle video games is how the camera shifts when your character leans into a turn. You will always see the camera angle lean sideways into the turn along with the bike, which is something you would never do in real life.

Motorcycle video games seem to think that you’re just sitting stiff as a board on top of your bike. But what they aren’t taking into account is that this would completely throw off your balance. If your whole body is off-center, it’s really going to throw off your balance. When riding a real bike, you always keep your head pointing straight up to keep your sense of balance and direction.

 

when you're riding a bike like this racer, you have to consider many factors that motorcycle video games do not account for

 

Wheelies and Stoppies

 

This is one of the flashier parts of riding a bike, and it’s no wonder that most motorcycle video games that feature your favorite two-wheeled monster want to include it. Again, this is another thing that may seem so simple, but it’s actually really complex. There are so many small movements and corrections that your body and bike need to perform to make these moves work.

It’s definitely not as simple as just tilting your joystick back or holding your front brake in the game. But unless they make a game console you can straddle at home, it’s probably hard to make the concept come to life.

 

Riders like this guy need to be aware of actions that can lead to accidents, and this is not taken seriously in motorcycle video games

 

Accidents

 

Motorcycle accidents are no laughing matter, but it looks pretty ridiculous when you see the ragdoll motorcycle video game characters go spilling over their handlebars. Video games seem to believe that any minor bump or hop is going to send you 10 feet straight up in the air. In reality, a rider knows that they’ve got a much better grip on their bike.

You’re not going to go spilling into a ditch just from driving over a pebble. I’m not sure where the game developers got this one from, but it seems like they could’ve saved some time.

 

 

From PC to 600cc

 

In the days of yesteryear, it seems like movies like Easy Rider and Cool Hand Luke are the kinds of things that made kids want to get their motorcycle license. These days, that outlaw motorcycle image has begun to fade away from the public eye.

But what’s replacing the Cool Hand Luke’s of yesterday are the motorcycle video games of today. Virtual reality may not have hit the nail perfectly on the head, but as technology continues to develop faster than you can blink, we’re getting closer to a realistic virtual ride every day. We’re excited to see where virtual reality motorcycle experiences will take would be riders in the future.

 

motorcycle video games cannot replicate the real deal of poppin' a wheelie like this guy is doing