Every Forza Horizon, Ranked

Every Forza Horizon, Ranked

This year will mark 12 years since the very first Forza Horizon came out. How’s that existential crisis treating you?

Yes, the Horizon festival has been on the go for comfortably over a decade and the titles in that time have been flying out. Quickly establishing itself as the best open-world racing franchise still on the go, ranking each of them isn’t the easiest of tasks. We’ve had a crack, though. 

6. Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox 360)

Did you even know that Forza Horizon 2 had an Xbox 360 version? We almost forgot, to be completely honest.

It shared a name and a location with the flagship Xbox One version of Horizon 2, but that was about it. Effectively, it was built on the original game with a restricted version of the Franco-Italian map and some cars carried over – plus some exclusives that the XB1 version never had for unknown reasons.

Really, it was more of a glorified expansion sold as a new game than a meaningful addition to the series. We presume Microsoft wanted to scoop up some sales of those holding out from making the move to the next-gen console. It wasn’t a bad effort but didn’t really capture any hearts.

5. Forza Horizon

Every Forza Horizon Game, Ranked

Putting the original Forza Horizon so low on this list feels like a crime, and caused some heated debate on the CT Slack channel, but that’s a testament to the consistency of the series rather than a negative.

It’s the one that started them all, which in hindsight is enough to elevate it to a legendary figure in racing game history. Fortunately, it also happened to be a rather good game.

Taking the magnificent Forza Motorsport 4’s engine as a starting point, Horizon took us to Colorado for the inaugural Horizon festival. It had its limitations – with many blocked-off areas being one of those – but its extensive car list, day-and-night cycle and cartoon villain Darius Flynt all contributed to possibly the best open-world driving game of its generation.

4. Forza Horizon 5

Every Forza Horizon Game, Ranked

Forza Horizon 5 is still going strong nearly three years since its release. With no real expectation of Horizon 6 on the, err, horizon, we’re very grateful that it’s still holding up and being supported by Playground Games well.

Taking the festival to Mexico was an unexpected but very welcome addition. The map isn’t quite as diverse as those have come before it, and the implementation of seasons is certainly not as dramatic as in 4, but the addition of new weather effects like sand and tropical storms livens things up.

Admittedly, it feels more like a relocation and continuation of 4 but that’s no bad thing. It still looks gorgeous, especially on Xbox Series X or high-end PCs in 4K, and it’s only getting better with more content.

3. Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One)

Every Forza Horizon Game, Ranked

While the Xbox 360 version of Horizon 2 felt like an evolutionary cash grab, the Xbox One version was certainly a revolution.

It took the Horizon concept and put it into a truly open world. No barriers to restrict you from going cross country, introducing road trips between events rather than just jumping through loading screens and open-world multiplayer for the first time.

The map stretching across Southern France and Northern Italy hasn’t been one to truly stick in our minds, to be quite frank, but it was certainly a pretty landscape and it’s notable for introducing weather effects to Forza for the first time.

2. Forza Horizon 3

Every Forza Horizon Game, Ranked

Horizon’s trip down under will forever stick in our memory. The jaw-dropping landscapes of this virtual slice of Australia would be enough on their own to have taken it a real leap ahead of Horizon 2, but fortunately, Playground Games didn’t just leave it at that.

Customisation was the arguably biggest improvement for the third title in the series, with widebodies arriving in Forza and tonnes of other visual mods added to existing cars.

Your ways of playing with friends grew too, with every single-player race now available to be played cooperatively. It levelled up Horizon as a social experience, and that’s become a foundation of the series since.

1. Forza Horizon 4

Every Forza Horizon Game, Ranked

We’re very, very biased because of its virtual take on the UK, but we think Forza Horizon 4 is the greatest title by far.  Our little slice of the world was wonderfully honoured by Playground Games – themselves based here in Leamington Spa – even if the roads were a little too wide to be realistic.

It became more of a living, breathing world with the introduction of seasons, giving each week a distinctive feeling as you cycled through Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. After all, it wouldn’t be the UK if it wasn’t bright sunshine one minute and soaking wet the next.

The car list had become truly diverse, with everything from a Peel P50 to a McLaren Senna, and Horizon had become elevated from just an open-world racing game to a real petrolhead nirvana.

On a soppy level, its timing also made it unexpectedly the Forza game that helped keep us sane throughout Covid lockdowns, and that’s something we’ll always appreciate.

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