Video games, like other art forms, allow you to revel in escapism. But only video games can give you the keys to your dream ride without making you sign for it, then let you tear it around the world’s most scenic raceways. Heck, you can mercilessly cake your ride in mud on challenging rally courses, too.
Why have driving video games taken off when you can drive in real life? In case I need to spell it out even more, their popularity derives from letting gamers detach from one concept that might otherwise hold them back in reality: money.
No doubt, setting up a realistic racing cockpit for gaming will cost a decent chunk of change. But let’s think about the perks: You can’t wreck it, and it’ll depreciate in value much more slowly than a new ride. Plus, if you already have a console or a high-end PC, you’re off to a good start building the setup of your dreams. And with this guide, we’ll provide other products that can help you achieve new levels of immersion.
A foldable racing cockpit, if you have the space
Sure, you could retrofit your office desk and chair to hold a steering wheel, but there’s a better way if you have room to spare. Next Level Racing’s GT Lite foldable cockpit has room for you to sit, plus mounting spots for a racing wheel, pedals, and a gear shifter. The cockpit seats you relatively low to the ground, as you would be in a sports car. Best of all, it can be collapsed with your gear still attached, drastically reducing its footprint.
The GT Lite is compatible with all major wheels and pedals, and its mounting spots are pre-drilled for Logitech, Thrustmaster, and Fanatec products. Even if you don’t have ambitions of spending thousands on a racing setup, this is one of the essentials that we’d recommend for most gamers.
Or a standing mount for a racing wheel
Understandably, not every living space has room for a racing cockpit. If you already like the chair you sit in at the office, there’s Next Level Racing’s collapsible wheel stand, a metal setup that simply props up the steering wheel (not included) to a place that’s comfortable for your height. While it doesn’t have a spot for a gear shifter, its base comes pre-drilled with sturdy support for pedals (also not included).
This is a pretty low-frills piece of equipment, but it provides everything you need to get started with your own wheel and pedals, including the ability to alter the wheel’s height and angle and pick the pedal distance that works best for your needs.
A solid racing wheel
Racing games can be played with a controller, but where’s the fun in that? Getting a racing wheel for your platform of choice is a wise idea if you want to feel like you’re actually in the driver’s seat. The latest steering wheels can provide jolty force feedback that’s leagues ahead of older models in terms of tactility; you’ll be able to feel the vibrations of the motor through the wheel. Thrustmaster’s T300 RS or Logitech’s G923 are each great options for PlayStation or PC, and the Logitech G923 is great for Xbox as well.
Pedals often come included with wheels, giving you even more input, whether you want to drive automatic transmission vehicles or take a stab at manual transmission and use the clutch pedal featured on each set of pedals. For full immersion in manual mode, you’ll want a gear shifter. In most cases, companies that make wheels make compatible gear shifters.
A gaming headset with good noise isolation
Any set of headphones could isolate you in your car, but there’s more bespoke gear to get into the racing state of mind. Thrustmaster, maker of fantastic racing wheels, also produces these gaudy yet charming Ferrari over-ear cans that look like something you’d wear if you were on a racing team.
This headset is compatible with all platforms because it can be plugged into a 3.5mm headphone jack on your PC, handheld, or controller. The ear pads offer great sound isolation as well as comfort during long racing sessions. Its cable features in-line controls to adjust volume and to mute the detachable, adjustable microphone.
A virtual reality headset
So far, the accessories recommended to you so far can only do so much to make you feel like you’re in the game. You’ve still got to use a bit of imagination to close the gap — that is, until you get a VR headset. Buying the likes of Valve’s Index — our top choice when it comes to high-fidelity VR with a wired connection — or the promising Meta Quest 3 are currently the best options for PC users. On PlayStation 5, Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 remains the only option, and thankfully it’s a good one. No matter the route you go, you’ll feel like you’re really in your virtual car, save for not being able to smell your Ferrari’s leather seats.
Game compatibility on PC with VR headsets remains the best of any platform, with a deep back catalog of titles, including Assetto Corsa, Dirt Rally 2.0, Project Cars 2, iRacing, and more. On Sony’s console, Gran Turismo 7 is the main highlight in terms of racing games.
A big, ultrawide monitor
Virtual reality may not be necessary if your gaming monitor comprises most of what you can see in front of you. Samsung’s 49-inch curved Odyssey G9 OLED monitor verges on overwhelming, ensconcing you with gorgeous 1440p graphics and incredible color accuracy and contrast thanks to OLED technology. While the main benefit of OLED relates to picture quality, it has many side benefits that are useful for racing fans, including remarkably fast response time and speedy refresh rates.
While a few of the gadgets in this list are useful only for racing games, the Odyssey G9 OLED can be your screen for everything. You can plug in your PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, or Steam Deck. And with the Odyssey G9 OLED’s built-in software, you can even stream games via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Nvidia GeForce Now. All that you need is a controller.
A big water bottle
Some races will have you in a seated position for close to an hour, if not more, depending on the kind of racing you’re doing. You likely won’t have down time to do much more than chat with whoever you live with, but any other spare moments should be spent guzzling down some water. After all, if you take racing games seriously, you’re probably spending more energy than you may expect purely on concentrating.
Instead of using a water glass, which could spill all over your pricey equipment, invest in one with a mouthpiece that lets you slurp in exactly the right amount of water. This might be a no-brainer for some of you, but water consumption is such an easy thing to overlook, and you don’t want to feel like a zombie after your racing marathons.
An iPad for racing telemetry
If you’re serious about racing and simulators, you may care about telemetry. In basic terms, that’s real-time racing data that tells you things like lap times, how far you are in front of (or behind) other racers, and vital metrics from the car itself, like engine temperatures and the current RPM. This data is often used so drivers can improve their performance.
For most racing games, an iPad is the most portable second screen option to use if you want quick, easy access to telemetry for your racing games. It’s also versatile, thanks to the App Store, which contains apps, like Race Dash for Sim Games, that provide second screen telemetry for all of the biggest racing games, including Gran Turismo 7, Forza Motorsport, Assetto Corsa, F1, and Project Cars. This app is free, but you’ll need to pay extra for compatibility with some games.
Sim Racing Telemetry is also a solid app option that’s available for both Apple and Android portable devices, plus on Windows PC via Steam. It’s more exhaustive than Race Dash in terms of data that it outputs. It gathers telemetry and can present them as numbers, charts, or projected onto the track that you were racing on. Despite the app not being available on console, telemetry data can be acquired from PlayStation and Xbox as well. Support for certain games requires an extra payment.