All 12 Gran Turismo Games Ranked From Worst to Best

All 12 Gran Turismo Games Ranked From Worst to Best
Contributor: Adam Ismail

Can you remember the first time you played Gran Turismo? Can you remember the first Gran Turismo you played? It’s hard to believe the series is a quarter century old, and that it was 25 years ago a good number of us mouthed the names “Skyline GT-R” and “Lancer Evolution” for the first time. In that span, we’ve been treated to seven mainline releases and five spinoffs from developer Polyphony Digital. Today, we’re ranking them all from worst to best, along with some déjà vu in the form of old intros just to get us all back in the proper mindset. Let’s go!

12. Gran Turismo (PSP, 2009)

The trouble with Gran Turismo on PSP is that you get the feeling it really could’ve been so much more, if Polyphony Digital hadn’t decided to massively upend the career and, by extension, any sense of single-player progression at all. Gran Turismo has always been a game about starting with nothing and making that first econobox in your garage into a giant killer. GT PSP, conversely, was about running licence tests with coaching from Jay Leno and repeatedly grinding arcade races.

It wasn’t awful, and in truth the game controlled wonderfully, even considering the PSP’s tiny buttons and analogue nub. The fact it ran at 60 frames per second despite the hardware constraints is a testament to Polyphony’s technological mastery, too. But there’s really no reason the handheld version couldn’t have been more like Gran Turismo 4, given that it had pretty much all of GT4’s content and then some.

11. Gran Turismo 5 (2010)

Chances are the placement of Gran Turismo 5 in the almost-worst position on this list will either compel you to hate close this browser tab or raise a fist in emphatic agreement. All I can do is offer my rationale, which is that GT5 is a bloated, absurd mess that momentarily obliterated the reputation of quality the franchise was known for.

It’s such a mess that I barely know where to start. There’s the almost 1,100-plus cars, roughly 850 of which are carried over PS2-era “standard” car models from Gran Turismo 4 that looked absolutely tragic on HD displays at the time. The horrendous loading times and performance issues, particularly if you tried to run the game at max resolution on a 1080p TV. Awful, half-baked events, like the procedurally-generated Gran Turismo Rally that created stages so devoid of scenery, detail or any remarkable features whatsoever, most Nintendo 64 racing games seemed more lush. The campaign that stymied progression with unnecessary level requirements to buy cars; the soundtrack that was sometimes silly, other times pornographic, but never, ever good. And the fact that all of this came at the end of a long five-plus year wait, during which the hype for the game ballooned to unattainable proportions. I’m not saying GT5 could’ve ever been the game the fanbase wanted it to be, but it certainly could’ve been better than it turned out.

10. Gran Turismo 6 (2013)

Was Gran Turismo 6 good? Not really, but it did set about fixing a number of GT5’s core issues. It tended to run better for starters, particularly in the menus. Polyphony dropped some of the head-scratching game design measures it’d taken to hide the shame of standard cars, so you could at least buy anything you wanted early on so long as you had the cash. Some of the bloat was cut, and the one-off events added to the game over time, like the Goodwood Hill Climb, Ayrton Senna Tribute series and Sierra Time Rally, offered a reasonable change of pace from the typical career grind. (We don’t talk about the moon.) Car customisation was considerably enhanced over GT5, particularly in terms of cosmetics, and the physics were a night-and-day improvement thanks to a new suspension model that made road cars feel much livelier to drive. At the end of the day I’d rather return to any Gran Turismo before the PS3 era, but GT6 at least amounted to a complete package.

9. Gran Turismo Concept Series (2002)

We’ll lump all the GT Concept games — Tokyo, Tokyo-Seoul and Tokyo-Geneva — into one group here, since they’re pretty iterative and not each one released in every territory. In fact, North America didn’t get any of them, which was especially odd as we bought a ton of copies of Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec on this side of the pond. We deserved better, Sony.

I’ve discussed before on Jalopnik how GT Concept was an inventive way for Polyphony to bridge the gap between the mainline GT games, which started to take longer to develop around this time thanks to the leap in fidelity brought by the PlayStation 2. GT Concept included the latest production, racing and concept machines being revealed at auto shows around the world as of 2001 and 2002 — cars too new to make it into GT3. You earned them in the game by completing arcade-style races and time trials. This was not an experience marked by the sort of depth we’ve come to know and expect from the franchise, but as a mechanism to allow you to virtually get behind the wheel of some futuristic prototypes in an era before downloadable content, it worked pretty damn well.

8. Gran Turismo 4 Prologue (2003)

I’ll come clean here: GT4 Prologue is the only one of these games I haven’t played. I should probably address that sooner rather then later, because it seems like another fair half-step GT experience with a curated selection of cars and tracks that would later return in Gran Turismo 4. Players in Asia and Europe had the opportunity to sample Tsukuba, New York, Grand Canyon, Fuji Speedway and Citta di Aria, along with some highly-anticipated cars, like the long-tail McLaren F1 GTR, before the full game’s global release in 2005. Once again, us chumps in North America had to wait the whole four years between GT3 and GT4 with nothing to ease our impatience. Hey — at least this wait proved very much worth it in the end.

7. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (2008)

I spent a good chunk of whatever money I had saved up as a 15-year-old to get a PlayStation 3 just for GT5 Prologue. Coming off the high of GT4 three years earlier, it’s hard to overstate the anticipation everyone had for the next act. Although no one knew it at the time, we’d need the Prologue to tide us over for about two and a half years until the full-fat version released. That meant plenty of laps around Suzuka, Fuji, Daytona, Eiger, High Speed Ring and London, though at least we now had online multiplayer to replace the series’ chronically lifeless AI and make the racing more rewarding. GT5 Prologue was a beautiful yet limited experience — but then, it said as much on the box. Besides, if there’s one thing the last decade or so of Gran Turismo releases has demonstrated, it’s that Polyphony’s products are much better when the studio sets reasonable, attainable goals for itself.

6. Gran Turismo Sport (2017)

With Gran Turismo 7 out now, it’s easy to forget how important GT Sport was for the time of its release, and how it had the unenviable task of occupying our attention for nine excruciating years between GT6 and GT7. And Sport’s very existence was controversial, because this was Polyphony’s first big bet on properly ranked, competitive online sim racing.

The game may not have launched in a particularly beefy state, but over time it saw loads of new content, all offered completely free of charge except for the Lewis Hamilton time trials. The GT League mode brought a mini version of the old-school campaign to the game (complete with Gran Turismo 2’s arcade mode music), while the series’ first-ever livery editor pretty much stole Forza’s thunder overnight, thanks to the ability to upload custom SVGs as decals to place on cars. GT Sport did certainly wear thin after a while, but my friends and I raced each other religiously in it for a solid four years, so it must’ve done something right.

5. Gran Turismo 7 (2022)

As the only game on this list that’s still actively being supported, Gran Turismo 7’s bound to attract differing opinions. The game certainly had its share of frustrating issues on day one, despite how jaw-droppingly good it looked. The handling was either appropriately or inordinately punishing depending on your persuasion. Even beyond that matter of preference, private lobbies were broken, the economy was busted and there simply weren’t enough events to keep anyone’s attention for long. Thankfully updates have left the game in a pretty respectable place today, and practically all those complaints (except for the always-online requirement) have been answered over the past 12 months. You’re even free to sell cars now, which certainly makes the grind more bearable. Had GT7 initially released this way, it might’ve finished closer to the front of the pack.

4. Gran Turismo (1998)

You have to give it to the original Gran Turismo for practically inventing its own genre. And by that I don’t mean sim racing, because driving titles with a realistic bent existed long before GT. The difference is that Polyphony’s was the first to be a compelling game as well, with a slick presentation and a rewarding progression loop that got everyone’s attention — even the attention of those who never cared much for cars. For all of this series’ faults and triumphs, there’s never been another racing game that’s quite matched GT’s artistic and historical appreciation of the automobile.

The first entry may seem a little rough by today’s standards, but the physics still make the cars just as fun to toss around, the music — no matter whether you prefer the Japanese original’s jazzy numbers or Jason Page’s industrial techno for the West — still slaps, and the car selection is chock full of vehicles that today only seem to turn up in the context of Bring a Trailer listings that induce sudden-onset nausea. Prices weren’t stupid in 1998, and GT1 will allow you to return to that happy place.

3. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (2001)

If the first Gran Turismo invented the formula, Gran Turismo 3 perfected it, or at least realised the underlying potential for the first time. This was one of those generational gaming experiences that really felt like a cut above everything that preceded it, offering smooth 60 frame-per-second gameplay and handling decidedly more grounded in reality than that of the previous two entries. GT3 certainly didn’t have the most content of a Gran Turismo game, but it had enough, and used it to great effect. Alongside Grand Theft Auto III, this was the game that sold everyone on a PS2. Revisiting it today, I’m no less sure now than I was as a kid that it deserved to.

2. Gran Turismo 2 (1999)

The games that followed might have been more sophisticated, but Gran Turismo 2 was so gargantuan an experience for 1999 that it really felt like one of those games you’d never see all of. The original Gran Turismo had around 140 cars; GT2 took that sum past 500, and more than doubled the courses on offer. It also introduced Laguna Seca, the first real-life track in a GT title. Much like the No. 1 entry on this list, it opened doors to automotive eras and subcultures that the first instalment missed out on, and wound up a much more comprehensive snapshot of car enthusiasm as a result. Now is a great time to revisit GT2, thanks to community mods that have restored some of the cut and region-exclusive content that was missing from the original releases.

1. Gran Turismo 4 (2005)

It’s hardly a hot take to place Gran Turismo 4 at the top of the pile, but there’s no need for a dissenting opinion here because GT4 really is everything everyone says it is. If you consider the time at which the game released and the hardware it released on, Polyphony was executing at an unfathomably advanced level with every facet of GT4’s experience.

It looked phenomenal for 2005, even on the aged PS2. The presentation was slicker than it had ever been and, arguably, would ever be again. The car selection spanned the entirety of the 20th century, and the track roster fleshed out the series’ repertoire with new fictional circuits and a ton of real-life ones, including Suzuka and, of course, the Nürburgring Nordschliefe. Whether you liked Group B rally monsters, Group C prototypes, golden-era American muscle or cutting-edge Japanese touring cars, GT4 had it all, and, moreover, rendered everything at an unwaveringly high fidelity. This was the pinnacle of quantity and quality for the Real Driving Simulator.

That’s our list of every Gran Turismo entry ranked. Let us know what you thought of it in the comments, and how you’d reorder your list.

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