2009 Game of the Year (Editor’s Choice): Real Racing

2009 was the best year for iPhone gaming so far. After getting started in July 2008 and pumping out hundreds of mediocre mobile and flash ports in six months, things could only get better. But a year ago we never would have expected to see the variety and quality of games that we see today. And for us, there was one game that was a harbinger of things to come: Real Racing.

Released in June 2009, Real Racing was, and still is, shockingly attractive. It looked leaps and bounds better than the competition, even the previous racing graphics champ Need for Speed Undercover. And while newer racers like Need for Speed Shift are attempting to catch up, Real Racing still holds its own visually.

The first time we saw Real Racing, we thought, this looks like a PSP game. And Sony had better watch out.

The tilt controls were spot-on, mimicking the feeling of controlling a real steering wheel and offering numerous adjustments for casual players. Real Racing even let you automatically upload Youtube videos of your race, an unheard-of feature that we still think is very cool. This feature has been copied since, in games like Skater Nation, but Real Racing did it first.

And then, over the months, Real Racing continued to expand. We saw hints of greater online play, and a free Volkswagon licensed version that took “freemium” and “ad-game” concepts to the next level.

While there were many, many great games this year, Real Racing set the standard incredibly high. This gorgeous racing sim from an indie Australian developer named Firemint is one of the year’s greatest success stories.

It’s hard to see the landmarks in this industry until we’ve already passed them, but looking back, one rises higher than the others. Whether you spring for the full version or just test-drive the free VW version, if you own an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you must play Real Racing to get a taste of what your handheld is capable of.

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