Ten driving games to see you through the Christmas holidays

Ford GT

Ah, it's that magical time of the year – Christmas. And we all know what that means! Yup, just shy of a fortnight trapped with your family begging to get back to the job that you so lamented until 5pm on December 24th.

But... fret not, dear reader, because we have a solution: video games. They'll distract you, so you don't have to talk to your family. They'll make you angry, so your siblings don't. They'll keep the elderly away, because they don't understand. So before you head home make sure to pack your console of choice and ensure there's a telly to commandeer – these will keep you entertained.
10. Mario Kart 7
Despite not being the seventh Mario Kart game (it's the ninth, if you include the arcade editions), MK 7 comes in glorious 3D. If you like that sort of thing. It features new weapons, power ups and even hang-gliding (and we thought bikes in Mario Kart Wii was a step too far) this time round. Don't forget the online capability too, so you can play with your mates while you're apart. Ace.

9. Gran Turismo 5
The game that driving fans the world over waited over six years for has been updated. Yes, it's over a year old but is still very shiny indeed. It's the best option for the PS3 as long as you don't mind the occasional frustrating/tedious/difficult race. You can drive on the Top Gear test track, though. Sadly, only after completing a very dull VW Camper race...

8. WipEout HD
You know how lots of people speak very highly of both the '90s rave scene and the pharmaceuticals that made them so exciting? Well, WipEout HD's not like that at all. A bassy techno soundtrack accompanies bright visuals and superhero-quick racing. It's as though you've been on a Red Bull binge and can feel time passing around you. Very cool.

7. Need for Speed: The Run
Are you tired of the same 'enter race, win it, move on to the next' formula of the majority of racing games? If so, NFS: The Run might just be the game for you. You play as Jack – a man with a price on his head. To get his life back, Jack enters a highly illegal coast-to-coast street race to earn the penga to keep himself out of trouble. A rather entertaining mix of arcade and simulation driving physics plus Need Ford Speed's usual brand of mayhem, The Run should keep you happy for quite some time.

6. F1 2011
Love F1? You'd be a fool not to get F1 2011 in, really. It's as realistic as it can be and offers all the customisation any wannabe racer/engineer could ever need. Fancy getting an HRT to the podium? Then fettle the car and smash Hamilton in Monaco. It's the racing game's racing game. Though you'll need to have a steely nerve on professional mode...

5. Driver: San Francisco
Ok, the premise of Driver is truly awful (you're in a coma dreaming about being a cop – sound familiar?) but the game itself is pretty cool. Because you're in a dream world you can leap easily from car to car, meaning racing and crim-catching is rather easy. There are plenty of online modes to fiddle with, too. The handling isn't very realistic, but you're in a coma – it's not the real world!

4. DiRT 3
Ken Block's Gymkhana is a sight to behold. DiRT 3 will teach you how to drive like him (in the virtual world, that is). It'll also shove you into a range of silly-fast and iconic rally cars in a variety of locations. The handling errs on the side of fun in DiRT 3, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Time trials will keep the ultra competitive happy, while learning to be a virtual Ken Block will keep every petrol head with an internet connection entertained for hours.

3. Need For Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed
Need For Speed again, but this time it's a 'proper' racing game. No running, no Christina Hendricks, just very fast cars and some good fun. You can fettle your supercar of choice and race it in a number of events, which is all pretty standard fare, but Shift 2's party piece is something much different. It feels fast. Fun is had because Shift 2 doesn't concentrate on how technically brilliant car X is over car Y, it makes simulated racing (over NFS's usual arcade style) feel fast and fun. It's definitely worth a look.

2. MotorStorm: Apocalypse
The world is collapsing around you. You're in a heavily modified off-roader. There are people chasing you. Only one thing to do, really – DRIVE. It's fast, raucous and all manner of fun. It's not a simulator, so the 'hardcore' will probably hate it.

1. Forza 4
Turn 10's Xbox 360 exclusive is a little bit brilliant. Well, it's more than that – it's stonking. What other console simulators lack in excitement, Forza piles it on as a parent would a slow, but enthusiastic, child. The tracks are brilliant, online is fun, there are more cars than you'll ever realistically drive and there's a nice wee cameo from some chap called Clarkson...

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