If you’re a sports fan, horse racing video games would not ordinarily be at the top of your hit list of pastimes to sample on your console or mobile. Soccer, American football, hockey, and even basketball would be considered more engaging and glamorous than a horse racing title, but we’re here to debunk the myth that horse racing video games can’t be good.

In fact, virtual horse racing games are one of the best ways to immerse yourself in this unique industry, with the chance to test your wits as both a trainer and a jockey. We’ve seen horse racing titles come and go on PC and console, with only a select few that have stood the test of time.

Today, it’s not only virtual reality horse racing environments you can play with, but there’s also virtual horse racing events you can wager on, too. A growing number of online sportsbook operators are partnering with software suppliers of simulated virtual races to serve bettors throughout the day and night. Unlike real horse races, the benefit of virtual events is that they can always be scheduled, regardless of the weather or seasonal conditions.

If you’d rather engage with the virtual world of horse racing as a gamer than a bettor, read on as we celebrate four of the most critically and commercially successful horse racing games of all time.

Starters Orders

Starters Orders is arguably the longest-running horse racing simulation on the planet. Developed exclusively for desktop PC gamers, Starters Orders is like ‘Football Manager’ or ‘Eastside Hockey Manager’ for horse racing enthusiasts. Starters Orders gives you the chance to run your very own stable, developing and training a yard full of potential champions in the process.

Operation Sports recently described the latest iteration, Starters Orders 7, as the “horse racing simulation consoles are not providing” – and fans of the Starters Orders franchise are completely fine with that. You can buy and trade horses, bet on your own horses and even saddle up and race them yourself in glorious 3D. If you’ve got VR glasses like Oculus Rift, you can get an up-close-and-personal view of proceedings.

Gallop Racer

Gallop Racer was released in the mid-2000s and was originally targeted at the arcade gaming market. Developed by Tecmo, this game requires you to build your own racehorse and enter it into the right races to try and win. The better your racehorse, the more glory you’ll achieve as a jockey before you head into retirement.

After achieving notoriety in arcades, Gallop Racer was repackaged by Tecmo onto game consoles, including the PlayStation 2. Although GameSpot described the game as “dry” and “dense”, it’s a game that’s certainly captured the imagination of horse racing fanatics worldwide.

Phar Lap Horse Racing Challenge

Prodigy Design’s Phar Lap: Horse Racing Challenge was released in March 2019 and already it has made a splash among seasoned horse racing fans, as well as casual sports gamers. It’s available on multiple platforms, including PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch.

Like Starters Orders, Phar Lap gives you a chance to hone your own stable of champions. You can breed long-time winning horses, with the game’s in-built genetic breeding system making it possible to create a legacy for your stud. The online multiplayer element has lasting appeal, with the chance to race your best horses against your friends’ superstars in real time.

Rival Stars: Horse Racing

One of the most recent horse racing video games to successfully transcend PCs, consoles and mobile devices, Rival Stars: Horse Racing is a big success for publishers PikPok, the brains behind the popular Phar Lap title. Rival Stars has an exceptional Steam rating of 9/10 among fellow players and its app ratings on Android and iOS are 4.4 and 4.8 out of five respectively.

Released in June 2020, Rival Stars sees you inherit a racing stable from your virtual ‘father’. You’ll have multiple routes to take with your ramshackle homestead. This includes transforming it into a horseracing stable or even focusing on breeding champions, which is no mean feat given the wealth of breeds that exist. Even in the most basic terms, Rival Stars even lets you manage your own ranch. Betting elements are infused throughout, with the chance to place virtual wagers on races to earn funds for reinvestment in your homestead.