Top Gear's Alternative Gaming Awards of 2022
Celebrating the best, worst and mainly weirdest of 2022
While we could dish out more conventional gaming awards, let's be brutally honest: they'd be rather predictable this year. The best game of 2022 was obviously Gran Turismo 7, the giant multimillion-dollar-budget racing sim from the series that defined an entire genre. So instead of that tedious formality, we present to you the Top Gear Alternative Gaming Awards 2022, celebrating the unlikely achievements of this year's crop of driving games.Advertisement - Page continues below
Most Unlikeable Racing Driver
Winner: Nathan McKane, Grid Legends
If you're going to add a narrative to your racing game, you'd better make the arch nemesis suitably unpleasant. Grid Legends knocked it out of the park and into a neighbouring postcode with the supremely annoying Nathan McKane (played by actor Callum McGowan) whose smug arrogance practically seeps out of the disc slot on your console.
Every scene of the Drive to Survive-inspired story mode that features him provokes a dangerous escalation in blood pressure and it's gotten to the point where we'll happily sacrifice our own race result to vindictively clatter him off the circuit. Still, we get to have the last laugh during the scene where he swans around the garage wearing a disconnected HANS device like it's some sort of fashion accessory.
Most Gran Turismo Feature
Winner: Music Rally, Gran Turismo 7
The winner of this year's 'Most Gran Turismo Feature' award is Music Rally, the bizarre driving minigame bolted onto Gran Turismo 7. It challenges you to achieve the farthest distance possible as the beats of the song tick down, dulling the engine note almost entirely in favour of the tune. We've never missed as many gear changes in all our years playing racing games.
The playlist is almost as strange as the mode itself and Music Rally has surely the only soundtrack where you'll find Johannes Brahms rubbing shoulders with Idris Elba. This is exactly the sort of bizarre nonsense that seems to sneak into every single Gran Turismo game and it's comforting to know that even amongst all the uncertainty of 2022, we can still rely on GT's idiosyncratic impresario Kazunori Yamauchi to surprise us with something totally and unashamedly hatstand.Advertisement - Page continues below
Best Dressed Illegal Street Racers
Winner: Need for Speed Unbound
Since Need for Speed Underground way back in 2003 customisation has been a key part of the series' appeal. What we weren't expecting was to spend a good portion of the first few hours of 2022's Need for Speed Unbound playing pretend dress up with our in-game character. Unbound is positively crammed with achingly stylish licensed streetwear and it's easy to get completely lost in the fashion options and forget that you're supposed to be drifting a Nissan Silvia S14 around.
Still, once you've finally perfected your style, you can move on to winning races and modifying your car, which with the game's stingy prize payouts is a far more expensive hobby. We have to admit, though, it does feel a mite strange to be slowly scraping together enough money for a measly ECU remap while wearing a £2000 Versace coat.
Most Misleadingly Boring Game Title
Winner: Gas Station Simulator
We're not going to deny that Gas Station Simulator is a boring title for a game. If you're still awake after having had to read through the name twice in this article already, then you might be surprised to discover that this game, which arrived on consoles this year, is secretly weird as heck. In addition to running a rural gas station on Route 66, you'll be doing fun things like getting entangled with the mob via your dodgy uncle, dealing with alien visitation and chasing off delinquent kids who draw crude graffiti on the walls.
Plus because you're running a fully serviced gas station, you get to play a videogame version of that game where you try and stop the pump as close to a round number as possible. Like we said, fun.
Winner: F1 Manager 2022
There's probably no more desirable job for your average petrolhead than being an F1 driver. You get to drive the fastest circuit racing cars on the planet, live a life of glamorous jet-setting and, best of all, you're also probably about 19 years old again and entirely free of back pain. F1 Manager 22 doesn't simulate that, it simulates being one of the guys in the back of the garage sweating over a spreadsheet, with all the curvature of the spine that implies.
It's remarkable, then, that F1 Manager 22 is actually one of our favourite games of the year. Broadcast-inspired visuals and the inclusion of real-life radio clips mean that even though you spend the whole time telling someone else how to drive, it's genuinely involving. Not as involving as driving the cars yourself in F1 22, obviously, but involving nonetheless.
Economy of Graphics Award
Winner: Moto Roader MC
In the current dire financial climate, it makes sense to save as much as possible by cutting down on fuel usage, heating and water consumption and excess spending. Publisher Ratalaika Games was well ahead of the curve back in February when it re-released Moto Roader MC, a game from 1992 that probably boasts fewer pixels than the display on your oven. Still when a decent percentage of those pixels are expended on a huge, remarkably well-rendered chimp sitting in the middle of the circuit, it feels almost churlish to complain.Advertisement - Page continues below
Winner: Dakar Desert Rally
If we were investing in the technology to recreate the legendarily desert-based Dakar rally, we'd probably be investigating how to accurately simulate the behaviour of millions of grains of sand beneath the tyres of a dune hopping rally raid machine. What we probably wouldn't bother investing in is the sort of graphical tech that allows the game to conjure biblical thunderstorms, complete with forking lightning and more rain than a British bank holiday weekend.
Yes, we know it's possible for rain to fall in a desert, but we also know it occurs about as frequently as Halley's Comet, so they might as well have bunged that in there too.
Winner: Chocobo GP
Seeing off strong competition from Paw Patrol: Grand Prix, Chocobo GP is a spin-off from extremely popular roleplaying game series Final Fantasy. The main series' stock in trade is worlds that feel almost beyond imagination and clearly that also encompasses giant chickens riding around on motorised roller skates.
Bizarrely, Chocobo GP treats the business of racing oversized poultry extremely seriously, even going as far as including a ghost mode that allows you to improve your lap-times. Given that the key to victory is far more likely to be a well timed power-up than an expertly clipped apex, that's a bit like doing thumb exercises to train up for tomorrow morning's Wordle.Advertisement - Page continues below