Motocross games may share the “racing” category of video game genres with car racing games, but there is a very good reason why they are considered a separate subcategory. Motocross games are more niche compared to four wheeled racing games, not just because of the different setting and the absence of two wheels, but because the controls do address the fact that bikes handle a lot differently than cars – at least the really good ones do.
The fact that motocross games are slightly less accessible than car racing games is the reason why they’re not as popular as their four wheeled brethren, and the prevalence of Me-Too and mediocre attempts at the genre make it hard to wade through all the available titles in search of the best ones. If you’re a fan of motocross and looking for the best videogames the genre has to offer, here are the 10 best motocross games across various platforms:
#1. Excite Bike (Nintendo Entertainment System)
Released in 1984 for the Nintendo Family Computer/Entertainment System, Excite Bike is most likely the first motocross videogame for a lot of gamers even though it’s not exactly the first one in the genre (Xonox’s Motocross Racer for the Atari 2600 beat it by a year, for instance.) The game is in 2D and gives players control over a tiny motocross rider as he tries to win a straight race against CPU opponents.
It may look simple and straightforward, but Excite Bike boasts of a deep gameplay that is impressive for an 8-bit game: you have to take into account balance, terrain, position, and an overdrive/boost that lets you speed up while risking overheat. The game comes with its own level editor, which allows players to design and race in their own tracks. The game is also funny, thanks to the small stylized depiction of the rider and in the way he waddles slowly towards his bike after a crash.
A sort-of-remake was released via Wiiware, retaining the classic super-deformed 2D art style while using a 3D engine.
#2. Motocross Madness (PC)
Motocross Madness is a 3D motocross game developed by Rainbow Studios and published by Microsoft in 1998. Many gamers at the time knew the game because Microsoft bundled a trial version on some CD installers of Windows 98, and the trial itself showed up in many Shareware compilation CDs. The game is known for being one of the most visually impressive games on the PC at the time, as it featured realistic-looking graphics that showcase large outdoor areas and bone-chilling motorcycle wrecks.
Motocross Madness is a landmark in motocross videogames, and it saw a sequel in 2000 and a remake in 2013. Additionally, its developers would go on to create other high quality titles in the genre (some of which will appear later on in this list.)
The game is unintentionally funny because of its approach to invisible walls; If you’re in stunt mode and you reach the edge of the map, an “invisible slingshot” effect will trigger, wherein the player and its bike will suddenly fly across the map after a large cannon (or gunshot sound) is heard.
#3. Championship Motocross 2001 featuring Ricky Carmichael (Sony Playstation)
Released in 2001, Championship Motocross 2001 featuring Ricky Carmichael is one of a number of motocross games released on the PSX that take advantage of the console’s hardware 3D capabilities. It may look dated now but it is important to consider proper context: at the time of its release, the game was a technical marvel – featuring silky smooth animation, riders based on actual famous riders, lengthy maps, and a soundtrack full of popular licensed music. Championship Motocross 2001 is also notable for its forgiving controls, which veer very closely towards car racing games (although players who are not careful will still crash and burn.)
#4. Edgar Torronterras eXtreme Biker (PC)
It’s a shame that Edgar Torronterras eXtreme Biker isn’t as popular or as fondly remembered as Motocross Madness. It’s a motocross game that feels like they took all the fun parts of Motocross Madness, then threw away the realism in favor of wacky, over the top stunts and stages.
While there’s still a decent motocross game under the hood, eXtreme Biker is notable for the wacky stages centered on fantastical elements and crashes that are so over the top that they cross the line that separates painful-looking from hilarious-looking.
#5. Disney Sports Motocross (Gameboy Advance)
Disney Interactive is an odd developer and publisher of games, because their games frequently get dismissed as mere attempts to cash in on their popular brands even though many of their games are actually very good (and in cases like Aladdin for the SEGA genesis, considered as cream of the crop.)
Disney Sports Motocross for the Gameboy Advance is another example of this odd dichotomy between being seen as a bandwagon-jumper and actually being a decent game – it is a cutesy 2D motocross game that gives players control of popular Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, etc. Cynics would expect the game to have nothing going for it but the recognizable characters, but even if you take away the reliance on Mickey and the gang, you’re still going to be left with a decent sidescrolling motocross game that feels like an improved version of Excite Bike.
#6. Excite Bike 64 (Nintendo 64)
Excite Bike 64 is the delayed but still welcome sequel to Excite Bike. Instead of improving the original, Excite Bike 64 fully updates the license to modern standards by using a full 3D engine and shedding the cutesy graphics in favor of a visuals that are more rooted in realism. However, the game still retains the boost and overheating mechanics, and still features wacky elements in both the character designs and the stages.
#7. Motocross Maniacs Advance (Gameboy Advance)
Another 2D motocross game, Motocross Maniacs Advance isn’t based on any actual license – it uses original characters that feel like they belong in an anime or a sci-fi property. The graphics are fairly crude and don’t measure up to Disney Sports Motocross, but it has better level design that eschews traditional motocross tracks in favor of fantasy settings. Basically, Motocross Maniacs Advance feels like a motocross game that uses Sonic the Hedgehog stages for its tracks.
#8. MX vs. ATV Unleashed (PC, PSP, PS2, Xbox)
MX vs. ATV Unleashed is made by the folks responsible for Motocross Madness and it shows; everything from the visuals to the controls scream quality, and the game revitalized the genre by being the first game to combine ATVs and dirtbikes in the same events. The game also features a ton of unlockables in the form of additional vehicles, including off-the-wall ones such as monster trucks and golf carts.
#9. Joe Danger (Mobile, PC)
While not really considered as a motocross game (it’s a bike stunt game), Joe Danger still belongs on this list because it feels like a modern take on Excite Bike in everything from the visual style to the controls.
Joe Danger basically puts players in the role of the titular stunt man, who has gone out of retirement to prove that he is still the best in the industry. To achieve this, Joe has to perform various stunt and tricks on different 2D tracks full of ramps, hurdles, barrels, and all sorts of errr…danger.
#10. MX vs. ATV Reflex (PC)
When MX vs. ATV Reflex was first released, a lot of players did not like it and considered it a massive disappointment when compared to previous MX vs. ATV games. This is because Reflex introduced a brand new control scheme that made use of dual stick controls; one stick controls the bike’s steering while the other stick controls the direction in which the rider’s body leans.
Additionally, MX vs. ATV also introduced terrain deformation, where the bike is affected by the terrain and its subsequent deformations, which means you have to watch how you approach each lap. This naturally made for a steeper learning curve compared to previous motorcycle games, but gamers who have real life experience LOVED the new focus on realism, and once people learned how to adjust, MX vs. ATV Reflex found new fans. Today, Reflex’s revolutionary gameplay serves as the blueprint for many motocross games.