As I got older I started to enjoy futuristic racing games such as Rollcage. But when I first discovered Colin Mcrae 2.0, I discovered "realistic racing simulators" (or so I thought). I really enjoyed the physics of this game, how you have to fight with the environment and slide around the corners. I played several other rally games such as Microsoft Rallisport Challenge. But it wasn't until Richard Burns Rally that I realized what a real simulation game was. Richard Burns was amazing, but also brutally punishing. If anything it was almost too difficult to play with a gamepad.
For some reason I have never really been able to get into gaming with an analog stick. I think the placement of the analogs on the Playstation controllers is terrible and not ergonomic. The closest I've gotten to appreciating them was I used to have an Xbox 360 controller. I used it some for Trackmania Nations.
But in general, I still prefer D-pad for driving. Call me oldschool.
So fast forward to around 2011, I was really wanting to play some realistic driving. I tried out this game called Gran Turismo 4 on my PS2. It was good and had a lot of potential... But I didn't really have a comfortable setup for the PS2. So I tried out the PSP version of Gran Turismo. It is excellent, it has a ton of cars and tracks. But unfortunately it doesn't have any kind of career mode. So it's basically just a challenge against yourself to see how much money and cars you can obtain, and how many tracks you can complete at higher skill levels. Gets kinda old after a while.
So I figured I would try Gran Turismo 2 for PS1, in emulation. Sure the graphics aren't quite as good as GT4 or PSP, but it's still a great game. It's got a solid career mode and the physics are quite excellent.
I've done some reading online about whether people consider GT games to be a simulator or not. Some people do, some people don't. Apparently there are more hardcore sims out there, but they are mostly for PC and probably are kind of sterile and wouldn't handle well with a D-Pad.
For me, GT is the ultimate combination of accessibility and realistic seeming physics, to seem fun. :)
There's snow all over the ground at my house here. Instead of going out and driving like a fool in it, I'm gonna play some GT2 soon to get it out of my system :) Reason I still play GT2 is because my PC isn't powerful enough to emulate PS2, and I haven't really found any similar games that I enjoy for PC.
Here's some screenshots!!!
Subaru Impreza Rally car.... Oh yeah!!!!
Suzuki Escudo. Pretty much the most ridiculously overpowered car in the game
Random start sequence
Classic car (Lotus maybe?) on the Seattle circuit
Gran Turismo 2, coming to my living room chair tonight!