When we think of a racing arcade, the first title that comes to mind is Need for Speed. Tracing its roots to the early 1990s, the title's success prompted it to release dozens of quality games, counting its player base in millions. And no wonder, given the amount of effort it puts into including the best cars in the world and connecting them in a compelling story. Yet, the franchise has had a few cars that simply stand out from the rest in the minds of the players globally.
So for this list, we're going to be focusing on the Need for Speed cars that have left the biggest imprint in the video game community, as well as the automotive community as a whole. Every car on this list holds a special place in every Need for Speed fan's heart.
10. Nissan 350Z
The 350Z has seen plenty of screen time, whether it be in the Fast and Furious franchise or video games like the 2004 Need for Speed: Underground 2. Most notably, it appears as the goal car to unlock completing a special underground event. Its popularity in racing franchises comes partly from the fact that it's a beautiful and relatively affordable car that still carries the '90s JDM vibe, featuring a 3.5L V6 engine capable of 287 horsepower.
Both in game and real life, the 350Z is easily tuned to become one of the most fearsome racers on the road, and this fact has earned it a slot in almost every single Need for Speed game as of yet.
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9. Nissan GTR
The Nissan GTR was a big deal when it was first introduced in 2007, and many people have fond memories of first experiencing this beast in Need for Speed: Pro Street. In fact, it was popularly featured as the game's cover car.
But whether you picked this car up in Pro Street, Undercover, or Shift, you could be sure it won't let you down. The handling is superb and the acceleration is unlike any other supercar to come out of Japan before it, or after it for that matter. Specced right, the GTR is straight-up faster than most modern supercars, boasting a 3.3-second 0-60 and a top speed of 195 mph.
8. Darius' Audi LeMans Quattro
Before we had the R8, there was the LeMan's Quattro - a concept car introduced by Audi at the 2003 Geneva Motor show. Of course, Need for Speed quickly picked up the model to use it as the main antagonist's car in their 2006 Need for Speed: Carbon ...and it's even more beastly than the regular R8.
The LeMans Quattro is powered by a 5.0L V10 sending a stampede of 602 horses to all four wheels. It will reach a top speed of 217 mph, and look beautiful doing it.
7. Aki Kimura's Mazda RX-7
Drift was a big deal in Need for Speed: Pro Street, and Aki Kimura's RX-7 was arguably the best drift car in the game. To obtain it, you needed to challenge and defeat the drift king himself. Mazda RX-7 is widely regarded as the greatest use of the Wenkel rotary engine in any car, developing 276 horsepower with only 1.3L of displacement.
6. Ryo Watanabe's EVO X
The first and most significant appearance of this car is in 2007 Need for Speed: Pro Street, driven by the game's main protagonist Ryo Watanabe, a.k.a. the Showdown King. It's a beautifully customized Grey Evo X covered in decals and aggressive dragon vinyls. In fact, Ryo's Evo is unquestionably the reason many Need For Speed fans have fallen in love with the car.
The newest model is a radical change in design from every other Lancer Evolution before it, yet it still retains that same 2.0L inline four-cylinder engine with the highest stock power output yet (296 horsepower). But it's the handling and acceleration that make this car absolutely incredible both in-game and otherwise. With 300-horsepower sent to all four wheels, it will take on any corner at high speeds with ease and accelerate to 60 mph in well under 5 seconds.
5. Razor's Ford Mustang GT
Razor's Mustang didn't get that much screen time in the 2005 Need for Speed: Most Wanted, but we still remember it as the car of one of the most hated individuals in video game history.
In fact, the 2005 Mustang GT featured the long-awaited face lift that exceeded everyone's expectations - it was beautiful. For this reason, many car fans were fascinated to see this car in the game and still fondly remember how cool it was back when Most Wanted was new.
4. Eddie's Nissan Skyline GTR R34
Also known as the most desirable and iconic car of Need for Speed: Underground. Although the game was released in 2003, it's hard to forget the dark orange Nissan GTR (R34) driven by the game's main antagonist Eddie.
This car was not only the coolest but also one of the quickest in the game; in line with its high tuning capability courtesy of the sturdy 2.6L, 276-hp RB26DETT. Notably, Eddie makes a nostalgic comeback in the 2015 Need for Speed: Payback, driving a similarly styled Skyline. And honestly, it's one of the highlights of the game.
3. Cross' Corvette NFS MW
Driven by the arrogant police Sergeant Jonathan Cross, this black-and-white Corvette C6 will go on to chase you through multiple Need for Speed games. However, its most notable appearance is in Need for Speed: Most Wanted, where we all grew to hate it.
Nevertheless, due to the amount of screen time it received over the years, coupled with the uneasy memories of attempting to lose this car in a police chase, it's definitely one of the greatest Need for Speed vehicles ever.
2. Ryan Cooper's Nissan 240SX
The 240SX has a long history with Need for Speed, as it appears as the protagonist's car in multiple iterations of the game. We first see it in 2003 Need for Speed Underground, with its most significant appearance definitely being in Need for Speed: Pro Street - a customized racing version that serves as the starter career car. Today, the Pro Street version of 240SX has gone on to become iconic, with fans purchasing the car just to replicate its appearance in real life.
1. BMW M3 GTR E46
Widely regarded as the greatest Need for Speed car, the M3 GTR is also what makes Most Wanted the best game in the franchise in the eyes many fans. Need for Speed: Most Wanted allows the player to get a taste of this superb race car from the very beginning, before it is sabotaged and obtained by the main antagonist Clarence "Razor" Callahan.
But what makes this car so incredible? It's not only its image, but the incredible sound coming from the V8. The 4.0L V8 found in the M3 GTR and used in Most Wanted was developed specifically for racing, churning out 441 horsepower and 354-lb-ft of torque.
Source: Hot Cars
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