Forza Horizon 3
Who's it for: Any racing game fan. Seriously.
Console: Xbox One
The first "Forza Horizon" still holds a special place on my list of favorite games. After all, it was set in Colorado and introduced me to the joys of open-world racing.
The series has since moved on, first to Europe and now Australia, with each entry getting bigger and prettier than the last.
"Forza Horizon 3" may be the biggest, most fully realized racing game ever. As the coordinator of the Horizon Festival, your character chooses the direction the festival takes — the rough order of when things are found, what races are unlocked and even where to expand the festival on the impressively huge map.
Speaking of impressive, the car livery in "Horizon 3" comes in at more than 350. There's something here for everyone: Japanese tuners, Italian supercars, American muscle, a few cars you may have owned when you were 16. They're all here.
My personal collection includes a number of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, a vintage Shelby and a 1940 Mercury, just because it looks really classy. That's just a smattering of what I chose from every time I visit my garage.
Once you choose your ride and pull out onto the road, the fun begins. Australia overflows with diverse locations: desert, mountains, beaches — there are rural farms and narrow city streets, all waiting for you leave your mark.
Plenty of organized races await traditional racers, but these are only a small part of "Horizon 3." The world is full of PR stunts to bring additional fans to your festival (a must have for expansion). There are also "Bucket List" challenges that will test specific skills behind the wheel like drifting and the ability to cause destruction.
Nearly everything you do nets you experience, from simple driving maneuvers to skidding through fences and fields. In turn, experience unlocks skills and perks for making your driver a force to be reckoned with.
To keep things fresh, the races are well varied and use the game's more than 400 roads as a never-ending series of potential routes. Point-to-point and circuit races are the most common, but there are plenty of surprises lurking around every hairpin turn.
When not racing, exploration is always rewarding since you never know where you're going to find a jump to try, a car hidden in a barn or a billboard to smash to get some extra experience. Another race is always right around the corner, as easy as pulling up behind someone and honking your horn. Beat another player's "drivatar" and you can recruit them to race for you.
(For those unfamiliar, the drivatar is a virtual representation of a player that can go out and race even when that player is offline.) Your own drivatar will go out and earn you money when you're not playing, appearing in other people's games and perhaps even on their teams. The drivatars race like you do, so the better you are, the better your virtual self will be.
After more than 25 hours of racing, I'm only about 20 percent done with the game, a testament to how much there is to do.
Graphically, the series has never looked better. Australia is a beautiful country, and the game looks like a travelogue. Every time you see the sunset on the ocean or the rain reflecting off the city streets, you'll be reminded of how powerful the Xbox One really is.
For those with 4K televisions, "Horizon 3" supports high dynamic range (HDR), expanding the color palette and increasing the contrast between lights and darks. It adds to an already gorgeous game.
The soundtrack also offers a bit of variety, from rock to hip-hop to country, and additional support for your own music.
When taken with the realistic roar of the engines, the game sounds just as good as it looks.
And for the first time, players can complete the campaign solo or in co-op mode, making this the perfect racer to play with a friend.
"Forza Horizon 3" overflows with content. Every time you think you've seen everything, there's a new road leading to unexpected places. If you're a racing fan and you own an Xbox One, you must add this one to your library. It's nothing short of epic.