The Best Horse Games to Play in 2019 on PC & Consoles
In my site statistics, I see that hundreds of people are searching for terms like “best horse games 2019” and “horse games pc”. I dearly wish I could give these people any wholehearted recommendation where I can call something a genuinely good horse games without caveats about its quality. Unfortunately, I don’t have that one perfect horse game recommendation that meets the requirements and quality standards I and other equestrian gamers have.
But while I still consider the entire genre in dire need of some innovation and respectable implementation, I can at least give an overview of what is available on each platform:
PC & Mac Games
Star Stable Online
I was not a huge fan of Star Stable when I first tried it last fall, mostly due to clunky controls and inconsistent quality. But the Swedish MMORPG is no doubt one of the most significant ongoing projects in the genre. The developers constantly prove their respect for the target audience — a rare thing among horse game developers — and are dedicated to updating and improving the game on a regular basis.
Since the free version offers several hours worth of content, there’s little reason not to try and see if SSO might be the horse game for you.
Find TMQs first impressions here and stay tuned for our review of the paid version.
Star Stable Online can be downloaded for free on PC and Mac.
The Sims 3: Pets
The Sims franchise is all about simulating and playing out the lives of individual fictional people. In countless iterations and expansion packs, what those lives can look like has been reinvented over and over.
In the case of The Sims 3 and its Pets expansion, your sims can become jockeys and horse breeders. The game has an extensive character creator for humans and pets alike, which allows you to choose from a wide variety of horse breeds or mix, match and edit every detail yourself.
While the horse mechanics on their own are not incredibly deep by Sims standards, the fact that your horses can have personality traits and learn skills like jumping and running by exercising still makes for more engaging gameplay than that of many horse games.
And because these mechanics are embedded in the otherwise complex system of Sims’ economics, skills and life progress, you can basically make your own horse game out of it, building stables, breeding horses and seeing to their needs being met.
Thanks to the general fame and acclaim of the Sims series, Sims 3: Pets maintains an active modding community that creates all sorts of new horses and tack.
Sims 3: Pets was released in 2011. A bundle of the base game and the Pets expansion is available on Steam.
Alicia Online was a horse racing MMO that went offline years ago. Thanks to the efforts of some very dedicated players, a fan-run version can now be played again, completely for free.
The game is very much focused on the racing itself, where your horse can double-jump, drift and glide, leaving realism behind entirely. I thought the racing mechanics felt very cool when I played it, but found the whole thing too grindy to invest more time. See more of it in the full review, or download the free game for yourself.
Alicia Online can be downloaded for PC on the game’s website.
Horse Isle 3
Horse Isle is a franchise that I had not heard of until I started this website and began to actively seek out people to talk about horse games with. From my interactions so far, your reading the title has probably already resulted either in an “OMG YAAASS HORSE ISLE” or a “what’s that” with little in between.
I have not yet had the time to look at either Horse Isle 1 and 2, nor to get access to the beta of the third game that’s currently in development.
Horse Isle 3 already offers online play with a world to explore and procedurally generated horses to tame, but many other features are still incomplete. The game’s visuals also look incredibly rough, with no clear indication of what is placeholder and what is final.
If you want to try something a bit more experimental, Horse Isle may be the game for you.
Horse Isle 3 is currently in beta testing phase. If you want to help the game’s further development with your feedback, you can join the beta on PC via the game’s website.
Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Multiplatform Games
Ostwind/Windstorm and Windstorm: Ari’s Arrival
The first Windstorm game (2017) is pretty, but lacks substance: I can only recommend it with a whole bunch of caveats. Learn more in the review here.
The second game however, seems to have improved on almost all of my gripes with the original: it has a more consistent tone, better horse animation, and a mission structure that makes a lot more sense.
A full review will be coming soon, but from playing the first hour I have a vastly better impression of Ari’s Arrival, if you’re looking for a horse-focused adventure. The world and environments are beautiful in any case.
Windstorm/Ostwind was released on PC and PS4 in July 2017.
Windstorm: Ari’s Arrival was released on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch in March 2019.
Phar Lap - Horse Racing Challenge
I’ve never been much interested in flat racing, either in real life or in games, for the tendency to focus on betting and breeding strategy rather than the horse as an individual. Unlike many horse games, Phar Lap at least looks relatively polished and pretty — although the horses’ wide open mouths while racing are irritating.
I have not had the time for a real review yet, but having relatively well-made horse models and animations, an engaging gameplay loop and a consistent art direction is already more than many horse games have got going for them.
If you’ve played Phar Lap, let us know what you think of it in the comments below. A proper TMQ review will come soon.
Phar Lap Horse Racing Challenge was released on PS4 and Xbox in 2019.
A free-to-play version is available for Android and iOS under the name Rival Stars Horse Racing.
Red Dead Redemption II
Red Dead Redemption II is not a game about horses, but one about grizzled outlaws shooting a lot of people and stealing a lot of money while telling themselves they’re the good guys. Thanks to the Old West setting however, horses are omnipresent. There are several dozen horse breeds with different handling and different reactions to the world: Arabs and thoroughbreds spook easily, while drafts barely prick an ear at gunshots.
Red Dead Redemption II is an absolutely massive game — too massive perhaps, considering the reports of awful working conditions and crunch time — and the horses have obviously had a lot of care and effort put into them. Many of their animations, like those for spooking, prancing and bucking are unparalleled in their detail and realism. If you’re up for some quality outlaw gameplay around your Western horse simulation, give Red Dead Redemption II a try.
Red Dead Redemption II was released on PS4 and Xbox One in November 2018.
Nintendo Switch Games
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
As someone who loves the Zelda series for its item-based progression, complex dungeons, semi-open worlds and sometimes clichéd but always engaging narratives, I was disappointed in many things about Breath of the Wild: Dungeons are too short and formulaic, cutscenes and story too few and far between, and Link’s trusted chocolate palomino mare Epona is only available as amiibo “DLC” rather than part of the story.
But despite these concerns, the game is absolutely beautiful and its horses are some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game in terms of fluent animation and gorgeously stylized models. You can tame or buy horses, traverse much of the world in the saddle, and even follow one or two quests about finding unusual horses.
Your horses have stamina and speed stats, and you gain their trust by soothing them when they spook. Horses that don’t trust you yet will occasionally veer off path, which is a really neat bit of realistic disobedience that I appreciate a lot.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was released on Nintendo Switch and Wii U in March 2017.
What To Avoid
Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of horse games out there that I cannot in good conscience recommend spending money on. Check out The Mane Quest’s Review section for detailed accounts of where games such as Horse Riding Tales or My Riding Stables: Life With Horses fall short and decide for yourself if these flaws are something you can overlook or not.
What To Look Forward To
Equestrian: The Game does not have a fixed release date yet at the time of writing, but will be released on mobile phones first and on PC and consoles later. I can only recommend following the team on social media to see new features and animations first hand.
The Mane Quest will keep updating the review section with in-depth critique of new horse games. To make sure you don’t miss anything, follow us on social media, or join the horse game communities on Discord or Reddit: