If we had the space for only one racing game on this list, Super Mario Kart would be it. More than any other game here it stands up under scrutiny today because although the graphics are now poor and the handling basic, the essentials are right. It's easy to play, difficult to master and whole heaps of fun, particularly if you bring a bunch of friends together for a four-way battle. You can even replicate those days today, as the original game is available to download in Nintendo's Wii shop.
Micro Machines (1991)
Think top-down driving games and many will think of Grand Theft Auto, but as it's not a racing game it doesn't make the list. Micro Machines is so it does, and many will regail you of the skill needed to keep your tiny toy car from plunging off the school desk or kitchen worksurface into oblivion. The controls took some getting used to (think more clockwise and anti-clockwise than left and right) but that just adds to the fun. Somehow, playing it on the Nintendo Game Boy seemed more appropriate, too.