3 Ways to Play Forza in “Zen Mode”

3 Ways to Play Forza in “Zen Mode”


I don’t play Forza as Microsoft probably intended. You won’t find me grinding away for achievements, levels or credits.

For me Forza has always been about that positive flow state, the zone, meditation or whatever you want to call it. Zen Mode sounds the coolest to me. And who doesn’t need some of that lately?

Here are a few ways that help me unwind without getting wrapped up in the game itself. This is a balance that doesn’t seem to get much discussion. You’ll also learn why ForzaTune is designed the way it is.

1. Declutter the Game

In Horizon you can go into the HUD (heads up display) settings and control what shows on the screen when playing. This includes notifications at the top. You don’t realize how distracting these are until they are gone. You might even turn off the map or other items like player names above cars. In Horizon it’s a great way to sink into the scenery as you speed through the countryside!

In Motorsport you’ll almost always find me in solo Test Drive mode. No online players dive bombing, no AI making odd moves, and no music. Just the car and me. The flow state quickly takes over as you string together corners. It’s similar to hotlapping with less focus on the lap times.

The game designers put a lot of thought into rewards and progression to keep us engaged. The gameplay takes on a more zen-like experience when we strip the game down to the look, sound and feel of the car and its environment.

2. Calm Your Ride

It’s harder to appreciate each apex and shift with a car that has insane levels of power. Or worse yet something that requires screaming redlines, or is constantly laying rubber.

Many times I’ll keep builds in the 500-800 PI range. You can also pick slightly higher displacement engines that have a deeper, calmer engine note.

Dialing things down a notch takes it from casino-style excitement to more of a car enthusiast happy place.

3. Remove Roadblocks

Speaking of balance: a poor-handling car or repeatedly veering off the track is a quick ticket out of zen mode. Investing in some knowledge of tuning and racing theory changes the game dramatically. My sites like Keys to Speed and ForzaTune capture decades of lessons, and will quickly remove these roadblocks.

If you haven’t taken advantage of them at some point I hope you do in the future. You can also find some great information in racing textbooks.

Having a properly tuned car and solid racing skills makes the driving much more enjoyable.

A Word of Caution

Like a deep dream level in the movie Inception, it’s easy to get lost in this world.

The image above has bothered me for years. Maybe because someone thought it was funny. Maybe because I regret playing a little too much Nintendo and Sega Genesis as a kid.

But it’s much healthier to fire up the console, do some driving and get back to the real world. It’s another reason I try to avoid most of the challenges or career progression.

Racing 30-60 minutes instead of the whole afternoon seems like a good balance. It’s that fine line between enthusiasm and obsession – between getting into flow that clears the mind, and avoiding reality.

How This Relates to ForzaTune

Keeping a healthy limit on game play is why I emphasize a fast user experience and keep a lot of the complexity under the hood with ForzaTune. It gives you a way to get into the game and quickly experience the satisfaction of making a great tune yourself. No entering dozens of numbers or doing a bunch of math by hand. Life’s too short.


The Forza series hits such a car enthusiast sweet spot. They offer fun cars, good physics and beautiful settings that quickly whisk you away without too much hassle.

Feel free to try “zen mode” by decluttering the interface, choosing mid-range cars, and improving car control. You will be able to unwind no matter what’s going on in the world. Just don’t forget to put some healthy limits on time spent in the game.

If you have any comments or questions feel free to reach out. I hope my apps and online courses help you find a great balance too – both in your car control and how you approach Forza.

Anthony Curtis

Creator of the ForzaTune app and Forza racer since the beginning of the series. I use my background in engineering and physics to help others drive faster.