You could argue that the best part of gaming is the opportunity to test a multitude of skills within a single game. Whether it’s driving, shooting, stealth or building, video games can make players switch from one to the other either for gameplay purposes or just to give players a break from the main game.
At RacingGames, we enjoy more than just racing games, from RPGs to first-person shooters. Sometimes developers like to throw in a surprise or two though like an unexpected racing section allowing you to drive vehicles.
With that in mind, these are our picks for the five best racing sections in non-racing games. Just to be clear, we’re looking at games where racing is not the main focus, so car-centric game series like Forza, Gran Turismo, and Need for Speed won’t be included.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
Our list starts with a blast from the past. Released back in 1998, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped was the third entry in the antipodean orange fuzz ball’s first trilogy. Along with the usual platforming and boulder-evading was a new game mode: racing. Multiple levels see the titular bandicoot race on a motorbike across desert roads.
These races were straightforward: start at the back, race to the front, and avoid hitting any obstacles or falling down any holes. Although only a small part of the game, these races were required to complete the game. While they may seem out of place in a platform game, they served as a refreshing change of pace compared to the rest of the game.
Even when the game was remastered in 2017 as part of the N’Sane Trilogy, the racing remained and is largely enjoyed by games. You can tell developers Naughty Dog also enjoyed the racing aspect, they created Crash Team Racing just a year later as a worthy alternative to Mario Kart.
Like the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy, Crash Team Racing was remastered. The result was 2019’s Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled, which is considered a genuine contender for Mario Kart’s racing crown. If that wasn’t enough, Naughty Dog also brought racing into the Jak and Daxter series, with mini game races in the main series inspiring the 2005 racing spin-off Jak X: Combat Racing, recently re-released on PlayStation Plus Premium.
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando
From one perfect trilogy to another, Ratchet & Clank was a breath of fresh air when it first launched in 2002, with racing in the series right from the first game. However, the entry on our list is from the sequel Ratchet and Clank Going Commando.
As well as the amusing innuendo name, the game also took racing to the next level by putting Ratchet on a hoverbike and including evolving tracks. Depending on the difficulty level, additional shortcuts and weapons would become available and the opponent AI difficulty increased. The AI also took shortcuts too.
Like Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank’s racing features were inherited from the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy. The hoverbike races are a welcome change to the running and gunning normally found in Ratchet & Clank, and the evolving tracks are an unnecessary but awesome bonus feature.
Final Fantasy VII
Another game that has been recently remastered for a new generation of gamers is Final Fantasy VII. Originally released in 1997, Final Fantasy VII was a landmark game and one of the most influential and greatest video games ever made.
What it’s not necessarily known for is its racing. However, FF7 features a surprising well-implemented racing feature including the insanely cute Chocobos. Unlike Crash Bandicoot and Ratchet & Clank, Final Fantasy VII allows the player to provide their own racing Chocobos.
The racing changes as the game progresses too, starting with Cloud given a Chocobo to race on before eventually being able to breed and enter his own once required areas of the game are unlocked. Players can also bet on races to acquire GP and additional items.
Not only is breeding Chocobos useful for racing, but it’s also needed to explore additional sections of the game’s map, incorporating the racing into the rest of the game. Like Crash and Jak, the Chocobos even got their own racing spinoff game with Chocobo Racing released in 1999. This game also spawned a sequel, with Chocobo GP released this year.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
When you think of Star Wars and racing, you think of the Star Wars Racer pod racing series. But Star Wars Rogue Squadron II also featured a surprise racing segment.
Spanning the entire original trilogy, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader sees the player taking on the role of either Luke Skywalker or Wedge Antilles leading the Rebel Alliance against the Galactic Empire.
While not a race in the conventional sense, the Beggars Canyon level tasks you with flying your T-16 Skyhopper through the level as quickly as possible to reach your objective. Rogue Squadron II and the sequel Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, also let you pilot a black Buick Electra convertible as a bonus vehicle replacing A-Wing. It’s known as “Rudy’s Car,” named after one of the developers who owned the Buick Electra in the game.
Grand Theft Auto series
Grand Theft Auto is not a racing series. Sure, each game includes racing, but this only represents a small part of the overall franchise. In truth, the series is more about gunplay than racing, with each new entry including missions that barely involve vehicles at all, with them serving as a means of travel between shootouts.
GTA IV was the first game in the series to include full online multiplayer, with racing lobbies being one of the more popular online game modes. These included point to point races where you start with nothing but yourself and your rivals and have to race to a point on the other side of the map.
This allowed players to get creative, with the first to grab a car not necessarily the first to finish. It was a free-for-all, with the only objective to be the first to cross the line. How you did that was entirely up to you. It’s a shame this manic mode wasn’t included in GTA V.
GTA Races, on the other hand, are traditional races with weapons enabled. Think Mario Kart, but with more violence and explosions. GTA V has taken racing to a whole new level, with more tracks, vehicle classes, and more race modes than ever.
Recent updates have also added open-wheel racing, allowing players to race in cars inspired by Formula 1 cars. They even have speed boosts similar to DRS and take damage when hitting walls, requiring pit stops to change tyres and fix damage. When it comes to novelty racing, look no further than Grand Theft Auto.
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