It's hard to say exactly the whys, whens, or wherefores, but somewhere along the line, racing mini-games became one of the most common forms of Unexpected Gameplay Change
Racing mini-games generally come in three flavors:
- The World Is Your Grand Prix: Whoever or whatever challenged the player character to race makes it from Point A to Point B on whatever map you're already on. Sometimes it's in the Hub Level, but it can occur within a level or dungeon, as well. While your character may be on foot, they may also have a vehicle—either part of their usual arsenal, or provided for them—in order to provide them extra speed. Since most maps tend to be somewhat... larger than your standard race course, the game will frequently provide some sort of "marker" to keep you on course, usually with penalties if you stray too far. The markers can range from a simple line on the ground to actually making the player lose if they don't pass through every ring.
- This Course One Way Only: Unlike the above, this actually does take place on its own map, designated for the race. However, such course is usually one way only. Your goal is simply to get to the end, through whatever means you have at your disposal. Because they're designed explicitly for the race, the maps for these particular mini-games are frequently more elaborate, and feature more devious twists and turns.
- I Can't Believe It's Not Mario Kart!: The most elaborate of the three options, this is when a racing mini-game actually takes pains to resemble a sort of tiny Wacky Racing game in its own right. In addition to having designated "race" maps, they often feature proper laps, and even, sometimes, power ups. (They'll usually throw in a Nitro Boost, at the very least.)
- In Donkey Kong 64, the large tree in "Fungi Forest" contains races for Lanky and Diddy in this fashion, with Lanky racing a rabbit and Diddy an owl. Aside from their "Barrel" power-ups, they simply go around the glade. Likewise, Tiny has two races against a toy car, in a cart just like his. She gets Nitro Boosts and missles to use against him, and they go for several laps. Both Lanky and Tiny also have a race each against a beetle, which requires you to collect coins as well as beat him to the end. Also, the courses he has? Really, really perilous. The eponymous Donkey Kong races against a seal in Gloomy Galleom.
- In the Game Boy Advance version of Donkey Kong Country 2, you can play a racing game with Expresso at Cranky's Cabin, using feathers collected throughout the game to boost his stats.
- Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue has a surprisingly fleshed-out kart mode. While you can participate in the races in-game for some prizes, a fully multiplayer version of the kart mini-game—with lots of racers, several tracks, and items—it available from the title screen from the get-go.
- Rocket: Robot on Wheels has lots of vehicles, but surprisingly, only one race in which you race the Dune Dog, the standard "kart" vehicle, against a... corn car. It's one of those games.
- The Knights of the Old Republic swoop-racing minigame, plot-critical in its first incarnation and toned down to a random source of money and sidequests later on.
- Super Mario 64 has you race against a big penguin in a precarious slide. There's also Koopa the Quick, who challenges you in a foot race.
- Super Mario Sunshine has Il Piantissimo, a strange man in a Pianta costume, who occasionally challenges Mario to a race within the stage.
- Super Mario Galaxy has two races against a Boo, and another one is against a penguin. Super Mario Galaxy 2 has two levels (aka, the Fluzzard flying levels). In both levels, the first mission is just to reach the end, the second is to beat the AI opponents to the end of the course.
- Wario: Master Of Disguise has an A-to-B race for the second to last Boss Battle. Carpaccio is aware he stands no chance at beating Wario in a physical battle, and instead challenges him to a race. Though he starts out walking at a mockingly slow pace, Wario's path is rigged with all sorts of obstacles to hinder him, and Carpaccio will begin to sprint at a surprisingly fast speed once the end is near. Even after you realize you need to think like Wario to win (As in, cheat), it's quite difficult.
- Beyond Good & Evil has several races—one of them, you have to participate in for plot purposes (to find a secret exit on the track). In addition to in-track speed boosters, you can also bring in your own items from outside to aid you.
- The Mario Party games have featured almost too many of these over their run to list.
- Banjo-Kazooie has you racing Boggy the polar bear throughout his world on a sled, and later, with Kazooie's Sprint Shoes.
- Banjo-Tooie featured a bundle of races through two characters; Canary Mary and an Aardvark. The former appears in Glitter Gulch Mine and Cloud Cuckooland with races that take place within the levels but strictly on rails, the latter also in the floating acid trip level with a pair of short A-to-B races.
- The Simpsons Hit & Run had several A-to-B races on every level.
- And if you find all the collectible cards from a specific level, you unlock a bonus top down view race based on the level, very similar to old 2D games, complete with MIDI soundtrack, which is playable from the main menu.
- Chrono Trigger had Johnny, that cool transforms-into-a-vehicle cyborg in the future. You had to beat him in a race in the main quest.
- All GTAs: One with multiple vehicles. One in The Ballad of Gay Tony requires you to parachute from a helicopter to a boat, race the boat, then switch to a car for the last leg of the race.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has the race against the Marathon Man (Unwinnable by Design), the one against Ingo, and another one against Dampe's ghost.
- Majora's Mask has one per region except Ikana Canyon. Notably, Link can take advantage of one of his physical forms in each (Deku Scrub in the race with (not against) the Butler, Goron in the spring race in Snowhead, human with Epona in the horsetrack race in Milk Road, and Zora in the Waterfall Rapids ring race).
- Twilight Princess has the Yeti race in Snowpeak.
- Final Fantasy X features the chocobo race; those goddamn butterflies)
- ''Warcraft III has a custom map that with a racing minigame.
- Brutal Legend has several sidequests where you race against Fletus the ugly demon in your Druid Plow.
- The hoverboard races in Ratchet & Clank.
- Sonic Adventure 2 Battle has two racing levels and an unlockable multiplayer racing game.
- Twinkle Park Circuit in the first Sonic Adventure.
- All of Tails' stages in the first Sonic Adventure. Most of them take place in the same areas as other characters' stages, but with differences (such as aerial speed boost rings for Tails to fly through). Speed Highway branches off in its own direction
- Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven has a single level in which the player must cover for a racecar driver the Don has bet on. It's a Scrappy Level due to the frailty (as in, tip over and you die, no exceptions) and unstable nature (as in, turn around a corner or hit a slight bump at anything but low speed and you will likely tip over) of the car and the difficulty in traversing the track safely while staying ahead of the racers, but, luckily, there's a secret area that allows you to skip pretty much the entire lap and finish it with ease.
- To earn the Levitation power in Psychonauts, you must win a race including speed boosts, unusual obstacles and hidden alternate paths.
- In Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, one of the minigames in the Disney Town world is a Mario Kart-ish racing game. It's generally disliked because The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard and the first race course must be completed when playing Terra in order to clear that world.
- Sly Cooper And The Thievius Raccoonus has the racing missions which are known for their high difficulty, broken controls, and the constant nagging notion that Sly and his friends are thieves who steal everything else.
- Sly 2: Band Of Thieves has a few (three) chase scenes which involve Sly chasing after Neyla (usually so he can prove his ability to keep up with her so she'll share information with him).
- Jak and Daxter has this throughout the series, not counting Jak X, which is a racing game in and of itself. Particularly, Jak II: Renegade has a race around Haven City against Errol, as well as three consecutive races at the racetrack (the last of which is also against Errol, as well as other generic racers). All four are plot-required.
- BIONICLE: Quest for the Toa has the Great Ussal Race, Ignalu Lava Surfing, and Ngalawa Boat Racing.
- BIONICLE: Maze of Shadows has the Tunnel Flight Challenge, involving Matau with a Nui-Rama or the Red Serpent.
- LEGO Island features races as a variety of its missions, spawning obstacles that make your path very difficult, if not impossible for many routes around the island.
- In Ōkami, you can choose to battle two "postmen" in a race involving chasing the postman, attempting to tackle him before he runs out of eyeshot. In later races, spined balls are thrown at you in an attempt to slow you down.
- Mortal Kombat Armageddon features a minigame called "Motor Kombat." It's separate from the rest of the game, which is probably a good thing — although it's a surprisingly elaborate Kart clone.
- Bully has both bicycle races and kart races.
- Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 has a minigame where you can race against Might Guy by hitting Square and Circle alternately as fast as you can until you get RSI. This is unfortunately required for 100% Completion. Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 also had a racing minigame where you were racing Sakura to the top of a tree, though this time you move forward automatically and only have to worry about dodging obstacles.
- Final Fantasy XII had a race similar to the above example, against Rikken, Raz and Eliza in The Port at Balfonheim. You only have to race him once (and that's only if you want him to tell you about a mark to be hunted - you don't even have to win), but the more races you win, the more prizes you get. You can get a total of 100 prizes, after which Rikken will finally admit that you are the fastest in Ivalice. Most of the prizes are utterly useless, but some of the later ones give you loot to make new stuff at the Bazaar. Just like the Naruto example above, you run by hitting Square and Circle rapidly.
- Final Fantasy IX has a similar race, where you race Hippaul as Vivi near the start of the game, when playing as Vivi (though if you miss it, you can go back and do it as Eiko later, when you get free access to Alexandria). It's another one where you mash Square and Circle to run. It's completely unnecessary, though participating in it will trigger an extra Mognet letter (describing an "amazing sprinter"), and if you win 80 times or more, the letter will name Vivi as the "amazing sprinter" (otherwise it will say the sprinter's name is Hippaul).
- Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: Episode 1: Homestar Ruiner features the Tri-annual Race to the End of the Race, done against the clock rather than specifically racing someone. You have to do it twice, first disguised as Homestar, where you proceed to make him look really bad, and then again after "cheating up" the track in order to make it easier for the decidedly un-athletic Strong Bad.
- The swoop bike chase in Shadows of the Empire, and the Skyhopper bonus mission in Rogue Squadron.
- The Maw Warthog run in Halo: Combat Evolved, and the final escape in Halo 3. Some of the games also have multiplayer races.
- The second PSX Dukes Of Hazzardgame has a racing mission.
- A different genre of racing minigame witin a racing game: F-Zero GX has three missions in Story Mode; Goroh the Vengeful Samurai, Rescue Jody, and Black Shadow's Trap.
- Call of Duty 4 had this at the end of the level "Crew Expendable" where the player must escape the sinking ship. Basically, it is a timed race where you follow your allies, but as they inevtably outpace the player audio cues over the radio and general memory of the level already traveled through becomes very important. Even at the end you have to jump into the back of a helicopter but don't worry, "Nobody makes the first jump..."
- Epic Mickey has a time attack in the Mean Street where you have to follow the light from Point A to Point B within the time limit to get a one of the collectable items.
- The first, second, and fourth levels of the SNES Rocketeer game are airplane races.
- Scaler features a race taking place in Desollem and featuring Scaler's Krock form. In addition to having a couple of races versus an AI opponent, there are also a couple of time trials, and a couple of 'destroy X-amount of cocoons' challenges.
- The Pokémon Dream World has Sky Race. Guide Pelipper through the course, picking up water energy symbols and avoiding clouds and electric energy, which slow you down.
- Mass Effect 2's "Lair of the Shadow Broker" DLC had an aircar chase through the skies of Ilium that looked like a giant Shout Out to Attack of the Clones.
- Shantae forces you to race against Rottytops to convince her to tell you the location of the next stone of power. It's very unforgiving.
- The driving level in Tomorrow Never Dies for the PSX (Type 2).