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.)
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- 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.
- 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.
- Bully has both bicycle races and kart races.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has the race against the Marathon Man (Unwinnable by Design), the one against Ingo, and another one with (not against, as the objective is simply reaching to the goal quickly enough) 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.
- Spirit Tracks has the Whip Race, where Link has to clear an obstacle course with the help of his whip in a time limit. A standard run rewards him with a Bomb Bag upgrade, while beating a certain record will net him a Heart Container.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 the lap and finish it with ease.
- The driving level in Tomorrow Never Dies for the PSX (Type 2).
- 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.
- Chrono Trigger has Johnny, that cool transforms-into-a-vehicle cyborg in the future. You have to beat him in a race in the main quest.
- Final Fantasy:
- Final Fantasy XII has a race 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 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).
- Final Fantasy X features the Chocobo race; those goddamn butterflies.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
First Person Shooter
- 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..."
- The Maw Warthog run in Halo: Combat Evolved, and the final escape in Halo 3. Some of the games also have multiplayer races.
- The Mario Party games have featured several of these over their run. There is even one that is a Shout-Out to Mario Kart in 9.
- In Go Vacation, every piece of Gear you can use to explore the overworld has a racing minigame associated with it. This means you can race everything from horses to AT Vs to snow tubes!
- Banjo-Kazooie has you racing Boggy the polar bear throughout his world on a sled, and later, with Kazooie's Sprint Shoes. Banjo-Tooie features 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 level with a pair of short A-to-B races.
- Conker's Bad Fur Day has one in the Uga Buga chapter, where Conker has to pursue three cavemen and kill them to retrieve his stolen money. This part is also available as a more traditional racing game in multiplayer.
- Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped has the motorcycle races, where reaching first is required to win the Crystals that help Crash advance through the game (except in the secret level Area 51, where reaching first place instead rewards him with a Gem). There's also the level Rings of Power, an aerial race whose disputed prize is a Gem.
- Several examples 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.
- 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 are 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.
- 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.
- Jak and Daxter has this throughout the series, not counting Jak X Combat Racing, 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.
- A Hat In Time features a race in Mafia Town against a balloon-owning Mafia goon. Hat Kid herself has to race him on a firework, and Pass Through Rings to get a Nitro Boost. As the race is a shout-out to the particularly unforgiving Diddy Kong Racing, it's extremely challenging.
- To earn the Levitation power in Psychonauts, you must win a race including speed boosts, unusual obstacles and hidden alternate paths.
- The hoverboard/hoverbike races in Ratchet & Clank.
- The first, second, and fourth levels of the SNES Rocketeer game are airplane races.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Super Mario Bros.:
- 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 group of penguins.
- 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.
- One of the Mystery House levels in Super Mario 3D World consists of getting stars through various consecutive obstacle races.
- In Something Else, Luigi has to beat the green apple vine in a race to get the secret exit of Vile Vine. If he loses, the door to the secret exit is eaten by the vine, but the regular exit can be accessed.
- One of the minigames in Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs' Big Break is a racing mini-game, where your character can choose to race against Bookworm (slowest), Sweetie (moderate), or Little Beeper (fastest). tapping the A and B buttons simultaneously repeatedly makes your character run. Outracing the opponent will earn you a bonus.
- 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.
- Wario: Master of Disguise has an A-to-B race against Carpaccio. He is aware that 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.
- 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.
Real Time Strategy
- 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).
Third Person Shooter
- Jet Force Gemini has two racing minigames: The first is in Mizar's Palace, and to participate in it Juno or Vela has to transform into a Drone insect; reaching first place nets one of the 12 ship parts necessary to reach the final level. The second minigame is a Game Within a Game available in Ichor, playable through an arcade found in the game room of a discoteque (once again, the character has to transform into a Drone insect), and it's optional. If the Floyd mission in Ichor is beaten with a Gold or Expert medal, a chip will be earned and installed within the arcade to play a harder version of the racing minigame.
- 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.
- 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.
Wide Open Sandbox
- The second PSX Dukes Of Hazzardgame has a racing mission.
- 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.
- Grand Theft Auto II: A mission for the SRS Scientists involves racing a remote-controlled full-size car on a course on their compound, which is otherwise inaccesible.
- 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.