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Wacky Racing

In Real Life, the racing of any kind of vehicle is very dangerous, and many people have died or suffered serious injury while doing so. Things have gotten better, but it is still a potentially deadly sport truly only kept in the reins of safety by the skill of the drivers. However, there is also the fact that in real life, except for off-road rallies and endurance races, most races simply involve going from point A to point B, or driving in a circle for 500 or so laps. Because of this, writers tend to spice things up a bit. The result is a Wacky Race, a race so improbable, so outrageous, so dangerous, that it makes Pikes Peak look like a Sunday drive.

The race often has rules more akin to a Demolition Derby than a normal race, and often takes place on an improbable course. Courses built around entire cities, courses with rollercoaster-like architecture, Courses floating in midair, courses existing only in an alternate racing dimension, and courses in locations where it's generally not safe to be standing, let alone racing, are common. In addition, the vehicles themselves are often specialized. If they're cars, expect them to have weapons and other modifications.

If they're go-karts, expect a lot of Power Ups to be littering the course- if not, plain old Car Fu will be highly encouraged. And if they aren't normal vehicles, expect them to be some amazing sci-fi vehicle capable of pretty much defying the laws of physics. The Vehicles are often themed after their drivers (who are just as wacky as the race itself). The Rules Of The Road may be altered arbitrarily. And of course, expect the prize to be some sort of MacGuffin.

It's almost traditional for a set of characters in a non-racing series to have an episode or spinoff where they engage in this. The Hero usually wins, (or a random side character) the Ensemble Dark Horse always gets the coolest car, and the villain cheats and has it backfire hilariously.

Also see Chariot Race, Fictional Sport, Pseudolympics.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Speed Racer had the Mach 5, Dangerous Courses and a Vehicular Acrobatics Team. And let's not get started on the movie!
  • The 2012 Busou Shinki series had one episode like this. It gets more and more wacky towards the end.
  • Dr. Slump has a chapter like this. Special mention goes to author Akira Toriyama for having his own Author Avatar participating in the race.
  • In cartoons and anime marketed towards kids, an episode like this is inevitable. Most don't involve violence at first, until at least one bad guy starts cheating. Hilarity Ensues.
    • Kirby of the Stars / Kirby: Right Back at Ya featured a race involving a go-kart (Fumu / Tiff and Bun / Tuff), a Model T (the Mayor and wife), a big old fashioned limousine (King Dedede and Escargo(o)n), an old-school Formula 1 car (Meta Knight) and a spaceship (Kirby).
    • A first season Pokémon episode had a race between trainers riding one of their Pokémon (or in one case, Pikachu riding Squirtle).
      • One episode during the Johto saga had something called "Extreme Pokémon", where the Pokémon pulled the trainer on a skateboard.
    • Mega Man NT Warrior was not one to miss out. It also makes a good example of how the vehicles will reflect the role and personality of their riders: MegaMan drove a F1 car, ProtoMan rode a Cool Bike, Roll drove a silly-looking coupe, and Force Three all rode together in a train.
    • Anpanman has had a couple racing episodes (one was a half-hour special, the other a theatrical short). Some vehicles were go-karts (by most of the racers, even the super heroes. Baikinman dressed as a mysterious racer in both episodes until his cover was blown), a few had bike pedal-powered cars (Creampanda, but he's a kid, so he can't drive. The Donburiman Trio, on the other hand, had Tendonman winning a bet, so the car gets to look like him, and he doesn't have to control it, while Katsudonman and Kamameshidon are forced under the kart controlling it), and even steeds (the cowboys using their horses/grasshopper (in Arinkokiddo's case)). Both times involved Baikinman using Dokinchan (and Horrorman at one point) to help rig the race.
  • Digimon Frontier had an episode like this. All of the kids, Neemon, and a villian each got onto a train. The episode proceeded as a big battle, with only Takuya completing the race.
  • Scramble Wars was a Super-Deformed Wacky Race parody featuring several anime produced by AIC (such as Bubblegum Crisis, Gall Force, Megazone 23, Mospeada, and Riding Bean).
  • SD Gundam did a Wacky Races homage episode, complete with Gundam ZZ villains Yazan Gable and Gemon Bajack as transparent parodies of Dick Dastardly and Muttley. Sadly, due to licensing issues, this short couldn't be included in a recent DVD collection.
  • Steel Ball Run is basically the horse racing version. It's a race across the whole United States in a alternate history Wild West, featuring competitors with flamboyant clothing and special powers. One even eschews the horse and runs on his own two feet.
  • The TV series of Future GPX Cyber Formula has this with more wacky racing courses like a track with ice hills and roads with time-floods, with booster-equipped cars as the racing machines. In the OVAs however, this aspect has been largely abandoned.
  • The manga Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has the dragonfly races in the world of Piffle with all the racers being cameo characters from other CLAMP series.
  • Red Line takes this to ridiculous levels. Tailenders, too.
  • This is serious business for Yu Gi Oh 5 DS where everybody plays card games while riding motorcycles. If it wasn't for the autopilot, we'd have some serious wreckage here...
  • Episode 9 of Carnival Phantasm.
  • In Gosho Aoyama's manga Yaiba, there's an extra arc that involves the main characters racing for a wish granted by God himself. Hilarity Ensues. There's also an Author Avatar character with the fourth-wall breaking capacity of erasing cars in front of him and redrawing them behind him.
  • Episode 21 of Sonic X had Sonic competing with Sam Speed in a race throughout Station Square and the desert beyond it.

    Comics 
  • The shortlived comic book Chassis centered around aircar racing in an Alternate History where World war II never happened.
  • A story in Superboy had Roxy enter Cadmus's Whiz Wagon in a super-powered cross-country car race called the Demolition Run, organised by a mysterious crime-boss called Mr Big.
  • Archie's RC Racers was one of the stranger entries in the Archie Comics franchise. In it, two teams of Riverdale teenagers, led by Archie and Reggie, travel across the United States racing radio-controlled cars, while foiling the dastardly schemes of the villainous Babette and her bungling henchmen.

    Films 

    Literature 
  • The broomstick race through a dragon preserve mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages.
  • The fifth Accel World novel actually has one of these as a special, one off event to celebrate the adding of the space elevator to the Unlimited Field. Since the kings customarily not take part in such events, Haruyuki uses it as a chance to convince Sky Raker to rejoin Nega Nebulous on a full time basis to round out their four person team. Of course something happens to interrupt it.

    Live Action TV 
  • Sam Carter of Stargate SG-1 once had to go through a ridiculous course in an improvised ship in the episode Space Race.
  • Gekisou Sentai Carranger and to a lesser extent Engine Sentai Go-onger combine this trope with Super Sentai, which is already pretty damn wacky.
  • Top Gear
    • One of the show's favorite features, to say the least. One thing they love to do is race cars against things that cars usually don't compete with. For example, the Bugatti Veyron (1000 bhp supercar) vs. Eurofighter Typhoon (top-rated fighter jet) in a drag race (vertical vs. horizontal), Mazda M-5 vs. a greyhound (the dog, not the bus), compact car vs. Le Parkour, Historic People Carrier/Motorhome/Passenger Bus/Airport Vehicle Racing, a rally car on ice vs. bobsledders (and later a second Rally car vs a skeleton luge), and so on. The amazing thing about the Bugatti Veyron race was not that the Bugatti lost, but that it lost by only four seconds.
    • The double-decker car racing, depicted above. The catch is simple: you sit above, your partner sits below. You have the steering, he has the acceleration. The first race of this type pitted England vs. Germany. The same challenge was repeated in the Ashes Special, against the Top Gear Australia hosts. Except the steering car has been turned upside down, but only for the Australian team.
    • Racing "the post." They basically raced against an abstract concept. And lost. Ostensibly, they were racing a relay team; mail boat takes the letter from the island to the mainland, where a series of planes and trucks carry it further, until it reaches the local post office where a dude comes round and delivers it.
    • Clarkson actually dared race against God. Well, technically, he attempted to drive across England in one night from west to east before the sun could rise. And he also won.
    • Their "campervan race" quickly devolved into this.
    • Top Gear US had gas-guzzling super-tuned mountain car vs. a pro kayaker down a mountain.
  • The Sooty Show, with Justin Lee Collins as the requisite cheating villain Fred Firewheel complete with "Drat! And double drat!" Shout-Out.
  • The Goodies did this in "The Race" when they enter the Le Mans 24 Hour race, despite not knowing how to drive. Ultimately they end up driving their office in the race.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Every Mario Kart style game qualifies. Courses with cannons that launch you to the top of mountains aren't exactly common in real life.
    • Even games that don't actually use karts are subject to this, such as Kirby's Air Ride or Sonic Riders.
    • On which note, before there was Sonic Riders, there was Sonic R. And before that there was Sonic Drift.
      • And after Sonic Riders, there is the most acclaimed of the Sonic racers (and the closest one to Maro Kart, natch), Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.
    • LEGO Racers is basically Mario Kart WITH LEGOS!
  • F-Zero. Super Fast Hover Cars, Courses Suspended in Mid-Air that double as cities, and characters like Captain Falcon make this a perfect example of this trope.
  • Full Auto, which can be boiled down to Death Race: The Video Game.
  • Rollcage, which used gravity-defying cars that can be driven on the ceiling and walls as easily as the floor... and for frequently taking place in stages where it's hard to even TELL what's up and down. Or where up and down just aren't constant values (like in a space station).
  • The Apogee classic Wacky Wheels... basic kart racing, 'cept for the hedgehog cannon.
  • Carmageddon and its sequels. Street racing of the classic arcade formula - try to keep your timer up while you attempt to complete your objective. Only instead of just completing the race as your objective, you can instead destroy all your opponents, or run over every pedestrian in the level (which includes cows). The whole mass murdering ordeal caused no small controversy and the pedestrians were replaced with zombies or robots for some markets.
  • Midtown Madness
  • Burnout: Souped-up, nitro-equipped race-cars (or trucks, or vans) compete in street races on roads packed with civilian traffic, and crashing (or, better yet, making your opponents crash) is half the point.
  • Flat-Out: Similar to Burnout but with crazier, off-road tracks, and high explosive trackside objects, but no civilian traffic. The other racers want to make you crash so hard that you're flung through the windscreen of your vehicle, though.
  • Wipeout: High-tech hovercraft zoom round vastly improbable tracks (including ones suspended from a city's skyscrapers) at supersonic speeds, while blasting each other with various types of missile, and the Quake Disruptor, a weapon that causes the entire track to undulate in an excessive manner, slamming itself into opponent's craft, causing massive damage.
  • Need for Speed: Underground and Underground 2: Nitro-equipped, highly pimped out import tuners speed around Olympic City and Bayview, through coastlines, back alleys, spillways, factories, and going at 400 km/h in the highways. The roads are packed with civilian traffic.
    • Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Carbon: Same as before, but add German and Italian supercars, and just to top the whole thing off, throw in a police department with infinite funds and reserves.
    • It gets better in 2010 Hot Pursuit, where you can play as the Cowboy Cop wrecking the wacky racers' fun.
  • N-Gen Racing: Racing planes through canyons, tho lower you go the faster you go, of course, while using the plane's weapon systems to cause damage to your opponents.
  • Conkers Bad Fur Day has a minigame where you surf directly over lava on hoverboards. Of course, like at all points in BFD, it's possible to die in spectacular and grotesque ways, as opposed to most of these, where you bounce off of everything.
  • Extreme G: Superfast motorbikes with all sorts of weapons.
    • The original Extreme-G on the N64 was able to actually overdo the wackiness. There was a cheat code that enabled you to get a random secondary weapon just by clicking it's fire button as opposed to running over a power-up on the track. And this worked for the A.I. racers too. Cue much rocketspamming and the amount of carnage going on could mess up the N64's processor and graphics and reduce the game to its bare wireframe models in that race.
  • Slipstream 5000. Twenty Minutes into the Future racing with, essentially, flying cars. Through twisting valleys and down fjords in Norway, through the winding highways and tunnels of Chicago, down Grand Canyon... Oh yeah, and you had missiles, too.
  • Snowboard Kids is guilty of this one. You'd expect all the courses to have snow, but when one of the stages is a tropical island...
    • Or a space station...
    • Or a jungle...
  • Pokémon Dash.
  • Crash Team Racing.
  • And the aerial version of this trope, Freaky Flyers.
  • The early 90s computer game Stunts was about racing in European supercars on courses filled with more obstacles than you can shake a stick at, including half-pipes, corkscrews, loops, jumps over buildings, and roads made of ice. Its Spiritual Successor Trackmania upped the ante by introducing air-suspended courses specially meant for cars that defy the laws of physics. With its Level Editor, you can also make your courses as crazy as you want - provided the car can get through them...
  • Micro Machines is Wacky Racing On the kitchen table!, or In a sandpit!, or...
  • Excite Bike and Excite Truck. The latter in particular feels like a G-rated Carmageddon crossed with Monster Truck Madness.
    • How about Excite Bots, which is like Truck, except with vehicles styled after animals and minigames in the middle of the races.
  • Kinetica. The racers wear their vehicles, with the wheels attached to the ends of their arms and legs, and they race on the walls and/or ceilings of large skyscrapers. Oh, and did I mention that more than half the racers are hot chicks whose "vehicles" show lots of skin, and that the game is Nintendo Hard?
  • HSX Hypersonic.Extreme (also known as G Surfers). Think of F-Zero X, 20 times faster and taking place on a Real-Scale rendition of the world. It also features a very powerful track editor which takes advantage of said Real-Scale rendition of the world.
  • One of Blizzard's earliest games, Rock N Roll Racing featured futuristic race cars, racing on tracks with deadly jumps and mines, while the racers themselves touted energy blasters, missiles, and mines.
  • Grip Shift, despite featuring cars, is more of a Platform Game than an actual racing game. Ditto for the Trackmania games.
  • The Trope Namer ''Wacky Races' had a video game based on it made for the Sega Dreamcast and for PlayStation 2. Unlike other Mario Kartlikes, you didn't pick up powerups along the track—you chose three from a list specific to the character you chose before every race, and picked up tokens along the track that would let you use the powers you chose.
  • Crazyracing Kartrider
  • Star Wars Episode I Racer, based on the Phantom Menace race mentioned above. Settings include underwater cities, mining facilities, volcanic planets and zero-gravity space prisons.
  • In Split Second, you can blow up things around the track, as well as drop ships and airplanes on your opponents.
  • Looney Tunes ended up with two that I know of. Looney Tunes Racing was a PlayStation karting game, featuring weapons from cream pies to heat-seeking cream pies to, of course, anvils. Looney Tunes Space Race was a Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 game that took things IN SPACE!, but with the same general principle..
  • Re-Volt, similar to Micro Machines but with radio control cars, has Everything's Better with Dinosaurs in the second game.
  • Choro Q series isn't as wacky as others in term of a racing rule. However, after the 2nd game, the series started to put the racing courses that are beyond reality such as a disco factory, a sewer, inside a castle, a haunthouse, outer space, on the sky, under the water, and other weird possible areas. And instead of powerup, they have upgradable parts which are crazy instead.
  • Team Fortress 2 introduces the Payload Race mode. The RED and BLU teams push a cart (Packed with an ammo/health dispenser and a massive bomb) from their side of the area to the opposing team's base. Whoever gets theirs to the final station wins. Of course, they're free to screw with each other's progress.
    • There's also a map based on the same principal called, you guessed it, wackyraces.
  • blur, which is like Mario Kart with real cars (including supercars such as the Koenigsegg CCXR!) and improbable challenges.
  • The Wii version of the Speed Racer film, which transposes the insane courses and Car Fu tactics of the movie.
  • A sidequest in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is a rolling Goron race, which is much like, and about as safe as, climbing inside monster truck tires and racing them down a mountain.
  • Super Tux Kart
  • Diddy Kong Racing.
  • In Zoo Race, animals complete a course containing things like flames coming out of surfaces, explosive barrels, oncoming trains and so on.
  • The Game Boy version of Wave Race. You think a jet-ski race would be pretty standard, but the racers constantly bump into each other due some narrow areas. Moreover, dolphins and octopi serve as power-ups.
  • Fatal Racing, particularly in the Bonus Races (Bonus Race #3 is of special note). And then there's the instance when one of the AI cars decides to screw things up by going in the opposite direction.
  • In Angry Birds Go, the slingshots aren't loaded with birds... they're loaded with birds (and pigs) on karts!
  • Tread Marks is all about sentient tanks racing each other in the wilderness while firing nuclear missiles and death rays at each other for fun.
  • Final Fantasy VII includes the Phantom Zone in the chocobo races.

    Webcomics 
  • In Misfile, we see it done by Cassiel in Ash's race against Logan.

    Western Animation 
  • The Trope Namer is Wacky Races, which in turn is based on The Great Race. That fits the driver and car aspects of this trope.
    • Yogis Space Race is an extension of this, in space!
    • And the Fender Bender 500, which replaced everyone except Dick Dastardly and Muttley with classic Hanna-Barbera characters.
    • Dexter's Laboratory also did an homage to Wacky Races with an episode based on the concept, except replacing the typical drivers with Dexter's Laboratory regulars.
    • Laff-A-Lympics frequently included races as well, with various vehicles. Hanna-Barbera is fond of this trope.
    • Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry, where the cat and mouse enter a race to win a mansion after being kicked out of their old home. At various legs of the race, they and the other contestants had to continually modify their cars for different types of travel, culminating with a race back to the start (read: Travel from the island of Borneo to the starting line in Hollywood...the long way) in five minutes.
    • Speed Buggy was usually wacky races mixed with the Scooby-Doo mystery formula.
    • One Scooby-Doo animated Film, Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, took the exact format of Wacky Races and replaced the normal racers with monsters. The plot centered around Shaggy being turned into a werewolf to participate in the race, because the real werewolf had retired to Florida.
    • The Grand Finale for The Powerpuff Girls has a scene where all the villains drive racecars (with Mojo Jojo's tank resembling a cross between the Mean Machine and the Army Surplus Special) to race to the Mayor's office where the Key to the World is being hidden. Upon insistence from the Professor, the Girls drive a dune buggy (which looked like a pink Shout-Out to Speed Buggy).
  • Disney's The Replacements had an homage Affectionate Parody of Speed Racer.
  • Pretty much every cartoon inspired by Hot Wheels. (Accele Racers in particular, is where the Alternate Racing Dimension thing comes from.)
  • Dragon Booster. The cars are in this case dragons, and the tracks are utterly insane given that they are being raced by living creatures.
  • NASCAR Racers, set in a future where NASCAR has evolved into a Speed Racer style event around grotesque dangerous tracks. Ironically, though, it's actually safer than real NASCAR, since all the vehicles have "rescue racers", an escape pod jettisoned in the event of a crash.
  • Teen Titans had a Wacky Races-esque episode where the Titans were trying to beat various villains to steal back a mysterious suitcase belonging to Robin from Ding-Dong Daddy.
  • The entire second season of 80s cartoon M.A.S.K. (all ten episodes) centered around racing. Considering that the racing vehicles were all equipped with weapons and could transform...
  • The Dukes, the Hanna-Barbera Animated Adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard, featured the Duke cousins (originally Coy and Vance and later the more familiar Bo and Luke) in an automobile race around the world against Boss Hogg, in a duel over the ownership of Duke farm.
  • Tom Slick, a companion segment to George of the Jungle, forced the hero and his nemesis, Baron Otto Matic, to convert their racecars into different forms in virtually every episode. During the short run of the series, the Thunderbolt Greaseslapper became, among other things, a skateboard, a blimp, a submarine, a locomotive, a snowmobile and a swamp buggy.
  • In the episode "Death Race to Oblivion" of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the interstellar warlord Mongul forces five superheroes and five supervillains to participate in the titular death race. The Batmobile and its ilk are already pretty Wacky Races in expressing the owner's, uh, preferences, but this episode revels in it.
  • "Johnny Kart Racing" in Johnny Test centered around this. Notably, the episode starts off as a normal soapbox car race between Johnny and Dukey, snowballs into this trope as more and more racers enter, and the soapboxes are swapped for real cars. Also noteworthy is that a lampshade is hung Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat.
  • The BBC's Kerwhizz is a mostly-CGI, pre-school game show, in which three teams consisting of a kid and his/her android Non-Human Sidekick answer questions before racing their pods around a themed "race world". One suspects the writers may be paying homage to Wacky Races with titles like "Fun Food Freeway", "Moonlight Night Flight" and "The Deserted Desert Dash".
  • Bailey's Comets was an obscure De Patie-Freleng show from 1973 (airing on CBS) about ten teams of roller skaters, including the titular Comets, who are on a cross-country marathon race to find a treasure.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy had the episode "Go-Kart 3000".
  • One episode of Cyberchase was about Matt, Jackie, Inez, and Digit helping Princess Creech enter such a race so that she can become Queen of Tikiville, but at the same time, The Hacker also wants to rule Tikiville, and therefore he resorts to cheating in the race so he can win.
  • An episode of Robot Chicken featured Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise recruiting Vin Diesel's character from The Fast and the Furious to take part in a race against famous TV/Toy car characters, including Batman, Mario and Luigi, The Dukes of Hazzard, Ponch and John, Matt Tracker (with Scott and T-Bob in the back seat), Speed Racer, and one of the vehicles from Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors .
  • Jules Verne's Monster Rally Run!
  • The twentieth episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward.
  • Perhaps the most obscure animated series to come out of Mainframe Entertainment, Weird-Ohs, was about an entire city dedicated to this.

    Multimedia 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: Most rally raids, including the Paris-Dakar Rally and the Baja 1000. More often than not, these rallies are not much about who finishes first, but more about who finishes at all!
    • Of particular note is the 1963 East African Safari Rally. Eighty-four cars started the rally. Five days later seven crossed the finish line.
  • 24 hours of Lemons. Just, go out there and look how people race these little pieces of crap. You won't regret it.
  • At the Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, California, in the late 90s, they had a racing class called trains, which consisted of three cars hooked up to one another, racing on a figure-8 circuit. The one in front had only gas and steering, the one in the middle was empty, and the one in the back had only brakes and steering. Did we mention that the cars actually are on a single level track, so they can crash into each other in the middle? That's probably why they don't run it anymore.


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