Video Game: Need for Speed

Need for Speed, frequently known by its initials NFS, is a long-running and popular series of Racing Games published by Electronic Arts focusing on illegal street racing, and it is the publisher's oldest continually-running franchise not under their EA Sports brand.

It started out in 1994 initially with a focus on allowing players to drive the most exotic supercars and a variety of fantastic environments for their time, with games developed mostly by EA Canadanote  and EA Seattle.note  However, with the release of The Fast and the Furious back in 2001, EA decided to make EA Black Boxnote  the series' main developer and have them move to tuner car racing in urban environments starting with Need for Speed: Underground (2003), which was a hit with consumers at the time. Free-roaming environments were later added to the gameplay formula starting with Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004) and were expanded upon in Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005).

However, the success was short-lived as after the critical and commercial disappointments of Need for Speed: ProStreet (2007) and Undercover (2008), EA retooled the series by experimenting with various developers and gameplay styles for a few years, with two vastly different NFS games being released annually. Games of note after this retool included the two Shift games (2009 and 2011) by Slightly Mad Studios, which had an organized track racing format similar to the failed ProStreet, and Criterion Games' 2010 reboot of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, which went to back to racing with exotics in a fantastic environment that added a focus on online social gameplay with their Autolog system. Autolog would be added in every NFS game since, and was even added in the spin-off to Criterion's own Burnout series, Crash!

EA Black Box tried and failed to take back the franchise with free-to-play MMO Need for Speed: World (2010—2015) and cinematic racer The Run (2011). After a renaming to Quicklime Games in 2012, they were later shuttered in April 2013. From there, EA retooled the series again by making Criterion the main developer. However, after the release of a reinterpreted Most Wanted in 2012, the publisher had a new studio called Ghost Games (mostly based in Gothenburg, Sweden, with branches in the UK and later Romania) created the next NFS game. They (with Criterion's help) released the Spiritual Successor to 2010's Hot Pursuit with Need for Speed Rivals in 2013. A film loosely based on the series starring Aaron Paul was released in 2014, but EA released no new NFS game that year. Currently, Ghost Games are taking two years to develop the next title, which is currently rumored to be a reboot of the Underground IP, but so far the only new NFS game is an original mobile installment called Need for Speed: No Limits,note  which was developed by Firemonkeys Studios.note 

One consistent feature found in a majority of the franchise's games throughout the years are police pursuits. Lots and lots of police pursuits. After being added to the side in the first game and removed in the second game in 1997, police chases would become the defining aspect of the NFS series starting with Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (1998).

For a list of titles in the franchise, click on the Recap page button above.

Entries in the franchise with their own pages:


I want every single trope after the guy.

  • Arch Enemies: "Zephyr" and "F-8",note  respectively the racer and the cop the player play as in Rivals.
  • A Taste of Power: Underground starts In Medias Res with a Bonus Car with nitrous, Underground 2 starts with a borrowed tuned car, Most Wanted starts with a powerful BMW M3 that is sabotaged and lost in a bet, and Carbon starts with you thrashing that same BMW.
    • Defied in Hot Pursuit 2010. A starter cop mission gives you a Lamborghini Reventon, and things don't get worse from there. Mind you, Hot Pursuit 2010 absolutely loves this trope, heck, fairly early in the game (whichever side of the law you are on), you're gonna get a preview of a handful of cars you won't be driving for a while. The best examples include the McLaren F1, Pagani Zonda Cinque, Corvette ZR1 and the Bugatti Veyron 16.4. All of which can be unlocked after a few hours of playing. Another example occurs in the form of the following: More often than not, you'll unlock regular events that you have no eligible cars for (eg. Porsche Patrol, which unlocks much earlier than either of the 2 eligible cars you can use for that event). In such a case, you'll be loaned an eligible car just for that event.
      • Yes, the Veyron and the Koenigsegg CCXR are the last two cars you'll unlock.
    • In Rivals, one of the later Speedlists/Assignments will give you the keys to a powerful car from the opposite side of the law (the Enzo Ferrari for Cops and the Koenigsegg Agera R for Racers) with fully-leveled preset Pursuit Tech.
  • A Winner Is You: Appears in Hot Pursuit 2010, when the player clears all of the offline missions for one side.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Inverted in Porsche Unleashed. If you bought a used car, repaired it, and sold it, you would make a profit every single time. There was also an infinite supply of used Porsches as well, meaning that you could have all the money you wanted for the price of grinding the menus.
  • Allegedly Free Game: World was a pretty bad case of this. It relied on the classic trick of a two-tiered currency system, with one tier being in-game money and the other, SpeedBoost, required you to pay real money. You could still go anywhere in the in-game world you'd like and play any events so long as you had the car for it, but SpeedBoost was required to get most of the best cars, card packs, and so on.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Sure that light blue police Gallardo 560-4 in Hot Pursuit 2010 is cool and all, but that car actually exists in Italy as an interceptor unit.
    • Same case with the Bugatti Veyron - in fact, several other exotics and high-end vehicles were also deployed in Dubai's already lavish police fleet.
  • Always Night: Every race in Underground was at night, which was justified given the illegal street racing that made up the game. Carbon did this as well after its predecessor inverted it.
  • Anachronism Stew: A subtle but noticeable one in Hot Pursuit 2010 is an F-14 Tomcat that likes to fly-by every now and then near Memorial Highway. Though not a particular source of frustration, it's still has some of the fans that are well-versed in aviation crying afoul because the game more or less takes place Twenty Minutes into the Future and that the plane in question has been out of service since 2006.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: The upcoming No Limits is an original Need for Speed game made for mobile devices.
    • Although earlier it was series going from exotic cars driving in exotic locations (Hot Pursuit 2 and earlier) to urban tuners driving in urban environments (Underground to Carbon) with open world elements added in (Underground 2 to Carbon), then illegal street racing to organized racing (ProStreet), then back to open world illegal street racing (Undercover), then back to organized racing again (Shift) as well as bringing in cartoonish racing (Nitro), then back to semi-realism and the open world with a multiplayer focus (World), then thrown back to exotic cars in an exotic location (Hot Pursuit 2010), then back again to organized racing (Shift 2: Unleashed), then it was heavily cinematic racing (The Run), then it was back again to open world street racing in urban environments except it was now in the style of Burnout Paradise (Most Wanted 2012), and then finally going back to an exotic location again (Rivals). So yeah, this trope is actually the norm for the series.
  • Announcer Chatter: Along with police chatter in the games that have them.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In The Run, you can restart from the latest checkpoint if/when you either wreck your car, or you've lost that particular segment of the race. You can do this at will, too, up to certain times depending on the difficulty.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The commercial trailers for Hot Pursuit 2 include a Lamborghini Murciélago or a HSV Coupé GTS parking near a Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser, in which the driver and/or passenger show their ass to the officers, using grafitti in a "speed limit" sign to paint a 1 before the 65 to "increase" it, ask them for directions to the nearest bank so they can rob it, and taunting the police with donuts, and then smugly eating those in front of them.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The PC version of High Stakes demonstrates some pretty fancy artificial intelligence that is usually unnoticed by a lot of players.
    • In Classic and Time Trap modes, the police react to the first call of them engaging pursuit with a speeder - usually the next unit up the road will lay out a roadblock or spike strip to hopefully intercept them.
    • The police helicopter plays a big part in Getaway mode, and is a minor convenience in other modes. In Getaway if they spot the speeder (if they're not hiding in a tunnel), they will call out them out, all the police AI react and start swarming towards the location and the speeder's location will appear on the radar.
    • Unlike later games (see below), in High Stakes if you haven't already been chased by the police in a race it's entirely possible to drive right by them with no consequences if you're doing the speed limit and not being reckless. This would be useful if not for the game's tendency to spawn police cars just far enough down the road behind you that by the time your radar goes off for you to slow down, they've already seen you and initiated pursuit.
  • Artificial Stupidity: It is possible in Most Wanted 2005 to get arrested for doing under the speed limit on the correct side of the road and get maybe one infraction. Who knew you could get arrested for pulling over to the side of the road for what should be a routine traffic stop? Must be that if your character is behind the wheel of any vehicle, he should be arrested on sight.
    • Actually, that's exactly what's going on. Cross pretty explicitly says he's just looking for a reason to toss you in jail and strip your car down looking for something not-street legal (and chances are that most of the stuff in there isn't) and if he can't find anything, he'll make something up. You're a known street racer, and he'll do whatever it takes to get you locked up.
    • The police chopper in Hot Pursuit 2010. For some reason, it prefers to navigate between spike drop points by flying along the roads with all their twists and turns, instead of simply flying straight over the terrain.
    • The traffic AI's IQ in Most Wanted 2012 is downright idiotic under the right circumstances. It cannot understand the concept of driving around crashed cars, instead preferring to stop for a moment, then drive straight into them. On the off chance that it does go around a crashed car, it will only manage to do so after repeatedly backing up, changing directions slightly, and driving forward again, which usually results in hitting the crashed car a few times more. This can result in massive pileups, as car after car tries to plow straight through a mounting pile of traffic.
  • Ascended Extra: Somewhat of an example, as prior to the Mazda Miata being drivable in Underground, Bland Name Products of the car could be seen as traffic in earlier games.
  • Beat: In Hot Pursuit 2010, the police dialogue on screen literally says {BEAT} whenever there's a pause between sentences during the same dialogue clip.
  • Benevolent Architecture: Some of those cities look like racetracks with houses.
  • Big Bad: In the Underground Era and in The Run. In order:
    • Underground: Eddie
    • Underground 2: Caleb Reece
    • Most Wanted: Clarence "Razor" Callahan
    • Carbon: Darius
    • ProStreet: Ryo Watanabe
    • Undercover: Chase Linh
    • The Run: Marcus Blackwell
  • Bilingual Bonus: Road Challenge Hot Pursuit mode (the police chase mode) had an option to use 'local police'. This gave full localised voices for the dispatch and driver voice-overs. On the British circuit, the British Police talk with English accents. The French and German circuits go one step further - they even talk in the right language, not just a faux accent.
    • Averted for the English police, driving a Victoria police Holden has the police sound more like they're from Heartbeat than Blue Heelers.
  • Bowdlerize: The songs by Hot Action Cop which were featured in Hot Pursuit 2 had their lyrics changed so they're racing-themed rather than sex-themed.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: Underground had the Bonus Cars, untuned cars with awesome vinyls.
  • Brand X: Not done directly, but is played with in Most Wanted and Carbon. Cars which aren't sold in America (such as the Fiat Punto, Renault Clio V6, Vauxhall Monaro VXR etc.) are simply referred to as "sports cars" over police radio chatter, where as others are called out by their manufacturer.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Some versions of Carbon, ProStreet, and Undercover all let you unlock cars and parts early by paying real money. World is definitely this as well, as a lot of the nicer cars cost SpeedBoost (which is a real-money-based currency in that game).
  • Broken Bridge: All the boroughs in Underground 2, Most Wanted 2005, and Carbon start out locked by an Invisible Wall.
    • Construction equipment and fortified barricades block off the road which leads to (coincidentally) the broken bridge used in the final pursuit of Most Wanted 2005.
    • World has this for two areas; one to block access to an incomplete road linking Kempton and Downtown Palmont with Downtown Rockport, and another south of Downtown Rockport past a toll booth that would probably allow access to Tri-City Bay.
    • Most Wanted 2012 averts this, except for access to Hughes International Airport, which can only be accessed if one buys the Terminal Velocity DLC pack.
    • Rivals does this at the beginning of the game during the tutorial missions. After those are completed however, the whole of Redview County can be accessed.
  • Bullet Time: The Speedbreaker from Most Wanted and Carbon. Also counts as Game Breaker, since it makes your car extremely dense, impossibly responsive, and essentially unstoppable.
  • Call Back: The Run allows players to access challenges which would unlock cars from Underground (Eddie's Skyline GTR from the first Underground and Rachel's 350Z from Underground 2), Most Wanted (the player's M3 GTR and Razor's Mustang), and Carbon (Cross' Corvette Z06 C6 and Darius' Le Mans Quattro). (Note that the challenges are inspired by the games themselves.)
    • The "Blacklisted" event in Hot Pursuit 2010 calls back to Most Wanted, with the event description stating that the county sheriff is "unhappy with how you've been treating his deputies, and will use all the tools at his disposal to stop you in your tracks." During the event itself, you are chased by several police cars and a single Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (Cross's car from Most Wanted).
    • A very subtle one for Most Wanted 2012. One snippet of the launch trailer has a Porsche Cayman S being blocked off by a roadblock. The car then reverses and performs a J-turn. The execution of the driving technique and the entire scene itself is a shot-for-shot recreation of Baron's (Blacklist #10 in the original MW) intro movie, who also drove a Cayman S.
    • Many of the Vanity License Plate designs in Rivals are for locations from previous games, including Olympic City (Underground), Bayview (Underground 2), Rockport (Most Wanted 2005 and World), Palmont City (Carbon and World), Tri-City Bay (Undercover), Seacrest County (Hot Pursuit 2010), and Fairhaven City (Most Wanted 2012).
    • All of the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit titles have a Lamborghini on the cover. Additionally, the Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted titles feature a racer (or racers in MW 2012) being chased by a cop on their covers.
  • Camera Screw: Hot Pursuit 2 rotates the camera around the car when doing a major jump making it impossible to see what's ahead until you land.
  • Captain Obvious: In the opening pursuit of The Run captions pop up helpfully telling you to avoid gunfire and explosions.
  • Cel Shading: The main graphic style in Nitro and the Wii version of Hot Pursuit 2010.
  • Character Tiers:invoked Car-based example: The series as a whole tends to divide cars into "Classes," putting similar cars into different classes (for example, putting high-performance sports cars like the Lamborghini Diablo VT and the Ferrari 512TR in their own Class) based on performance. Each game has it's own system of organization.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: On many occasions, you'll be surprised to discover that the police SUV, is in fact much faster than your tricked out McLaren F1 running at top speed.
    • Those police SUVs are especially annoying in World; after an update was added to the game to make pursuits in higher Heat Levels tougher, it seems that in every Heat Level 5 pursuit there are always two more Rhinos coming at you every ten seconds.
    • Ironically, in the original Hot Pursuit, the police AI was a lot dumber, making the very hook of the game much easier than its single player!
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Most Wanted 2012. While the racers aren't really bad, it's the Fairhaven Police Department, who is totally cheap. It has cars with variable top speed (not even a Veyron Super Sport can outrun them without few difficulties), it loves to stalk you at will, and continuously spams roadblocks on roads where crossroads are absent or just far away. They can also wreck you without warning from behind (as opposed to a shunt) and a bulk of the city doesn't offer alternate routes, meaning even if you're in a cooldown area, you could be surrounded in one or both directions of swarming cops coming to continue the chase. And plus, if you just do one single misstep, they can easily bust you without even trying or when you manage to escape from them, but it's too late.
      • Cop cars can and will spawn around you as soon as you approach a repair shop.
    • In Hot Pursuit 2, after the cops use the spike strips for the first time, more spike strips, not flanked by cop cars, will be on the road, and will be darker, so you can't see them, and you get busted after unknowingly running over them.
  • Cool Cars: This franchise lives on this trope.
  • Cowboy Cop: This is how you get anything done in the Hot Pursuit 2010 and Rivals. Road blocks, spike strips, EMP, and helicopter at your disposal, officer. Justified in that the racers are really dangerous.
    • III: Hot Pursuit (the original) was somewhat more sedate, in that you only got spike strips. The rest you had to do yourself, via takedowns. Hot Pursuit 2 did provide some more options, at least.
    • F-8 comes across as this in Rivals overlapping with Pragmatic Hero during the opening narration, having no qualms about putting the racers into walls to stop them and considering any civilian that complains an Ungrateful Bastard.
  • Crapsack World: Implied in the first Hot Pursuit with Empire City, the track narrator goes so far to say: "Metropolis gone bad..." when listening on the description in the menu.
  • Crazy Awesome: In-universe, you (well, Ryan Cooper) are considered to be this by the DJs in ProStreet if you perform good enough. They insist a lot on this at the beginning of drag races.
    DJ: "Did you see this guy? He's completely bananas!"
  • Critical Existence Failure: In Hot Pursuit 2010 and Rivals, the damage modeling usually means that cars on the verge of being wrecked look the part - but they're still perfectly capable of driving like new until that last sliver of health is gone. In addition, it is possible to get caught in a pileup at a roadblock with other drivers, leading to some hilarious, spectacular moments as one watches cars suddenly become wrecked by a fender bender.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A lot of the Duel Events in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2010 can fall into this, particularly the Power Trip, Twin Turbo, Racing Stripes and Title Fight Duels.
  • Cyberpunk: What the world of III: Hot Pursuit's Empire City most likely is.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory: You may have remembered some advice you got back in Most Wanted 2005 about slamming into the rear of a police car if you had to hit a roadblock as the cars were weighted towards the front. Do not do this in Hot Pursuit 2010 or Most Wanted 2012...
    • In the Criterion games, one of the ways to earn nitrous as a racer is by driving in oncoming traffic. This is not the case as a cop, and doing so can cause many unnecessary crashes.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Turbo in Hot Pursuit 2010. Like the game says, "it's hard to evade spike strips when you're going at 200mph". Especially when you're out of Jammers and can't prevent the cops from dropping spike strips in front of you...
  • Darker and Edgier: Most Wanted 2005 to the Underground games. The Run to the rest of the series.
  • Death from Above: One of the levels in The Run has Jack avoiding an attacking helicopter as he attempts to escape Chicago. Appropriately enough, the trailer it's featured in is called "Death From Above".
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In Rivals, driving over a spike strip with your tires already deflated will not do any more damage to your car.
  • Difficult but Awesome: Mastering the Bugatti Veyron and it's faster version, the Super Sport definitely qualifies. These are two of the fastest cars in the world but they're very difficult to handle, but with some skill and a bit of practice you can makes these cars almost game-breaking.
    • Same with the El Niño and La Niña in III: Hot Pursuit and High Stakes respectively, an extreme amount of top speed and acceleration and an extreme lack of handling, but this only applies to lead foots as letting off the gas will increase the turn rate dramatically and gain you a very high edge in class A races.
  • Difficulty Spike: Quite common since Underground.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The premise of Hot Pursuit 2010. "Hey, that guy is speeding! Quickly, lets lay down spike strips, use electromagnetic pulses, call in the helicopters, and ram them off the road! Hopefully off the side of a cliff! That'll teach them a lesson about speeding!"
    • In Most Wanted 2012, getting in a crash with a cop car will always start a pursuit, regardless of who hit who. If you hit the cop, this results in everything listed above. If the cop hits you, they will also do everything listed above. Who knew getting hit by the police was a crime?
  • Dolled-Up Installment: V-Rally and V-Rally 2.
  • Dramatic Landfall Shot: The opening of Undercover.
  • Dream Match Game: Where else are you going to see cars like the Audi R8, Nissan GT-R, Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, Koeingsegg Agera R, Ford Mustang and the Ferrari 458 Italia go head-to-head? Nowhere else. Most Wanted 2012's overlapping car classes allow players to use everyday cars like the Ford Focus(es) and the Range Rover Evoque go up against said exotics and possibly win.
  • Drives Like Crazy: You in almost all Need for Speed games. Of note are the beautiful, treacherous tracks in Hot Pursuit 2010. When you get to, or have to, drive a Corvette ZR1 through hairpins at 200mph, you have to learn to drift well fast.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Played straight in the Underground games, where almost all race givers will treat your car as a wreck, and expect you to be lapped five times by the end of the race. Averted in ProStreet where, if you perform good enough, the DJs will constantly praise you.
    • Played with in Most Wanted. Razor will occasionally call you up to taunt you, but as the game goes on he starts a slow-motion Villainous Breakdown.
  • Dynamic Difficulty
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Only the first five games had vehicle showrooms with information about the cars, and the first game was the only one to have been endorsed by Road and Track Magazine.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: NFS II had an unlockable Hollywood track, with movie sets and dinosaurs (indeed, a cheat code allowed you to turn your car into a dinosaur, as well as other silly things like a log).
  • Every Episode Ending
  • Evil Laugh: Heard in the second game's song, "Gore", the rock track for Hollywood.
  • Getting Arrested Is A Slap On The Wrist: The ultimate goal of the Pursuit races in World is to keep going for as long as you possibly can (or want) while causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the state. It's up to you to keep the event going if you lose the police, by actively seeking them back out again. If you happen to get arrested though, all you suffer is a loss of a couple hundred dollars.
    • Same in Most Wanted 2012, expect that when the player is busted they only lose all SpeedPoints that they've accumulated throughout the chase and return to the most recently used Jack Spot.
      • It's rather riskier for Racers in Rivals as the only way they can keep their SpeedPoints (as it's considered currency in that game) is bank them at a hideout. Since the more SpeedPoints they accumulate in a session, the higher their heat level goes up, and the more police will be after them. Worse, if they get busted by a player Cop, that player will get all the Racer's SpeedPoints.
    • Averted in Most Wanted 2005, where you have a limit on how many times you can pay for your infractions when you get busted before the police takes the car you're driving. You can increase the limit, and you can pay with a special marker to make the cops ignore the chase altogether, but both of these options are limited.
  • Excuse Plot: For the most part, starting with Underground in 2003, the plots are just there to get you on the road at extremely high speeds. Usually introduced at the beginning and quickly forgotten until the end (and sometimes not even then).
    • The entire story of Rivals (which seems to be some kind of one-on-one war between a recently-recruited cop with the call sign "F-8" and a rising street racer named "Zephyr") really only seems to exist to give the characters some philosophical monologues.
  • Fame Gate: Underground has a style gate for certain points in the campaign, where you had to customize your car to reach a set stylish rating.
  • Final Boss: Eddie in Underground, Caleb in Underground 2, Razor in Most Wanted 2005, Darius in Carbon, Ryo Watanabe in ProStreet, Chase Linh in Undercover, Marcus Blackwell in The Run, Jamie Campbell-Walter in Shift 2: Unleashed, the Koenigsegg Agera R in Most Wanted 2012, Zephyr in the Cop storyline of Rivals, and the entire RCPD in the Racer storyline of Rivals.
  • Fragile Speedster: Most exotics and hypercars in Hot Pursuit 2010 are this.
    • In-universe: the M3 GTR at the start of Carbon gets destroyed after being lightly hit by falling pipes. Which is odd, considering the amount of crap it goes through in the final pursuit of Most Wanted 2005.
  • Hammerspace Police Force: Good god. Does no other crime ever take place in these games?
  • Hard Mode Perks: Shift 2: Unleashed rewards more cash for races depending on the difficulty.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: How F-8's police career ends in Rivals, though only in terms of cutscenes as you're still on the force post-story.
  • Hollywood California
  • Hood Ornament Hottie: Brooke Burke and Kelly Brook in Underground 2, Josie Maran in Most Wanted, Emmanuelle Vaugier in Carbon, Krystal Forscutt in ProStreet, and Maggie Q in Undercover. None of them were hired for their acting ability, as the in-game cutscenes show quite clearly.
  • Improbably Cool Car: Too many kids with Lamborghini Gallardos (especially the 550-2 Valentino Balboni)!
    • The Cops in general in many games with unlikely cop cars. While Most Wanted 2005, Carbon and Hot Pursuit 2010 slightly averts the trope a bit (Local (Ford Crown Victoria-ish units) and State (Pontiac GTO) had cars that are justifiable (the Crown Victoria being one of the mainstay fleet cars of numerous police departments, and if you consider similar looking GTO's being in use by the Aussie Police Forces as an example of proper usage of said car), and you literally start "at the bottom" with a Crown Victoria in HP 2010), the other games have cop cars that are either unlikely, would be extremely cost-prohibitive, or not justifiable.
    • The Pagani Zonda Cinquenote 
      • Similar to that, the McLaren F1 LM in Hot Pursuit 2, which then returned in DLC for Most Wanted 2012. Stretching that even further, the model used in Most Wanted 2012 was its prototype the XP1 LM. Then it appears again in Rivals for the police side with its respective variants.
    • The Koenigsegg CCXR which there are only four of them made! Yet, there is a police version with blue carbon fiber.
    • II was even worse with Ford GT90's, Indigos, Mustang Mach III's, Italdesign (BMW) Nazca C2's and (Lamborghini) Calas, all of which, for those who are confused, never went into production!
      • III: Hot Pursuit then had the Italdesign (Alfa Romeo) Scighera (which had only been available in the PC version, the PSX version had the aforementioned Nazca C2).
    • Carbon, ProStreet and Undercover all feature the Dodge Challeneger and Chevrolet Camaro concept cars.
    • On the less exciting end of the scale, Peugeots, Vauxhalls, Fiats, Alfa Romeos and Renaults in America.
  • In Medias Res: Underground, Most Wanted 2005, and Carbon start like this.
  • In-Vehicle Invulnerability: If you knock out a car in Hot Pursuit 2010, the most you might see the driver do inside is just shake his head in disappointment. No fear. This happens even if the racer in question uses a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Stirling Moss Edition, which has no windshield or roof.
    • Averted in that if you wreck a cop, they sometimes request EMS.
  • Joke Character: The police helicopter in High Stakes.
    • Cheat codes in NFS II allow you to drive civilian cars, including limousine and school bus which can punt opponents around like a cat playing with its toy.
    • Lethal Joke Character: The Toyota Corolla from Underground 2 onward, and the Tesla Roadster Sport in Most Wanted 2012. Despite their rather dowdy appearance compared to other cars, they have fantastic handling and, in the right hands, beat much faster cars. The latter even has Mods that make it nigh-unstoppable.
  • Land Down Under: Australian tracks that run from Sydney to the outback and back again.
    • High Stakes also gives us Fords and Holdens, as well as a Victoria police unit.
  • Level in Reverse: An option in various early titles would, when activated, reverse the direction the player drove every track. This usually made up for the limited selection of tracks back then by having four variants of each, forward, backward, mirrored forward and mirrored backward.
  • Limit Break: The nitrous in Underground 2 is refilled with stunts. This mechanic returns in Hot Pursuit 2010. In fact, it's about the only way to win in Exotic or Hyper series when you're a Racer. The fact that the cops' cars are significantly better than yours doesn't help. The nitrous system in The Run is a combination of the self-regenerating nitrous from Most Wanted 2005, Carbon, and Undercover, with the option to accelerate the regeneration with stunts à la Hot Pursuit 2010.
  • Mad Libs Dialogue: Many of the games with cop chatter in order to differentiate what car (and the color of it) the player was driving, as well as location in the track. It was well-done in III and onward, as well as the in-game track guide, though there are some slip-ups.
  • Marathon Level: Event 30 of Championship mode in Hot Pursuit 2. Ten laps on Palm City Island. Takes about half an hour to complete.
    • Tournaments in NFS II and III have you race on all of the tracks in the respective games (excluding the unlockable Empire City in III) with four laps per race, meaning on some of the later advanced tracks such as Summit or Hollywood, this can take upwards of over ten minutes, doubly so with Class C vehicles.
    • The Seacrest Tour in Hot Pursuit 2010: a 43-mile, roughly 15-minute race across almost the entirety of the virtual county you've been burning rubber on throughout the game. Tends to be a Curb-Stomp Battle against you if you make too many mistakes. The last racer event in Rivals is just like this, but adds cops into the mix.
  • Market-Based Title: There's quite a few, so take a seat.
    • European versions keep the Need for Speed name, but usually had a different subtitle. For example, Porsche Unleashed's subtitle was simply 2000 for the German edition. This practice ended with the release of Hot Pursuit 2.
    • The Japanese versions were sold as the Over Drivin' series until the release of Most Wanted (Japan did not get Porsche Unleashed or Hot Pursuit 2). There were also a few Japanese-exclusive editions of the first game, including an all-Nissan edition (Over Drivin': Skyline Memorial). Despite the name, it featured more than the company's Skyline series of sports cars, as it included various Z-cars and the R390 Le Mans racer.
    • Hot Pursuit 2 had both the Opel Speedster and Vauxhaul VX220 the only difference is the lack of roof on the VX220 while the Speedster had a slightly higher acceleration.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • The Lincoln Navigator, Hummer H2 and Cadillac Escalade from Underground 2 play to this.
    • Then when have the Volkswagen Type 2, Porsche Cayenne GTS, Hummer H2 SUT and Ford SVT Explorer Sport Trac Adrenaline from Need for Speed: Nitro.
    • The Ford F-150 Raptor and Range Rover Evoque serves as this in Most Wanted 2012. With the appropriate mods installed the former can plow through dozens of police cars at high speed.
  • Money for Nothing: A problem in any game that lets you customize by using cash. You'll end up with a big bank account from winning races yet none of the higher level part tiers will open up so you can buy new swag with your loot. By the time you have the option of buying new parts, very often they won't dent your funds enough that you'll care.
  • Mood Lighting
  • Ms. Fanservice: Every female character that ever makes an appearance in the series. Absolutely. Positively. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. If she ain't a top-model, she doesn't exist. Period.
  • Multi-Platform
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: "Wolf". (It'd be more scary squaring up to 'Michael Schumacher'.)
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The print ads for II had vistas of empty desert roads on them, suggesting the game would keep the point-to-point races of the original but expanded to a larger scale. In reality, II only featured circuit tracks and no open roads anything like the images.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • Sure, the missions in the beginning of Hot Pursuit 2 are easy, but watch out for some of the missions after halfway through. Some require going through fog at night at very high speeds. Others have options that add traffic to the mix. At higher Heat levels, the AI will end up defaulting to spike strips first and then roadblocks. Racers also become more aggressive in later missions.
    • Undercover with the title update installed. Holy hell.
    • Hot Pursuit 2010's response missions are incredibly hard as they require to dodge everything and perform a perfect run while under a time limit at more than a hundred miles an hour. Weather conditions amp up these missions considerably. And there's that damned Bugatti Veyron response mission which does all of this at more than two hundred miles an hour, and it's recommended to reach its top speed of ~250 MPH(!) during that mission for max points!
  • Nitro Boost
  • No One Could Survive That: Most of the wrecks, takedowns, busts and crashes in Hot Pursuit 2010 that involve rolling the car multiple times, launching cars off of cliffs, brutal head-on collisions with traffic and sending supercars into walls while going at speeds climbing over 240+ MPH.
    • Especially in a Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling Moss. The car literally has no roof and no windshield! A roll-over in that car would clearly kill the driver.
    • Zephyr in Rivals finishes his last event in a high-speed collision with a police roadblock. He seems to have been critically wounded, but then his car's engine starts.
  • Obvious Beta: Undercover shipped with severe frame rate issues. Absolute death in a high-speed racing game.
    • The PS3, PC and Xbox 360 versions of the game at least got a patch that (mostly) fixes the frame rate issues, but ramped up the difficulty of the races as well.
    • ProStreet had some framerate issues, too, but it didn't make the game unplayable.
    • The Xbox 360 version of Shift tried to access the PlayStation Store.
    • Hot Pursuit 2010 and Shift 2: Unleashed offer "loyalty bonuses" if you played a previous game in the series, usually in the form of additional experience points. Playing Hot Pursuit 2010 also unlocks two additional cars in Shift 2: Unleashed: a Pagani Zonda Cinque Roadster in "NFS Edition" colors, and a Lamborghini Reventon in a Seacrest County PD livery.
  • One Cop Army: You are this in Hot Pursuit 2010's Cop mode. Unlike the Hot Pursuit events on the racer side, you are always the only cop after several racers in Hot Pursuit events, and your arrival to Interceptor events is often treated like Superman just arrived on scene.
    • "Confirmed, interceptor unit on station, standing down."
    • Same thing occurs in the the third game as well (PC anyways), you're the only cop unlike how there's other cops roaming the track should you have played as a racer.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In Hot Pursuit 2010, listen to the woman who reads off each car's description in the vehicle selection menu. She frequently slips between an American accent and a British one, especially on words like "dollars" and "goggles" (for example: The SLR Stirling Moss).
  • Order Versus Chaos: Rivals mostly tends to boil down as this, with the RCPD representing order and the illegal street racing scene representing chaos.
  • Penultimate Weapon
  • Pop the Tires: In many games that have police, if your heat level gets high enough, cops will start deploying spike strips with their roadblocks. Even losing one tire to one will cause your vehicle to be very difficult to control, and is usually followed by the cops arresting you.
  • Press X to Not Die: The Run uses this trope for moments where you're out of the car. In the Xbox version this is literally the case in the opening cutscene where the first button you need to press is X.
  • Product Placement: Underground 2 was the winner of GameSpot's "Most Despicable Product Placement" award in 2004. After all, this was the game that had a Burger King and/or a Best Buy every couple of blocks and the Cingular logo on the HUD at all times.
    • Hot Pursuit 2010: Roadblocks of the SCPD in association with FORD.
    • The Run has the K&N, Old Spice and AEM challenge series and every petrol station is a Shell one with their premium brand fuels clearly shown.
    • The Ford Motor Company is everywhere in Rivals; there is a racer hideout with the Ford logo on the walls as well as advertisements for the Mustang to the left and right of it, three of the game's twenty-five achievements are tied to Ford cars, the Mustang from the then-unreleased film is one of Zephyr's vehicles, and the first DLC car added to the game was the 2015 Ford Mustang via a free update.
  • Quicksand Box
  • Rare Vehicles: Carbon was released in 2006 and features the concept versions of the 2008 Dodge Challenger, 2010 Chevrolet Camaro and Audi R8 ("Le Mans"); Hot Pursuit 2 and Most Wanted 2012's Ultimate Speed Pack also features the McLaren F1 LM, of which only five were produced.note  II also featured one-offs like the Ford GT90, Indigo and Mustang Mach III, Lamborghini Italdesign Cala, BMW Italdesign Nazca C2, and the super-rare Isdera Commendatore 112i.
    • The two cover cars for Hot Pursuit 2010 title are the Lamborghini Reventon (total production: 20 cars, plus one for display in the Lamborghini Museum.) and the Pagani Zonda Cinque (total production: five cars, all going to an exotic car showroom in Hong Kong. "Cinque" is the Italian term for the number five, hence the production number and name.).
    • The main car in Need for Speed: Most Wanted 2005 is a BMW M3 GTR. Essentially an E46 M3 with a 500hp V8 engine (the stock M3 has a 333hp straight-six. The normal M3 wouldn't get a V8 until the following E92 generation) built for American Le Mans racing. To satisfy racing rules, only ten street-legal examples were ever built priced at $218,000 each. Its one of the most expensive, powerful (reaching speeds of 219mph) and rare BMW cars built.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: This is how the story in Carbon is told.
  • Real Is Brown: Most Wanted 2005 paints the whole scene brown and orange with the Visual Treatment set on full; Carbon later replaced it with high-tech blue. ProStreet removed it completely, but Undercover goes to a gold-orange. However, the option has been completlely dropped since Shift.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Thanks to the Song Association.
  • Road Block: Used in the Hot Pursuit games, Most Wanted games, Carbon, and Rivals; the usual way to clear them is by either squeezing through or hammering your way through.
    • Can be deployed by cop players in Hot Pursuit 2, Hot Pursuit 2010, and Rivals. In Rivals specifically, anyone can deploy police road blocks in OverWatch on the Need for Speed Network.
    • The correct way to get through them in Hot Pursuit 2010 is to shoot a gap just a little larger than your car (earning a dodged roadblock bonus). The computer regularly aims for them, but they do clip a cop car from time to time, which can lead to an easy takedown or bust.
    • Then again in Most Wanted 2012, there's even tactical road blocks made up of impassible armored trucks that are used to guide players in a certain direction.
  • Rubber-Band A.I. : Infamously used since Underground.
  • Rule of Three: Every third game seems to be centered about cop chases. The third game was III: Hot Pursuit, the sixth game was Hot Pursuit 2, the ninth game was 2005's Most Wanted, the twelfth game was Undercover, the fifteenth game (after Shift and Nitro) is 2010's Hot Pursuit,note  and the eighteenth game is Most Wanted 2012, again (after Shift 2 and The Run).note 
  • Satchel Switcheroo: Happens in the storyline in Carbon.
  • Scare Chord: Sort of. In the second and third games, crashing your car would cause a short riff (that was part of whatever song was playing, depending on track) to play.
  • Scenery Porn: Just about every game in the series, but Hot Pursuit 2010 takes it to the extreme. Think about it, Seacrest County has tall redwoods, a large lake, long rivers, a mountain range up north, long stretches of desert... all presented in Crysis-matching graphics! It just looks absolutely brilliant!
    • Rivals on Windows PCs, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One beats that using the Frostbite 3 engine.
  • Schizo Tech: The Atlantica course in III: Hot Pursuit, which looks very futuristic but only features 1990s cars.
    • To go further, Empire City is your standard, dystopian Crapsack World city yet there are high-powered, rare sports cars racing around the district.
  • Score Screen: Used in all the games, though the Most Wanted games also tally up your pursuit score like this.
  • Serious Business: Daft street racing with a straight face is what the game is basically about.
    • The police in Hot Pursuit 2010 have a dedicated speed enforcement unit with tricked-out cars to match those of racers.
  • Shark Tunnel: The first Hot Pursuit has one as a segment in the Aquatica track, which is also available in certain versions of High Stakes. The PSX version of III: Hot Pursuit also has a giant version of it as a secret track.
  • Shout-Out: The Coastal course in the original had a half-buried Statue of Liberty on the beach at the finish line. "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you all to hell!"
    • If you crashed the Lamborgini in the 3D0 version of the orignal NFS, the guy at the menu would say:
    "You just wrecked a $500,000 dollar machine. Nice going, Gomer..."
    • In Carbon, there's a district of Palmont City called Fortuna and the leader of the crew that controls it is called Wolf. Sound familiar?
    • There's quite a few in the new Hot Pursuit 2010's achievement/trophy list.
      • Just so you know who made the game, there's an achievement/trophy called "Burnout" that requires the player to fully charge up the Nitro Boost and use it all in one go.
      • To drive that point home, one of the routes in game is called Point of Impact.
      • One achievement/trophy requires the player to win a certain event in a "bee yellow" Camaro. The name of the achievement? "Flight of the Bumblebee".
      • There's another achievement/trophy called "Iron Man" that requires completing three police events in an Audi R8.
      • And there's one called "Shaken, Not Stirred" that requires completing an event in an Aston Martin vehicle.
      • Speaking of James Bond and Astons, there's another Aston-only event called "Do look after it".
      • Finally, there's one called "Godzilla" that requires completing a certain police event in a Nissan GT-R Spec V with no weapons used, a reference to the film series and the Affectionate Nickname of the car in question.
      • One of the Racer events in the Lamborghini Untamed Downloadable Content pack is called Cannonball and has the player racing against the clock and police in a Lamborghini Countach. The event has a small homage to the opening credits in the opening intro FMV to the event.
      • In certain events in Need for Speed: Shift, the other drivers are called Izabel Diaz, Gavin May or Hendrick Dehn amongst others, names you encountered in earlier NFS games.
  • Silliness Switch: II had cheat codes that would turn your car into a box, a dinosaur and a bus stop, among other things.
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: Spike Strips? EMP? Nahh, only a metal wound in Hot Pursuit 2010 and Rivals. Most Wanted 2012 (which lacks EMPs) even has instant repair shops and reinflatable tires to handle spike strips. Averted in other games though, as the pursuit is basically over if you hit the Spike Strips.
  • Slo-Mo Big Air: Common in the Black Box-era games. In Most Wanted 2005 this can actually be a hindrance, because you might not be able to see where you're going during a chase due to the camera shifting to a more cinematic angle. Or you get stuck on top of one of the police cruisers and busted.
  • Stealth Pun: Hot Pursuit 2010 used this sentence during the final roadblock upgrade briefing for police. Also note that a cayenne is also a type of chili.
    "Porsche Cayenne Turbos are now deployed to add spice to your pursuit."
    • Now The Run does recursive shout-outs to previous installment's names on their chapters, remarkably "Underground", "Most Wanted" and the last episode, "Hot Finish".
  • Stopped Numbering Sequels: After III: Hot Pursuit, though that game, Underground, and Shift each got numbered sequels specific to their sub-series.
  • Strictly Formula: A common complaint against Carbon and Undercover.
  • Spin-Off: The V-Rally series (which only bore the NFS name for branding; was eventually passed to the Test Drive name later). Beetle Adventure Racing was envisioned as a Need for Speed title for the Nintendo 64 but eventually became a VW Beetle-focused racing game. The Shift games are trying to draw a divide between themselves and the rest of the franchise, with the second game dropping the name and being called Shift 2: Unleashed.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: In Hot Pursuit 2010:
    Police Dispatcher: Suspect is in the sand, heading toward the rocks!
  • Toyota Tripwire: One of Undercover's fairly humorous "busted" sequences features the player character shoving cops out of his way, jumping over a roadblock before finally being hit with a police cruiser's door at a brisk speed.
  • Translation Convention: High Stakes has two tracks each set in Germany and France, but the cops have American voices. Can be averted on the PSX version where you can toggle cops to speak their native language on said tracks.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay
  • Vanity License Plate: "NFS" on your plate. Supposedly these were going to be customisable for online play, until somebody realised that most people would use swear words a lot.
    • In Undercover and Hot Pursuit 2010, all the cars have license plates that say "ND 4 SPD".
    • For the real life pictures of the cars in III: Hot Pursuit, all of the pictures showing the license plate have "NFS 3" edited over them to prevent tracking.
    • A variety of plates are available for players to purchase (mostly with SpeedBoost) in World.
    • Players now have truly customizable license plates for the first time in the series in Most Wanted 2012. The following game, Rivals, retains this.
    • Also appeared in High Stakes, where entering your name would cause it to appear on your license plate.
  • Swallowed Whole: The fate of a particular silver and purple Nissan 350Z in the mindfuck that is the older intro movie for ''Underground 2''.
  • The Voiceless: The player character in every Need for Speed from Underground through Undercover. Doesn't count for older games nor Criterion's installments since they have no story.
  • True Final Boss: Melissa in Underground.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Slowly happens to Razor and Cross from Most Wanted 2005, as well as Darius from Carbon.
    • Chase Linh at the end of Undercover after being arrested by the police.
  • Wacky Racing: With licensed Cool Cars, to bout!
  • Wham Episode: Actually a Wham Race in the first Underground. The race known as "Friends Are Easy To Make, And Easier To Lose" has you racing against Samantha who's been your guide throughout the first two thirds of the game. Later, the other racers will call you out on this.
  • Where Do They Get All These Wonderful Toys? Most Wanted and Carbon had Municipal and FEDERAL Law Enforcement Units with Chevrolet Corvettes, Undercover had the Highway Patrol sporting Nissan GT-R's and the Locals driving Dodge Challengers, and one has to wonder what the budget is for the Seacrest County Police Department in Hot Pursuit 2010 that allows them to maintain a fleet of a variety of expensive exotics in the motorpool.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: Bayview, Rockport, Palmont, Tri-City Bay, Fairhaven, and Redview County. Seacrest County would also count if the free roam wasn't optional.

"Everyone?"