Style, sophistication, the ability to launch napalm into oncoming traffic. If these are the things you look for in an automobile, it's time you test drive Twisted Metal.
— Commercial for Twisted Metal 2
Dubbed "Doom with cars", a series of demolition derby games that allows the player to choose from various vehicles armed with guns, missiles, and other weapons. The prize? You get one wish from the man in charge, Calypso. You can wish for anything you want in the world, no matter what the cost, how rare it is, or impossible it would be to obtain. But Be Careful What You Wish For, you might be surprised at what you get.Twisted Metal 1 and 2 were created by Singletrac (now Eat Sleep Play) and were regarded as the best in the series. After those, 989 Studios took over and made Twisted Metal 3 and 4, which changed, among other things, the graphics to a more "3D" look (while the first two were in 3D, things like weapon pickups were 2D sprites), several characters' backstories, and in 4, even the origin of the wish-granting magic. Twisted Metal changed hands once again, this time back to the original developers (then known as Incognito, Inc.), who released Twisted Metal Black for PS2. Black was considered Darker and Edgier, even in a series revolving around killing anything and anyone that moves, due to new takes on characters and their backstories. Shortly after, Twisted Metal Head-On was released for PSP, which "went back to the series' roots," and takes place directly after Twisted Metal 2, making 3 and 4Canon Discontinuity.The eighth entry into the series, simply titled Twisted Metal, was released on Valentine's Day 2012.
Adult Fear: Imagine one day your spouse, for no reason that you can see, decides to wear a clown get complete with a mask and just outright murders you and the rest of the immediately family.
All Just a Dream: From various in-game hints, Black seems to occur completely in Needles Kane's head. In 2, the driver of Roadkill wakes up from a coma caused by a massive highway pileup, giving the impression that the competition happened in his head, with the other drivers involved being the other contestants.
Or Was It a Dream?: However, Marcus' ending shows with a brief glimpse of Calypso's burning eyes...
Alpha Bitch: Krista/Dollface in the 2012 reboot, to a psychopathic/Ax-Crazy degree. She feels that she deserves to become a supermodel due to her hard work... her definition of which includes sabotaging her rivals and, at times, outright murdering them.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Talon in the 2012 game; it's a helicopter, so while it can assault others from the sky it also has the disadvantage of being slow and its machine gun Special Weapon requires you to manually aim at your target while also leaving you in place for them to retaliate, and it's also difficult to avoid Freeze Missiles which cause it to fall to the ground.
Back from the Dead: Krista Sparks and Simon Whittlebone, the drivers of Grasshopper and Mr. Slam, respectively, return as ghosts in Head-On.
Also Scott Campbell, the driver of Spectre in 1, and Preacher in Lost, the bonus Black pseudo-sequel game included in Head-On.
And Calypso resurrects Sophie Kane in the reboot.
Bad Boss: Both Needles and Dollface in the reboot are revealed to be pretty dickish towards their gunners. The former killed off his gunner after he finished planting the C4 under the remaining Grimm Brother to detonate the bomb. The latter shot her gunner after defeating the Carnival of Carnage. Seems that only the 'asshole' Mr. Grimm isn't such an asshole he claims to be. In fact, he would have let his men who were driving the "Brothers Grimm" Monster Trucks enter the next tournament, had they killed Needles.
Be Careful What You Wish For: The characters get their wishes granted, but not how they imagined them. Arguably one of the main themes of the series.
Generally averted when the desire is to take vengeance or otherwise allow others to come to harm (as is usually the case with Needles Kane, the driver of Sweet Tooth). Of course, Calypso got his powers by stealing them from a demon, so it's arguable if he's even capable of being nice.
Axel's ending in 2 would imply that he is.
Played straight in 3. Every ending was scripted the same way: car gets in, Calypso states the winner's wish, then cue to pun as Calypso gets the last laugh. Taken to such extreme that some drivers ask for completely random stuff (Auger's driver entered to get revenge for his buildings being destroyed, but he wishes to "connect to his inner child"...).
In 2, Mr. Grimm, who feeds on the souls of the dead, wishes to feast — which leads to humanity wiping itself out. He gets his feast, but after that there are no more humans to die, and thus, no more souls to feed on, leaving him to starve.
Of course, in the first game Calypso really did seem to grant the wishes without a catch for the most part. And occasionally, while he deliberately ignores the thought or intention behind a wish, he does something fairly harmless - like giving Axel a pizza or sending Needles to the dentist.
Sweet Tooth is a half-and-half guy; plays ball sometimes, screws them over sometimes, and even rejects their wishes twice. This distribution is not based on Alignment.
The 2012 reboot only has three drivers, and all three endings involve this trope. Oddly, despite the reboot being up there with Black as one of the darkest games in the series, Calypso seems to be at his least outwardly malicious here; the wishes going wrong are as much the fault of the people making them as the man granting them.
Sweet Tooth: He finally found the one who got away after ten long years. Waking up confused in a casket and asking where his prize was, Calypso drops the ball on him: after the attack, Sophie Kane checked out of the psych ward and committed suicide. Sweet Tooth was condemned to share the casket with Sophie's rotted corpse. (At least, until Marcus' surviving son Charlie digs the grave up to retrieve the mask and vow revenge...)
Grimm: Daniel Grimm got his wish to go back and keep his father from dying in the stunt accident. But Calypso set him in the backseat of his dad's truck, and his appearance caused father Grimm to try and fight him off, resulting in a crash that killed his father anyway. Both versions of Daniel survived... until the younger version took his father's hidden revolver and shot the older version dead.
Dollface: As she progressed through the contest, Krista Sparks became torn between either finally having her mask removed or succumbing to her ego and wishing to become the most famous supermodel in the world. She chose the latter, figuring that removing the mask would just leave her where she was before her accident, dealing with all manner of upstarts trying to bring her down on their way to the top. And so, she wished to be put on the world's biggest runway in hopes of instantly becoming famous. Just her luck, she should've specified "catwalk" instead of "runway", because she ends up on an airport runway. She tried to run away as an airplane started to land, but in a twist of cruel irony, one of her heels broke off. The fall sealed her fate and she was splattered beneath the plane's landing gear. Afterwards, we hear people talking about her grisly death on the radio, indicating that she became "famous" the same way the Black Dahlia did. The saddest irony? The mask finally did come off...
Big Screwed-Up Family: The Kanes. Needles Kane (the driver of Sweet Tooth) is a serial killer, and Charlie Kane is either an old drunkard taxi driver turned insane (main series) or a dead zombie remote-controlled by his son (Black continuity). Marcus Kane seems to avert this until we learn that he and Needles are the same person, just two different personalities.
And in the reboot, his son, Charlie, takes over his father's (Needles specifically) place and Calypso resurrects his daughter, Sophie, as a female version of the titular clown.
In a manner of speaking, The Joneses from 4 also qualify. Damn tourists. Sweet Tooth was right to drive them all off a cliff at his own expense!
Black and Grey Morality: While some of the drivers have far more admirable goals than others, even the most noble are willing to go along with the loss of life and destruction that the Twisted Metal tournament entails.
Bonus Feature Failure: The hidden characters of Black except for Yellow Jacket are missing introduction movies and character bios; all of them are missing mid-game cutscenes to follow the boss fight against Minion; and the FMVs they do have are very cheap-looking compared to those of the normal drivers.
The Boss Characters in 4 don't have specific ending FMVs either, it's the generic one also used when playing with a custom car.
Boss In Mooks Clothing: Juggernaut in the reboot certainly counts if you're fighting against it in the campaign. An already tough vehicle which can dish out tremendous damage by just ramming you, it also always has its trigun and quad cannon activated (both capable of spamming TONS of bullets and swarmers) and is bound to be a Mook Maker. If that wasn't bad enough, its weakpoints are pretty hard to hit; its trailer doors open for a brief moment when releasing mooks and trying to attack it head-on is usually near suicide.
Bowdlerise: Due to their very graphic and unsettling nature, the PAL version of the game saw the removal of character FMVs.
Also the story behind the "Lost Endings" for Twisted Metal 1, with the higher ups objecting against them due to the violence and Stripperific chicks appearing in them.
The Cameo: The final boss of Black is a large assault chopper called Warhawk; Warhawk is a small series of Sony-platform games created by Singletrac/Incog where the player pilots such a vehicle.
Canon Discontinuity: Twisted Metal: Head-On acts as a direct sequel to 2, and ignores Twisted Metal 3 & 4. Black, meanwhile, is set in its own continuity, as is Twisted Metal: Small Brawl (basically Twisted Metalfor kids, with RC cars). The reboot is yet another continuity.
Car Fu: It's an option with every vehicle, but a few have it as part of their Special Weapons arsenal. Darkside, Hammerhead and Mr. Slam are the most notable examples, and in Black, Axel and Yellowjacket have secondary Car Fu modes as hidden moves. Grasshopper's special attack in 2 and Head-On, meanwhile, involves launching her buggy into the air and landing on enemies. Melee combat is particularly important in the first game, where most of the devastating weapons of the later games do not exist yet and many special weapons are useless. When you are in a semi truck and all you have is a wimpy firebolt as your weapon, you probably want to hit the turbo and plow into people instead.
It's even more prevalent than ever in the 2012 reboot. Larger vehicles like Darkside and his bigger brother Juggernaut, are capable of dishing out enough damage with a single ram to knock off at least 50% of another vehicle's armor.
Catapult to Glory: Brimstone's special weapon involves launching a crucified sinner through the air who then latches onto your vehicle and ritualistically kamikaze's with dynamite while yelling "Repent!" on contact with enemies.
Character Customization: Amazingly present in 4. However, it's extremely primitive, with few options for your vehicle and only four breeds of special weapon from which to select.
In the first game, Calypso just grants the wishes straight-up, without any twists or manipulation... save for Outlaw. In the "lost endings", he's more of a dick, granting and then subverting the wishes. (What he does to Scott Campbell is outright Kick the Dog.) It's only with the second game that he becomes the master of Be Careful What You Wish For and Literal Genie.
The first game plays "Needles" Kane's psychosis purely for laughs, especially in the dumped live action endings. The second game added in the perma-burning scalp, but still treated him as an actual clown with murderous tendencies. It wasn't until Black that he was fully transformed into the very definition of a Monster Clown, both in backstory AND in-game.
Composite Character: Dollface in the reboot has the mask of the Twisted Metal: Black Dollface, but shares her name (Krista Sparks) with an unrelated character from 2 and Head-On, and her motivations (pursuit of fame) call to mind the driver of Spectre in 2.
Continuity Nod / Inter Continuity Crossover: In the 2012 reboot, Mr. Grimm's story shows Calypso's office. He has kept mementos of past drivers and Twisted Metal Contests from the 1 to Head-On and Black continuities. Among the items we have:
From the first Twisted Metal: Sweet Tooth's imaginary friend Crazy Harold the Wacky Lunch Sack, Crimson Fury/Warthog's black box and Spectre/Yellow Jacket's vial of potion (from the live-action endings)
From Twisted Metal 2: Twister's fossilized helmet, Hammerhead's plane tickets and some bricks from Simon Whittlebone's tower.
From Twisted Metal: Black: The girl's teddy bear from Stone's story (though it could also be Krista's teddy bear from Head-On), No-Face's surgical boxing gloves, Raven's voodoo dolls, John Doe's wallet, and Mr. Creole's key to Dollface's mask.
From the 2012 game: Sweet Tooth's Machetes, Mr. Grimm's father's license plate, Dollface's mask.
Comic Book Adaptation: A tie-in comic for Twisted Metal 2 came out back in its time as a giveaway prize. It focus on Calypso's Start of Darkness and how he become the host of the tournament.
Cool Plane: Warhawk in Black. The PS3 game adds the Talon, a helicopter.
Tank Goodness: Minion, usually. Warthog to a lesser extent (if it's not a tank, it's a hummer.)
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In 2012, if you watch one of the AI opponents, you will notice they can re spawn their special weapons almost instantly. With one time using its special five times in one go just after the match started. It is also able to use other items without having to previously acquire them.
They do that in all Twisted Metals, in 2012 they also do more damage, gang up on you, and can use the sniper rifle instantly without charging it (which is an instant death) and many times there is no laser to warn you. If this happens you have to restart completely.
Crapsack World: Every stage. If they aren't when the match begins, they sure as hell are when it ends.
Expy: Mr. Grimm in Twisted Metal 2 bears a striking resemblance to the Ghost Rider. When you select him on the car select screen, his skull even catches fire. Sweet Tooth is an expy of the The Joker, at least in the earlier games.
Sweet Tooth may in fact have been based off of real-life serial killer clown John Wayne Gacy
Eye Scream: No-Face from Black had his eyes and tongue removed by a back alley doctor who lost $20,000 betting on him in a boxing match, although he can still see well enough to drive. Also, Shadow's ending in Black features Raven using voodoo dolls to gouge out the eyes of the two punks who killed her best friend Kelly, then implying that she will do the same to her parents.
The manual clarifies that No-Face has some sort of psychic ability that lets him 'know' where everyone is so he can drive his car.
This is how Sophie was able to Escape from Needles, she stabbed him in the eye.
Frickin' Laser Beams: Besides being the special of a few cars throughout the series, it's the special weapon pickup in the Tokyo (shot from a satellite dish) and Egypt (shot from the tip of the pyramid) stages in Twisted Metal 3.
Friend or Idol Decision: Dollface in Black has the chance to obtain the key to unlock her mask, but at the life of her boss, who put the thing on her in the first place. She takes the key, killing him, but decides that she doesn't want it anyway, saying that the mask will never grow old and ugly, while her normal face will. Although in Twisted Metal: Lost, this was revealed to be a bad decision, because as Dollface found out, while the mask will never age, it will never grow either, and being a fourteen year old girl, her SKULL IS STILL GROWING...
Hold on a second... if she's fourteen, how'd she get a job? You'd think they have child labor laws even in the TM universe.
It goes beyond that. In her flashback, she says that "it was [her] first real job after college..." Wait, college? 14? What?
Gatling Good: Many cars use gatling guns as their basic armament, and the Death Warrant vehicle in the PS3 game has your gunner use a man-portable one as a Special Attack.
Gay Paree: Twisted Metal 2 stage "Paris: Monumental Disaster". It consists of a small chunk of the Paris city center filled to the brim with historical monuments, boutiques and alleys, and crammed between the Eiffel Tower (which you can destroy by detonating a remote bomb on the upper level) and the Louvre Museum. And it's awesome. So awesome, that they remade it in Head-On.
Genre Savvy: The Robertses in Head-On, with regards to Calypso's wish granting methods. But, of course, they had already been screwed over twice before, so they learned from their mistakes.
Or not... Jamie's ending in 2 is an example of this trope played straight, as she tricked Calypso into helping her find her brother. A good example from Head-On is Agent Shepard, who, in his ending, doesn't even bother making a wish, he just arrests Calypso.
The Moscow level in Head-On is arguably a better example. While the one in 2 only contained a small arena with none of the city's landmarks, the one in Head-On featured Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral, the Kremlin, and a few SCUD missiles that could be used to blow up parts of the scenery.
Government Conspiracy: The reboot strongly implies that Calypso bribes the government with wishes, hence why there is no response by the Police or Military. This may also partially explain the Weirdness Censor that seems to be in place, all the violence caused by Twisted Metal is covered up and written off as unrelated crime.
Hammerspace: Where the weapons are stored after weapon select animations were introduced starting with Black. There is even an animation for the motorbike producing a large oil barrel. In Black, Sweet Tooth's special attack involves it transforming into a Humongous Mecha, even though there isn't enough room in car mode to store its towering clown robot form.
Hate Sink: The Jones Family in Twisted Metal 4. Even the clown at the ending can't stand them.
Hoist by His Own Petard: At least once someone has been able to successfully make a wish that screws Calypso over. This isn't the only way Calypso is defeated though.
Most directly was Head-On, where Sweet Tooth wishes for he and Calypso to swap bodies. Sweet Tooth immediately orders Calypso's guards to shoot him
Humongous Mecha: Sweet Tooth's special in Black transforms his ice cream truck into this.
Tower Tooth in Head-On, conveniently hiding in the streets of Tokyo as an ice cream shop.
Then there's also the Carnival of Carnage, a hideously giganticMonster Clown robot built in the image of Needles, by far the largest fully functional combat vehicle in Twisted Metal history. Its so big that it takes up several levels to fight it (the flamethrowing clown head beneath it, the giant pinball table inside it, the trap-laden path towards the actual boss, the actual boss itself).
It's also the last thing John Doe remembers before Calypso kills him.
Innocent Innuendo: Meter Maid's ending in 4. She gives Sweet Tooth a parking fine worth millions of dollars. She says she'll clear it all up if Sweet Tooth himself does a "few minutes of community service." Sweet Tooth is enticed and takes her up on her offer. We then see Sweet Tooth taking a driver's safety course.
Last Breath Bullet: Outlaw's ending in Black. Just after killing the terrorist the second time, he looks over at the family he was trying to save. We hear over his earpiece "Target is still hot! Repeat, target is still hot!" just before the Pink Mist gets splattered everywhere.
Legacy Character: Many of the cars that appear in multiple games keep their appearance and special attack. Some, however, like Sweet Tooth, don't technically count, since their drivers are actually the same person every time.
Lighter and Softer: Small Brawl. it's still somewhat dark, however. The game itself is bloodless and kid-friendly because you drive radio-controlled cars (not to mention Sweet Tooth here being just a playground bully rather than an out-and-out psychopath), but then you get to the endings where Calypso is eaten by a giant frog, nearly blown up with a large firework rocket, shoots one of the drivers into space or leaves a giant pile of explosives to try and blow up another participant.
4, while not to that degree, is in general much sillier and more colorful than any other game in the series so far.
Mind Screw: For a Vehicular Combat game, Twisted Metal is this trope as a whole! Many got confused guessing what is Marcus'/Needles' real identity. It also didn't made sense as to how Marcus and Needles, who are the same person, could co-exist as separate people and fighting each other in the contest. That said, if they are the same person, how is it that one of them could STILL survive after killing the other since they're the exact same person?
Twisted Metal's alternate universes are also pretty damn confusing to get it right. While Black does takes place in Needles' mind, Marcus also made an appearance in that universe (as Minion) who as we've known, is always paranoid about Twisted Metal being just a nightmare. He says that he misses the colourful world. But in the colourful universe, Marcus is still as paranoid as ever, forever stating that everything isn't real while Calypso always tells him that Twisted Metal is as real as how he wanted it to be. This could be suggested that the colourful universe takes place in Marcus' mind. That said, the Black and colourful continuities are both just dreams and that nothing is real.
And then we have Small Brawl, which is a Lighter and Softer version for kids. You wouldn't expect this to be connected to the Black and colourful universes, right? Well, in Spectre's ending, it was revealed that the boy was the son of Ken Masters, the Spectre in Twisted Metal 2, which is set in the colourful universe Marcus always regards as a nightmare. This makes Small Brawl a dream within a dream... Goddamn! Are the creators of Twisted Metal fans of Studio Gainax's or 7th Expansion's animes or what?
And then we have to fit in the Alternate Universe of the 2012 game.
Monster Clown: Needles Kane. What else do you expect from a serial killer whose head is on fire?
Monumental Damage: The Eiffel Tower, the pyramids, the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood sign... and many, many more.
Moral Dissonance: Even the good guys leave a trail of death and destruction that tends to be massively out of proportion to what they want to achieve. In Black, for instance, Raven wants to avenge the death of her friend who was drowned by bullies and Agent Stone went mad with grief because he accidentally shot a family during a hostage crisis. To make things right again, both drivers run over tens of pedestrians, blow up civilian cars that happen to be in their way or in the blast radius and destroy a large number of buildings. The number of innocent deaths would probably be well over a hundred. Raven returns in Twisted Metal: Lost, where she protects the city from the other rampaging killers... by using her voodoo powers to blow the hell out of everything.
This is sometimes brought up. Jebediah is less than thrilled when he realizes they're fighting in a town he used to preach in, and several characters in Black apologize to Warhawk before the final battle (Agent Stone in particular is crushed — "I know this man"). It's just that they're usually out of options.
Name of Cain: The Kane family: a madman with a Monster Clown split personality and his father, the drunkard insane taxi driver (main continuity)/corpse being remote controlled by his other son (Black continuity). The 2012 game adds in Marcus/Needles two children, both of whom take up the Monster Clown legacy at the end.
Not Drawn to Scale: Scale problems exist like nuts in this series. Axel, a man on a platform stuck between two wheels, is approximately 20 feet tall, judging by the civilian and house sprites on some levels. Even the motorcycle & dune buggy vehicles are house-sized.
This even leaks into gameplay. In Twisted Metal 2, Axel could run over and crush any other vehicle short of a boss, justified by being bigger than any of them, despite being just a man standing upright between two monster truck wheels. Yes, he can crush Hammerhead, which is an actual monster truck.
Black is actually somewhat realistically scaled: buildings do indeed tower above the vehicles, and although Axel is too big again, even the missiles are generally properly sized as opposed to the giant warheads in every other game.
Marcus Kane, who most would pass off as a delusional madman after reading his bios, is usually proven to be this in his endings. His split personality, however...
Jebidiah in the reboot is seemingly the only one to see through Calypso's charade, subverted in that others seem to know (or suspect) that Calypso isn't what he's seems, but are derided as being insane conspiracy theorists.
Orifice Evacuation: Goggle Eyes' ending in 4 has him wishing to contain all the bugs in the world so he can kill them. He immediately chokes to death as every bug in the world bursts from his body.
Pause Scumming: The second game implemented the pause feature in an odd way. Your car and the enemy cars would stop dead as expected, but projectiles would continue as normal, the sole exception being the ricochet bomb. With timely use of the pause button you could land every single Roadkill boomerang, every single Sweet Tooth ice cream cone, every single freeze missile, break out of a Mr. Slam infinite freeze missile loop, blow up opponents with their own mines (because the delay before they arm didn't stop when the game was paused, of course) and avoid running into projectiles fired in front of you. The list goes on. Conversely, you could also die during the pause screen.
Precision F-Strike: First used in Black by Needles in his intro. It was bleeped out though. The reboot was the first time in the series where the F-bomb was used openly. In a nod to Black, the first time the F-bomb was used, it too was cut short by the scream of Marcu's/Needles' wife upon her getting chopped. For the rest of the game, F-bombs were dropped without censors.
Pun: The endings of ''Twisted Metal 3' involve these.
Recurring Car: Sweet Tooth, Warthog and Mr. Grimm (renamed Reaper in the reboot) are the only vehicles seen in every game in the series; Axel and Outlaw are in all games except one; Thumper, Spectre, Hammerhead and Roadkill are in all except two.
Recurring Character: Calypso, Needles Kane and Mr. Grimm are in all games, though Grimm is a different character in Black and the upcoming PS3 game. Axel, Marcus Kane, Preacher Jebediah, the Roberts siblings, Bruce Cochrane, Minion, Captain Rogers, Krista Sparks and Simon Whittlebone appear in more than one game.
Ring of Power: Twisted Metal 4 sets up the premise that Sweet Tooth managed to steal a magical ring from Calypso that gave him all his powers to grant wishes.
Road Cone: While no two characters' endings could technically occur (since, by the nature of the contest, you kill all the other drivers), several endings from Twisted Metal 2 are treated as happened in Head-On: Axel, Outlaw 2, Twister, Mr. Slamm and Grasshopper (sorta). Though Axel's story is written in a way that suggest his previous ending happened as a result of having survived rather than because he won, and the others may be Hand Waved by the fact there are 2 years between the games, and the tournament has always been annual.
On the other hand, Outlaw's ending in the first Twisted Metal is pretty much the ending that happened, as its the only one brought up twice: it's the focus of Outlaw-2's story in Twisted Metal 2 and is referenced again in Head-On.
Twisted Metal: Lost, the mini-game found in the PS2 port of Head-On which serves as a "sequel" to Black, treats EVERY ending from Black as having happened, even if they included objects/events impossible to come by any other way. Maybe Calypso got nicer and granted everyone's wishes after the tournament?
Twisted Metal 3 had the same issue to a lesser extent, what's with Warthog's driver wishing to have the head to match his body, the two Outlaws being reunited and Axel claiming he separated from the machine (though his hands does seem undamaged).
Roof Hopping: A staple stage setting in the series: "Rooftop Battle" in the first, "New York: The Big Leap" in 2, "Tokyo" in 3, "Skyscrappers" in Black and "Tokyo Rooftops" in Head-On.
Sdrawkcab Name: The name of the Doctor that gave Dollface/Krista her mask in the 2012 reboot? Dr. Ospylac.
Secret Character: Minion in every entry in which he's playable, but also Sweet Tooth in 2 and 3; Manslaughter, Warthog, Yellowjacket, and Axel in Black; Axel, Darkside, Mime, PieceMeal, and Trapper in Small Brawl; Axel, Mr. Slam, Hammerhead, Crimson Fury, ATV, Cousin Eddy and Dark Tooth in Head-On; and Warthog in the 2012 Twisted Metal.
Ship Level: The "Prison Passage" stage in Black. A big chunk of the Greece stage in Head-On happens aboard one as well.
Shock and Awe: The Environment (Env) pickup, introduced since Twisted Metal 2, is an special item found on certain stages, which activates a lightning attack in a limited range around whatever its generating it. Certain cars (most commonly Outlaw) have this as their special weapon, too.
Slasher Smile: Needles Kane throughout the series, and Calypso in 2
Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness: It slides back and forth. The third and fourth games are very silly, while Black and the 2012 Reboot are extremely Dark and Grim. The first two games fall somewhere in middle, with the second being slightly sillier. The Spinoffs (i.e. Small Brawl) lean strongly to the sillier side of things.
Slippy-Slidey Ice World: "Antarctica: The Drop Zone" in 2, "The North Pole" in 3, "Amazonia 3000 BC" in 4 and "Snowy Roads" in Black.
Spiritual Successor: After making Twisted Metal 2, Singletrac was bought by GT Interactive and lost the Twisted Metal license. This lead them to create two stand-alone vehicular combat games: Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012 and Critical Depth. Both games ended up leaving their mark on the series - Black adopted the visible damage indicator and slightly more involved storytelling of Critical Depth, and Rogue Trip's faster pace and more interactive arenas.
Strictly Formula: All of the endings in Twisted Metal 3 follows the same formula: Car drives in, Calypso reiterates the wish of the winner and shoot lightning with his hands, the driver screams for no reasons and then suffer the consequences of the wish, Calypso makes a terrible pun and thank you for playing Twisted Metal.
Take a Third Option: More of a second option, but in Head-On, the driver of Crimson Fury, Agent Shepard of the FBI, chooses to simply arrest Calypso in his ending rather than trying to collect his prize from the Literal Genie.
The Kid with the Remote Control: The driver of Yellowjacket in Black is Charlie Kane, reanimated by his son and literally controlled by a remote control. Also, the vehicles in Small Brawl are RC cars driven by little kids.
Took a Level in Badass: Hammerhead in the PS3 reboot. It went from sluggish enemy who could fight, though outmatched, to a massive boss battle alongside Slayer (the truck, not the band, though both were based off of heavy metal bands).
Weirdness Censor: There seems to be something like this going on in the PS3 game. Some of the cutscenes are puncuated by a radio show, where callers will try to talk about the Twisted Metal contest. The host always dismisses them, reasoning if there was one person behind all of the recent destruction, people would be forming lynch mobs. Given Calypso's true nature, he probably has something to do with it.