In racing games, you sometimes have the option of competing against yourself in Time Trial mode, not just by the final time, but by racing against a hollow "ghost" recording of a previous run. This might be your own run, your friend's, or even a stranger's downloaded from the web.
Some games have "staff ghosts" from the developers of the game, which may have to be unlocked first. Obviously, the developers' top record will be very difficult to beat, but not every staff ghost is like this. Sometimes, less gameplay-oriented members of the staff will provide a ghost, in which case out-racing this ghost might unlock a more difficult ghost.
In any case, ghosts provide an easy visual way to gauge one's performance without checking the clock. It also lets you see how exactly said ghosts achieve their time such as following the fastest line through corners or see where they've made any potential mistakes.
Subtrope of Meta Multiplayer.
- F-Zero has these in the typical time trial fashion, but F-Zero GX takes it one step further. The very end of story mode has Captain Falcon race against The Creators of the universe and they are essentially the developers with their best records recorded. That's right, the fate of the entire universe rides on beating someone's best time in a time trial race, but it doesn't mean that it won't give you troubles.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Super Mario Galaxy has a literal ghost you can race against. There's also a sort of "cosmic" Mario (he's the same shape as Mario, but looks like a cutout into outer space) you can race against in a timed run of a given level. Super Mario Galaxy 2 has a raceable ghost of Luigi, though you only get a "best time" reward for beating him rather than a star or anything else.
- Super Mario 3D World uses this to show how other players have traversed the myriad stages. Their movements are portrayed by limbed Sprixies with the heads of the Miis used by the other players. Aside from being raceable, they can also be used to discover level secrets you might have overlooked yourself.
- Super Mario Maker 2 has the Ninji Speedrun mode, added in a post-release update. The Ninjis you race against in the levels are the players who previously played and cleared the level.
- Mario Kart uses this, with 7 in particular taking the concept pretty far. Every track has multiple staff ghosts (each unlocked after beating the last). If left in sleep mode, the 3DS will download ghosts from random players. There's an option to play against 7 ghosts at once. The Wii version also allows downloads but have fewer ghosts per track at a time.
- In the TrackMania series, all opponents are always intangible ghosts: Your only enemy is the track itself.
- At the beginning of the Speed Racer movie, Speed races against his brother's time, and it's represented as a Racing Ghost.
- Diddy Kong Racing (both versions) has a set of ghosts for each course as driven by T.T., a stopwatch character. Beating all of the ghosts unlocks him as a playable character.
- Kirby Air Ride: In Free Run mode, where you can race an unlimited number of laps for good time, a star will follow the route of your fastest lap in the current session.
- The Gourmet Race in Kirby Super Star. Instead of a transparent Kirby replaying your fastest run, a flashing star is used as the ghost. The Updated Re-release Kirby Super Star Ultra does use a ghost, however.
- Kirby's Dream Collection: Special Edition has the option to race a ghost in the challenge courses.
- Runman Race Around The World has the option to save level ghosts. Keeping in the game's hand-drawn appearance, however, the ghost always appears as a little hand-drawn bedsheet-style ghost that traces whatever you did that run while holding up a sign with a picture of the character you were using.
- Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing has fairly manageable staff ghosts to race, as well as much more difficult "Sumo Ghosts" from top online players.
- Sonic Generations is a platforming example. A challenge type common to every main stage is the Doppelganger Race, which involves beating a ghost version of Sonic through its respective stage. Simply beating the ghost is enough to pass, though of course the S Rank times are much stricter.
- Gran Turismo has the license tests.note Once you successfully complete a test, your best time is saved as a ghost. This allows you to analyse and improve your driving in order to achieve the best rating on the test.
- xkcd #1580 suggests racing "ghost" versions of yourself as a travel planning aid, then unnervingly applies it to more mundane situations.
- Available in TerraTech's Gauntlet mode. Players can modify their racing tech and take on the ghost of the previous version.
- LEGO Racers has Time Race mode, where you race against a ghost car. Beating the ghost car on every track unlocks a new car part set. If you have done a track previously you can also see a ghost version of your own car.
- Crash Team Racing has two sets of challenge ghosts: one set represented by N. Tropy and a harder set represented by Nitros Oxide. Like the Diddy Kong Racing example above, beating all of N. Tropy's ghosts will unlock him as a playable character. The remake ups the ante with two more sets of challenge ghosts. Beating Oxide's ghosts will unlock an even harder ghost represented by Emperor Velo XXVII, and beating him will unlock the inhumanly-fast Beenox developer ghosts!
- The Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune series has a variant of this in Ghost Battle mode, where you can pick a player's past run of the mode to race against (and up to three starting in Maximum Tune 6). The game simulates an actual race by having the "ghost" vehicle be tangible, unlike most instances of this trope, meaning that the player still has to block the ghost from passing them and learn to carefully pass it without leaving themselves vulnerable to an upcoming hazard (such as traffic, barriers, or sharp turns). The ghost is also nearly impossible to push and if by chance you manage to force it into a crash, it will just snap back onto its route like nothing happened. Winning races in Ghost Battle rewards you with cosmetic parts for your vehicle.