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Vehicular Combat

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Taking demolition derbies to their Logical Extreme since 1995!
Vehicular Combat is a Video Game genre in which the action takes place inside motor vehicles (often armed), whether they be cars, boats, or sci-fi craft. These games usually have one requirement; the destruction of all enemies. Some games add racing, escort, Wide-Open Sandbox (within limits; players generally must kill or be killed before time runs out, but other than that, can traverse the level freely) or other gameplay elements, while others are barely above the Shoot 'Em Up level. Generally, these games focus on fast-paced action, as opposed to Role-Playing Game elements.

Generally, Vehicular Combat gameplay works in one of two ways: The player is the same individual throughout a career, and must upgrade and modify his/her vehicle with better weapons, parts and armor to beat back increasingly more difficult challenges, or the player may choose from a variety of different vehicles, each with its own unique skills and abilities. Interstate '76 is a good example of the first style, while the Twisted Metal series is a good example of the second style. Some games use a mix of both aspects, allowing a player to choose a vehicle and then modify it accordingly.

Most of these will be Driving Games.

A Super-Trope to Mascot Racer. Compare Vehicular Assault.

See also Mecha Game (which is often similar, just with Humongous Mecha).

Tropes common to the Vehicular Combat genre include:


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  • The titular race in REDLINE embraces this trope from the first green flag...



  • Autoduel Tales is a book that was a collection of all the short stories from the Car Wars Quarterly game magazine.
  • Meanwhile the Car Warriors novels were a tie-in to the Car Wars game
  • Dark Future were stories taking place in the Dark Future setting.

  • The music video for "19/2000" by Gorillaz features the Geep, the band's modified dune buggy that has been outfitted with guided missiles.
  • "Viking Death Machine" by GWAR is all about this trope.


     Tabletop Games 
  • The tabletop combat game Car Wars and its RPG spinoff, GURPS Autoduel, can be considered a predecessor.
  • GURPS Discworld Also has "Ecksian Cart Wars", a parody of the Autoduel setting, a reference to the Mad Max-like environment of The Last Continent, and an exercise in just how far you can push the GURPS vehicle rules.
  • For a while, Games Workshop put out a game set ostensibly in the 40k universe but in the 21st century called "Dark Future". It was specifically scaled to 20mm instead of 28mm so that Hot Wheels and Matchbox sized cars could be modified with sprues of weapons and used in the game.
  • In addition, Games Workshop had Gorkamorka, a vehicular combat game focusing on Warhammer 40,000's Orks beating each other up for scrap, Mad Max style.
  • The Tooniversal Tour Guide, a sourcebook for the Toon RPG, includes rules for "Car-Toon Wars", a parody of Car Wars. Weapons include toon-seeking pies, instant brick walls, and devices that drop bottomless pits behind your car.
  • Many games are now available to take advantage of the plethora of diecast toy cars available. These are usually Mad Max styled, but certain rules provide the option of a more advanced civilisation with plentiful technological production and supply, which leads to the possibilities of James Bond styled car chases, or chases from action movies which have no weapons on board. One prominent set is Gaslands, which allows machine-guns, autocannon, magnetic cannon, missiles etc. to be added to the car along with armour, electronic warfare etc., however these are expensive, considering that you have a starting budget of 50 cans, so it is possible that you will simply send two supercharged performance cars out with no special equipment at all, only the drivers (each vehicle is assumed to have one) having small-arms to shoot (driver is assumed to have a handgun) and you will have spent your entire budget.
  • DeadlandsTheGreatRailWars did feature some weapons mounted on vehicles, including trains in the supplement Derailed, however what takes the cake is an artwork in one of the rulebooks showing two rights-of-way coming too close together, with meeting trains exchanging broadsides from mounted weapons and passengers' smallarms.

     Video Games 
  • The Need For Madness? series gives the player the option to either finish a race first or waste other cars by ramming them.
  • Tunnel B1 sees you in control of an armored, high-tech hovercraft full of weapons and doing battle against police choppers and vehicles throughout the game.
  • The Twisted Metal series and its clones: Vigilante8, Star Wars Demolition, etc. Blood Drive adds zombies to this formula.
  • Spy Hunter and RoadBlasters arcade games as limited, Shoot 'Em Up-type ancestors.
  • Interstate76 and its sequel, Interstate '82. Notable for using a Simulation Game approach involving locational damage, realistic physics and salvaging equipment between missions.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario Kart: Most games include Battle Modes. And even the conventional kart racing comes loaded with various (cartoonish) weapons to use against your opponents.
    • Mario Party 5: Super Duel Mode consists of building, part by part, your dream vehicle so you can then duke it out in combat on wheels. Pay attention to the stats of the vehicle and how the individual parts affect the overall gauge of attributes.
    • Mario Party 6: The minigame Sumo Of Doom-o pits two dueling characters in a battlefield inside a factory, with them driving six-wheeled cars and clashing against each other to see who pushes who into the abyss. The catch is that, periodically, the Thwomp who is watching them from the distance will stomp its floor, causing the players' battling ground to crumble and lose a part of its area; this will reduce the playable area, making it more likely for either player to knock off the other (or simply fall down accidentally, rendering the other player victorious). The last player standing wins, but if both manage to endure for 30 seconds or both fall down at the same time, the minigame ends in a tie.
    • Mario Party: Island Tour: The minigame Tanks A Lot has the characters duke it out against each other in a colisseum while driving miniature tanks. There are large bricks that can be used as a cover, though they're breakable. Hitting a character yields one point, and makes the shot character respawn in their starting point. The first character to score three points wins.
  • Crash Team Racing includes real Vehicular Combat arenas.
  • And so does Muppet Race Mania.
  • Jak X: Combat Racing
    G.T. Blitz: So stay tuned for all the death and destruction!
  • Extreme-G
  • The later games in the Burnout series are like the Fighting Game version of this genre, mixed with traditional racing. The battling is all done through physical ramming and grinding than with guns.
  • Rollcage is a racing game with rocket-powered buggies that can drive on ceilings, upside-down and shoot all sorts of weapons, but are in fact immune to damage. Weapon hits only serve to slow down the other racers and blow up the scenery.
  • Dethkarz is another futuristic racing game with weapons, but in this case the application of sufficient firepower will cause the target car to veer out of control and explode in a blue energy ball, eliminating it for the rest of the race.
  • Redline: Gang Warfare 2066 is a hybrid Vehicular Combat / First-Person Shooter. The player can go around on foot shooting a handheld gun, or he can get into various cars armed to the teeth with the usual futuristic weaponry.
  • Carmageddon is a racing game in which you're actually required to smash up the opposition and/or mow down pedestrians for bonus time to complete the course. The player can pick up a variety of power-ups to make either of these tasks easier.
  • Cel Damage is one of these, but completely cel-shaded and full of cartoony physics and character designs. Weapons include dynamite crossbows and giant hammers.
  • The biker game Road Rash has bats, crowbars, cattle prods, and oil cans, not to mention the best move ever: kicking them into oncoming traffic!
  • Road Redemption is a Spiritual Successor to Road Rash, taking the base gameplay and adding Roguelike elements, in addition to several new weapons, including firearms!
  • F-Zero and its sequels. F-Zero X has a "survival" mode where you have to kill all 29 opponents with your bare hands, err, vehicle.
  • Rage (2011), while primarily a First-Person Shooter, also has a fair amount of vehicle-based combat.
  • Pursuit Force is a hybrid of this and Action Game, where you play a cop who has to chase down numerous street gangs by jumping between moving vehicles.
  • Strategic Simulations' Roadwar 2000
  • The controversial 1976 arcade game Death Race (inspired, but not directly based on the movie Death Race 2000) by Exidy is often considered to be the "granddaddy" of the genre. Even though there were no weapons, the gameplay involved running over human-sounding "gremlins" to score points (much like the aforementioned Carmageddon, which came decades later). There have been various unconfirmed reports as to how significant the controversy was, including rumors that several Death Race machines were destroyed, etc.
  • Dead in the Water for the PlayStation is an aquatic version of the concept.
    • Critical Depth, also on the PlayStation, is a submarine version. For extra points it's made by SingleTrac, the team behind Twisted Metal.
  • Grand Theft Auto and its successors get an honourable mention. They might not be pure Vehicular Combat games, but they feature this style of gameplay heavily, both in missions and when speeding around wreaking havoc. Many games let you acquire tanks and other military vehicles, and in GTA2 and GTA Online, some normal vehicles can be equipped with weapons. And then there's the Oppressor Mk II...
  • Gripper, an indie game focusing on you driving a weaponized buggy and tearing apart enemy vehicles, including bosses larger than you.
  • Grudge Warriors, where you control a jeep with a massive turret to blast enemies apart.
  • Rock n' Roll Racing: Since you and your opponents' cars are armed (with lasers, missiles, mines and such) and you get bonus cash for each enemy destroyed during the race, Vehicular Combat is thus strongly encouraged.
  • Destruction Derby: Two variants of Vehicular Combat here : the regular races, where the main goal is to arrive first, but you get points by making your opponents spin or outright destroy them ; and the Destruction Derby mode, where you and your opponents are all gathered in an arena, and the goal is to be the last one standing.
  • The DOS and 3DO game Quarantine (1994) and its sequel, Road Warrior. Not to be confused with either film of the same name.
  • DOS game Deathtrack. Machine guns, lasers, missiles, "terminators" (little destuctive robots)... Sometimes mafiosos would appear before a race and tell you to kill a specific driver for some cash.
  • Blur features licensed Cool Cars, but very cartoony weapons, and Wacky Racing abounds.
  • Split/Second is an unusual variation; the damage comes from booby traps set up around the course, which a player can trigger when they've built up the power meter far enough. Traps range from the simple (spring-loaded dump truck, collapsing overpass) to the ludicrous (dropping an airport control tower onto the track, knocking a cruise ship loose of its drydock mooring to scrape the track clean).
  • Rocket Jockey has a weird concept of combat: you're on a rocket cycle, and your task is to snag other riders with grapple cables and do nasty things to them in order to increase your score or end up the last man standing.
  • Death Rally had top-down combat racing where the players would earn cash from races to buy new cars and upgrade them, eventually facing off against The Adversary. Featured Duke Nukem as a Guest Driver. The original came out in 1996 for DOS, and received an iOS remake in 2011.
  • Post Apocalyptic Mayhem keeps the action going in one direction like a race but nonetheless awards wins to the most prolific destroyer. Each of its six cars has distinct weaponry, lending each a different play experience.
  • Crasher mixes in elements of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre.
  • Auto Assault expanded this into an MMORPG.
  • BattleTanx and its little-known spinoff, Thunder Tanks.
  • ModNation Racers. High speed kart racing with upgradable weapons and lethal tracks.
  • The many vehicle sequences in Halo.
  • The WipEout series of futuristic racing games. Initially the weapons were just used to slow down opponents to get ahead of them; in the second game (2097/XL depending on where you are), ships can be destroyed, and by Wip3out there's a mode devoted entirely to shooting down your rivals.
    • By the time if Wipeout HD, the more chaotic races (lovingly referred to by fans as "Cambodia") become frenzies of colours flying everywhere (even more so than the game already was!) and the announcer listing every weapon in the game in quick succession, doubly so in the expansion pack's version of Eliminator, which ups the rate racers receive weapons and respawns defeated ones.
  • Night Striker is a rail Shoot 'Em Up where you use a Flying Car to shoot down enemy flying cars, helicopters, jets, trucks, and robots.
  • Bandits Phoenix Rising is a linear action story with differing objectives in each level, in contrast to most games of the genre.
  • Road Kill is like a free roaming Twisted Metal
  • WWE Crush Hour
  • Outlander takes place primarily behind the wheel of a car while also featuring occasional side-scrolling action sequences. The game was originally developed as a tie-in for Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, but the developers lost the license to the film late into the game's development, leading to last-minute changes to remove references to the film.
  • Battle Cars
  • Wheels Of Destruction is essentially an arena shooter a la Quake or Unreal Tournament injected with this trope.
  • MegaRace
  • Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012
  • Full Auto: The first game is an hybrid of car combat and the Racing Game genre, being ostensibly a racing game with an heavy emphasis on gunning down opponents with mounted weapons. The sequel adds more traditional "arena" levels.
  • Battle Zone 1998 and its sequel combine vehicular combat (Hover tanks, tanks, and walkers) with base management and Real-Time Strategy unit management.
  • Chase H.Q.. Combat here is limited to catching up with one enemy car and ramming it into submission, but the sequel Special Criminal Investigation adds more weapons.
  • Tread Marks features powersliding tank-on-tank (and Hover Tank) combat in addition to racing with live ammunition strew about the track.
  • Robocraft basically amounts to this, with the main gimmick being that you design the vehicles yourself.
  • World of Tanks is basically this, despite being marketed as a MMORPG. The vehicles involved are based on those used in the wars, including some prototypes and paper concepts (upgradeable via modules, and with decals and camouflage that can be applied to the tank itself).
  • Streets of SimCity is built on this trope and Weaponised Car, playing in cities created in SimCity 2000, using the "Urban Renewal Kit" included.
  • Mach Rider has you shoot up enemy 4X4's with guns mounted on you motorbike
  • The climax of episode one of Tales from the Borderlands involves Rhys, Fiona, and their friends getting caught up in a bandit demolition derby known as "Murder Rally 12000".
  • Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages features races you can participate in for money. Most of the races let you take your guns with you onto the racetrack.
    Warden Wilma: The only thing this crowd likes better than fast winners is explosive losers.
  • Origin Systems' Autoduel, a computer-based role-playing game based on Car Wars.
  • Knight Rider for the NES is similar to Mach Rider above, but instead of shooting 4x4's, you're shooting vehicles driven by an unnamed criminal ring.
  • Batman 2013 arcade game focused on this in which you drive around in the Batmobie and race through Gotham while doing various objectives.
  • From the Depths has realistic Design-It-Yourself Equipment for boat, submarine, aircraft, and spacecraft combat. Players are also free to walk around their craft while in motion to repair it or engage in a Boarding Party against enemy craft.
  • Gas Guzzlers Extreme, a spiritual successor to the Full Auto games.
  • Bumper Wars is basically a futuristic, deadly version of bumper cars.
  • Slipstream 5000 is all about the flying race-car variant.
  • In Speed Kills, race vehicles are armed with missiles, lasers, mines, and other weapons (the exact loadout depending on which vehicle you choose). Destroying other competitors' vehicles only buys you a short amount of time, since they quickly respawn, but can still be useful. It also gets you a cash bonus after the race.
  • Crashday and its remastered 2017 version Crashday Redline Edition. There are a few gamemodes which involve weapons such as miniguns and rockets, and even without them, there's the good ol' ramming.
  • The Next Penelope is about races between futuristic craft in space, which will also cheerfully ram each other, drop mines and deploy other offensive abilities.
  • Player Unknowns Battle Grounds has been used to create death races in many cases, not that playing normally doesn't have its fair share of passing vehicles exchanging broadsides. No weapons are mounted, but it is a simple enough matter to fire personal weapons or throw grenades from moving vehicles.
  • Averted in Star Wars Episode I: Racer despite the Blood Sport nature of the races as depicted in the movies and literature—your vehicle could get destroyed as many times as is needed to finish the race, but the pilots themselves are never harmed, and there is always a fresh spare vehicle ready. Played straight in its sequel, Star Wars: Racer Revenge, however, in that attacking other racers is a major mechanic, and you're encouraged to bump off as many of the other racers as you can. This includes young Anakin Skywalker should he happen to be an opponent.
  • World Destruction League: Thunder Tanks is a Twisted Metal clone with the Tank Goodness trope applied on all it's arena.
  • Racing in Sideswiped is gratuitously full-contact; cars can be hit, crushed, and even launched hundreds of feet into the air or down the track depending on the aggressor and the severity of the collision. Smashing your opposition to pieces is either encouraged or outright required depending on the nature of the event. The player must also upgrade or purchase new vehicles to tackle ever more difficult challenges, with many events depending on the player being able to bring the right car for the job.
  • SXPD from the Little Chicken Game Company is a comic book/death race game where you're a rookie of the SXPD, a deadly future police motorcycle division. Using an armoured motorbike armed with machine guns and anti-vehicle rockets, you chase down criminals in various vehicles

     Western Animation 
  • Wacky Races is one of the earliest examples of this trope and arguably the Trope Codifier. The main focus is on winning the race, but the participants are not only allowed, but encouraged, to use every trick they can imagine to either get ahead or destroy the opponents' vehicles. Of particular note is Dick Dastardly, who thinks in terms of this trope and prioritizes elimination over racing—he is shown to be the most skilled racer by far but squanders every lead to attempt to destroy his competitors' vehicles, causing him to have the worst win rate in the series.

     Real Life 
  • Perhaps the closest Real Life example would be demolition derbies, often seen at state fairs and monster truck rallies. Not surprisingly, there have been video games based around this.
  • Likewise with monster truck rallies, though that's more a case of "one gigantic truck crushing a bunch of helpless jalopies beneath its treads". The personalization of the trucks, however, is very much in the vein of games like Twisted Metal with their casts of larger-than-life cars and drivers, with some monster trucks, such as Bigfoot, Grave Digger, and the McGruff the Crime Dog truck, being celebrities in their own right.