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Video Game / Midnight Club

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Midnight Club is a street-racing-based racing game series created by Rockstar San Diego - formerly known as Angel Studios and creators of the Midtown Madness franchise. The series includes the following titles:

  • Midnight Club: Street Racing (2000)
  • Midnight Club II (2003)
  • Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition (2005)
    • Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix (2006)
  • Midnight Club: Los Angeles (2008)
    • Midnight Club: L.A. Remix (2008)
    • Midnight Club: Los Angeles Complete Edition (2009)

Not to be confused with Christopher Pike's novel The Midnight Club, or with its 2022 TV adaptation.

The games feature examples of the following tropes:

  • 100% Completion: Attaining 100% Completion in the first three games awards you with one of the best cars in the game. In Midnight Club: Street Racing you get the Zender Type S for completing Career Mode 100%. In II you get the SLF450X by completing Career Mode and all Circuit Races. In 3, you get the Cadillac Sixteen.
  • The Alleged Car:
    • The starter car in both the first Midnight Club game and the second one. In the first game, you start off in a pitifully slow taxi, complete with dents and graffiti all over it. In the second game, it does get a little better. However, you still start with one of the slowest cars of the game without any nitrous. Later in the fourth game you get to choose from one of three used cars sitting in the parking lot across from the bus stop you arrive at, complete with dents, missing hubcaps, and primered replacement body panels.
    • Averted in the third game, as your reputation for racing and connections with a local mechanic merit you the purchase of one of six vehicles he has for sale, with some additional spending money for minor modifications if you purchase his least expensive car.
  • Always Night: The first three games all take place exclusively at night; while there is some progression of time, the sky will skip straight from dawn to dusk.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Averted in all of the games. In 1 through L.A., pedestrians will actively try to get out of the way of your car and will make comments about you trying to run them over. In the third and fourth game (L.A.), they will stop and admire your car if you leave it parked in an area for long enough, which can be quite amusing when you are driving a stock Scion Tc or Volkswagen Jetta.
  • Artifact Title: Midnight Club: Los Angeles has a full day and night cycle. The previous games were Always Night.
  • Artistic License – Cars: A strange case; while cars do have different drivetrains, every game past the first game does not feature 4WD. The second game introduced the "Burnout" ability, and would obviously not work with 4WD, so any actual 4WD cars featured would be converted to 2WD, but which axle is driven is completely dependent on the vehicle itself.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The Zender Type S is awarded upon getting 100% completion in the first game. It's one of the fastest cars in the game, but it has the steering sensetivity of a go kart and the worst durability in the game.
    • The Mercedes Benz SL55 AMG that is obtained from the San Diego Tournament in 3 is the fastest of the Luxury Sedans, but like the Type S from the first game, it has the worst durability.
  • Beef Gate: While the player can access the Tokyo campaign from the beginning of 3 Remix, many of its initial races require car types that are not unlocked until the later parts of the original campaign. Your mechanic even advises you to continue your career in the States if you have no suitable rides, and then return to Tokyo when you're more prepared.
  • Big Brother Instinct: After you beat Maria in II, you later face her older brother, Hector. His profile states that he is fiercely protective of Maria; accordingly, he is pissed at you for winning Maria's car.
    Hector: He robs my little sister's wheels? This fool must pay!
    Hector: This race I do for mi familia!
  • Big Fun: Moses in II, who insults you a bit, but is nevertheless willing to show you (a new driver) the ropes, help you out of a cop chase, and encourage you as you rise up the ranks.
  • Big "YES!": The Player Character in LA sometimes does one when using nitrous.
  • Bland-Name Product: Played straight in the first two games. Averted in the latter two, which uses real-life cars. A notable variation is the Zender brand in the first game, which was an actual company that made super cars in the 90s.
  • Bowdlerise: Invoked for example in Mannie Fresh's "Real Big" from 3: DUB Edition: The lyrics "Dick real big" were changed into "Belly real big".
  • Bullet Time: "Zone" in 3 and LA slows down time, which allows the player to navigate tight corners and wade through traffic.
  • Car Fu: "Agro" in 3 and LA allows the player to smash through other cars with impunity.
  • Car Skiing: One of the many vehicular stunts available in 3 and LA.
  • Cool Bike: Motorcyles are available starting in the second game. The best bikes offer performance on par with exotic sports cars at a fraction of the price.
  • Comeback Mechanic: Drafting behind another racer gives you a free boost with the same properties as nitrous.
  • Damsel in Distress: Gina in II becomes one in the last third of the game. She makes a bad deal with a shady nightclub owner in Tokyo, which results in the owner stealing Gina's car and getting her in trouble with the Yakuza. The player character must beat a high-ranking Yakuza member named Ken'ichi to clear Gina's debt.
  • Deliberately Jumping the Gun: One racer in II, Ricky, has a tendency to jump the start when you race him. He's not a terribly good driver, so this doesn't really help him.
  • Developer's Foresight: In LA, there are several different variations of the 'getting arrested' cutscene depending on the circumstances of your arrest, including whether you willingly surrendered, got trapped, or if your car was totalled or flipped over.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • Any of the motorcycles in II, 3, or LA. They are difficult to control at first, come with less nitrous boosts, and any crash results in your character falling off. But if you can master their handling and not crash, they become near unstoppable in the hands of an experienced player.
    • In LA, turning down steering sensitive to the lowest setting (-10) not only makes controls harder to steer, but it also makes driving more precisely, balancing the arcade gameplay and racing simulator just right.
  • Do Well, But Not Perfect: In the time trial races, the second and third rounds are based on your previous time so doing too well in the previous round can make the target time for the next round next to impossible.
  • Down L.A. Drain: Both incarnations of Los Angeles in the series contains the LA River.
  • Downloadable Content: The South Central expansion for LA expands the map to include South Central and introduces lowriders and SUVs as racing classes.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: No matter how well you do in races, the NPC racers in L.A. will still treat you like crap.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: The type of car you bring to race determines what kind of opponents you face-i.e., if you bring, say, a Lamborghini, expect to face off against other exotics. Zigzagged in 3, which includes an option in Arcade mode to face any vehicle in the game except for the cop cars and the Cadillac Sixteen. If you set that option to default, then don't get disappointed if you say, race in a Class B Muscle Car and only get Exotic opponents, or race in any SUV/Truck and only get Luxury Sedan opponents.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first two games had no licensed cars, and also lacked the detailed customisation that the latter two games are renowned for. The second game also fully averted Invulnerable Civilians, as you could run pedestrians over and have other racers call you out on it.
  • EMP: An equipable offensive power-up in the multiplayer portions of 2. Promoted to an unlockable ability in the main career in LA.
  • Expy: Owen, the British inspector who is after Farid in II, is clearly based on James Bond. Owen's car resembles Bond's Aston Martin DB5.
  • Face–Heel Turn: In LA, Booke starts out as an obnoxious but benign Quest Giver, but the relationship turns sour when the Player Character fails to help him evade the cops after a team race. The next time you meet, he has become City Champ and you must defeat him in a series of races. By the end of the series, he acknowledges the player as a Worthy Opponent while promising to win his title back.
  • Fauxrrari: As with Grand Theft Auto games (made by the same company), the cars in the first two games are fictional ones that bear a resemblance to real-life ones.
  • Fragile Speedster: The motorcycles in 2, 3, and L.A. all fall under this trope. They are blindingly fast, can take most corners flat out, and can fit into areas that other cars cannot. However, one mistake on one and you will be flung off, letting the game's rubberband AI easily catch up.
  • French Jerk: Stephane in II, an arrogant Parisiannote  who belittles you for not having as many girlfriends as him and for being an American.
    Stephane: I'll race you for a hamburger!
  • Gender-Blender Name:
    • Stephane in II.
    • Karol, the proprietor of Hollywood Autos.
  • Graceful Loser: In Midnight Club II a certain portion of the racers you beat will end up as this. The most notable example is Moses and Blog.
    Moses: Enjoy the car, my friend. You got potential. Still got a lot to learn though.
    Blog: Nice one, squire. Take the motor then.
    • Sore Loser: However, some racers will not react well once they're finally defeated.
    Shing (thinking after losing his RSMC-15): This fool just got my juice!
  • Hate Sink: Ricky in Midnight Club II, a sleazy, Yakuza-affiliated nightclub owner who has no problem putting a woman under half his age in mortal danger.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Exercise caution when using Roar. It's easy to get wiped out by traffic you just blasted.
  • Jerkass: The NPC competitors in LA will treat you like an amateur regardless of the rank you've achieved and car you're driving.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: In LA, the police will give you a chance to pull over before starting a chase if you commit a crime in their presence. If you do so, you are treated to a short scene from the police's dashcam showing the officer walking towards your car; you can hit the accelerator during this scene to speed off and get a head start for your escape attempt.
  • Improbably Cool Car:
    • Midnight Club 3 has the 1999 Dodge Charger R/T Concept, a car that was well received and displayed at car shows as late as 2004 but never made it to production. The game even lampshades the fact that it is a concept car. The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve and Cadillac Cien and Sixteen concept cars also show up, with the Cien actually being the cheapest exotic category car. You can also buy are also cars that were sold to the public but only in very low numbers, such as the Mercedes-Benzy CLK-GTR, of which only 26 road-legal examples were built.
    • You can also have a Nissan Skyline in America.note 
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve in 3, and the Saleen S7 in Los Angeles.
  • Invulnerable Civilians: In the original game, you can run over pedestrians with impunity, but they'll just get back up and walk off like nothing happened. Averted in the second game, where you can not only run the civvies over, but doing so kills them.
  • Joke Character: Some of the vehicles that you can win in the first game are: a bus, a London double-decker bus, an ice cream truck, a meter maid scooter, a British mail truck, and a black cab.
  • Level Grinding: In LA, restarting a tournament means having to replay any race you previously beat. You can abuse this to get infinite Rep (basically the game's equivalent of XP) and unlock the best cars early.
  • Lightning Bruiser:
    • The Torque JX (Nissan Skyline GT-R R34) from "Midnight Club II" suffers a little from the weight, but it's fast enough to compete with Savo's Veloci (Saleen S7) and also, it's the most durable car in the game.
    • The Lusso XT (Lexus GS 300) can invoke this if used in the hands of a experienced player, regarding its ability to "fish tail" and handling very well during the races in the rain. Also, fishtailing the Lusso can allow the player outrun the SLF450X.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted:
    • Reviews have described LA as a fairly accurate representation of Los Angeles with certain modifications for better gameplay. This includes a metric buttload of real-life LA landmarks including the Hollywood sign, the Capitol Records Tower, Pink's Hot Dogs, the Viper Room, Rodeo Drive, Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Santa Monica pier, the Los Angeles River basin, UCLA campus and Paramount Studios to name just a fraction. The game even starts right outside of Carney's Express. However, there are notable exceptions, such as the Staples Center being given the more generic name of "Sports Center" and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum being renamed the "South Central Coliseum". Makes for an almost constant string of Hey, It's That Place! moments.
    • In Midnight Club II, they did this to Tokyo, since real-life Japanese streets are clogged, narrow, and horribly unfit for racing.
  • Mighty Glacier: The SUVs in L.A. and 3 count as this as well as some of the luxury sedans. They don't have the high maneuverability or acceleration as many of the sports cars or sports bikes, but they can easily smash through most objects with minimal speed loss and damage. Combine that with the agro ability and they become nigh unstoppable.
  • Minus World: In Midnight Club II, there are out of bounds areas in all three cities, most commonly inside buildings but also outside the boundaries of the Gateless Ghetto city maps. This minus world can be accessed by phasing through glitchy walls in certain specific areas or by jumping from the improvised ramps scattered throughout the cities using an extremely fast car like the SLF450X to massively overshoot the intended landing spot. These twilight zones typically have invisible floor with glitchy reflections of ambient lights, some crude unfinished architecture, and collision meshes that don't match visible geometry, such as invisible walls and non-solid surfaces. The invisible (and sometimes even visible) floor in these areas can be unpredictably non-solid as well, causing the car to fall into the featureless void below the city. After a couple seconds, the car respawns at the last cleared checkpoint (or, in Cruise Mode, in the default starting area), still with the same level of accumulated damage but with all Nitrous slots miraculously replenished.
    • The easiest to access void outside the city map is located in Paris. Use a car that can reach 250 MPH / 402 KMH such as Lusso XT or Tokyo Cop, follow the low two-lane road around the river counter-clockwise, and jump at full speed from the terminal ramp that brings you up to regular street level in the south-east corner of the map. If you steer right, away from the river and past both of the trees ahead, the car will narrowly clear the low wall next to the bridge, fall through the non-solid water surface inside what is supposed to be a brick building, and into the void below.
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: L.A Remix to DUB Edition and II, as the latter two share the same graphics engine and cities, L.A (albeit altered from the original MCII map to match the one from the main console versions) and Tokyo (which is identical to its depiction from II and DUB Edition Remix).
  • New York Is Only Manhattan: The first game starts off in New York, but is limited to Manhattan. The only evidence that the other boroughs exist is that one of your rivals, Larry Muller, proudly states he's from Queens.
  • Nintendo Hard: To say that these games are tough is putting it nicely. Midnight Club: Los Angeles is considered second only to F-Zero GX in the Nintendo Hard racing game pantheon. The combination of (allegedly) unstoppable AI opponents, impossible-to-shake police chases, heavy, hard-to-dodge traffic, and the where-the-hell-am-I-going nature of the open-world races is enough to frustrate most gamers, even with a well-timed EMP or Roar attack to knock out the competition. Kotaku actually went so far as to call it "a Ninja Gaiden caliber challenge". Rockstar later patched the game to soften the difficulty curve in the early parts of the game. This patch is also integrated into the Complete Edition along with the South Central expansion and associated DLC.
    • Also, despite being called Midnight Club, the game works on a 24 hour-like clock, which means that means half of the time, you will be racing during the day. Hilariously, it is impossible to see traffic coming at you during the day (as half the cars blend into the road itself), but quite easy to see them at night (when their headlights and taillights are among the few things you can see on the road). Furthermore, LA slows down time to show your car spinning out of control as the AI races past you. Therefore, only race at night, stay close to the center of the map, and use the zone skill to keep your speed on turns, and you might just beat the game while only pressing the restart button 1500 times.
    • If "rubberband AI" was in the dictionary, this game would be a listed example. Winning by milliseconds is the norm. After you cross the finish line, the others racers jump across it like they were waiting just off screen. If you screw up anywhere, you will go from first place to last before you can blink and be left in the dust for the rest of the race.
    • In the first game, many people found chasing down the drivers to get the option of doing the race harder than the actual race.
    • To give another example of how Nintendo Hard effects players, if you search this game you'll see references to people preferring to play the game in Race Editor mode where the game just lets you drive around and not actually compete.
    • Complaints over the game's difficulty led to Rockstar taking the unprecedented step of issuing a patch to make the game (allegedly) easier.
    • Even those used to the game remark on the sometimes-impossible (as in actually physically impossible as in "even driving with nitro on all the time there isn't enough time to cross the map") nature of the car-delivery side missions.
      • However at the same time the game actually averts the trope because, reportedly, if the player loses enough races, missions, etc. the game actually scales down the difficulty somewhat. As a result, if you (intentionally or not) lose enough races, but still at least complete the races - as opposed to restarting a race every time you wipe out and the enemy AI gets an insurmountable lead - the game is, in theory, supposed to actually become easier.
  • Old Save Bonus: If the player has a save file from Smuggler's Run on the PS2's memory card, the Baja Buggy becomes playable in the first game in the series. (Obviously only applies to the games produced for PS2, as opposed to LA which is for PS3.)
  • Optional Traffic Laws: Usually, but if you break the road laws with the cops nearby, they'll go into Hot Pursuit. Midnight Club II and III only had cops present during races.
  • Permanently Missable Content: The Audi R8. It was originally obtainable via Rockstar's Social Club website until May 31th, 2014. Since then, it's currently impossible to obtain the said car without hacking/modifying the save file. Meanwhile in the PSP version LA Remix, it's given for free after beating Booke in the LA career mode (which is also a very sore spot for the PlayStation 3 /Xbox 360 owners, however).
  • Pimped-Out Car: A key feature of the games. 3 and LA even have prize cars that had been pre-pimped by DUB Magazine.
  • Product Placement: A odd example for the second game. The cars may be fake, but all of them except for your starter have a part or set of parts from actual companies (eg. Enkei wheels for the Supra lookalikes). Played straight in 3 and LA including cars, parts and billboards, as well as a number of recognizable stores such as 7-Eleven and Best Buy dotting the streets.
  • Rice Burner: Present to some extent the first two games, but the series takes numerous levels in Rice Burnerness with DUB Edition. Body kits, near-opaque window tint, spinners and super-bright neon (the latter three even on exotics) are standard on AI cars (and player cars depending on the person.)
    • Toned down in Los Angeles in which the body kits and spoilers are actually designed with each individual car in mind and the AI mod their cars more tastefully. However, the player can still invoke this trope if they want to.
  • RPG Elements: The Abilities in 3 and LA level up with use. LA also includes XP (AKA "Rep") that unlocks cars and parts at higher levels.
  • Ruritania: Karol has a vaguely Eastern-European sounding accent and his statements on his origin imply he comes from some post-communist country.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title of this series is a reference to the Japanese street racing team Mid Night Club. In the late 90's, they were infamous for their high-speed runs down the Bayshore Route on Tokyo's Shuto Expressway, which is why the "Wangan" (Bayshore) kanji is also included in the title, although it is also a shout-out to Wangan Midnight, as the "midnight" portion of the logo is stylized similarly. Curiously the few Japanese releases of the Midnight Club games (the first game and both Los Angeles and LA Remix) omit the kanji from the logo, presumably to avoid potential rights issues with Wangan Midnight rights owners Kodansha.
    • On the related topic of Wangan Midnight, one of the available aero-kits for the Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 beginning from Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 is nearly identical to one of the aero-kits for the same car in Los Angeles.
    • The first game starts with the player character driving a taxi, which is a joke reference to Luc Besson's Taxi series.
  • Spoiled Brat:
    • Angel in II. He is a rich, entitled son of a Hollywood producer, and he isn't used to not getting his way. He calls himself a "human masterpiece" in one of his cutscenes.
    • Shing (also from II) is pretty loaded, and he claims to own ten other cars. He is so egotistical that he makes you complete a time trial and beat his friend Ichiro before you have the "privilege" of racing him. He proves to be a Sore Loser when you win.
  • Straw Feminist: Haley in II leads an all-female gang and makes disparaging remarks about men in general.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Most of the items listed under Nintendo Hard could be said to apply under this trope too. LA adds a few more examples, such as anytime you need a specific grade of vehicle in order to race, the vehicles driven by the AI always seem to be superior, faster, and are completely tricked out, whereas, especially with some C- and B-class races, the player is forced to make do with a the equivalent of a golf cart and hope the AI makes an error, wipes out, or is delayed by traffic (all of which, despite claims to the contrary can and does occur).
    • Angel and Ricky actually cheat and give themselves head starts in the second game.
    • In Midnight Club 3, the AI racers will almost always be driving superior vehicles to yours. Have you just gotten the ability to fully upgrade your underwhelming D-class car? The AI will already be driving B-class cars.
      • This is particularly glaring in the Remix version's Ginza tournament in Tokyo, which restricts you to using a D-class vehicle. 9 times out of 10 the AI will NOT be in a D-class car.
      • Speaking of the AI, on some circumstances, they can take you down and make you crash into another obstacle or a wall for no given reason.
  • The Juggernaut: Aggro, available for luxury cars and SUVs in 3 and LA, allows the player vehicle to ram vehicles aside without suffering any damage or loss of speed.
  • The Tease: Jewel in II spends both her races flirting with the player character. After you beat her races, she immediately stops flirting with you and hands over her car.
  • Updated Re-release: Remix editions of 3 and LA, as well as LA: Complete Edition.
    • L.A. Remix reuses the maps of Los Angeles and Tokyo from 2 instead of the larger Los Angeles map used in the home console versions, essentially becoming an entirely different game.
      • Averted by LA: Complete Edition, which includes both the original, downloadable and the Remix contents for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
  • Vanity Licence Plate: Possible to give yourself one of these in 3 and LA. 3 truly does take it up to eleven; you can place any 2005-era licence plate from all fifty states on your car, and for California, Georgia and Michigan you can select a range of historical plates as well.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Many of the opponent racers in Midnight Club 2 will question you and become angry with you if you run over pedestrians.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Started this for Racing Games; the first game was a PS2 launch title. Part of the fun for players was being able to use "joyride" in the first game, allowing two players to fart around New York or London however they pleased.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Ricky in II. While he does not actually hit her, he cheats Gina, steals her car, and almost gets her killed by the Yakuza.