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Video Game / Need for Speed

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You know enough to know the way
Six billion people, just one name
Stand out on the edge of the Earth
Thirty Seconds to Mars, "Edge of the Earth", as played on the title screen of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)

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. As a result, it has seen many changes and at least four reboots.

It started out in 1994 with The Need for Speed, initially with a focus on allowing players to drive the most exotic supercars in a variety of fantastic environments for their time, with games developed mostly by EA Canada for the PlayStation 1 versions and EA Seattle for PCs and non-PlayStation consoles. However, after seeing the success of the film The Fast and the Furious in 2001, EA decided to move the series to tuner car racing in urban environments, starting with Need for Speed: Underground (2003), which was a commercial hit 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) and Need for Speed: Carbon (2006).

However, the success was short-lived as after the critical and commercial disappointments of Need for Speed: ProStreet (2007) and Need for Speed: 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 Need for Speed: 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 (the main developer from Underground to Undercover) tried and failed to take back the franchise with free-to-play MMO Need for Speed: World (2010–2015)note  and cinematic racer Need for Speed: The Run (2011). After a renaming to Quicklime Games in 2012, they were later shut down 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) create 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.

Ghost Games took two years to develop the next title, a complete reboot of the series titled just Need for Speed (commonly known for the sake of clarity as Need for Speed 2015), released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in November 2015, with a Windows version released in March 2016. The subtitle-free installment returned to the tuner culture aspects of the Need for Speed: Underground sub-series. In addition to the 2015 reboot, an original mobile installment called Need for Speed: No Limits, developed by Firemonkeys Studios,note  was released around the world on September 30, 2015, after an initial beta release in Taiwan and the Netherlands earlier in the year.

The subsequent game was Need for Speed Payback, released in 2017. Like the 2015 reboot, it features cops, car customization, and an open world. It's also not an always-online game like Rivals, No Limits, and the 2015 reboot were. Payback is set in Nevada, with a Las Vegas setting as well as the surrounding desert.

The latest major entry is Need for Speed Heat, released on November 8, 2019. Set in the Miami-inspired Palm City, you'll build your way through racing's elite: participating in the Speedhunters Showdown by day, and risking it all for reputation at night, all the while dealing with the city's rogue police. Although it received a better reception than Ghost Games' previous two titles, it was not enough to save the developer's reputation; in February 2020, EA announced that the Need for Speed IP will go back to Criterion, while Ghost Games will be renamed back to their original name EA Gothenburg and become a support studio focusing on the Frostbite Engine. Criterion's first project in their return was a remastered version of their Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit co-developed with Stellar Entertainment (who helped with the 2018 remaster of Burnout Paradise) in time for the game's tenth anniversary, released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows on November 6, 2020, and Nintendo Switch a week later on November 13. On March 1, 2021, EA announced that the next Need for Speed game has been delayed to 2022 so that Criterion can assist DICE with their next Battlefield game.

One consistent feature found in a majority of the franchise's games throughout the years is 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). Even the series' reboot, which is based on the originally police-free Underground games, has cop chases. Need for Speed II, Underground, Underground 2, Underground Rivals, ProStreet, Shift and Shift 2 are the only games in the series to not feature police at all. The player also has the opportunity to play as the police in Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (PC version only), High Stakes, Hot Pursuit 2, Most Wanted 5-1-0, Undercover,note  Nitro-X, Hot Pursuit (2010), Rivals, No Limitsnote  and in the multiplayer modes of Porsche Unleashed (PlayStation version only), Carbon, Nitro, and The Run (3DS and Wii versions only).

    Titles in chronological order 

Note: The era organization for these games was based on Wikipedia's once-used organization of the Need for Speed titles in the series' navbox template. They were based on the most common or significant aspects of installments in the particular eras.

First era / Classic era (1994-2002)
Series logo in all games in this era except for the first one.

The classic days of exotics and cops.

The games in the franchise's earliest era are simply racing exotic cars in scenic locations, with the added element of police car chases (which is what the series is best known for) in most installments. EA Canada and EA Seattle made most of the games in this era, though EA Black Box made the last classic NFS game before they overhauled the series' identity. The Need for Speed logo for this era used a big, thick, metallic typeface. This era's games were later re-released together in a 2003 PC-only compilation package called The Need for Speed Collection, save for the first game of course.

  • Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed (1994): The first game contained point-to-point open road tracks and several closed racetracks. The open roads featured AI traffic and police cars that chased the player. It was originally released on the 3DO console, but when the 3DO flopped it was later ported to DOS PC in 1995 and the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in 1996. The PC version of the game, Need for Speed SE (the "SE" meaning Special Edition), added a few new cars and tracks as well. Developed by Pioneer Productions on the 3DO, DOS, and Saturn versions and by EA Canada on the PS1, the latter of whom would develop all of the ensuing games until the Motor City Online spinoff.
    • Nissan Presents Over Drivin' GT-R (1996) and Over Drivin' Skyline Memorial (1997): A Japan-only release for Sega Saturn and PlayStation respectively that was really The Need for Speed with only Nissan vehicles.
  • Need for Speed II (1997): Released for PlayStation and Microsoft Windows, II expanded on the car selection of the original with several contemporary concept cars, like the Ford Indigo and Ford GT90. The McLaren F1, then the world's fastest production car and still the fastest naturally-aspirated car, made its first franchise appearance in this game. The game abandoned open road courses for arcade circuits. PC Gamer criticized many of the tracks' extravagant and unrealistic scenery, comparing many of them to being akin to driving on magic mushrooms. NFS II also had a special edition release for the PC, which added seven new cars, a new track, a "wild" driving style, and 3Dfx Glide support. The PC version was also the first NFS developed by then-second series developer EA Seattle, which started a trend of EA Canada developing the PS1 versions and EA Seattle doing the PC versions.
  • Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit (1998): Released for PlayStation and Windows again, III reintroduced the police chases from the first game and improved the AI system, thus making the exotic car street racing more of a Blood Sport compared to previous two titles, with each racer having different driving habits. The PC version provided the option to play as the police and catch speeders, while PS1 had unique secret tracks that could only be unlocked using cheat codes. Both versions, however, add in the option for players to fine-tune their cars' performance and repaint their cars to unique colors. Also, the PC version was the first NFS that was easily modded with add-on cars, as well as the first to have official Downloadable Content. You can still download them from EA's servers to this day! One of the highlights of the series, according to older fans and critics of the time. The Lamborghini Diablo SVnote  made its franchise (and arguably video game) debut in this game.
  • Need for Speed: High Stakes/Road Challenge (1999): Released for PlayStation and Windows yet again, High Stakes was similar to III: Hot Pursuit, but with a career mode. This game's name referred to sudden death races where the winner wins the loser's car. This game is the first in the series to have damage models that affected the vehicles' appearance and performance. It was even the first NFS game to have visual modifications (before Underground made them popular). The PC version is basically a Mission-Pack Sequel to Hot Pursuit, because it also included all nine tracks from the previous game, while the PlayStation version didn't have those tracks. Road Challenge was the name of High Stakes in Europe and Brazil.
  • Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed/Porsche 2000/Porsche (2000): Consisted purely of Porsche road cars, from 1948 to 2000. Featured more realistic physics than previous games. Another shining moment from the series. The PC version is notable for being the last game in the series developed by EA Canada. Eden Studios made the PlayStation version (with this game being the last NFS on a fifth-generation platform), which has several differences compared to the PC version, especially tracksnote . The PC version also expanded the visual customization from High Stakes, such as individually changing the bumpers and other parts. Porsche Unleashed was titled Porsche 2000 in Europe and simply Porsche in Germany and Latin America. Limited promotional demo versions of the game were released in collaboration with Texaco in North America. Bizarrely enough, these demos came with die-cast NASCAR and IndyCar models patterned after race cars sponsored by the oil company at the time.
    • Need for Speed: Top Speed (2002): An additional online-only conversion of Porsche Unleashed that was released in response to both the release of an IMAX film called Top Speed and the Porsche Cayenne. It features three existing tracks from Porsche Unleashed and three Porsche vehicles: the 911 (996) Turbo, the 959 and the Cayenne Turbo. Access to this game was bundled with the PC version of Hot Pursuit 2.
    • Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed (Game Boy Advance, 2004): A portable version released four years after the original game, developed by Pocketeers, but not published by EA.note  Surprisingly for a third-party GBA game, it's 3D-rendered. Received much more mixed reviews than the originals, though only a few critics reviewed it.
  • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (2002): The sequel to the original Hot Pursuit, but with more and bigger tracks, more cars, and more race types. Hot Pursuit 2 was the last game in the series to focus on exotic cars for nearly a decade, and also the last game to have them, until 2005 Most Wanted. Also, until a 2010 content download for Shift (see Cool Car on the main Video Game page) and later on Rivals, it was the last game in the series to have cars from Ferrari. Most of the other games up to this point, except for MCO and Porsche Unleashed, had at least one Ferrari. The PlayStation 2 version was also the first NFS game by EA Black Box, who would become the new main Need for Speed developer for the next several years, while all the other platforms' combined version was the last NFS game by EA Seattle. It should also be mentioned that Black Box's Hot Pursuit 2 for PS2 is a Reformulated Game very different from EA Seattle's Hot Pursuit 2. This game was also the first sixth-generation NFS game, and the only classic NFS game released on sixth-gen platforms.

Second era / Tuner era / The Black Box era (2003-2008)
Series logo that was used for all games in this era except Undercover.

Tuner culture takes over and racing goes open world.

With EA Black Box taking control, the franchise focused more on the tuner car culture with a heavy focus on illegal street racing (save for ProStreet, which had organized race events), aftermarket customization, and cheesy storylines to boot. Police chases and exotic cars would not return until 2005's Most Wanted. Games in this era can be identified by the sleeker logo with the elongated tail in the letter S for Speed, except for Undercover which brought in a new typeface that's been continuously used since,note  as well a speedometer-styled "N" logo (which has seen varying degrees of usage and prominence since its introduction). In some regards, this era is what arcade racing game fans think of when NFS is mentioned, but some classic fans beg to differ. The first three games were also re-released in a Collector's Series bundle in 2006 for PlayStation 2 and Windows.

  • Need for Speed: Underground (2003): Changed the format of the series from exotic cars on open road tracks to street racing with tuner cars. It introduced a storyline, enhanced car customization, drifting events, nitrous oxide systems, and (ignoring MCO) drag races. The game takes place in a fictional city called Olympic City. Underground was released for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, Windows, and Game Boy Advance (thus making this game the first portable NFS game). An arcade machine version of this game was also released in 2005.
  • Need for Speed: Underground 2 (2004): Similar to the original Underground, but with a free-roaming city called Bayview. The game added a few new race modes, such as "Outrun" events in free roam where players have to beat another driver on the streets using any route they want by one thousand feet (three hundred meters), and "Street X", which were tight, nitrous-free, circuit-style races. Plus, new aftermarket parts including stereos and spinning rims were added to the game. Also for what it's worth, it also introduced muscle cars and SUVs to the vehicle lineup, the latter of which had their own exclusive events in the game. Underground 2 was released for the same platforms as the previous game, along with a mobile phone version. A Nintendo DS version was released in 2005 with the ability to create custom decals using the system's touch screen.
    • Need for Speed: Underground Rivals (2005): A version of Underground 2 for PlayStation Portable that's closer to the first Underground as it lacks an open world. Features exclusive cars within its vehicle lineup as well as additional songs on the soundtrack.
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005): Similar to Underground 2, featuring muscle cars and exotics in addition to tuner cars while focusing on the re-introduced staple of the series: the police chases. Due to being thematically a lot less flashy than the Underground games, the visual customization for the cars is limited, dropping the purely visual options like the neon lights. The iconic blue-and-silver BMW M3 GTR (E46) debuted in this game. The locale in this game is named Rockport, where the player tries to become #1 on the "Blacklist", the fifteen best racers in the city. Also released on the same platforms as Underground 2, the well-received game was also one of the Xbox 360's launch titles, which made it an early Killer App for the platform. The PlayStation 3 would later get the PS2 version of this game on the PlayStation Store in May 2012. To this day, several NFS fans point to this game as the series' highest point.
    • Need for Speed: Most Wanted 5-1-0 (2005): A version made for PSP that also lacks an open world as well as a plot. Contains a mode called Tuner Takedown that allowed players to play as a police officer for one of the few times in this era.
  • Need for Speed: Carbon (2006): A more story-driven street racing game, with the player recruiting drivers to their "crew". The highlight feature was the tōge-inspired canyon races, which wound down narrow, twisting mountain roads, and the greatest danger was often driving off a cliff. Aftermarket customization also returned in full force with the "Autosculpt" feature, which allowed a greater degree of part customization. Takes place in a city called Palmont City. Carbon was released on all the same platforms as its predecessor, and was also the first Need for Speed game on PlayStation 3 and Wii, but the last on GameCube and the original Xbox. Interestingly, it's also the only game in series released on Mac (specifically OS X).
    • Need for Speed: Carbon – Own the City (2006): A portable Reformulated Game made for the PSP, Nintendo DS, and Game Boy Advance that takes place in a different locale called Coast City (which is really just Most Wanted's Rockport without the Camden Beach district and a few other changes) with a different storyline compared to the main game above. It is the only portable NFS game to have free-roam, albeit only on the PSP version, and was also the final GBA NFS game.
  • Need for Speed: ProStreet (2007): Themed around organized race days with no illegal street racing. Switching to a more realistic handling model akin to the Gran Turismo or Forza series, it features real-life locations and racetracks, some of them used in NASCAR events. The customization features from Carbon were revamped to their full potential at that time, especially the Autosculpt feature. It was so widely criticized for many of those feature changes that even EA admitted that this one was "not good" invoked. ProStreet was released on all the same platforms as the Carbon games except for the GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance and Mac.
    • Need for Speed: ProStreet (PSP, 2007): A version of ProStreet for PSP. While near identical in car and track listings, this version throws out the plot-based career modenote  and replaces it with a more-generic career mode, which wouldn't happen till the console versions of Shift. Adds in a few exclusive races modes but deletes Drag and Drift modes entirely.
  • Need for Speed: Undercover (2008): Returned to the Most Wanted model of focusing on illegal street racing, with a The Fast and the Furious-style storyline. The game takes place in a large locale called the Tri-City Bay. It was trashed by critics for its bad frame rate, its cheesy storyline, and for being not as good as Rockstar Games' Midnight Club: Los Angeles and EA's other arcade-style racing game from 2008, Burnout Paradise. Pretty much sullied EA Black Box's reputation with the series. Undercover was released on the same platforms as ProStreet and it's the first NFS game on iOS, but it's also the last NFS title on PS2 and sixth-gen consoles in general.
    • Need for Speed: Undercover (PS2/Wii, 2008): Talking of the PS2 version, both it and the Wii version were developed by a British studio known as Exient Entertainment. While the story and car lineup are mostly accurate to the Black Box-developed versions of the game, the map is entirely different — and by that we mean it's a re-arranged version of Rockport with certain routes altered or omitted haphazardly. This version was received even worse than its seventh-gen counterpart, as on top of the recycling of Most Wanted and Carbon's assets, this version was a glaringly Obvious Beta with a multitude of its own issues, particularly in police chases and story missions. A new mode (similar to Hot Pursuit titles) was included to allow the player driving the cop cars trying to stop the suspects.

Third era / Multiple developer era / Autolog 1.0 era (2009-2011)
Series logo used from the previous era's Undercover to the 2014 film (barring Rivals).

Racing gets a social identity crisis.

After the failures that were ProStreet and Undercover, EA put Black Box on the sidelines and brought in several developers to make games for the series. The series lost a consistent identity during this era, save for a new speedometer-inspired franchise logo and typeface that Undercover introduced and the debut of the Autolog networking system in 2010's Hot Pursuit. Two differently-styled NFS games were released each year in this short time period, but a few of this era's games (namely the Shift sub-series and Hot Pursuit) did help return the franchise to critical acclaim. However, as the series' YMMV page will explain, the fanbase became pretty fractured during these years.

  • Need for Speed: Shift (2009): Shift was a second crack at realistic racing, this time from Slightly Mad Studios (an independent development team composed of people who worked on GTR, GTR2, and GT Legends, a trio of well-received PC sim racers), with help from EA Black Box. Released on Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, and several mobile platforms (including iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and MeeGo), Shift was much better received than Undercover. A Xbox 360-exclusive DLC pack marked Ferrari's only appearance in any of the second and third era games until the make's full return in 2013's Rivals.
    • Need for Speed: Shift (PSP, 2009): The PSP version developed by EA Bright Light, it includes a story mode recycled from the console versions of ProStreet and brought back some old characters along with new ones, in an Alternate Universe. The gameplay is more arcade-like compared to the console and PC versions.
  • Need for Speed: Nitro (2009): An arcade-like racer for the Wii and DS, with highly-stylized cartoonish graphics. The Wii version was developed by EA Montreal while the DS version was made by Firebrand Games. This game takes place in five exotic real-world cities: Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Madrid, Singapore, and Dubai, with each city having a top racer and three tiers of cars. The DS version of the game also includes San Diego, but lacks top racers.
    • Need for Speed: Nitro-X (2010): A DSiWare-exclusive Updated Re-release of the original DS game. It makes police cars available for players to use.
  • Need for Speed: World (2010-2015): Another attempt by EA at a racing MMO, this NFS computer game was free-to-play, featuring microtransactions for the "premium" version of in-game currency. It featured the cities of Most Wanted 2005 and Carbon (Rockport and Palmont, which may have been also connected to the Tri-City Bay from Undercover via a toll road that was never expanded upon) in a persistent MMO environment, not unlike Test Drive Unlimited. Developed by EA Black Box (later rebranded as Quicklime Games) and EA Singapore, it received middle-of-the-road reviews. Players started off with $35,000 to buy a starter car and begin racing against other players and the game's AI. Borrowing from the leveling mechanics found in Hot Pursuit 2010, players earned money and reputation for winning, which was used to buy upgrades in the form of aftermarket parts to adjust their stats. As players leveled up, they unlocked new tiers of cars and events you can participate in. Other features included Pursuit Outrun, where players tried to outrun the local police, Team Escape, where players and their teams had to beat the clock to avoid getting arrested, and Drag, based off the classic Underground/Most Wanted 2005 Drag events. After Quicklime Games' demise in 2013, EAsy Studios took over, but very few major developments were made to the game since. A group in EA Canada supposedly gained control of World from EAsy Studios, but EA later shut the game down on July 14, 2015 along with Battlefield Heroes, Battlefield Play4Free, and FIFA World. In 2017, the fans have resurrected the game through a slew of unofficial, fan-supported servers under the name of Soapbox Race World.
  • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010): The first game in the series developed by Criterion Games, the EA studio behind the Burnout franchise, is a Spiritual Successor to Hot Pursuit 2 and features some online-focused "race and chase" gameplay, either through multiplayer or the then-new "Autolog" system that continuously compares your best times to those of your friends and challenges you to beat your friends' times. It takes place in a not-exactly-open-world environmentnote  called Seacrest County. Released on Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, and several mobile platforms (including webOS, Java ME, and of course the big three mobile OSes: iOS, Android, and Windows Phone), this installment is often heralded by critics as the series' highest point.
    • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (Wii, 2010): The Wii version of the game, developed by Exient Entertainment (who previously developed the Wii and PS2 versions of Undercover), is a Reformulated Game wildly different from the Criterion-developed versions. It takes place in four different real-world locations and plays more like Nitro than the HD versions, but without most of the cartoon stylizations of Nitro. This version was mostly panned by the few critics who played it.
    • Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered (2020): Criterion's first project since they got the NFS license back in 2020 is a remaster of their first NFS game, the first-ever remaster of any title in the franchise. Much like with 2018's Burnout Paradise Remastered, this is primarily handled by Stellar Entertainment. It features cross-platform multiplayer, contains all the main DLC from the original PS3 and Xbox 360 versions,note  an updated photo mode, the new ability to set custom colors for most Racer cars and a wrap editor that was released in a later update, several graphical and quality of life improvements, and the glorious return of Autolog after having been shafted into the background for years. It runs at 1080p at 30 frames per second on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch docked, 720p at 30 fps on the Switch undocked, either 1080p at 60 fps in "performance mode" or 4K at 30 fps in "fidelity mode" on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, and up to 4K at 60 fpsnote  on Microsoft Windows. The February 2020 update that added the wrap editor increased the performance of the ninth gen console versions to a full 4K at 60 fps, with the PS4 Pro/Xbox One X versions can now go "uncapped" to 4K at 50+ fps.
  • Shift 2: Unleashed (2011): After the success of Need for Speed: Shift, it's not too surprising to learn that EA gave Slightly Mad Studios another go-around and green-lit Shift 2, this time without input from Black Box. Unusual lack of the series' name in the title aside (although fans still call it Need for Speed: Shift 2 – Unleashed in reference to that logo), the handling model is massively improved from the first Shift. Shift 2 was released on Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, and iOS.
  • Need for Speed: The Run (2011): Featuring The Cannonball Run-style coast-to-coast Epic Race across the United States with a heavy emphasis on story, cinematic action, and incredible graphics from the Frostbite 2 engine. The plot is kind of an Excuse Plot, but just know that it's about a man named Jack Rourke (Sean Faris) who gets some advice from his friend Sam Harper (Christina Hendricks) about a 3,000-mile race across the United States that he can use to win $25 million, enough to pay back a crime syndicate he had a bad run-in with. It was meant to be EA Black Box's redemption after losing control over the series post-Undercover, but with less than stellar reviews, it was not the case. The studio, which became Quicklime Games in 2012, was shut down in April 2013. It was released on Windows, PS3, and Xbox 360. A mobile version was made for Java ME and iOS, but the latter version was canceled before release.
    • Need for Speed: The Run (Nintendo 3DS and Wii, 2011): Interestingly, a version made for Nintendo platforms was also released, developed by Nitro DS makers Firebrand Games. It has an even bigger excuse for a plot than the other versions; in this one a down-on-his-luck stock car driver named Matt is led across the US by a mystery woman. More interestingly, the 3DS version has online capabilities, including Autolog with StreetPass support. The Wii version doesn't have online features, but it does have local multiplayer. Regardless, these versions are similar to Hot Pursuit 2010 in terms of gameplay.

Fourth era / Autolog 2.0 era (2012-2014)
Series logo that was used only for Rivals; Most Wanted 2012 and the 2014 film used the Undercover-introduced logo.

Development moves to Europe, social racing 2.0, and speeding on the silver screen.

It was clear from The Run that EA Black Box would not be taking back control of Need for Speed, and EA shifted development of the games to developers in Europe. With Autolog 2.0 by its side, the franchise seemed to have returned to its roots; racing mostly exotic cars in scenic locations with the franchise's famed police car chases. However, the two games in this very short era, a reinterpreted Most Wanted by Criterion Games and Hot Pursuit 2010 Spiritual Successor Rivals by new series developer Ghost Games, received a massive fandom backlash (mainly from those who preferred the second era's tuner-styled games). In addition, a film was released in 2014 as the only totally new Need for Speed-related thing that year (its twentieth anniversary no less), as EA and Ghost Games decided to reevaluate how they were going to handle NFS in the future.

  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted – A Criterion Game (2012):note  Criterion's second game in the series, a reboot of 2005's Most Wanted. This reboot is much less like a sequel to the 2005 original and more like a sequel to Burnout Paradise, but with cops, real licensed cars, a pseudo-realistic handling model, and the Autolog system. Takes place in a locale called Fairhaven City, differing from the first Most Wanted's Rockport. It also marked the beginning of a new era for the series, as then-Criterion vice president Alex Ward has stated in an interview, "It's not going to be spread anymore across different companies. Different studios have had a crack at it - it's definitely a Criterion gig now." As the following year's Rivals proved, however, Criterion would not hold onto the NFS franchise. It was released for Windows, PlayStation 3, Play Station Vita, and Xbox 360. The PS Vita received a few exclusive events for that version to make up for some necessary graphical drawbacks (though it never got any of the later DLC packs), the Xbox 360 (the only console other than PC to receive natively-developed versions of both Most Wanted games) received Kinect voice support in single-player, the PS3 had PlayStation Move support, and the PC version had 60 FPS support, the overall best graphics, and one other benefit mentioned below.
    • Need for Speed: Most Wanted (iOS and Android, 2012): Developed by Firemonkeys Studios, a company formed from a merger between Firemintnote  and IronMonkey Studios,note  it is a version of Most Wanted 2012 for iOS and Android that, unlike the main versions, takes place in closed circuits around Fairhaven. It includes a few cars not found in the Criterion game, including the Audi R8 GT Coupe, the Hummer H1 Alpha, and even (initially before the release of NFS Heroes on the main versions) the BMW M3 GTR (E46) from Most Wanted 2005 as the #1 Most Wanted car.note 
    • Need for Speed: Most Wanted U (2013): The Wii U version of the game, which is graphically superior to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions and contains a unique feature called Co-Driver, which allows a second player to join in using the Wii U GamePad to change many things in Fairhaven and enable dual controls, in case the person using the Wii Remote or Wii U Pro Controller is having trouble. The Ultimate Speed Pack is included in the game as standard and there are Nintendo-related Easter Eggs to be found. However, none of the later DLCnote  were released for Most Wanted U and there is only a six-player limit in multiplayer compared to eight in the other console versions and twelve on the PC version. The release of this version of Most Wanted 2012 makes this game the first NFS game on any of the eighth-generation consoles.
  • Need for Speed Rivals (2013): It is a Spiritual Successor to Hot Pursuit 2010 with elements of Most Wanted 2012 blended in while integrating single-player and multiplayer together, meaning you can play as a cop and stop other players' street races while co-operating with other cop players for example. Ferrari returns to the series once more since the content pack from Shift after four years. It is Ghost Games's first title, having developed it with assistance from Criterion Games and EA Vancouver. Rivals was a launch title for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and is one of the few games that run natively in 1080p at 30 frames per second on both consoles, although it was also released for Windows (as per the norm), PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, with Kinect voice support again on the Xbox platforms. The game also had a web-based companion app called the Need for Speed Network, where racers and cops can track their progress, their Autolog records between them and their friends, and best of all, help or screw other drivers using OverWatch. With this game, Need for Speed made yet another developer shift, and Ghost Games became the new developers for the franchise. The Xbox One version of the game is available in EA Access's Vault, while the PC version is available on the equivalent Origin Access.
    • Need for Speed Rivals: Complete Edition (2014): A re-release of the game with all its DLC packs packed-in: Ferrari Edition Special Complete Pack, Simply Jaguar Complete Pack, Concept Lamborghini Complete Pack, the Koenigsegg One:1 (which was released for free in the standard version), Complete Movie Pack, and the Loaded Garage Pack.note  This is really to make up for the lack of a new NFS title in 2014.
  • Need for Speed (2014 film): A film adaptation of the franchise directed by Scott Waugh (of Act of Valor fame) and starring Aaron Paul (of Breaking Bad fame) that was released in March 2014. Got mostly bad reviews from critics and didn't do great in the North American box office, but did well internationally.

Fifth era / Ghost Games (and No Limits) era (2015-2019)
Series logo used for Need for Speed: No Limits (until 2021 for that game), the 2015 reboot, and Need for Speed Payback.
Abbreviated NFS logo used for Need for Speed Heat and a 2021 update for No Limits.

Struggling to take back the pole position in The Eighth Generation of Console Video Games.

After seeing the complaints from fans of the Underground games, Most Wanted 2005 and Carbon, EA decided to look back to the games that brought them the franchise's greatest success, combining the most famous aspects of the second era games (the car customization, the fictional open-world environments, and the taking-itself-too-seriously storylines) with the continued use of the Autolog system and the franchise's legendary cop chases. Ghost Games, the main development studio of Rivals, became established as the sole developer of the console installments, and the series now receive full new installments biennially instead of yearly. Firemonkeys remain the series' mobile game developer, now focusing on an original free-to-play installment, No Limits. EA also brought back the Undercover-introduced typeface, but made some small changes; the most noticeable change being the design of the "N" in Need now looking like a capital N and Ghost Games' odd decision to drop the "N" logo. Additionally, the newest installment, Need for Speed Heat, further reduced the logo to just the franchise's famous initials, although this was apparently short-lived. Also, it seems that Ghost Games doesn't like colons, but that's irrelevant.

Unfortunately, the franchise ended up languishing during the eighth console generation; each of Ghost's titles received mixed reception, with particular criticism going to certain installments' major flaws. The 2015 reboot was criticized for its cringeworthy live-action cutscenes and for having an always-online requirement, and Payback was slammed for its luck-based, loot box-style upgrade system that strongly encouraged purchasing microtransactions, although 2017's Star Wars Battlefront II drew far more mainstream heat over it. The stigma lingered to Heat, which was better-received than the previous two entries, but still seen as not reaching the high points of the franchise. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Xbox Game Studios would take the licensed-car arcade-racing game crown from EA during this console generation with Playground Games's Forza Horizon series, which started in 2012 when it went against Criterion's Most Wanted, although during this generation the Horizon sequels were released on even-numbered years while NFS entries ended up releasing during the gaps in odd-numbered years.

  • Need for Speed: No Limits (2015–present): The free-to-play one on smartphones.

    Here, Firemonkeys developed the first-ever original Need for Speed title for mobile platforms (that is, iOS and Android). No Limits began the return to a tuner focus in the franchise again after a little over half a decade of being rejected. Taking place in the city of Blackridge (and in other environments added in later updates), you race in various quick (as in usually less than a minute long) events to become the best driver in Blackridge's underground racing scene. This second free-to-play Need for Speed game was first released in Taiwan and the Netherlands in January and February 2015, then was later internationally released on September 30 later that year. Fun fact: No Limits, along with The Run, was one of many domain names registered under the Need for Speed name by EA back in 2010.
  • Need for Speed (2015): This subtitle-free installment, released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in November 2015, and Windows in March 2016, is a total series reboot that is mostly based on the first four second-era games but contains elements found throughout the entire franchise. This includes extensive vehicle customization (debuted in Underground, although the performance-related aspects of vehicle customization were found in earlier games such as High Stakes and Motor City Online), an open world (Underground 2 started this), police chases (the series' staple, but it did make its open world debut in 2005's Most Wanted), and crew-forming (Carbon had this), all combined with the social gameplay that 2010's Hot Pursuit introduced with Autolog and were expanded on in later entries such the 2012 Most Wanted and Rivals. The city in this game is called Ventura Bay. Oh, and live-action cutscenes are back as well, with actual professional drivers appearing in the game including (as shown left-to-right on the cover) Shinichi Morohoshi (Outlaw Icon), Ken Block (Style Icon), Akira Nakai (Build Icon), Magnus Walker (Speed Icon), and Chicago-based driving crew Risky Devil (Crew Icon, represented by Richard "Fish" Fisher on the cover). The game requires a constant Internet connection, akin to Motor City Online and World, and not differently from the early builds of SimCity (2013), but Ghost provided several free updates through a program they've called the "Living Game" to make up for it.
  • Need for Speed Payback (2017): Ghost's third title takes cues from the feedback received in the 2015 reboot. It is more story-driven (akin to Most Wanted, Undercover and The Run), with the player character and his crew having to take revenge on the House, a drug cartel that dominates Fortune Valley and its casinos, criminals and cops. One of the first things that has been announced for the game was that it could be played offline.
  • Need for Speed Heat (2019): Stylized as NFS Heat, Ghost's fourth entry in the franchise marks the series' 25th anniversary and is a continuation of Payback's style, with strong influences from High Stakes, Underground 2, Carbon, and ProStreet or Shift 2: Unleashed in particular. Set in Palm City, an obvious stand-in for Miami, the game provides a mixture of sanctioned races a la ProStreet or Shift 2: Unleashed alongside the street racing that the series is known for. Open-world pursuits make their return, and players can also customize their character's looks for the first time in the series with clothes from licensed brands such as Adidas, Marcelo Burlon and Givenchy. AllDrive and crew forming return from the 2015 reboot, but unlike that game and like Payback, it does not require an online connection to play. The game received a companion app for mobile devices called NFS Heat Studio, which gives players an early taste of car customization and even has the option to export loadouts to the full game.

Sixth era / New Criterion Games era (2020–present)
2020 to 2022 logo; it was never used for any titles.
Logo used since October 2022.
Need for Speed Unbound, the only original entry so far.

An uphill climb ahead for The Ninth Generation of Console Video Games.

On February 12, 2020, EA announced that Ghost Games would be reduced back to an engineering support studio for the entire company and resume using its former name EA Gothenburg, while Criterion would have the Need for Speed license back and resume being a primary developer again. Firemonkeys and No Limits were unaffected by this announcement, so they continue on to this era.

In June 2020, Criterion released the final update to NFS Heat, adding cross-platform play between all platforms it was released for, as they were ready to quickly move on from the mostly-maligned previous era. EA has shown brief glimpses of Criterion's first new entry during their 2020 EA Play Live online event, but they weren't much for fans to work off of. In October 2020, it was announced that a remaster of Criterion's first NFS entry, 2010's Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, would be released for its tenth anniversary. Read more in the third era's folder above for that one. The next Need for Speed title wouldn’t be released until 2022, and eventually Unbound was announced in October that year.

The logo was apparently going to be the same as the fifth era's save for a new font for the word "for", but it was only ever used on the official website. The abbreviated NFS logo from Heat was also kept for a while for the website and No Limits. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered reuses its logo, complete with the lowercase-esque "N" in Need and the "N" logo emblem used from Undercover to Most Wanted (2012). In October 2022, EA introduced a radical new logo that, like with Heat, reduces it to just the initials, but is short, very wide, and invokes retro car logos from The '70s and The '80s.

  • Need for Speed Unbound (2022): The first new entry in the franchise in three yearsnote  and Criterion's first new game in the franchise since Most Wanted 2012, Unbound is a radical departure from past entries, adding an animesque aesthetic (akin to Nitro, mainly for its graphical effects and characters) inspired by works like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Wangan Midnight while still taking place in a realistic-looking world called Lakeshore City, which is based on Chicago and the surrounding areas of the Midwest. American rapper A$AP Rocky appears as a character in the game, and his customized Mercedes-Benz 190E appears as the cover art car

Related games

Online-only titles

  • Motor City Online (2001-2004): An attempt at a driving MMOG, developed in-house by EA, and first game not developed by EA Canada. This game took place in an eponymous fictional city called Motor City, and focused entirely on American cars, particularly muscle cars, from The '30s through The '70s (until the very end, when the Toyota Supra and the Mitsubishi Eclipse were added, presumably to broaden appeal). Despite not having the NFS branding, it was considered to be a NFS game by EA and fans of the series, and was even originally planned as Need for Speed: Motor City. As with Porsche Unleashed, MCO introduces extensive visual customization which allows players to modify body panels with parts from the licensed tuners, that would later be introduced in Underground games. It was largely unsuccessful and was shut down in 2004.
  • Need for Speed: Edge (cancelled):note  A South Korean and Chinese-exclusive MMORG based on Rivals developed by EA Spearhead and published by Nexon. It was first teased by Nexon in a press release on July 1, 2015, and a teaser trailer was published on November 3 the same year. It took place in Redview County (the open world of Rivals) and had players race against each other with power-ups scattered along the routes to improve their cars. The game never saw a full release; an open beta began on December 10, 2017, but in April 2019, Nexon announced that Edge's servers would be shut down and the game would be discontinued. It closed on May 30, 2019.


  • Need for Speed: V-Rally (1997) and Need for Speed: V-Rally II (1999): The American market branding of V-Rally, an unrelated rally racing title made by the French developer Eden Studios and published overseas by Infogrames. V-Rally 3 would be published without the NFS branding in 2002. Eden Studios would also develop the PlayStation version of Porsche Unleashed and the very old-school-NFS-like first two entries in the Test Drive Unlimited series.

Entries in the franchise with their own pages:note 

Classic Era

Black Box Era

Autolog Era

Ghost Games Era

New Criterion Era


"10-85, we need those tropes here now!"

    open/close all folders 

  • 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.
    • The mobile No Limits is also free-to-play, but surprisingly it handles the model much more tastefully (for one thing, you can actually earn its premium currency by completing daily assignments and other events). That said, the "fuel" concept (that is anytime you launch an event, including just restarting it, it costs you a limited resource that only gets replenished in time intervals unless you pay the premium currency) is very much of the "free-to-play" origin. It didn't help that the races are rather short either, making players feel like they've finished the race before even starting it. And lately, the game also pushes mandatory ad breaks (that can only be bought over with real money) often after finishing races.
  • Always Night: Every race in the Underground games was at night, which was justified given the illegal street racing that made them up. Carbon did this as well after its predecessor inverted it. The 2015 reboot also does this.
  • Announcer Chatter:
    • The early games had an announcer that would read aloud the countdown to start the race ("3... 2... 1... GO!"), announce your current position whenever you overtook an opponent, and announce on which position you ended the race.
    • Crewmembers in Carbon often fulfil this role; making a comment about how they and the player will win the race before the start, telling the player when they take first place, commenting if the police arrive mid-race, and finally another comment about the player or themselves winning the race (or even complaining if they lose the race).
    • ProStreet has the race announcer going on and on about Ryan Cooper (the player character) with undiminished enthusiasm from the first to the last race. It went to the point a few people were venting their anger on forums after having to listen to the race commentator chatter on and on.
  • Art Shift: Underground 2 uses still photos retouched to be make to look like the pages of a graphic novel for the cutscenes (a concept that appears to have inspired Carbon - Own the City and the reformulated 3DS/Wii version of The Run for its cutscenes, which are actual comic book-style drawings), while Unbound goes straight by putting cel shaded cartoon characters in a realistic environment (with Nitro having previously used full-blown cartoon style for both its characters and enviroment).
  • 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.
    • It's subtle, but while playing as a Racer in Hot Pursuit gamemodes in... Hot Pursuit, the A.I. police does actually engage the A.I. Racers racing with you. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, if it wasn't for the fact that they could have simply made the Police and Racer A.I. only engage you to save the trouble. They don't hold back either, the Police can be seen and heard ramming, administering EMP strikes, and Spike Striping your fellow Racers all around you. However, that doesn't stop...
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • ...the police chopper in Hot Pursuit (2010) lacking complete navigation skills. 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.
    • The "Kings" in ProStreet are actually a lot worse than the AI driven cars leading up to their levels, Nate Denver and Karol Monroe being the worst offenders.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Somewhat of an example, as prior to the Mazda Miata being drivable in Underground, a Bland-Name Product version of the car could be seen as traffic in earlier games.
    • The Volkswagen Beetle, which was a traffic car in II, becomes a player-usable vehicle in Nitro, and later Payback and Heat, in the latter two actually being able to be turned into an exceptionally fast vehicle after being modded.
    • The black/red Porsche 911 GT2, shown in the Undercover cover art, gets this. In the PS3/Xbox 360/PC versions, it belongs to Rose Largo, one of the GMAC's crew members (thus making the car in the cover art more of The Artifact). In PS2/Wii releases, this was used by Chase Linh, the Big Bad of the game.note 
  • Badass Driver: Par for the course of a Racing Game. Each game has the player character seeking to become the best driver of the setting and/or competition.
  • Battle in the Rain: Certain installments like High Stakes, Underground 2 and Most Wanted (2005) tend to have these at random, either having rain pour during a race, or driving on wet roads. Ghost Games installments in particular love this, having rain in every of the games' weather mechanics (Payback is the exception).
  • Benevolent Architecture: Some of those cities look like racetracks with houses.
  • Big Bad: In any game from EA Black Box and Ghost Games. In order:
    • Underground: Eddie
    • Underground 2: Caleb Reece
    • Most Wanted (2005): Clarence "Razor" Callahan
    • Carbon: Darius
    • ProStreet: Ryo Watanabe (subverted in that Ryo isn't evil or a criminal, just a cocky racer who's worst offense is doubting the abilities of the Player Character, Ryan Cooper)
    • Undercover: Chase Linh
    • The Run: Marcus Blackwell
    • No Limits: Marcus King
    • Payback: Lina Navarro
    • Heat: Lt. Frank Mercer
  • 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. On a lesser scale, in the same game, Uncle Kraker's "Keep It Coming" has its "dare ya punk ass to ask me 'what'?" lyric changed to "dare ya (dare ya) to ask me 'what'?"
    • Underground and Underground 2 feature early 2000s gangsta rap in a family friendly game. This results in jewels such as "LAX" by Xzibit having entire stretches of 10 seconds of lyrics cut or silenced.
  • 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 and 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 was definitely this as well, as a lot of the nicer cars cost SpeedBoost (which was 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.
    • Most Wanted (2005) has the added element of construction equipment and fortified barricades blocking off a certain road which leads to (coincidentally) a literal broken bridge used to escape in the final pursuit.
    • World had 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 have apparently allowed 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.
    • III: Hot Pursuit has a variation of this trope. The first four courses in the game have closed alternate routes that deviate from the main path and, in the PlayStation release at least, the ones with the alternate route as the main course can be unlocked by winning the tournament, albeit with a different weather or time of day.
  • Bullet Time: The Speedbreaker from Most Wanted, Carbon and Undercover. Also counts as Game-Breaker, since it makes your car extremely dense, impossibly responsive, and essentially unstoppable.
  • The Bus Came Back: Generally, cars appear in consecutive games (or at least most of them) in the series until its company produces a successor, then it's phased out. There were some exceptions, however:
    • The Mazda RX-7 (FD3S) and the Toyota Supra appeared in 1994's The Need for Speed, then disappeared from the series until Underground, although the Supra appeared in the online Motor City Online.
    • The Acura NSX, also appearing in The Need for Speed, had it worse. It didn't return to the series until 2007's Need for Speed: ProStreet. And just to rub salt into the wound, while the Supra and RX-7 became mainstays of the franchise, the NSX was put on another bus after 2011's Shift 2: Unleashed, where it remained until the second-generation NSX returned in 2017's Need For Speed: Payback.note 
    • Similarly, the McLaren F1 appeared first in Need for Speed II and missed two games (not counting the Porsche-exclusive Porsche Unleashed) until Hot Pursuit 2, then missed the Underground games, Most Wanted (2005) and Carbon, and only returned as a DLC car in ProStreet. It would fully return in the base game in Undercover.
      • Alternately, one of its limited edition models, the F1 LM, first appeared in Hot Pursuit 2 (alongside the standard model), then reappeared in Most Wanted (2012) as part of the Ultimate Speed DLC Pack and again in Rivals as a Redview County Police Department unit. In between II and Hot Pursuit 2, its racing version, the F1 GTR (in its "Long Tail" and "Short Tail" variants) appeared in High Stakes.
    • The Lamborghini Diablo SV (which first appeared in Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit) followed a similar pattern to the aforementioned F1, but it returned much later, in DLC packs for Hot Pursuit (2010), The Run, and Most Wanted (2012). It wasn't included in the base game again until the 2015 reboot.
    • Ferrari is the biggest example, due to licensing issues — after appearing in all but Porsche Unleashed in the First Era, it missed the entire Second Era, returned as a console-exclusive DLC pack in Shift, then returned full force in Rivals.
  • 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). They have been reused by Ghost Games for all subsequent titles beginning from the Showcase Update of the 2015 reboot.
    • 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, as well as the Ghost Games entries.
    • A No Limits special event has you racing a blue-and-silver BMWnote  to go against Razor.
    • In the 2015 reboot:
      • An M3 E46 is available to the player in the game, with the Deluxe Edition giving players a modified version of the vehicle that looks like Most Wanted (2005)'s M3 GTR as a free starter car, and it is even represented on the Deluxe Edition cover using that familiar design.
      • The Legends Update brings back Eddie, the Big Bad from Underground, alongside Melissa from the same game (now acting as his Dragon, as well as a series of default wraps based on the characters from previous titles, and even a handful of songs tracing from the very first NFS up to ProStreet.
    • Most of the early first-generation Need for Speed games had call-backs to the first game.
      • The Coastal track of the first game had an area named "The Last Resort". Last Resort is the name of a track featured in II: Special Edition. It even has a colour scheme similar to Coastal's map.
      • The Alpine track similarly had a big lake you cross through called the "Crystal Lake". The same lake constitutes a significant part of III: Hot Pursuit's track Country Woods, and is mentioned in neighboring Hometown.
      • III: Hot Pursuit (and, by extension, High Stakes) had some billboards advertsing certain raceways: Rusty Springs, and Autumn Valley. Both are levels from the first Need for Speed.
    • High Stakes' career mode has a tournament called "Memory Lane". It leads to a big race through all of the tracks from III, and beating the tournament unlocks said tracks for regular play.
  • Cel Shading: The main graphic style in Nitro, the Wii version of Hot Pursuit (2010), and Unbound.
  • Chronically Crashed Car: The BMW M3 GTR is one notable example, despite being one of the series' most iconic vehicles. In both Most Wanted (2005), the game in which it made its main appearance, and Carbon, in which it appears in the prologue by virtue of being an Immediate Sequel of the former, it ends up totalled by the end of each game's initial phase. In Most Wanted (2005) this is Justified in that it's not much crashed as it's revealed that Razor sabotaged the car via unscrewing the oil sump so that it would malfunction while racing against him and thus he would win it, and it appears to be better than ever once you gain it back after beating Razor at the end of the game. In Carbon, however, it gets totaled at the beginning following a chase with Cross, and despite not appearing to suffer any spectacular damage (it crashes sideways against a truck carrying pipes, even though in Most Wanted it would shrug off crashing against trucks carrying logs), it is the last time it's seen in that game. Sure enough, when it manages to make its reappearance at the end of Heat, somehow ending in the hands of the game's final boss Lt. Frank Mercer, the player has to take down the car Hot Pursuit-style via ramming it, and if one's good enough, it only takes a couple of hits before you leave a stranded Mercer desperately trying to start the car again, to no avail.
  • 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 the given game's fastest car running at top speed.
    • Those police SUVs were especially annoying in World; after an update was added to the game to make pursuits in higher Heat Levels tougher, it seemed 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,note  the police AI was a lot dumber, making the very hook of the game much easier than its single player!
    • Exaggerated 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. Also, 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 Car: This franchise lives on this trope.
  • Cowboy Cop:
  • 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.
    • Rockport and Palmont City in Most Wanted (2005) and Carbon respectively, being portrayed as being in shambles due to the street racing.
  • 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.
  • 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 (something similar happened in Underground 2). This is not the case as a cop, and doing so can cause many unnecessary crashes.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The third game in the series, III: Hot Pursuit, is significantly more serious than the OutRun-esque first two games, since it depicts exotic car street racing as a literal Hot Pursuit Blood Sport where exotic car racers were under ambush by the police personnel.
    • Underground 2 to the first Underground is a downplayed example.
    • Most Wanted (2005) is also this to the Underground games.
    • The Run (a man competing in a Cannonball Run-style race to pay off his debt to the mob, who actually interfere in the race at various points to try to kill the player), Rivals (a one-on-one war between a recently-recruited cop with the call sign "F-8" and a rising street racer named "Zephyr" that includes philosophical monologues), and Payback (a man and his crew looking for, well, payback from one of the crew's former members, who betrayed them to join a crime syndicate that looks to make street racing their next business interest) are this to the rest of the series.
    • The first game is this to the rest of the first-era games, surprisingly. For starters, the cop who busts you walks up to you with a loaded shotgun and a Slasher Smile. In the 3DO version, the opposing racer will willingly shout profanities at you if you do something extremely idiotic while racing, and taunts you as having a romantic case with the aforementioned cop if you get ticketed too much, and as if that wasn't enough, he will make Prison Rape jokes if you get arrested. In an unused cutscene, the cop also made one such joke toward you.
      • Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the dark content was removed when the game got ported to the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, MS-DOS and Windows 95, mostly because the main source of the edgy content, the aforementioned opposing racer, got Adapted Out in the non-3DO games. (The cop retained his shotgun, however.) Since then, until Most Wanted, the series became more light-hearted and focused on radical fun for all ages, though the PlayStation port of III: Hot Pursuit returned a bit to dark content: if you forced a cop car to crash violently, you could hear his screams of agony in the radio. This returned as a rare Easter Egg/Call-Back in Hot Pursuit 2,note  and was going to reappear in Most Wanted during its early development stages before it was removed.
  • Death from Above:
    • Hot Pursuit 2 had a helicopter that would rain bombs across the road to blow you and your car to smithereens. The PlayStation 2 port amped this up by allowing the helicopter to dump two bomb barrels at once instead of just one, as well as firing a heat-seeking torpedo toward you, and worst of all, dropping spike strip bombs in front of you. All because you were speeding.
    • Most Wanted (2005) sees the return of the helicopter, now stripped of its weaponry. Instead, in Heat level 4 it merely hovers around close to you causing heavy dust to pick up and block your vision, making it easier for you to crash. In Heat levels 5 and 6, it resorts to directly ramming you to force you to crash or flip over.
    • 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".
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Or rather, Getting Arrested is a Slap on the Wrist.
    • The ultimate goal of the Pursuit races in World was 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 happened to get arrested though, all you suffered was 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.
    • This also seems to be the case in-universe for both III: Hot Pursuit and the 2010 Hot Pursuit where being stopped means a simple speeding ticket and fine. In III: Hot Pursuit's case, you get as many chances as there are laps in a Hot Pursuit Race and the first time being pulled over will have the cop simply urge you to watch your speed or "pretend your accelerator was stuck". In the latter case, it seems completely trashing the carbotanium body of a Zonda Cinque Roadster means that the racer was issued with a ticket judging by the dialogue in SCPD events.
  • Denser and Wackier:
    • Need for Speed II. It starts with an intro video of two cars racing which then turns to light, and in the game itself, the music is more upbeat, most of the cars are Super Prototype, and the tracks are more varied in design, from the racetrack Proving Grounds, the futuristic Outback, to the cross-country Mystic Peaks, to the point that one reviewer call it like "driving on magic mushrooms".
    • Nitro is definitely this, with cartoonish art styles and gameplay to boot.
  • Difficult, but Awesome:
    • Mastering the Bugatti Veyron and its faster version, the Super Sport in any game they appear in definitely qualifies. These cars are very difficult to handle, but, being two of the fastest cars in the world, some skill and a bit of practice can make them almost game-breaking.
    • Same with the El Niño and La Niña in III: Hot Pursuit and High Stakes/Road Challenge 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.
  • 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?
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • In Hot Pursuit 2, one of the female cop's voice samples contains the phrase "he's really moving down there".
    • In the 3DO port of the first game, when you get arrested:
      Opponent: Assume. The. Position! You just earned yourself a spot in county jail!
    • The police from Most Wanted (2005), are all similar to overprotective, Fantasy-Forbidding Fathers, which some people may relate to.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: V-Rally and V-Rally 2 were unrelated games, but were nonetheless sold in North America with the Need for Speed prefix. In fact, they were even sold as a Test Drive game for the Dreamcast market.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop:
    • In the original game, open road tracks disable traffic and cops in multiplayer and tournament modes due to hardware limitations. The manual handwaves this by stating that the cops are all resting in the donut shop.
    • The commercials for Hot Pursuit 2 included a Lamborghini Murciélago or a HSV Coupé GTS parking near a Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser, and the driver and/or passenger doing various taunts to the police officers in the cruiser, including showing their ass to the officers, using graffiti 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.
    • In Most Wanted (2005), there's a donut shop in Rockport, and the police unsurprisingly can be seen hanging out there in some cutscenes, such as the intro for the race against Blacklist #13 Vic. Ironically, the shop's giant donut sign counts as one of the game's Pursuit Breakers, meaning that during a police pursuit the player can knock it down so that it falls over police cars to disable them.
    • One of Undercover's "Busted" cutscenes has the officers deciding that the moment they detained you is just the right time for a snack break, bring over a box of donuts, and one of the officers throws his donut at the player while handcuffed and prone on the floor.
  • The Dreaded: The "Return of Razor" special event for No Limits has the man himself coming into Blackridge to take over the underground scene. The player must work with an officer from the Blackridge Police Department (who's very concerned that Razor's presence will cause the city to descend into chaos should he succeed) to stop him.
  • 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, even when playing as a cop. Of note are the beautiful, treacherous tracks in Hot Pursuit (2010). One of Police Rapid Response event forces you 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. Underground 2 had the added bonus that pretty much everyone in it treats the player as some sort of country bumpkin, for some reason. (Even Rachel, who's ostensibly on your side, somewhat condescently tells you "This is the big city, you know?" at the start of the game.)
    • Played with in Most Wanted (2005). Razor will occasionally call you up to taunt you, but as the game goes on he starts a slow-motion Villainous Breakdown.
    • Averted in ProStreet where, if you perform good enough, the DJs will constantly praise you.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first game was a simulation racer made in collaboration with Road & Track magazine. Starting with the second game, the series switched to arcade-style racing and never looked back (with the exception for ProStreet and the Shift games). As noted above under Darker and Edgier, it also had a lot of very dark content, especially concerning the police chases, that later games did not replicate.
    • Only the first five games had vehicle showrooms with information about the cars, which was dropped later on.note 
    • While Expys of real-life vehicles appearing as part of traffic is a constant across the franchise, the early games featured completely fictional supercars, usually as a bonus car and generally being the fastest car in their given games. These include the Warrior PTO E/2 in The Need for Speed, the FZR 2000 in Need for Speed II, El Niño in III: Hot Pursuit, and La Niña and the Phantom in High Stakes. After the latter game, this was dropped, presumably because by then real-life supercars were already starting to catch up with their top speed.
    • The first arcade game in the series was GT, a renamed version of Hot Pursuit 2. Later arcade games used the exact same names as their home versions.
  • Everybody Owns a Ford:
    • The first game had a bonus edition available only in Japan that only had Nissan vehicles available to be driven.
    • Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed. No points for guessing the only brand of cars you get to drive.
  • 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).
    • Before Underground, Porsche Unleashed actually has one in Factory Driver side mode, which consisted mainly of a plethora of Driving Test and Training Stages to test your skills.
    • 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.
  • 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, Jawad in Nitro, 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, the entire RCPD in the Racer storyline of Rivals, Marcus King in No Limits, the five Icons for each of the career paths in the 2015 reboot - including all of them alongside your allies doubling as a True Final Boss, Lina Navarro in Payback, Frank Mercer in Heat, and Yaz in Unbound.
  • Fragile Speedster:
    • Most exotics and hypercars in Hot Pursuit (2010) are the fastets cars in the game, but are the most susceptible to get totalled.
    • The BMW M3 GTR, the (supposedly) ultimate car in Most Wanted (2005), gets destroyed at the start of Carbon 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).
  • Genre Roulette: This is a car racing game series that somehow keeps reinventing itself all the time. While all of them share the concept of racing cars, the exact circumstances of it change drastically between them.
    • First, it was about racing exotic cars driving in exotic locations (Hot Pursuit 2 and earlier).
    • Then it became about urban tuners driving in urban environments (Underground to Carbon) with open world elements added in (Underground 2 to Carbon) in nighttime illegal street races (except in Most Wanted 2005, which was during the day), with cheesy plots around them.
    • Then it became about organized racing (ProStreet).
    • Then it went back to open world illegal street racing with cheesy plots (Undercover).
    • Then it was back to organized racing again (Shift) and also brought in cartoonish street races (Nitro).
    • Then back to car tuning and illegal street racing in an open world, but this time with a multiplayer focus (World).
    • Then was thrown back to exotic cars in an exotic location (Hot Pursuit 2010).
    • Then back again to organized racing (Shift 2: Unleashed).
    • Then it became 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).
    • Then it went back to an exotic location again, but still maintaining the open world and bringing back the cheesy plots (Rivals).
    • Then it got an original installment on mobile devices (No Limits).
    • Then it returned to nighttime open world illegal street racing once again with live-action cutscenes returning for the first time in years (Need for Speed 2015).
    • Then it opened up to off-road driving for the first time with a loot box mechanic (Payback).
    • Then it dropped the loot boxes and added a switchable day/night mechanic, combining sanctioned races with illegal street races (Heat).
    • And finally, it was retooled again, now that the franchise has switched main developers once more, with an art style mixing realism with cel-shaded anime-styled characters and graffiti effects (Unbound).
  • Hammerspace Police Force: Good god, yes. Do these games' police do anything all day besides pursuing the player??
  • Hero Antagonist:
  • Hood Ornament Hottie: The promotional materials for some of the games would feature said game's resident Ms. Fanservice draped sexily over one of the game's cars. ProStreet took this to the logical extreme, with the boss intro for Nate Denver having Krystal Forscutt sitting on top of the bonnet of Nate's GTO. While moving.
  • Improbably Cool Car:
    • Too many kids seem to be able to get ahold of Lamborghinis. Especially the Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni (250 units produced) and the Sesto Elemento (20 units produced).note 
    • The cops in general in many games have unlikely cop cars. While Most Wanted (2005), Carbon and Hot Pursuit (2010) slightly averts the trope a bit, by having cars that are justifiable (Ford Crown Victoria-ish units as Local level and Pontiac GTOs at State level; the Crown Victoria being one of the mainstay fleet cars of numerous police departments in the United States, and if you consider similar-looking GTOs being in use by the Aussie police forces as an example of proper usage of said car), the other games have cop cars that are either unlikely, would be extremely cost-prohibitive, or not justifiable. The Run is probably the most egregious offender on this; not only it featured the Ford Police Interceptor Concept as the "base" police unit (a car that went into production in late 2012, even though the game was released in 2011), but it also featured the Dodge Charger SRT-8, Nissan GT-R, and even the Lamborghini Gallardo LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni as patrol cars. Add to that that other games in the series having a fleet of hypercars as police units at least have the excuse of taking place in a single city that's usually singled out as having a street racing problem, but The Run is supposed to take place across the entire contiguous United States.
    • Any game featuring the Pagani Zonda Cinque counts as an example of this.note 
    • 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, of which there are only four of them made! Yet, there is a police version with blue carbon fiber.
    • The aforementioned Koenigsegg One:1 from Rivals. It goes as far as to be featured in four different incarnations - one racing and three police variations corresponding with each branch of RCPD (Patrol, Enforcer, Undercover). In real life, only six One:1 hypercars had been made, yet the online mode allows the cop players to assemble entire fleets based exclusively on this car if they so wish. Same also goes for other DLC cars - Jaguar C-X75 Prototype, Lamborghini Miura Concept, etc.
    • Even the "speedster" type of vehicles (with no windshield and roof to speak of!) gets more ridiculous. In 2010 version of Hot Pursuit, racers can drive Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Stirling Moss Edition (of which only 75 units exist). Most Wanted (2012), however, brings one-of-a-kind Lamborghini Aventador J to the table as part of game's Ultimate Speed DLC pack.
    • Need for Speed II was even worse, featuring Ford GT90s, Indigos, Mustang Mach IIIs, Italdesign (BMW) Nazca C2s 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 PlayStation version had the aforementioned Nazca C2). You could also have the just as rare Spectre R42 and the Lister Storm as official car add-ons.
    • Carbon, ProStreet and Undercover all feature the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro concepts, due to the 3rd and 5th respective generation production versions of these iconic American muscle cars arriving later. ProStreet in particular has a Nissan GT-R Proto (a pre-production Super Prototype) available alongside a production model Nissan GT-R (R35).
    • The iconic BMW M3 GTR is an interesting case. Protagonists of different Need for Speed games tend to drive the version of the car which is specifically made to compete in major racing events (American Le Mans Series is the biggest example). 2005 version of Most Wanted also features the road-homologated version of M3 GTR available strictly for Quick Race mode; only 10 of those had been made for real-world clients.
    • Darius' signature ride is Audi Le Mans quattro, a prototype concept which is known as a basis for Audi R8 - another recurring supercar in later Need for Speed rosters.
    • On the less exciting end of the scale, Peugeots, Vauxhalls, Fiats, Alfa Romeos and Renaults in North America.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It:
    • The full title of the original The Need for Speed game is Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, as EA collaborated with automobile magazine Road & Track to match vehicle behavior and mimicking the sounds made by the vehicles' gears.
    • To distinguish it from the original 2005 game, the 2012 reinterpretation of Most Wanted was sometimes promoted as Need for Speed: Most Wanted – A Criterion Game.
  • In Medias Res: Underground, Most Wanted (2005), and Carbon start like this.
  • In Name Only:
    • The PSP version of Shift is odd in that it has nothing to do with the console versions. If anything, it has more in common with ProStreet (as its career mode closely mimicks what ProStreet had) and Burnout Dominator of all things (as it was developed by the same team, it runs on the same engine, and even recycles a few assets and mechanics).
    • Before that, the PSP version of ProStreet is nothing like their console and NDS counterparts, instead having plain career mode which has no plot at all.
  • 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.
    • In Carbon, it's possible for each Crew Boss end up falling off the track during a canyon duel and wreck their car. However, this will not affect the game's storyline, though.
  • Irony: No Limits actually limits how many events you can race in until you run out of fuel. When you run out, you have to wait a while or spend gold for a full refill before you can race again. Even then, the fuel system is not the only limiter found in the game.
  • Jerkass:
    • Many of the antagonists and opponent racers in the games are this in the second era, but this trope is taken to its zenith in the Underground games, where everyone and their grandmother acts like this to you - just see Dude, Where's My Respect? above.
    • The 3DO version of Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed had an opponent racer who would basically berate you for your bad performance and mock you consistently. When you defeat him, he either plays it off as nothing, or say it was an extremely close victory for you and demand a rematch. Three times. When you win all three times, he acts bitter about it, but recovers in a few seconds and mocks you again because he will live forever by being digitally immortalized in the game, while you will die one day.note 
      Opponent: I'm a bit bitter. But hey, I'll live. In fact, I'll live forever. Digitally immortalized! You, on the other hand, will die one day.
  • Joke Character:
    • Cheat codes in Need for Speed II allow you to drive civilian cars, including limousine and school bus which can punt opponents around like a cat playing with its toy.
    • The police helicopter in High Stakes. You can only use it in a test drive, it hovers just above the road like a car and it's surprisingly slow.
    • The most difficult race in the Challenge Series in Most Wanted (2005) puts you in a very tight checkpoint time trial with an AI traffic Dodge Grand Caravan-expy minivan.
  • Land Down Under:
    • Australian tracks that run from Sydney to the outback and back again in Need for Speed II.
    • A couple of the add-on cars for III: Hot Pursuit on PC include both the HSV GTS and Ford Falcon, the showcase even gives their statistics in Metric versus the Imperial stats of other cars.
    • High Stakes also gives us Fords and Holdens, as well as a Victoria police unit.
    • Other games that feature Holdens include Hot Pursuit 2 (as HSV, which is Holden's performance brand) and Most Wanted (as Vauxhall, whose model lineup includes rebadged Holdens).
  • Lethal Joke Character: The Toyota AE86 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.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: The two Underground games and ProStreet were more colorful than the rest of the second-era games, and so is the 2015 reboot compared to Rivals. Shift and Nitro were downplayed examples to Undercover.
  • Limit Break:
    • The nitrous in Underground 2 is refilled with stunts. You start with one full bar in races and Free Roam, but you can fill a second overlapping bar for double the capacity.
    • 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).
    • Need for Speed (2015), Payback and Heat let you choose between a "Time Refill" nitrous (refills over time) or an "Action Refill" nitrous (refills with stunts).
  • Live-Action Cutscene: This franchise has been using live-action footage since the very first game. Makes sense why EA did a film adaptation, doesn't it?
  • Logo Joke: After the reveal of Need for Speed Unbound, EA changed the app artwork of Need for Speed Payback, Need for Speed Heat, and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered so that their logos had the same white/green color scheme as Unbound's logo and made the rest of their artwork greyscale except for their main cover cars.
  • Mad Libs Dialogue: Many of the games with cop chatter use the same dialogue, with the only difference being what car the player was driving (and the color of it), as well as the location of the pursuit. It was well-done in III and onward, as well as the in-game track guide, there are occasional slip-ups but it's hard to notice. There's even a generic "sports car" line for add-on cars, special cars like the El Niño, or cars that aren't sold in North America.
    • A classic example from the Hot Pursuit games:
      "24 to county!"
      "Unit 24, go ahead."
      "In pursuit of a yellow Diablo, by Hometown city limits. He's going more than 120!"
      "Unit 24, 10-4."
    • Or even this example in the PC version of High Stakes:
      "3-8 to County!"
      "Tango-Alpha 3-8, go ahead."
      "The stinger is deployed on the left, by the Field."
  • Marathon Level:
    • Event 30 of Championship mode in the Black Box release of Hot Pursuit 2: Ten laps on Palm City Island. It takes about half an hour to complete.
    • Event 29 in Hot Pursuit 2's Ultimate Racer mode is an 8-race tournament, with 3 laps per race. Takes even longer. You have to finish first in the tournament to unlock the next event, but fortunately you can restart individual races without having to start the whole tournament over again.
    • Tournaments in the Special Edition of Need for Speed II and III: Hot Pursuit have you race on all of the tracks in the respective games (excluding the unlockable Monolith Studios in Special Edition of Need for Speed II and Empire City in III: Hot Pursuit) with four laps per race, meaning on some of the later advanced tracks such as Mystic Peaks or Summit, this can take upwards of over ten minutes, doubly so with Class C vehicles.
    • Both PC and PlayStation releases of High Stakes have this as their final career event, driving around most of the tracks the player has previously driven in different time and weather conditions.
    • The Collector's Edition of Carbon has the checkpoint track "Around the World" in the challenge series, in which the player has to drive Kenji's Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX around Palmont City.
    • 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.
    • "On the Dream Team" in the 2015 reboot. You'll face-off against the main cast including the Icons in a race around the whole Ventura Bay.
    • Endurance races in Shift 2: Unleashed also counts as this, with each race averaging from 30 minutes to about an hour to complete.
  • 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 Underground (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 (Nissan Presents: 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.
    • For an in-universe example, Hot Pursuit 2 had "both" the Opel Speedster and the Vauxhall VX220. For those who don't know, the latter is essentially the same car as it is known in the United Kingdom, where it's sold by Vauxhall (Opel and Vauxhall being sister brands, both being owned by General Motors). The only difference is the lack of roof on the VX220 while the Speedster had a slightly higher acceleration.
    • Another in-universe example: Most Wanted had the Pontiac GTO and the Vauxhall Monaro.note  The main differences are the GTO's unique front grille and the Monaro's darker taillightsnote . The GTO has a marginally higher top speed when fully tuned, while the Monaro has marginally better handling. Other than that, they're basically identical.
  • Master of All: Generally, in most of the games post-Underground, you play a singular street racer who rises through the ranks facing off against a Quirky Miniboss Squad of the city/state's racing crews. Usually, each one uses a particular kind of car type, while you have access to all the types and progressively beat them at their own game. Payback subverts this with you playing as a crew who fufill a race equivalent of Fighter, Mage, Thief typing, rather than one racer using them all.
  • 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 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.
    • We also have a few of these like BMW X6 M and Mercedes G-Wagon in Payback and Heat.
  • 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. Even more so in Shift 2: Unleashed, cars and upgrades are sold at exactly the same price as their bought, meaning you'll wind up with ever increasing amounts of money.
  • The Most Wanted:
    • The first title (Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed from 1994) and the Hot Pursuit series (1998, 2002 and 2010) introduce the police to the series since the first title, with the racers being chased by the police and having as objetive not just win the races, also avoid to get caught by cops.
    • As the name says, the Most Wanted series (2005 and 2012 games). The first game is about to compete in underground world for being the "most wanted" for the cops, as well having a Rabid Cop bother you during the game. The second one is more like previous Hot Pursuit series in which you've to race and earn points to get into the Most Wanted list.
    • Rivals is about racers and cops in which you've to choose a side. If you're a racer, you compete to become the most wanted and get famous. On the other hand, if you're a cop, you've to chase racers until you get with the top racer, the most wanted on the police list, and receiving help of the FBI even when your character becomes a Rabid Cop and eventually becoming in what you tried to stop.
  • Ms. Fanservice: After the games started to gain a plot, they also started to feature at least one attractive woman whose role, save a few exceptions, was mainly limited to provide fanservice, with some promotional materials even featuring them draped sexily over one of the game's cars. There's Amy Walz and Cindy Johnson in Underground, Brooke Burke and Kelly Brook in Underground 2, Josie Maran in Most Wanted, Emmanuelle Vaugier in Carbon, Krystal Forscutt and Sayoko Hohashi in ProStreet, Maggie Q in Undercover, and Irina Shayk and Chrissy Teigen in The Run.note  (ProStreet was particularly egregious on this, as Forscutt and Hohashi do not even have speaking roles in it.) It says something that it took until the 2015 reboot, whose main female characters were played by actresses who did not have modeling careers, to completely avert this.
  • Multi-Platform: Among the big three racing game franchises (the other two being PlayStation's Gran Turismo and Xbox's Forza), this franchise is the only one to be available on both brands' platforms as well as computers.

  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • The Big Bad of Most Wanted (2005) is nicknamed Razor. Subverted in that the game's files reveal that his real name is Clarence Callahan, and his performance whenever you have to race him makes him rather anti-climatic, even with the M3 GTR.
    • One of the bosses in Carbon is a (presumably German) guy named Wolf. Subverted again in that if you beat him, he lets out a meek "I Let You Win."
    • Spike in the 2015 reboot. Subverted in that he's a young, non-threatening guy who's on his father's trust fund.
  • No-Damage Run:
    • Some of the Factory Driver missions in Porsche Unleashed require you to complete it without hitting anything. These missions almost always involve a last-minute vehicle delivery, or giving one of your fellow employees a ride to a destination.
    • The delivery jobs in Undercover, where you have to take a "hot" car to a safehouse or a chop shop without a scratch whilst being relentlessly pursued by police.
  • 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 McLaren Stirling Moss, a car that 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...
  • No Plot? No Problem!: None of the games before Underground had any semblance of plot; you simply drive high-price exotic cars in scenic locations, sometimes while running from cops. Porsche Unleashed had Factory Driver side-story that's more of a plethora of Driving Tests and Excuse Plots, rather than Underground's actual storyline. After Underground, the Shift games don't give a damn about story arcs either; you're just doing a driving sim.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • In Carbon, the track "Gold Valley Run" is actually a remake of a section of Jackson Heights from Underground 2.
    • The Memory Lane career tier in the PC release of High Stakes has you driving in courses from the previous game.
  • Obvious Beta:
    • The console and PC releases of Undercover were 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.
    • The 2015 reboot was released on consoles without even a manual transmission option, which was a standard feature even in arcade racing games before the Criterion era. Some players even found a non-functioning "Semi-adjustable Gearbox" part, suggesting transmission tuning was cut. The PC version was delayed by 4 months to prevent the porting issues Rivals had. By the time the PC version came out, every version of the game was updated to include a manual transmission option, but other problems came to light: gear ratios for most cars were not only un-adjustable, but wildly inaccurate, and most cars magically grew extra gears when power upgrades not related to the transmission were added. A Civic can have up to 8 speeds in this game.
  • Old Save Bonus:
    • 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.
    • Most Wanted (2005) and Carbon awards $10,000 in cash if the player have a save file of the previous games stored in their memory card.
  • One-Man Army:
    • As a cop, you are always this in some of the installments that lets you play as them (Hot Pursuit games and Undercover for example), since you're the only cop trying to chase down the street racers, or in Undercover's case, taking down The Syndicate.
    • You are especially 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."
    • As a racer, you are always this no matter which installment you are on, even when you're racing on tracks. Carbon would be one exception.
  • Only in Miami:
    • Tri-City Bay in Undercover is based in Miami, and it's the perfect setting for an undercover infiltration.
    • Heat is set in Palm City, a stand-in for Miami, and it comes with all the sunshine and glitz you would expect.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Nikki Morris in Underground 2 is played by the British Kelly Brook, and while she's apparently playing a invoked Fake American as she hides her accent pretty well though the game, it sometimes does come through. (e.g. "It's over for him! Ovah!")
    • 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).
  • Palette Swap:
    • The Toyota GT86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ triplets from the 2015 reboot. In real life, they are all the same car sold under three different brands, since it was a collaboration between Toyota and Subaru (and Scion was an American brand of Toyota).
    • The same could be said for the Vauxhall VX220 and Opel Speedster in Hot Pursuit 2, as well the Pontiac GTO and Vauxhall Monaro VXR in Most Wanted (2005) and Carbon. Fittingly, all the aforementioned cars were produced in different General Motors branches.
  • Penultimate Weapon: The BMW M3 GTR in Most Wanted (2005) definitely counts. As its performance during the final pursuit can show (not to say that it's something to scoff at, mind you), you can get much better results from a fully tuned Vauxhall Monaro by the time you recover it.
  • Photo Mode: Most games since Carbon (the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC versions) have a photo mode that allowed players to move the camera around their car.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Police AIs in any of the NFS games that feature them invoke this trope religiously. Slightly averted however if the player straps down as a cop themselves in the Hot Pursuit games and Rivals, but is still invoked when the player arrives on the scene and the initial pursuit units step back and allow the player to act.
    • Undercover started out as this assuming the player being a Cowboy Cop infiltrating The Triads and the Tongs. This trope ultimately gets subverted in the final act where a Dirty Cop killed the Triad leader for the deal, prompting the player to clear his name by busting her in a police pursuit involving hundreds of cop cars.
    • The police AI in the 2015 reboot was so amazingly dumb it was actually difficult to gain the achievement of escaping a two-star pursuit, simply because baiting them into chasing you was hard to begin with, and then you had to go out of your way to babysit the police into increasing your wanted level. Needless to say, this was very much thoroughly fixed by the time Heat's night-time police was rolled out.
  • Police Brutality:
    • Playing as a cop in certain titles can allow you to indulge in destroying public properties and traffic cars (not just street racers' cars), making this trope straight given you're a Villain Protagonist who's a Rabid Cop.
    • Undercover manages to both downplay and exaggerate this: On one hand, your Player Character is a cop, but an undercover cop who passes as a street racer, and as such any illegal activities can be written off as part of your cover. On the other hand, it has perhaps the most (hilariously) brutal "Busted" cutscenes in the franchise, including police officers descending from a helicopter SWAT-style just to detain you, and another that has the officers deciding that the moment they detained you is just the right time for a snack break, bring over a box of donuts, and one of the officers throws his donut at the player prone on the floor.
    • The reason why F-8 got fired at the end of the cop career in Rivals.
    • The night-time police in Heat outright degenerates into this. Not surprising since both Rivals and Heat were developed by Ghost Games.
  • Pop the Tires: In many games that have police, if your heat level gets high enough, cops will start deploying spike strips (or "stingers") 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. In Most Wanted (2005), pop the tires and it's Game Over.note  In later games such as Carbon or Undercover, you can still drive depending how fast your car is, but you'll end up having a higher risk of getting busted as long you're not getting boxed by the police cruisers.
  • 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. And just to make things worse, that permanent Cingular ad turned out to be short-lived, as the Cingular brand was dropped the next year and replaced with AT&T.
    • Hot Pursuit (2010): "Roadblocks of the SCPD in association with FORD." & "Porsche Cayenne Turbos now deployed to add spice to your roadblocks."
    • 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.
    • Due to the 2015 installment's partnership with Speedhuntersnote , actual aftermarket manufacturers that have partnered or been featured in Speedhunters such as Rauh-Welt Begriff (a renowned Porsche tuning shop, with its owner, Akira Nakai, being featured as a character in-game and also an opponent.) and 6666 Customs (owner of Rocket Bunny and Liberty Walk) are going to appear in full form instead of generic parts. Ken Block's presence in the game also mean the Monster Energy drinks will be featured as well.
  • Prolonged Video Game Sequel:
    • Early games mostly focused on arcade-like gameplay and the fantasy of racing super cars. But with subsequent entries like Most Wanted (2005) and Heat, this trope comes into play, with their career modes taking noticeably longer to complete than their previous entries (the Underground duology and Payback, respectively).
    • The first Underground introduced the concept of street racing and tuner car culture into the city, but the sequel Underground 2 expanded them with more gameplay options such as free-roaming and extensive customization beyond the bodykits and performance parts.
  • Ramp Jump:
    • Underground's maps had players jumping over rivers and canals using opened drawbridges.
    • During the end game of Most Wanted (2005), players had to jump over a canal using a drawbridge to escape law enforcement.
    • Most Wanted (2012) and Rivals have many of these, especially the billboard jumps.
    • Heat also has a number of ramps scattered around Palm City. Some are for launching yourself into police billboards to smash them; others are just for getting as much air as possible.
  • 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.
  • Rice Burner:
    • Quite possible since Underground, given the games' extensive customzation options. The game has often been accused of encouraging the behavior in real life. The gameplay mechanics encourages them, with Underground 1 visual customizations contribute to points for more visual customization unlockables and specially customized cars, and Underground 2 outright enforce minimum points required for several story-progressing events. Thankfully from Most Wanted onwards they're sensibly made optional with visual customizations in Most Wanted, Carbon, and Undercover, only serves to reduce the "heat" (police recognition) of your car (those who hate ricers can simply repaint their car or changing minor modifications) and in ProStreet, both Shift games, Nitro, the 2015 reboot, and Payback completely optional.
    • Funnily enough, this trope was mocked during High Stakes (which released 4 years before Underground). In the game's opening cinematic, a riced-out Honda Civic Expy joins a race against a bunch of Porsche 911s, Corvettes, Diablos, and all other sorts of cool cars. When the race starts, all the powerful exotics take off at high speeds while the Civic expy barely moves an inch before its engine explodes. The customization aspect was also included in both High Stakes and Porsche Unleashed, but were limited to certain parts due to hardware limitations.
  • The Rival: Seen all over the series.
    • The 3DO version of the original The Need for Speed had a guy (called either "Opponent" or "X-Man") who basically served as a rival for the player, as elaborated on the Jerkass example. The only options were to do a race against the clock to improve your skills, or "if you're tired of warming up the bench", take him on in an one-on-one duel while swerving around traffic and avoiding getting arrested by the Cowboy Cop with a loaded shotgun. And he would berate you relentlessy over mistakes you made when racing. Doesn't help that he generally has an insufferably smug smirk on his face when he's mocking you. Thankfully (or perhaps unfortunately), he didn't reappear in the DOS, Saturn and PlayStation ports released afterward, remaining restricted to the 3DO version of the game.
    • Hell, Need for Speed Rivals is named that way for a reason!
  • Road Block:
    • Used in the Hot Pursuit games, Most Wanted games, Carbon, Rivals, and No Limits; the usual way to clear them is by either squeezing through a narrow opening, or ramming 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.
    • Also 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 during events.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Present in Unbound. Cartoon human characters blend in with realistic cars and environment.
  • Rubber-Band A.I.: Present in every game since the first era, but infamously exaggerated since Underground. Depending on what game you play, you're getting overtaken in split seconds, or you're getting sandwiched by some bumping opponents. Underground 2 actually lets you turn it off, and you'll suddenly find yourself winning races by miles.
  • 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 

  • 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 and location) to play. Quite a few of the crash stings in "Flimsy" use several stock scare chords even.
  • Scenery Gorn: Getting Totaled (either by crashing your car so hard, or flip your car upside-down rolling) treats you a painstakingly cinematic scene of your heavily-damaged car crashing at a certain moments like ramming a traffic head-on or a mishap airborne.
  • 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.
    • The 2015 reboot continues the trend, with Ventura Bay possibly being the best-looking locale seen in the series so far. The PC version exploits this trope to the fullest extent with 4K graphics and an unlocked framerate, which was a huge breath of relief for those coming from the (underwhelming) PC port for Rivals.
  • 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 games are basically about.
    • The police in Hot Pursuit (2010) and Rivals have dedicated speed enforcement units with tricked-out cars to match those of racers.
  • Shifting Sand Land: Desert levels appear in multiple titles.
    • The Need for Speed had the Rusty Springs Raceway and Burnt Sienna.
    • Need for Speed II had the Outback.
    • III: Hot Pursuit and High Stakes had Redrock Ridge and Lost Canyons.
    • Hot Pursuit 2 had Desert Heat and the Outback.note 
    • Carbon had parts of Silverton and certain canyon levels, which present desert terrain and plant life.
    • Hot Pursuit (2010) and The Run had desert levels.
    • Payback is set entirely in a desert.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Coastal course in the original had a half-buried Statue of Liberty on the beach at the finish line. No option to scream "You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you all to hell!", though.
    • If you wrecked the Lamborgini Diablo in the 3DO version of the original The Need for Speed, the Jerkass opponent racer would tell you:
      Opponent: You just turned... a $200,000 car... into a $13 piece of scrap. Way to go, Gomer."
    • In ProStreet, the announcer quoted one in the Drag Race: "I love the smell of burnt tyres in the morning. Smells like victory!"
    • In Undercover, taking down your targets until their critical condition prompts you to "Finish Him/Her."
    • There's quite a few in 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 even has a small homage to the opening credits of that film in the opening intro to the event.
      • In a bit of a throwback, hitting top speed in the Lamborghini Diablo SV on a coastal road nets you the achievement "The Diablo You Know", referencing both III: Hot Pursuit and the coastal tracks "Atlantica" and "Aquatica".
    • In certain events in Shift, the other drivers are called Izabel Diaz, Karol Monroe, Nate Denver, Gavin May or Hendrick Dehn amongst others, names you encountered in earlier NFS games.
    • The franchise title is inspired by a quote in Top Gun: "I feel the need… the Need for Speed!"
      • In Hot Pursuit (2010), an F-14 can be seen flying near the desert portion of the Memorial Highway.
      • In the 2014 film, Benny, Tobey's team pilot, insists to be addressed as "Maverick". In addition, the film's tagline is "Feel the Need".
      • The platinum Trophy for the PS4 version of the 2015 reboot is titled "I Feel the Need...", once again explicitly referencing the film that gave Need for Speed its name.
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: Spike Strips? EMP? Nah, 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.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World:
    • Mystic Peaks in Need for Speed II, the most difficult track in the game, takes place on the peak of a snow-capped mountain in Nepal with numerous tight corners and decreased grip on the roads.
    • Similarly with Country Woods and Summit in III: Hot Pursuit.
    • Two tracks from III: Hot Pursuit that also appear in the PC version of High Stakes have courses that take place during the winter.
    • Stage 5 of The Run takes you in the snowy peaks of Colorado. Be on the lookout for avalanches!
  • 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. Though all of these can be disabled in the options menu, so you may rest easy.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic:
    • III: Hot Pursuit did this if you were using the rock or techno Variable Mix pertaining to the track, the music would switch to a short, intense loop when you were being chased by the police, then there was a more intense loop when they were close. Rom Di Prisco opted for shorter, three-to-five second loops while others like Matt Ragan and Saki Kaskas had longer chase loops around fifteen-to-twenty seconds long.
    • Similarly with Most Wanted (2005) where the more police and heat you had, the more intense the music became whereas it became more triumphant when you were starting to lose heat.
    • Rivals as well, the music used more intense variance depending on your status or the music slowed down but remained tense if you or your suspects were escaping.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • In Hot Pursuit (2010), during the final roadblock upgrade briefing for police, the game would helpfull notify you that "Porsche Cayenne Turbos are now deployed to add spice to your pursuit." Keep in mind that cayenne is also a type of chili.
    • 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.
  • 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, albeit still using the stylized "n" logo the franchise used at the time.
  • Super Prototype:
    • At least half of the (normally) playable Need for Speed II cars, such as Ford GT90, Ford Indigo, Italdesign Cala, and Isdera Commendatore.
    • In general, concept cars and prototypes are the epitome of these. Dodge Challenger Concept, Nissan GT-R Proto, you name it.
  • A Taste of Power:
    • Underground starts with a race in a tuned car that's revealed to be a Dream Intro, Underground 2 starts with a borrowed tuned car, Most Wanted (2005) 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 an end-game 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.
    • The 2015 reboot subverts this: the first car you get to drive as a "taste" is a pokey, bone-stock, black Foxbody Mustang. After that, you start your career with one of 3 slow cars: either a Subaru BRZ, a Honda Civic Type R, or... a red Foxbody Mustang.
  • Updated Re-release: The first two NFS games both had "Special Editions" released roughly six months to a year after the originals. The first NFS Special Edition had two new tracks, Windows 95 support, an expanded soundtrack and various updates to the game engine, while NFS2 Special Edition had one new track, six new cars, the "Wild" mode, and support for 3D graphics cards.
  • Vanity License Plate:
    • "NFS", "ND4SPD", or "NEED4SPD" on your plate in most games.
    • In the EA Seattle's release of Hot Pursuit 2, the seventh generation's release of 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 were available for players to purchase (mostly with SpeedBoost) in World.
    • High Stakes and Porsche Unleashed had players' profile names appear on their license plates. Truly customizable license plates were finally added in Most Wanted (2012), allowing players to change the text and license plate designs, although the latter is only for multiplayer profiles and not the cars themselves. The following games (except No Limits) have retained this feature.
    • Rivals allows players to change the actual plate designs. Said designs show locations of past games in the series. They would be reused for all of Ghost Games's later entries.
    • Need for Speed 2015 uses a license plate design from Real Life for the first time in the series (that of California). The Showcase Update would later add Rivals' racer license plate designs as customization choices and allowed players to change the plate frames for the first time, a feature that would stick with subsequent games.
  • The Voiceless: The player character in every Need for Speed from Underground through Undercover and the 2015 reboot. Doesn't count for older games, Shift games nor Criterion's installments since they have no story.
  • Villain Protagonist:
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Slowly happens to Razor and Cross in Most Wanted (2005), as well as Darius from Carbon.
    • Chase Linh at the end of Undercover after being arrested by the police.
  • Viva Las Vegas!:
    • While the boroughs controlled by the first three bosses from Carbon appear to be stand-ins for regions of California, the fourth one controlled by Darius, Silverton, appears to be a stereotypical depiction of Las Vegas; glitzy, neon-lit casinos and all.
    • The setting of Payback, a region called "Fortune Valley", which includes Silver Rock City and is evocative of the usual Nevada settings (a glitzy, neon-lit city of gambling and high stakes). Beyond the casinos lie vast regions of deserts and canyonlands in the surrounding area.
  • Wacky Racing: With licensed Cool Cars, to boot! Imagine Super Smash Bros. as a racing game.
  • Weaponized Car:
    • Hot Pursuit (2010) allows Cops and Racers alike to shoot ranged-damage EMP blasts and drop tire-deflating spike strips at each other. Cops can even order helicopters to do the latter for them and call in roadblock units; Racers have Jammers that can interfere with police department equipment, preventing them from using the aforementioned weapons, as well as Turbo boosts for extreme bursts of speed.
    • Rivals takes the concept further with its Pursuit Tech system. All six weapons from 2010 make a return note , alongside electrostatic fields (allowing both sides to block EMP lock and zap anything that touches them), omnidirectional pulses for racers and forward pulses for cops, and stun mines for racers.
  • Where Does He Get All Those 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 (Lamborghini Gallardos and Ford Mustangs in the PS2/Wii versions), and one has to wonder what the budget is for the Seacrest County Police Department in Hot Pursuit (2010) and the Redview County Police Department and VRT in Rivals that allows them to maintain a fleet of a variety of expensive exotics in the motorpool. Even Blackridge Police Department in No Limits had access to McLaren 650S and P1 during certain events! Both Tri-City Bay and Seacrest County justified this (thinly) as they obviously have a very serious street racing problem each, and the street racers are, themselves, driving extremely high-powered exotics. The cops are just responding to the escalation, though the $1.5 million cost for a single Bugatti Veyron is best left unmentioned. In Rivals' case, it is justified that the Redview County PD and VRT are a bunch of Rabid Cops funded by the federal government.
    • The Fairhaven City Police Department in Most Wanted (2012) has Chevrolet Corvettes, Dodge Chargers, and when they can't stop the racers, they bring a ton of invincible S.W.A.T. trucks for roadblocks. Their cars are also capable of clinging to walls and ceilings, multiply and link together to form a giant wheel, stacking on top of each other and spinning like a tornado, defying gravity and can combine to become a giant robot. What the actual fuck?
    • This is actually Exploited in Heat, where it is outright stated that the Palm City Police Department woefully corrupt and abusing their power to get their fleet, and their leader Frank Mercer is caught in a car smuggling operation.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Bayview in Underground 2, Rockport in Most Wanted (2005), Palmont City in Carbon, Tri-City Bay in Undercover, Fairhaven in Most Wanted (2012), Redview County in Rivals, Ventura Bay in the 2015 game, Fortune Valley in Payback, and Palm City in Heat. Seacrest County from the 2010 Hot Pursuit would also count if the free roam wasn't optional. Motor City in Motor City Online, Olympic City in the first Underground and Blackridge in No Limits avert this trope.
  • Word Salad Title: A lot of the songs in earlier titles that are developed by in-house artists have some pretty weird names such as "Snorkeling Cactus Weasels", "Refried Jumping Beans", "Little Sweaty Sow", "Cerebral Plumbing", etc.
  • World Tour:
    • The biggest theme of Need for Speed II, which had tracks set in eight different countries.Which? 
    • The theme got revisited to a slightly lesser extent in High Stakes, featuring seven countries.Which? 
    • Both ProStreet and the two Shift games have a sanctioned take on this trope, with races held on fixed race tracks and drag strips as well as street tracks in different countries.
    • Nitro explores five different cities (six in the DS version of the game) with different road conditions and a top racer in each.Which? 

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Video Example(s):


Mia Townsend

Mia Townsend, the racer who spent the entire game helping the player climb back to the top of the Blacklist and reclaim their prized car from Razor, is revealed to be an undercover Rockport Police officer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / UndercoverCopReveal

Media sources: