Vehicular Combat

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Vehicular Combat is a Video Game genre in which the action takes place inside motor vehicles (often armed), whether they be cars, boats, or sci-fi craft. These games usually have one requirement; the destruction of all enemies. Some games add racing, escort or other gameplay elements, while others are barely above the Shoot'Em Up level. Generally, these games focus on fast-paced action, as opposed to Role-Playing Game elements.

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

Most of these will be Driving Games. See also Mecha Game, which is often similar, just with Humongous Mecha.

Tropes common to the Vehicular Combat genre include:

Examples of Vehicular Combat include:

Tabletop Games

  • The tabletop combat game Car Wars and its RPG spinoff, GURPS Autoduel, can be considered a predecessor.
    • GURPS Discworld also had "Ecksian Cart Wars", which was a parody of the Autoduel setting, a reference to the Mad Max-like environment of The Last Continent, and an exercise in just how far you can push the GURPS vehicle rules.
  • Origin Systems' Autoduel, based on Car Wars.
  • For a while, Games Workshop put out a game set ostensibly in the 40k universe but in the 21st century called "Dark Future". It was specifically scaled to 20mm instead of 28mm so that Hot Wheels and Matchbox sized cars could be modified with sprues of weapons and used in the game.
  • In addition, Games Workshop had "Gorkamorka," a vehicular combat game involving the Warhammer 40,000 Space Orks.

Video Games


G.T. Blitz: So stay tuned for all the death and destruction!

  • Extreme-G for the N64.
  • The later games in the Burnout series are like the Fighting Game version of this genre, mixed with traditional racing. The battling is all done through physical ramming and grinding than with guns.
  • Rollcage is a racing game with rocket-powered buggies that can drive on ceilings, upside-down and shoot all sorts of weapons, but are in fact immune to damage. Weapon hits only serve to slow down the other racers and blow up the scenery.
  • Dethkarz is another futuristic racing game with weapons, but in this case the application of sufficient firepower will cause the target car to veer out of control and explode in a blue energy ball, eliminating it for the rest of the race.
  • The 1999 game Redline is a hybrid Vehicular Combat / First-Person Shooter. The player can go around on foot shooting a handheld gun, or he can get into various cars armed to the teeth with the usual futuristic weaponry.
  • Carmageddon is a racing game in which you're actually required not only to smash up the opposition but mow down pedestrians for bonus points. The player can pick up a variety of power-ups to make either of these tasks easier.
  • Cel Damage is one of these, but completely cel-shaded and full of cartoony physics and character designs. Weapons include dynamite crossbows and giant hammers.
  • The biker game Road Rash has bats, crowbars, cattle prods, and oil cans, not to mention the best move ever: kicking them into oncoming traffic!
  • F-Zero and its sequels. F-Zero X has a "survival" mode where you have to kill all 29 opponents with your bare hands, err, vehicle.
  • Streets of SimCity had the added bonus of being able to play in cities created in SimCity 2000, using the "Urban Renewal Kit" included.
  • Pursuit Force is a hybrid of this and Action Game, where you play a cop who has to chase down numerous street gangs by jumping between moving vehicles.
  • Strategic Simulations' Roadwar 2000
  • The controversial 1976 arcade game Death Race (inspired, but not directly based on the movie Death Race 2000) by Exidy is often considered to be the "granddaddy" of the genre. Even though there were no weapons, the gameplay involved running over human-sounding "gremlins" to score points (much like the aforementioned Carmageddon, which came decades later). There have been various unconfirmed reports as to how significant the controversy was, including rumors that several Death Race machines were destroyed, etc.
  • Dead in the Water for the PlayStation is an aquatic version of the concept.
    • Critical Depth, also on the PlayStation, is a submarine version. For extra points it's made by SingleTrac, the team behind Twisted Metal.
  • Grand Theft Auto and its successors get an honourable mention. They might not be pure Vehicular Combat games, but they feature this style of gameplay heavily, both in missions and when speeding around wreaking havoc.
  • Rock n' Roll Racing: Since you and your opponents' cars are armed (with lasers, missiles, mines and such) and you get bonus cash for each enemy destroyed during the race, Vehicular Combat is thus strongly encouraged.
  • Destruction Derby: Two variants of Vehicular Combat here : the regular races, where the main goal is to arrive first, but you get points by making your opponents spin or outright destroy them ; and the Destruction Derby mode, where you and your opponents are all gathered in an arena, and the goal is to be the last one standing.
  • The DOS and 3DO game Quarantine and it's sequel, Road Warrior. Not to be confused with either films of the same name.
  • DOS game Deathtrack. Machine guns, lasers, missiles, "terminators" (little destuctive robots)... Sometimes mafiosos would appear before a race and tell you to kill a specific driver for some cash.
  • Blur is a recent example, featuring licensed Cool Cars, but very cartoony weapons, and Wacky Racing abounds.
  • Split Second is an unusual variation; the damage comes from booby traps set up around the course, which a player can trigger when they've built up the power meter far enough. Traps range from the simple (spring-loaded dump truck, collapsing overpass) to the ludicrous (dropping an airport control tower onto the track, knocking a cruise ship loose of its drydock mooring to scrape the track clean).
  • Rocket Jockey has a weird concept of combat: you're on a rocket cycle, and your task is to snag other riders with grapple cables and do nasty things to them in order to increase your score or end up the last man standing.
  • Death Rally had top-down combat racing where the players would earn cash from races to buy new cars and upgrade them, eventually facing off against The Adversary. Featured Duke Nukem as a Guest Driver. The original came out in 1996 for DOS, and received an iOS remake in 2011.
  • Post Apocalyptic Mayhem keeps the action going in one direction like a race but nonetheless awards wins to the most prolific destroyer. Each of its six cars has distinct weaponry, lending each a different play experience.
  • Crasher mixes in elements of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre.
  • Auto Assault expanded this into an MMORPG.
  • Battle Tanx and its little-known spinoff, Thunder Tanks.
  • Modnation Racers. High speed kart racing with upgradable weapons and lethal tracks.
  • The many vehicle sequences in Halo.
  • The Wipeout series of futuristic racing games. Initially the weapons were just used to slow down opponents to get ahead of them; in the second game (2097/XL depending on where you are), ships can be destroyed, and by Wip3out there's a mode devoted entirely to shooting down your rivals.
    • By the time if Wipeout HD, the more chaotic races (lovingly referred to by fans as "Cambodia") become frenzies of colours flying everywhere (even more so than the game already was!) and the announcer listing every weapon in the game in quick succession, doubly so in the expansion pack's version of Eliminator, which ups the rate racers receive weapons and respawns defeated ones.
  • Night Striker is a rail Shoot'Em Up where you use a Flying Car to shoot down enemy flying cars, helicopters, jets, trucks, and robots.
  • Bandits: Phoenix Rising is a linear action story with differing objectives in each level, in contrast to most games of the genre.
  • Road Kill is like a free roaming Twisted Metal
  • WWE Crush Hour
  • Also Battle Cars.
  • Wheels of Destruction is essentially an arena shooter a la Quake or Unreal Tournament injected with this trope.


  • The 1975 Roger Corman flick Death Race 2000 and its 2008 remake, called simply Death Race. The latter may as well have been called Twisted Metal: The Movie—it even had the cars' weapons activated by driving over platforms on the track.
  • Perhaps the closest Real Life example would be demolition derbies, often seen at state fairs and monster truck rallies. Not surprisingly, there have been video games based around this.