In Real Life, the racing of any kind of vehicle is very dangerous, and many people have died or suffered serious injury while doing so. Things have gotten better, but it is still a potentially deadly sport truly only kept in the reigns of safety by the skill of the drivers. However, there is also the fact that in real life, except for off-road rallies and endurance races, most races simply involve going from point A to point B, or driving in a circle for 500 or so laps. Because of this, writers tend to spice things up a bit. The result is a Wacky Race, a race so improbable, so outrageous, so dangerous, that it makes Pikes Peak look like a Sunday drive.
The race often has rules more akin to a Demolition Derby than a normal race, and often takes place on an improbable course. Courses built around entire cities, courses with rollercoaster-like architecture, Courses floating in midair, courses existing only in an alternate racing dimension, and courses in locations where it's generally not safe to be standing, let alone racing, are common. In addition, the vehicles themselves are often specialized. If they're cars, expect them to have weapons and other modifications.
If they're go-karts, expect a lot of Power Ups to be littering the course- if not, plain old Car Fu will be highly encouraged. And if they aren't normal vehicles, expect them to be some amazing sci-fi vehicle capable of pretty much defying the laws of physics. The Vehicles are often themed after their drivers (who are just as wacky as the race itself). The Rules of the Road may be altered arbitrarily. And of course, expect the prize to be some sort of MacGuffin.
It's almost traditional for a set of characters in a non-racing series to have an episode or spinoff where they engage in this. The Hero usually wins, (or a random side character) the Ensemble Darkhorse always gets the coolest car, and the villain cheats and has it backfire hilariously.
Anime & Manga
- Speed Racer had the Mach 5, Dangerous Courses and a Vehicular Acrobatics Team. And let's not get started on the movie!
- In cartoons and anime marketed towards kids, an episode like this is inevitable. Most don't involve violence at first, until at least one bad guy starts cheating. Hilarity Ensues.
- Kirby: Right Back at Ya! / Kirby: Right Back at Ya featured a race involving a go-kart (Fumu / Tiff and Bun / Tuff), a Model T (the Mayor and wife), a big old fashioned limousine (King Dedede and Escargo(o)n), an old-school Formula 1 car (Meta Knight) and a spaceship (Kirby).
- A first season Pokémon episode had a race between trainers riding one of their Pokémon (or in one case, Pikachu riding Squirtle).
- One episode during the Johto saga had something called "Extreme Pokémon", where the Pokémon pulled the trainer on a skateboard.
- Mega Man NT Warrior was not one to miss out. It also makes a good example of how the vehicles will reflect the role and personality of their riders: MegaMan drove a F1 car, ProtoMan rode a Cool Bike, Roll drove a silly-looking coupe, and Force Three all rode together in a train.
- Digimon Frontier had an episode like this. All of the kids, Neemon, and a villian each got onto a train. The episode proceeded as a Battle Royale With Cheese, with only Takuya completing the race.
- Scramble Wars was a Super-Deformed Wacky Race parody featuring several anime produced by AIC (such as Bubblegum Crisis, Gall Force, Megazone 23, Mospeada, and Riding Bean).
- SD Gundam did a Wacky Races homage episode, complete with Gundam ZZ villains Yazan Gable and Gemon Bajack as transparent parodies of Dick Dastardly and Muttley. Sadly, due to licensing issues, this short couldn't be included in a recent DVD collection.
- Steel Ball Run is basically the horse racing version. It's a race across the whole United States in a alternate history Wild West, featuring competitors with flamboyant clothing and special powers. One even eschews the horse and runs on his own two feet.
- The TV series of Future GPX Cyber Formula has this with more wacky racing courses like a track with ice hills and roads with time-floods, with booster-equipped cars as the racing machines. In the OVAs however, this aspect has been largely abandoned.
- The manga Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has the dragonfly races in the world of Piffle with all the racers being cameo characters from other CLAMP series.
- Red Line takes this to ridiculous levels. Tailenders, too.
- This is serious business for Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's where everybody plays card games while riding motorcycles. If it wasn't for the autopilot, we'd have some serious wreckage here...
- Episode 9 of Carnival Phantasm
- The shortlived comic book Chassis centered around aircar racing in an Alternate History where World war II never happened.
- A story in Superboy had Roxy enter Cadmus's Whiz Wagon in a super-powered cross-country car race called the Demolition Run, organised by a mysterious crime-boss called Mr Big.
- Archie's RC Racers was one of the stranger entries in the Archie Comics franchise. In it, two teams of Riverdale teenagers, led by Archie and Reggie, travel across the United States racing radio-controlled cars, while foiling the dastardly schemes of the villainous Babette and her bungling henchmen.
- The Great Race, which served as the inspiration for the Wacky Races.
- Every race in this movie counts as Wacky Racing, including the one at the end, of which we only see ten seconds, because Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat.
- The Podracing scene in The Phantom Menace.
- Death Race 2000.
- And the 2008 remake Death Race.
- Spy Kids 3 has the Mega Race, the fastest and most dangerous race in the Gameworld.
- In a sense, It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
- Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines had the same basic concept, only with airplanes.
- Monte Carlo or Bust (a.k.a. Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies), sequel to the above.
- The Real Life Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash was an illegal coast-to-coast road race specifically intended to protest the 55 mph speed limit of The Seventies. Other than the willful disregard for the speed limit, it doesn't really qualify for Wacky Racing, but it inspired a bunch of movies that do:
- Cannonball (1976), a classic David Carradine B-Movie Action Flick.
- The Gumball Rally (1976), a slapstick comedy.
- The Cannonball Run (1981), an even more slapstick comedy starring Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise as the most "normal" team in a field of broad ethnic stereotypes. Includes an early US role for Jackie Chan—playing a Japanese driver, with Richard "Eegah, Jaws" Kiel as his copilot in the sequel.
- Its sequels, The Cannonball Run II (1985) and Speed Zone! (1989).
- Of course, the Wachowski brothers' live action Speed Racer is all over this.
- Silent Movie features a wheelchair race in a hospital that gets pretty crazy.
- The broomstick race through a dragon preserve mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages.
Live Action TV
- Sam Carter of SG-1 once had to go through a ridiculous course in an improvised ship in the episode Space Race.
- Gekisou Sentai Carranger and to a lesser extent Engine Sentai Go-onger combine this trope with Super Sentai, which is already pretty damn wacky.
- Top Gear. OH. MY. FREAKING. FORD. TOP GEAR. Just imagine how many challenges like this they have done... Bugatti Veyron (1000 bhp supercar) vs. Eurofighter Typhoon (top-rated fighter jet) in a drag race (vertical vs. horizontal), Mazda M-5 vs. a greyhound (the dog, not the bus), compact car vs. Le Parkour, Historic People Carrier/Motorhome/Passenger Bus/Airport Vehicle Racing, etc. That image at the top of this article is a screenshot of a race between driving pairs. Yes, there are two drivers to each double-decker car; one sits at the bottom and handles the gas and brakes, while the other sits at the top and handles the steering.
- The amazing thing about the Bugatti Veyron race was not that the Bugatti lost, but that it lost by only FOUR SECONDS.
- There was a division similar to that in some speedways for a while. One car involved, but two drivers.
- Don't forget racing the post. They basically raced against an abstract concept. And lost.
- Arguably, they were racing a relay team; mail boat takes the letter from the island to the mainland, where a series of planes and trucks carry it further, until it reaches the local post office where a dude comes round and delivers it.
- How about the double-decker car racing, depicted above? The catch is simple: you sit above, your partner sits below. You have the steering, he has the acceleration. Oh, and apart from the ENGLAND vs GERMANY race, the same challenge have been repeated in the Ashens Special, against Top Gear Australia hosts.
- The Car Wars boardgame by Steve Jackson Games. It's Twenty Minutes Into the Future and the aftermath of a nuclear war and everyone drives around in cars with machine guns and lasers and the like. Sometimes there are races, but other times the drivers just blow seven bells out of each other's vehicles in an arena or on the road.
- GURPS Autoduel, an extention of the Car Wars concept into a roleplaying game.
- "EcksEcksEcksEcksian Cart Wars" in GURPS Discworld Also. A low-tech parody of the above combined with the Mad Max sequence in The Last Continent, and an experiment in seeing how far the GURPS Vehicles rules could be pushed before they broke. Pretty far, it turns out.
- "CarToon Wars" in Toon Tooniversal Tour Guide. Another Steve Jackson parody of their own project, this one even more like Wacky Races than the others since it's set in a cartoon universe.
- Every Mario Kart style game qualifies. Courses with cannons that launch you to the top of mountains aren't exactly common in real life.
- Even games that don't actually use karts are subject to this, such as Kirby's Air Ride or Sonic Riders.
- On which note, before there was Sonic Riders, there was Sonic R. And before that there was Sonic Drift.
- And after Sonic Riders, there is the most acclaimed of the Sonic racers (and the closest one to Maro Kart, natch), Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing.
- F-Zero. Super Fast Hover Cars, Courses Suspended in Mid-Air that double as cities, and characters like Captain Falcon make this a perfect example of this trope.
- Full Auto, which can be boiled down to Death Race: The Video Game.
- Rollcage, which used gravity-defying cars that can be driven on the ceiling and walls as easily as the floor... and for frequently taking place in stages where it's hard to even TELL what's up and down. Or where up and down just aren't constant values (like in a space station).
- The Apogee classic Wacky Wheels... basic kart racing, 'cept for the hedgehog cannon.
- Carmageddon and its sequels. Street racing of the classic arcade formula - try to keep your timer up while you attempt to complete your objective. Only instead of just completing the race as your objective, you can instead destroy all your opponents, or run over every pedestrian in the level (which includes cows). The whole mass murdering ordeal caused no small controversy and the pedestrians were replaced with zombies or robots for some markets.
- Burnout: Souped-up, nitro-equipped race-cars (or trucks, or vans) compete in street races on roads packed with civilian traffic, and crashing (or, better yet, making your opponents crash) is half the point.
- Flat-Out: Similar to Burnout but with crazier, off-road tracks, and high explosive trackside objects, but no civilian traffic. The other racers want to make you crash so hard that you're flung through the windscreen of your vehicle, though.
- Wipeout: High-tech hovercraft zoom round vastly improbable tracks (including ones suspended from a city's skyscrapers) at supersonic speeds, while blasting each other with various types of missile, and the Quake Disruptor, a weapon that causes the entire track to undulate in an excessive manner, slamming itself into opponent's craft, causing massive damage.
- Need for Speed: Underground and Underground 2: Nitro-equipped, highly pimped out import tuners speed around Olympic City and Bayview, through coastlines, back alleys, spillways, factories, and going at 400 km/h in the highways. The roads are packed with civilian traffic.
- N-Gen Racing: Racing planes through canyons, tho lower you go the faster you go, of course, while using the plane's weapon systems to cause damage to your opponents.
- Conkers Bad Fur Day has a minigame where you surf directly over lava on hoverboards. Of course, like at all points in BFD, it's possible to die in spectacular and grotesque ways, as opposed to most of these, where you bounce off of everything.
- Extreme-G: Superfast motorbikes with all sorts of weapons.
- The original Extreme-G on the N64 was able to actually overdo the wackiness. There was a cheat code that enabled you to get a random secondary weapon just by clicking it's fire button as opposed to running over a power-up on the track. And this worked for the A.I. racers too. Cue much rocketspamming and the amount of carnage going on could mess up the N64's processor and graphics and reduce the game to its bare wireframe models in that race.
- Slipstream 5000. Twenty Minutes Into the Future racing with, essentially, flying cars. Through twisting valleys and down fjords in Norway, through the winding highways and tunnels of Chicago, down Grand Canyon... Oh yeah, and you had missiles, too.
- Snowboard Kids is guilty of this one. You'd expect all the courses to have snow, but when one of the stages is a tropical island...
- Or a space station...
- Or a jungle...
- Pokémon Dash.
- Crash Team Racing.
- And the aerial version of this trope, Freaky Flyers.
- The early 90s computer game Stunts was about racing in European supercars on courses filled with more obstacles than you can shake a stick at, including half-pipes, corkscrews, loops, jumps over buildings, and roads made of ice. Its Spiritual Successor Track Mania upped the ante by introducing air-suspended courses specially meant for cars that defy the laws of physics. With its Level Editor, you can also make your courses as crazy as you want - provided the car can get through them...
- Micro Machines is Wacky Racing On the kitchen table!, or In a sandpit!, or...
- Micro Maniacs is Wacky Racing on foot.
- Excite Bike and Excite Truck. The latter in particular feels like a G-rated Carmageddon crossed with Monster Truck Madness.
- How about Excite Bots, which is like Truck, except with vehicles styled after animals and minigames in the middle of the races.
- Kinetica. The racers wear their vehicles, with the wheels attached to the ends of their arms and legs, and they race on the walls and/or ceilings of large skyscrapers. Oh, and did I mention that more than half the racers are hot chicks whose "vehicles" show lots of skin, and that the game is Nintendo Hard?
- HSX Hypersonic.Extreme (also known as G Surfers). Think of F-Zero X, 20 times faster and taking place on a Real-Scale rendition of the world. It also features a very powerful track editor which takes advantage of said Real-Scale rendition of the world.
- One of Blizzard's earliest games, Rock n' Roll Racing featured futuristic race cars, racing on tracks with deadly jumps and mines, while the racers themselves touted energy blasters, missiles, and mines.
- Grip Shift, despite featuring cars, is more of a Platform Game than an actual racing game. Ditto for the Track Mania games.
- The Trope Namer had a video game based on it made for the Sega Dreamcast and for Playstation 2. Unlike other Mario Kartlikes, you didn't pick up powerups along the track—you chose three from a list specific to the character you chose before every race, and picked up tokens along the track that would let you use the powers you chose.
- Crazyracing Kartrider
- Star Wars Episode I: Racer, based on the Phantom Menace race mentioned above. Settings include underwater cities, mining facilities, volcanic planets and zero-gravity space prisons.
- In Split Second, you can blow up things around the track, as well as drop ships and airplanes on your opponents.
- Looney Tunes ended up with two that I know of. Looney Tunes Racing was a PlayStation karting game, featuring weapons from cream pies to heat-seeking cream pies to, of course, anvils. Looney Tunes Space Race was a Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 game that took things In Space, but with the same general principle..
- Re-Volt, similar to Micro Machines but with radio control cars, has Everything's Better with Dinosaurs in the second game.
- Choro Q series isn't as wacky as others in term of a racing rule. However, after the 2nd game, the series started to put the racing courses that are beyond reality such as a disco factory, a sewer, inside a castle, a haunthouse, outer space, on the sky, under the water, and other weird possible areas. And instead of powerup, they have upgradable parts which are crazy instead.
- Team Fortress 2 introduces the Payload Race mode. The RED and BLU teams push a cart (Packed with an ammo/health dispenser and a massive bomb) from their side of the area to the opposing team's base. Whoever gets theirs to the final station wins. Of course, they're free to screw with each other's progress.
- There's also a map based on the same principal called, you guessed it, wackyraces.
- Blur, which is like Mario Kart with real cars (including supercars such as the Koenigsegg CCXR!) and improbable challenges.
- The Nintendo Wii version of the Speed Racer film, which transposes the insane courses and Car Fu tactics of the movie.
- A sidequest in Majoras Mask is a rolling Goron race, which is much like, and about as safe as, climbing inside monster truck tires and racing them down a mountain.
- Diddy Kong Racing.
- In Zoo Race, animals complete a course containing things like flames coming out of surfaces, explosive barrels, oncoming trains and so on.
- In Misfile, we see it done by Cassiel in Ash's race against Logan.
- The Trope Namer is Wacky Races, which in turn is based on The Great Race. That fits the driver and car aspects of this trope.
- Yogis Space Race is an extension of this, in space!
- And the Fender Bender 500, which replaced everyone except Dick Dastardly and Muttley with classic Hanna-Barbera characters.
- Dexters Laboratory also did an homage to Wacky Races with an episode based on the concept, except replacing the typical drivers with Dexter's Laboratory regulars.
- Laff-A-Lympics frequently included races as well, with various vehicles. Hanna-Barbera is fond of this trope.
- Shall we mention the Mind Screw chase sequence in Tom and Jerry: The Movie here?
- Additionally, there's the direct-to-video movie Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry, where the cat and mouse enter a race to win a mansion after being kicked out of their old home. At various legs of the race, they and the other contestants had to continually modify their cars for different types of travel, culminating with a race back to the start in five minutes. The movie ends with a Take That against family friendly programming. Yep.
- Speed Buggy was usually wacky races mixed with the Scooby Doo mystery formula.
- One Scooby Doo animated Film, Scooby Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf, took the exact format of Wacky Races and replaced the normal racers with monsters. The plot centered around Shaggy being turned into a werewolf to participate in the race, because the real werewolf had retired to Florida. No, really.
- I read on The Other Wiki that they'd planned on making a Wacky Races movie as part of the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 mini-series, but ended up not doing so. Anyone else think it ended up becoming Reluctant Werewolf? (Could have been. The feature was to have been titled Around The World with the Wacky Racers, but perhaps the H-B staff felt that a two-hour animated race wasn't sustainable.)
- It probably wasn't Werewolf, as when Hanna-Barbera took out its two-full-page ad in Variety in 1987 announcing the Superstars 10 project, that feature was among the ten listed, as well as the Wacky Races feature. If memory serves, Yogi & The Space Bears was not among the original ten, so that may have been the substitute.
- The Grand Finale for The Powerpuff Girls has a scene where all the villains drive racecars (with Mojo Jojo's tank resembling the Mean Machine) to race to the Mayor's office where the Key to the World is being hidden. Upon insistence from the Professor, the Girls drive a dune buggy (which looked like a pink Shout-Out to Speed Buggy).
- Disney's The Replacements had an homage Affectionate Parody of Speed Racer.
- So did The Fairly OddParents "Channel Chasers".
- Pretty much every cartoon inspired by Hot Wheels. (Accele Racers in particular, is where the Alternate Racing Dimension thing comes from.)
- Dragon Booster. The cars are in this case dragons, and the tracks are utterly insane given that they are being raced by living creatures.
- NASCAR Racers, set in a future where NASCAR has evolved into a Speed Racer style event around grotesque dangerous tracks. Ironically, though, it's actually safer than real NASCAR, since all the vehicles have "rescue racers", an escape pod jettisoned in the event of a crash.
- Teen Titans had a Wacky Races-esque episode where the Titans were trying to beat various villains to steal back a mysterious suitcase belonging to Robin from Ding-Dong Daddy.
- The entire second season of 80s cartoon M.A.S.K. (all ten episodes) centered around racing. Considering that the racing vehicles were all equipped with weapons and could transform...
- The Dukes, the Hanna-Barbera Animated Adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard, featured the Duke cousins (originally Coy and Vance and later the more familiar Bo and Luke) in an automobile race around the world against Boss Hogg, in a duel over the ownership of Duke farm.
- Tom Slick, a companion segment to George of the Jungle, forced the hero and his nemesis, Baron Otto Matic, to convert their racecars into different forms in virtually every episode. During the short run of the series, the Thunderbolt Greaseslapper became, among other things, a skateboard, a blimp, a submarine, a locomotive, a snowmobile and a swamp buggy.
- In the episode "Death Race to Oblivion" of Batman the Brave And The Bold, the interstellar warlord Mongul forces five superheroes and five supervillains to participate in the titular death race. The Batmobile and its ilk are already pretty Wacky Races in expressing the owner's, uh, preferences, but this episode revels in it.
- 'Johnny Kart Racing' in Johnny Test centered around this. Notably, the episode starts off as a normal soapbox car race between Johnny and Dukey, snowballs into this trope as more and more racers enter, and the soapboxes are swapped for real cars. Also noteworthy is that a lampshade is hung Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat.
- The BBC's Kerwhizz is a mostly-CGI, pre-school game show, in which three teams consisting of a kid and his/her android Non-Human Sidekick answer questions before racing their pods around a themed "race world". One suspects the writers may be paying homage to Wacky Races with titles like "Fun Food Freeway", "Moonlight Night Flight" and "The Deserted Desert Dash".
- Bailey's Comets was an obscure De Patie-Freleng show from 1973 (airing on CBS) about ten teams of roller skaters, including the titular Comets, who are on a cross-country marathon race to find a treasure.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy had one.
- One episode of Cyberchase was about Matt, Jackie, Inez, and Digit helping Princess Creech enter such a race so that she can become Queen of Tikiville, but at the same time, The Hacker also wants to rule Tikiville, and therefore he resorts to cheating in the race so he can win.
- Truth in Television: Most rally raids, including the Paris-Dakar Rally and the Baja 1000. More often than not, these rallies are not much about who finishes first, but more about who finishes!
- Of particular note is the 1963 East African Safari Rally. Eighty-four cars started the rally. Five days later seven crossed the finish line.
- 24 hours of Lemons. Just, go out there and look how people race these little pieces of crap. You won't regret it.
- Lemons/Le Mans, hmm?
- At the Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, California, in the late 90s, they had a racing class called trains, which consisted of three cars hooked up to one another, racing on a figure-8 circuit. The one in front had only gas and steering, the one in the middle was empty, and the one in the back had only brakes and steering. Did we mention that the cars actually are on a single level track, so they can crash into each other in the middle? That's probably why they don't run it anymore.