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Cars is a racing game based on the original movie. The game is available on the Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, PC, and Game Boy Advance platforms.

It is the first video game in the Cars series, and the predecessor to Cars: Mater-National Championship. It was released on June 6, 2006, with the Xbox 360 and Wii versions following later the same year.


Lightning McQueen speaks to Sally.

The story takes place less than a month after the original movie. Lightning McQueen is dreaming of a street race in Radiator Springs while sleeping in the Cozy Cone Motel, when he is woken by Sally Carrera, who informs him that Doc Hudson is waiting for him at Willy's Butte, while a group of visitors have arrived in Radiator Springs, who are interested in racing McQueen. Additionally, Mack lectures McQueen about getting practice for the upcoming Piston Cup season.

At the Willy's Butte oval, Doc teaches Lightning how to powerslide, and challenges him to a race immediately afterwards. Following their competition, the two spot Chick Hicks watching them from a distance, and he quickly drives away after capturing their attention, making McQueen and Doc suspicious. The first Piston Cup race of the season takes place at the Palm Mile Speedway, where Lightning and Chick's rivalry is more intense than ever before, due to the retirement of former champion Strip Weathers.

Sarge instructs Lightning in his boot camp.

When Lightning returns to Radiator Springs, Fillmore provides him with a new organic fuel, which gives Lightning the ability to boost. After McQueen participates in off-road training with Sarge, he and Mack travel to the Motor Speedway of the South, where Lightning achieves another victory.

McQueen arrives back in town at night, where Tow Mater teaches him how to drive backwards, and Sheriff challenges him to a race that introduces him to Ornament Valley, the area east of Radiator Springs. When Lightning travels there some time later, he finds Mater practicing for the Rustbucket Race-O-Rama, a derby race between Mater and his cousins. Mater wins the race and receives a boost tank as a prize, which he gives to Lightning. Soon after, Lightning meets a group of race cars from Queens, New York, who compete in practice races with McQueen, before he heads off to the Sun Valley International Raceway to acquire his next Piston Cup victory.

Lightning meets New York racers Vince, Sonny, and Barry.

With the rivalry between McQueen and Hicks growing stronger, McQueen competes in more races with his friends, including a drive up to the Wheel Well Motel in Tailfin Pass with Sally. From this point forward, Lightning explores Tailfin Pass more, but runs into trouble when he finds the Delinquent Road Hazards blocking the road from him. The matter is settled with a race through the Abandoned Mine, and Lightning receives a third and final boost tank as a reward. However, when the four troublemakers flee the scene, they inform McQueen that their conflict has not been fully settled yet. Lightning also competes in more road races, including in a monster truck derby race against Count Spatula, and his friends in the Rustbucket Stadium.

When Lightning meets up with the Queens gang again at the Ornament Valley Gas Station, he finds Chick alongside them, and after a road race, Lightning playfully teases him. When McQueen starts to leave and tells Chick he will see him at the stadium, Hicks angrily drives away, making a comment about how McQueen will only see him if he makes it to the speedway, leaving Lightning suspicious.

The imprisoned Delinquent Road Hazards.

Shortly following this, the Delinquent Road Hazards work together to rob Mack of Lightning's gear while he is driving along Interstate 40. When Mack reports the incident to Sheriff, McQueen strikes back by driving out to the Interstate and stealing his possessions back. The four cars are brought to the Radiator Springs Municipal Impound, where they claim they were hired by Hicks.

At the Smasherville International Speedway, McQueen confronts Hicks on the incident, who denies any involvement. After defeating Chick, Lightning challenges him to a four-race competition, with road races in Radiator Springs, Tailfin Pass, and Ornament Valley, and the final round being the final race of the Piston Cup season. Chick accepts, and the event is covered by Darrell Cartrip and the Racing Sports Network.

Lightning defeats Chick in all three rounds, and manages to achieve another victory during the closing race at the Los Angeles International Speedway. McQueen wins the Piston Cup trophy, which he puts on the windowsill of Doc's Clinic, alongside the Fabulous Hudson Hornet's three trophies.


Story mode

A cutscene from story mode.

There are five chapters of the story, each one containing 5-8 events. There are three types of events - road races, minigames, and Piston Cup races. In road races, players proceed through short races, each race open to a small number of contestants. To complete minigames, players must complete a unique objective, such as collecting a given number of an object. There are five Piston Cup races, one at the end of each chapter. These races feature twelve laps, and a larger number of opponents. Halfway into the race, players must take a "pit stop" and a play a minigame in order to move on in the race. Completing and winning events will reward the player with trophies, and there are a total of 250 to collect within the campaign.

In between events, players can drive around a hub world that consists of three different areas; Radiator Springs, Ornament Valley, and Tailfin Pass. Players can explore the worlds while searching for Bonus Points and driving past tourists and many of Lightning McQueen's friends. New areas are unlocked as the story progresses. Unlocking criteria is as follows:

Area Unlocking criteria
Ornament Valley Earn first place in Sheriff's Chase
Tailfin Pass Earn first place in Sally's Wheel Well Sprint
Abandoned Mine and connecting roads Earn third place or higher in Delinquent Road Hazards

While players take control of Lightning in the hub world and throughout the majority of the game's events, players occasionally drive as other characters, such as Tow Mater, Sally Carrera, and Sheriff. Additionally, Lightning's appearance can be changed at Ramone's House of Body Art. While a small selection of paint schemes are available from the start of the game, the remainder must be unlocked by purchasing them with Bonus Points in the Bonus Content menu section.


Lightning, Mater, Flo, Sarge and Ramone in an arcade race.

Arcade mode allows players to use any character they have unlocked so far on any event unlocked through story mode. Unlike story mode, each race's opponents are random. In the Xbox 360 and Wii versions of the game, there are three additional events only playable in arcade mode: Ghosting Mater, Mater's Speedy Circuit, and Mater's Countdown Cleanup.


Two players can play together with any characters they have unlocked so far, but the number of playable events are limited. There is also the Pit Stop Challenge minigame from story mode, which is only playable in VS mode. The frame rate will drop while playing this mode.


The options mode is where players go to change various settings of the game, such as control settings, profile data, and audio types. The "Cheats" button also allows players to enter cheat codes to gain access to various content of the game without having to meet the standard requirements to unlock them.

Cheat code Result
CHMPION Hard Mode (Note: This must be entered as a Profile Name rather than as a Cheat Code)
CONC3PT Unlock all concept arts
IF900HP Unlock everything
IMSPEED Faster acceleration across all racing modes
MATTL66 Unlock all Road Races and Piston Cup Races
R4MONE Unlock all paint jobs (Doesn't work on PC)
TRGTEXC Unlock Mater's Speedy Circuit and Mater's Countdown Clean-Up
VROOOOM Limitless boosting
WATCHIT Unlock all in-game movie clips
YAYCARS Unlock all playable characters (Doesn't work on PC)

Bonus content

King in the Bonus Content menu

Bonus Content serves as a "store" where players can spend their bonus points on characters, concept art, movie clips, and more.


The characters tab allows players to spend thier bonus points on new cars and paint jobs, for a certain price. The cars available are Doc, Ramone, Flo, Sheriff, Chick Hicks, Wingo, King, and Count Spatula.


The art option gives players the ability to purchase concept art from the developers, divided into two categories, character and environment.


Three different categories of videos can be purchased here: deleted scenes, clips, and trailers. There are several deleted scenes that revolve around a story of Ramone talking to McQueen about how he "flew". There is also a variety of clips from the first Cars movie, ranging in duration of about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Due to storage limitations, video clips are completely absent from the Gamecube version and cannot be unlocked through any means.


The game features 13 different playable characters, each one having their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as unique stats. There are also several more characters that appear throughout the game's story mode, that serve as opponents and event hosts.

Playable characters

Image Name Stats Cost in bonus points

Speed: 5
Acceleration: 4
Handling: 3
Stability: 3


Speed: 3
Acceleration: 4
Handling: 3
Stability: 4


Speed: 4
Acceleration: 5
Handling: 4
Stability: 2


Speed: 5
Acceleration: 3
Handling: 2
Stability: 4


Speed: 3
Acceleration: 4
Handling: 3
Stability: 3


Speed: 4
Acceleration: 4
Handling: 2
Stability: 3


Speed: 4
Acceleration: 2
Handling: 2
Stability: 5

Chick Hicks

Speed: 5
Acceleration: 4
Handling: 3
Stability: 4


Speed: 4
Acceleration: 4
Handling: 5
Stability: 2

Darrell Cartrip

Speed: 5
Acceleration: 4
Handling: 3
Stability: 4


Speed: 5
Acceleration: 3
Handling: 4
Stability: 3


Speed: 4
Acceleration: 3
Handling: 2
Stability: 3

Count Spatula

Speed: 4
Acceleration: 3
Handling: 2
Stability: 3


Only playable in mini-games

  • Luigi (Luigi to the Rescue)
  • Boost (High Speed Heist)
  • DJ (High Speed Heist)

Non-playable characters

Other characters


Events serve as the main feature of the gameplay, and are categorized into three different groups: Road races, minigames, and Piston Cup races. Road races let the player drive on tracks in Radiator Springs, Tailfin Pass and Ornament Valley, minigames allow the players to play fun games with specific objectives, and Piston Cup races are longer than road races, but with simpler tracks.

Road races


Piston Cup races

Xbox 360 and Wii bonus games

These minigames are only available on the Xbox 360 and Wii versions, which were both released after the initial release of the game on other platforms. Except Ghosting Mater, the minigames are available in every other console except PSP and Nintendo DS by entering the code "TRGTEXC".


Each story mode race features a different set of characters that compete in each race. In addition to the player, there are several CPU opponents, each one having a different speed level - there will be one very fast character, one fast character, one medium character, and one slow character. This system is very similar to the "rival order" that is featured in the Mario Kart game series.

Course Player Very Fast Fast Medium Slow
Radiator Springs Grand Prix Lightning Doc Sally Fletcher Ramone
Radiator Cap Circuit Lightning Fletcher El Guapo Gerald Papo
Sally's Sunshine Circuit Sally Mia Tia Flo
Doc's Challenge Lightning Doc
Boostin' with Fillmore Lightning Fillmore Ramone Mia Tia
North Desert Dash Lightning El Guapo Gerald Fletcher Papo
Sarge's Off-Road Challenge Lightning Sarge Ramone Fillmore Sheriff
Sheriff's Chase Lightning Sheriff
Rustbucket Race-O-Rama Mater Zeke Judd Tommy Joe Cletus
Ornament Valley Circuit Lightning Vince Sonny Lenny Barry
Sally's Wheel Well Sprint Lightning Sally
Doc's Check-Up Lightning Doc Fillmore Ramone Sheriff
Tailfin Pass Circuit Lightning Fletcher Vince Sonny El Guapo
Delinquent Road Hazards Lightning Boost[1] Wingo DJ Snot Rod
Monster Truck Mayhem Lightning Count Spatula The Crippler Ginormous

Chick's Challenge

Lightning Chick Hicks Vince Barry Sonny
Radiator Springs GP Lightning Chick Hicks Fletcher Gerald El Guapo
Tailfin Pass GP Lightning Chick Hicks El Guapo Gerald Vince
Ornament Valley GP Lightning Chick Hicks Vince Sonny Barry
Palm Mile Speedway Lightning Chick Hicks Lee Jr. Suregrip Hollister
Motor Speedway of the South Lightning Chick Hicks Hollister Suregrip Lee Jr.
Sun Valley International Raceway Lightning Chick Hicks Guenther Riley Joltsen
Smasherville International Speedway Lightning Chick Hicks Aikens Riley Joltsen
Los Angeles International Speedway Lightning Chick Hicks Lee Jr. Suregrip Hollister

Bonus points

Total Points

Radiator Springs

Ornament Valley

Tailfin Pass


100 points





500 points





2000 points











Cars was developed and published by THQ to be released on several different platforms. The console versions were powered by Rainbow Studios' engine, with the handheld versions running off of Havok. In a behind the scenes feature included in the game's unlockable Bonus Content, the developers of the game reveal a variety of information regarding the game's design and development.

According to lead designer Jordan Itkowitz, the game was designed to provide additional story to those left wanting more after watching Cars. The game's prominent feature of exploration was implemented with the intention of allowing children to explore the vast world of Radiator Springs following their viewership of the film. Dan Scanlon also connects the exploration element to the morals of Cars, comparing how the film is about enjoying time in new locations, to how the game primarily takes place in Carburetor County.

For these reasons, the game also included a variety of new characters and new locations for players to familiarize themselves with. Scanlon and Steve Purcell confirmed that these new elements were based off of unimplemented ideas from the film.[2]

Beta elements

Main article: Cars: The Video Game/Beta elements


Main article: Cars: The Video Game (DS)

Main article: Cars: The Video Game (GBA)

Main article: Cars: The Video Game (PSP)


Overall, the game has received positive feedback. GameSpot gave 7.0 out of 10 for the Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 2 versions, 7.6 out of 10 for the GameCube and Xbox versions, and 7.4 out of 10 for the PSP version. Metacritic gave 65 out of 100 for the Wii version, 54 out of 100 for the DS version, 73 out of 100 for the PC version, 71 out of 100 for the PlayStation 2 version, and 70 out of 100 for the PSP version.


Main article: Cars: The Video Game/Staff

References to other media

  • Cars: Several characters and locations return from this movie, with all of the characters keeping their original voice actors. The game's story also takes place shortly after the events of the film. However, it was meant to be considered as an alternative continuation to the film rather than be canonical to it.

References in later media

  • Cars: Radiator Springs Adventures: All of McQueen's alternate paint jobs are the same as in the Cars video game.
  • Cars: Mater-National Championship: Although there are many changes to the open world in this game, there are still several areas and roads that remain the same. All (but one) of Lightning's alternate paint jobs reappear alongside new collectible paint jobs.
  • Cars: Race-O-Rama: All of the changes made in Cars: Mater-National Championship are no longer present, and the open world has returned to the way it was in this game, with the exception of a few new roads made specifically for Cars: Race-O-Rama. Lightning's alternate paintjobs reappear, but only in Monster Truck Races.
  • Cars 3: One of the voice clips Docs says when overtaking another racer is, "You might want to take notes on this one." The same voice clip would be re-used in Cars 3 in the flashback where he is balancing a stack of objects on his hood.


Main article: Cars: The Video Game/Gallery


Main article: Cars: The Video Game/Glitches


  • The Piston Cup racers that appear in this game are different characters from the Piston Cup racers in the film, despite being nearly identical in appearance, with notable differences including their race numbers. In the Xbox 360 version of the game, however, all of the racers, excluding Hollister, Cortland, Joltsen, Aikens and Clarkson, have their numbers changed to match the characters that carry their sponsors in Cars. However, it is inaccurate.
  • The DS version of the game is much different than the console versions. It has a variety of mini-games to choose from, as well as a few Piston Cup races.
  • The GameBoy Advance version only has four playable characters: Lightning McQueen, Doc Hudson, The King, and Chick Hicks. There are also unlockable pictures from the movie that the player can unlock and collect.
  • The PSP version has its own story mode involving Boost, DJ, Wingo and Snot Rod as the main antagonists, and their friendship with Chick Hicks is revealed. There are sixteen playable characters to choose from, with DJ, Snot Rod, Wingo, Boost and Chick Hicks as unlockable boss characters.
  • The PSP version of the game is the only version where Keith Ferguson does the voice of Lightning McQueen.
  • If the player looks up in free drive mode, the clouds are tire treads, the same as in the movie.
  • In the Xbox 360 version of the game, music and other SFX does not play during the cutscenes and endscenes, while they do in other versions.
  • The Xbox 360 and Wii versions use different 3D models than other versions, for example, Gerald has smaller headlights and a more streamlined hood, Tommy Joe has dents on his trunk, and especially Lightning McQueen looks completely different.
  • The last stripes at each end of the repaved road are shaped like lightning bolts.
  • Like the film, the game is dedicated in memory of Joe Ranft.
  • When the player visits Tailfin Pass in story mode, it will always be day time, even if the last event they played was at night time.
  • If the player creates a new save-file and name it "CHMPION", they can access a hidden hard mode. It will not be noticeable by the first-look, but the opponents in Story Mode go way faster than usual.
  • The game doesn't use music from the film. Instead, it has an original soundtrack composed by Bruno Coon. The game also has eight licensed songs that play during free roam, Road Races, and Piston Cup Races. They are sung by artists like All American Rejects, Los Lobos, Edgar Winter Free Group, Autopilot Off, as well as Stray Cats.
  • The Wii and Xbox versions of the game have better graphics and more minigames due to both being released a few month later than the previous gen versions of the game.
  • There was never a PS3 version released, but the PS2 version was put in the PS2 classics collection for PS3. Another game that got this treatment was The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
  • The Wii version uses motion controls.


  1. Boost is often prone to setbacks in this race, and will sometimes finish in fourth as a result, behind Wingo and DJ.
  2. Making of Cars: The Video Game (see timestamp 44:47)


Cars: The Video Game
Lightning McQueenTow MaterSally CarreraDoc HudsonRamoneFloSheriffChick HicksWingoDarrell CartripThe KingCount SpatulaLuigiGuidoFillmoreSargeLizzieStanleyTractorsFrankMackMia and TiaSnot RodBoostDJAl OftFletcherGeraldEl GuapoPapoVinceSonnyLennyBarryTommy JoeBufordCletusJuddZekeLewisThe CripplerGinormousJoltsenMcCoyCortlandBashmanBanksHollisterSuregripHendersonMedfordMastersonRileyBuckLee Jr.ClarksonAikensZebTurnerGuenther
Radiator Springs Grand PrixRadiator Cap CircuitLizzie's Postcard HuntSally's Sunshine CircuitTractor TippingDoc's Lesson: PowerslideDoc's ChallengePalm Mile SpeedwayBoostin' with FillmoreLuigi to the RescueNorth Desert DashSarge's Boot CampSarge's Off-Road ChallengeMotor Speedway of the SouthMater's Backwards LessonSheriff's ChaseSheriff's Hot PursuitRustbucket Race-O-RamaOrnament Valley CircuitSun Valley International RacewaySally's Wheel Well SprintDoc's Check-UpTailfin Pass CircuitMonster Truck MayhemDelinquent Road HazardsHigh Speed HeistLightning Strikes BackChick's ChallengeSmasherville International SpeedwayRadiator Springs GPTailfin Pass GPOrnament Valley GPLos Angeles International SpeedwayPit Stop ChallengeMater's Countdown Clean-UpMater's Speedy CircuitGhosting Mater
Further info
Beta elementsStaff