It’s hard to imagine the world of gaming without the Need for Speed. It is also hard to imagine the movie world without the Fast and the Furious film series. Both EA racing games and movies led by Vin Diesel have changed the landscape of their respective genres.

NFS brought the exciting urban racing under the roofs of our homes, while the series about racers-turned-thieves-turned government agents-turned superheroes became the dictionary example of summer blockbusters. In one way or the other, both series had drawn inspiration from each other, and in this article, we will discuss how the Fast and the Furious inspired the titles in the NFS games as well as present the Fastest and the most Furious games from EA’s iconic series

Need for Speed – a series with an evolving tradition

need for speed 2015 street

The history of the NFS video game series began in 1994. Electronic Arts were at that point interested in creating a driving simulator, which would stun the gamers with a realistic approach to driving. To that end, the Electronics partnered with an automotive magazine Road&Track, which provided them with the details on the cars’ behavior and details, such as the sound of changing gears. The result of that cooperation was the first Need for Speed, which was met with positive reviews, praising the realism and gameplay. The realistic approach continued for several of the following installments of the series.

In the end, the series dropped the pretenses of being a realistic racing simulator, introducing more arcade-style gameplay, and added the customization options, which would become the staple of the series. Need for Speed would return to its simulator roots in later installments, but these were purely experimentational attempts at reviving the feel of the earlier games. To this day, the NFS series remains true to the arcade spirit of fast-paced racing and questionable physics.

The Fast and the Furious – from street racers to superheroes

fast and furious(Image credit: Universal Photo)

Much like the Need for Speed games, The Fast and the Furious movies went through a lot of changes before establishing itself as a quintessential summer blockbuster series. In the first the Fast and the Furious film, directed by Rob Marshall and released in 2001, the audiences met Brian O’Conner, an undercover cop, infiltrating the street racing arena. There, he meets Dominic Toretto, a charismatic leader of a group of racers, who spend their off-hours stealing DVDs and VHS players. The Fast and the Furious creators were not shy about their inspirations. The plot of the film was a 1:1 remake of Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, with the bank-robbing surfers replaced by street racers who still cargo from trucks during convoys.

For the next several movies in the series, different directors tried to leave their signature on the Fast and the Furious trademark. The results varied from decent 2 Fast 2 Furious and less than good Tokyo Drift. It was thanks to the directorial touch of Justin Lin that the series abandoned the restrictions of street racing and found its place as stupid-but-entertaining summer flicks, filled with gravity-defying action and carried on the charismatic shoulders of Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. So far, the series clocks at 8 main installments and two spin-offs, with even more movies about Dom and his crew coming in the near future.

The best Need for Speed games

that could pass as the Fast and the Furious movies

 

Need for Speed Underground

Release year: 2003
Developer EA Black Box

Why it could pass as the Fast and the Furious movie: because it features an illegal racing circuit with a charismatic leader at the top.

Underground is probably one of the most “Fast and Furious-like” installment in the history of the series. Underground features a story mode, which follows the player as they participate in underground street races against members of Eastriders gang, led by their intimidating boss, Eddie. Ring any bells?

need for speed underground

This installment of the NFS series puts heavy emphasis on car customization, letting the player choose the paint job, tires, stickers and other decorative elements, as well as improve the car performance by upgrading the engine, transmission, brakes, etc. The game features several different race types, like circuit, drag, point-to-point sprint races and drift races. NFS: U series features many popular brands of cars such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Peugeot, and Honda.


Need for Speed Underground 2

Release year: 2004
Developer EA Black Box

Why it could pass as the Fast and the Furious movie: because, just like 2Fast, 2Furious, it’s almost exactly like the first one, only better.

The sequel to the NfS:U, Underground 2 features many familiar gameplay mechanics and adds some new ones to the mix. The game features a story mode, which follows the player’s character from the previous installment into a completely new city, with another racer gang, lined up for the layer to outmatch in different types of races.

need for speed underground 2

Most of the race types from the previous installments make their return in Underground 2, but the game also features new ones, like Street X – a race on a closed track, special events – a type of sprint race, which player has to complete with a given time limit and outrun race, in which the player has to be a specific length ahead of the opponent’s car to win. Customization and upgrades of the players’ car return and is heavily expanded, letting the player customize the car’s bumpers, hood, spoilers, lights and more.


Need for Speed: Carbon

Release year: 2006
Developer EA Black Box

Why it could pass as the Fast and the Furious movie: because, as with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, sliding through canyon roads takes the spotlight.

NFS: Carbon is a unique beast among the Need for Speed series. A sequel to 2005’s Most Wanted, the game features live-action cutscenes, following the story of the player character taking on the racer gangs on the streets of Palmont City.

need for speed carbon

Carbon features many of the race types from the previous titles in the series, as well as new ones, mostly related to the newly introduced Canyon mode. In this mode, the player races on the mountain roads surrounding the main game area. The races player can participate in Canyon Mode are sprints, drift races and duels. The latter ones feature destructible guardrails, so the player needs to be careful not to fall off the track. Car customization and police chases return in Carbon, completing the experience the Need for Speed fans have grown accustomed to.


Need for Speed: Undercover

Release year: 2008
Developer EA Black Box

Why it could pass as the Fast and the Furious movie: because the player plays as a police officer infiltrating the underground races environment at the behest of the FBI.

Right next to both Underground games, NFS: Undercover is the title that offers the most in terms of the Fast and the Furious experience. The game’s main story is similar to the plot of the first film in the series.

need for speed undercover

The player’s character is a police officer tasked with infiltrating an illegal race circuit involved with smuggling cars.  The gameplay of Undercover is similar to that of Most Wanted and Carbon, the player chooses from a variety of cars, including popular brands like Audi, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and more. The cars can be upgraded and customized to the players’ liking. The single-player race types in the game include the classic circuit, drag, and sprint as well as police pursuit related ones, like cop takeout, where the player is tasked with destroying pursuing police cars and Cost to State, which rewards damage to property made during the pursuit.


Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Release year: 2012
Developer Criterion Games

Why it could pass as the Fast and the Furious movie: because the player can play the game of cats and mouse with the police, and that’s what the Fast and the Furious series is all about.

The 2012’s Most Wanted is the remake of the 2005’s installment of the NFS series. Both games share the title and several features, like the types of races the player can participate in, like sprint and circuit, as well as the Blacklist of racers the player needs to defeat.

Most Wanted Need For Speed

The remake does not have a story mode, requiring the player to win better cars as they progress. Instead, the player is thrown in the middle of the action in the car of their choosing, with the goal of becoming the most wanted racer on the streets of Fairhaven. The police chases make their return, with a new mode, Ambush, dedicated to outrun them. The player can also engage in pursuit with the police, which will throw their best cars as the player tries to escape them.


Need for Speed: Heat

Release year: 2019
Developer Ghost Games

Why it could pass as the Fast and the Furious movie: because the player can gain reputation and money from winning races, something the Fast and the Furious characters are very familiar with.

Need for Speed: Heat is the newest installment of the EA’s racing series. In Heat the player takes to the streets of Palm City, a Miami-inspired metropolis, where the best racers in the country face off in Speedhunters Showdown, a legal daytime racing tournament, or in nighttime underground races.

need for speed heat

Each form of racing provides the player with different rewards. Racing during the day earns player Bank – the money necessary to upgrade and customize vehicles. Underground races increase the Rep points, which can be spent on upgrading the players’ avatar. The game features several types of cars from different brands, each with their own levels of performance, divided between power, high speed, acceleration, and nitrous.


The Fast, the Furious and the Need for Speed – who inspired who?


The first Need for Speed premiered seven years before the Fast and the Furious movie, therefore it should be obvious which series inspired which. Street racing in exotic cars was the cornerstone of the first three tFatF films, which would make them the ones who copied the idea from the EA’s racing series. However, with the Vin Diesel-led series moving further and further away from a series strictly concerned with racing, and the Need for Speed series becoming more and more cinematic the answer is not so simple.

The truth is that the answer doesn’t really matter. Both series have left their mark on their respective industries and will forever be remembered as the best arcade racing games in history and a one of the highest-grossing and longest-running series that went from racers stealing DVDs to them jumping from a skyscraper while driving a supercar.