There are races that are closely defined with certain settings. When a person sees them on the cover of a RPG book they immediately think of the setting or system. This is a good thing for the publisher since it makes the potential consumer think of the setting and the memories inherent with them. There is a familiar comfortability with this. It can be a selling point all on its own.
There has been a lot of talk about integrating races into other settings. For all that, I still think certain races will forever remain tied to certain settings. For me the following races bring to mind a specific settings when I see them on a book…
Troll with cyberwear- Shadowrun
Drow- Forgotten Realms
Mul- Dark Sun
Are iconic races needed to help bolster a game setting? I don’t think a new race is needed to push a setting but I think it certainly helps. Would Birthright (a setting I absolutely love) or Al-Qadim have been bigger if they had their own iconic races? Will the Shadar-Kai become an iconic race (a race I believe deserves it)?
What races did I miss that immediately remind you of a setting or system?