Riot police fired tear gas in the violent scenes in the French capital Paris and the city of Lyon on Halloween night.
More than 100 of the rioters were arrested after hassling police and passers by, shattering shop windows and setting rubbish bins on fire.
In the deprived Seine-Saint-Denis area north of Paris, a sportswear store was looted and young people robbing a grocery store attacked police with acid, according to Denis Jacob of police union Alternative Police.
Authorities said the riots were stoked by messages circulated on social media, apparently inspired by the Hollywood horror film franchise “The Purge”, which depicts a violent dystopia in which all crimes are made legal for a day.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Thursday: “Halloween must remain a celebration, the purge is not a joke, the purge is a threat.”
A young man who wrote a Snapchat message calling for the “purge” against police forces was arrested earlier this week. He was released on Tuesday pending trial on November 28, police said.
Mr Castaner said 15,000 police were deployed all across France on Wednesday night in anticipation, and that violence was less severe than a year ago.
Youths in depressed suburbs of French cities have been torching hundreds of vehicles on New Year’s Eve and Bastille Day since the early 1990s.
Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in France, although it has become more visible since the late 1990s under the influence of American films and TV series, with shop windows often showing hollowed out pumpkin heads and witches.
During the World Cup this summer two football fans were killed in Paris after celebrations at France’s World Cup final win turned sour.
More than 500 people were arrested after the riots.
Just a week earlier there was four nights of rioting in Nantes over a fatal shooting by a French police officer. The officer claimed the shooting was an accident.
The officer was reportedly devastated over the death.
Angry youths torched cars in the Le Breil neighbourhood after Aboubakar Fofana, 22, was shot dead.
Mr Fofana almost ran over two children and hit a police officer when reversing from a control point “at high speed”.
He was shot in the neck and was declared dead on arrival at hospital.