Racing to 31 – 31 racing game greats: #14: F-Zero GX (2003)

It’s that time of year again and I find myself racing toward another birthday and to the ripe-old age of 31. In celebration I thought why the hell not have a racing themed countdown – so here we are, counting down 31 racing games that have defined my enjoyment of the genre over the last 31 years. Enjoy!

F-ZeroGXCube

Nintendo’s GameCube is often derided for its lack of depth and breadth of its software catalogue – a notion that I think the fullness of time can proven perhaps more than a little unfair.  Of course it didn’t have the sheer number of games as its competitors, and its best games were those from Nintendo itself, but despite popular opinion Nintendo at that time had an incredible catalogue of properties across almost each and every genre.  You don’t associate Nintendo with racing games, but between the internally developed Wave Race: Blue Storm  and Sega’s F-Zero GX, Nintendo managed to cut out an interesting proposition for would-be GameCube owners, by delivering two almost must-play racing games that could only be found on the third-placed system.

It’s funny, because alongside the Mario Kart series, Nintendo’s racing game chops include two of the most brutally difficult franchises ever to hit consoles.  It won’t be surprising to hear that a lot of F-Zero GX difficulty comes from just how ridiculously fast it can be, requiring split second reactions and an almost photographic memory of its tracks to succeed.  But with the fine-tuned precision of its controls, the game encouraged the dedication to perfect it, knowing that the game could be ‘beaten’ once you’d gotten your head (and hands) around the swift pace at which it moved.

It is surprising how few games have come out to challenge for the title of king of futuristic racing.  But while the obvious point of comparison is Wipeout , functionally it is more akin to arcade games like Rush 2049, putting less emphasis on complex corners and more emphasis on maintaining the straightest line possible through tracks that simply aren’t straight.  That may sound nonsensical but once you get a feel for the airbrakes it will become apparent that this is an entirely different beast to Wipeout, and that despite fighting the same war, they are fighting on entirely different fronts.  And it comes off better for it.

Despite predating Wipeout Even though we haven’t seen a new entry in the F-Zero series in over a decade, Nintendo seems to understand the gravitas the franchise has with fans.  It was one of the first virtual console games to hit the 3DS handheld way back in 2011, and Captain Falcon has appeared in every Super Smash Bros game there’s been.  But with no home-console entry in the series since early in the GameCube’s life you’ve got to wonder whether the kids – of whom Smash Bros is immensely popular with – have any idea where big ol’ Falcon is from.  Perhaps its high time Nintendo reacquainted the world with the series that made him a star.

Did F-Zero have you throwing GameCube controllers around the room in frustration?  Let me know in the comments, and be sure to check out past games in the 31 racing game greats countdown below!

#31: Stunt Car Racer   #30: Badlands   #29: RVF Honda  #28: Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge  #27: Nitro  #26: Super Grand Prix  #25 Super Cars II  #24 Super RC Pro-Am #23 Sega Rally  #22 Wipeout 2097  #21 Micro Machines V3  #20 Gran Turismo #19 Need For Speed: High Stakes  #18 Colin McRae Rally 2.0  #17 Wave Race: Blue Storm #16 Grand Prix Challenge  #15 Project Gotham Racing 2  #14 F-Zero GX  #13 Mashed #12 Burnout 3: Takedown  #11 Ridge Racer  #10 Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast #9 Forza Motorsport 2  #8 Motorstorm: Pacific Rift  #7 Midnight Club: Los Angeles  #6 Dirt 2  #5 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit  #4 Shift 2: Unleashed  #3 Sonic All-Star Racing: Transformed  #2 Forza Horizon  #1 F1 2013: Classic Edition

F-ZeroGX Screen

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3 Comments

  1. F-Zero GX is the ultimate futuristic racer. It’s almost like the racing equivilent of Mars Matrix, it scares people. When this came out I remember bringing it over my friends houses, hoping to play some multiplayer, but no one would bite. We stuck to Double Dash and Smash Brothers instead. Which was still fun. I’m not much of a Smash Brothers fan though.

    I love how F-Zero GX manages to create such an interesting world with little attempts at “storytelling” or “open world” nonsense, those Need For Speed developers should take a close look at this game. Love those pilot theme songs. “Billy the ape of the universe. No one can beat the speed of Mad Wolf.”

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    1. If I were to choose a Mario Kart game (and I haven’t – it will become obvious why later on in the countdown) it would certainly be Double Dash. Great game that one.

      I’ve never thought about the coherent world it created outside of its characters (Captain Falcon as I mentioned), but you’re right, it does. On the Need for Speed comparison, I think they did a pretty decent job at trying to give the game personality with Most Wanted. Wasn’t perfect, and was pretty cheesy, but it worked for what it was.

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  2. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have my Need for Speed games be about exotic super cars racing on snake-like country roads, but EA usually has other things in mind. I can not stand RPG/ GTA style anything in my racing games and I think F-Zero GX’s approach is prefered. Let the track design, vehicles, music and on occasion, driver personalities build an atmosphere, and let the players imagination fill in the blanks. Most of the Wipeout games, especially the original, did a great job with this and so did the early Ridge Racers (R4’s driver/ manager chit chat is easy to skip thankfully).

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