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!
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