F-Zero is one of those cult classic franchises that seems to be on the back of gamers’ minds often. When it first launched on the SNES back in 1990, there was nothing else like it in the gaming world. The game was fast, colorful, and provided many unique mechanics to separate itself from all of the other racers on the market at the time.
So what happened? Why has Nintendo given up on the franchise? Should they try and raise it from the dead? Let’s see if the F-Zero franchise is worth resurrecting.
F-Zero released on the SNES in Japan in 1990 and in 1991 in North America, and it received solid praise from critics back then. It was lauded for its graphical realism at the time, as well as its fluid motion and tight controls. Does that sounds familiar? Well, those are the standards for most racing games today, and it appears that the futuristic F-Zero set the bar way back in 1990.
Since then, the original F-Zero was ported to arcade machines in Japan, and the title also has made its rounds on the Virtual Console and SNES channels. A couple Japanese games followed the original on the SNES called BS F-Zero Grand Prix and BS F-Zero Grand Prix 2, but they were only playable on the Satellaview attachment for the Super Famicom. The first real wolrdwide sequel did not release until 1998 in the form of F-Zero X for the Nintendo 64. Similar to the original, X was praised by most outlets for its fast gameplay and tight controls, but also for stellar track designs and holding a high frame rate even with 30 racers on screen.
All that follows after that are three Game Boy Advance titles, one of which never released outside of Japan, and the last console/arcade title called F-Zero GX/AX. Outside of the two titles based on the Japanese anime, Maximum Velocity (GBA) and GX/AX (GameCube & Arcade) were once again praised for their speed, fluid motions, and tight controls. The GameCube title was even considered “one of the best racing titles ever” and “a must-own for the GameCube”.
So what happened? All of this praise and adoration, but we have not seen a new F-Zero since 2004, nearly 20 years ago.
Well, the short and most unfortunate answer is money. The original F-Zero was a huge success financially, and it also saw even more success in its arcade ports in Japan. After that, though, it seems like Nintendo just could not catch a break no matter how much effort they put into the sequels. Despite the high quality and grand attention to detail, the series’ sales just declined tremendously over time, and Nintendo had no choice but to pull the plug, take a break, and reassess.
It has been 18 years since we have seen a new F-Zero game, but we have gotten some fun Easter eggs since then. Captain Falcon is a cornerstone character in the Smash Bros series, and Samurai Goroh is a featured trophy within the series and has also been heavily requested as a playable character. The Mario Kart franchise has used F-Zero content since Mario Kart Wii, which had the Blue Falcon as a kart. Since then, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has even added courses based on Mute City and Big Blue from F-Zero.
It appears Nintendo is in quite a conundrum with the F-Zero series, because they clearly believe in the franchise and tried really hard to continue pumping out titles since the initial release on the SNES. However, those poor sales only hurt future prospects, but I am curious of Nintendo’s use of F-Zero and Captain Falcon since 2004. I wonder if they are indicators of Nintendo testing the waters, or do they think this is the best way to honor the franchise for the time being?
In 2012, Shigeru Miyamoto was told that F-Zero was the series French gamers missed the most in an interview with Gamekult, and he responded with the following statement, “Since the first game on SNES, there have been several installments, but I don’t think the series has evolved much since then.” Miyamoto might have nailed it on the head, because when you compare F-Zero to Mario Kart, F-Zero has barely changed over time while Mario Kart has evolved tremendously and has expanded its horizons.
According to Takaya Imamura, the main art director of the F-Zero series, in an interview with IGN in 2021, there needs to be some major change. He told them, “Of course, I’ve thought about [bringing back F-Zero] many times, but without a grand new idea, it’s hard to bring it back.” This indicates that it is not simply Miyamoto who feels this way, but many of the higher-ups within Nintendo as well.
Both F-Zero and F-Zero X are currently available for Nintendo Switch Online and + Expansion subscribers, so if you are interested in trying the franchise out, both of those options are excellent. However, the GameCube entry has not seen a second chance since its initial release, and I think it absolutely deserves another shot. With the franchise getting some nice attention in other areas like Smash Bros, Mario Kart, Nintendo Land, and even Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I wonder what Nintendo may have in store.
Honestly, the Switch seems like the perfect place to experiment, as the install base right now is over 100 million units. Launching a new F-Zero game could have the same benefit the struggling Metroid series took advantage of last year, and for that series, Metroid Dread is officially the best-selling game in the franchise’s history. Maybe a new F-Zero on Switch could have the same results.
Whatever Nintendo decides to do, the F-Zero series absolutely deserves another go. Whether that be a remastered F-Zero GX from the GameCube or a brand new title, something needs to be done. I know sales plummeted tremendously, but if there was ever a time to try again, now’s the time. Waiting any longer may cement the series’ status as dead.
Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link! What do you think of the series? Are you a fan? Would you like to see a new entry on the Switch? Let us know in the comments below! Happy gaming, everyone.
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.