Best F-Zero Games
Image: Nintendo Life

Were it not for Nintendo's monumentally successful Mario Kart franchise, there's a good chance that F-Zero could have become the go-to racing franchise on not just Nintendo platforms, but everywhere. It really is that good, you know.

Trading bananas and shells for pure speed and boost abilities, F-Zero — which predated Mario's karting debut by 21 months — is a much more demanding racer than Mario Kart has ever claimed to be. As such, its widespread appeal has been a tad more limited, with Nintendo struggling to find a place for the series since the GBA's Japan-only F-Zero Climax in 2004.

Thankfully, F-Zero fans have been treated to a brand new (sort of) entry in 2023 with F-Zero 99, a battle-royale spin on the original SNES title that we're hoping serves as a test bed for future installments. After all, fans have been extremely vocal about their desires for a new F-Zero, so we've got our fingers crossed that this just might be the start of something beautiful.

As such, we thought it was about time we collated all mainline F-Zero games and found out which one is the very best, as voted by you. We've got our opinions, but this isn't about us!

We've chosen to omit two entries here, namely the 64DD 'Expansion Kit' for F-Zero X, since, well... it's an expansion for an existing title that requires the N64 game to function, along with F-Zero AX, an arcade variant of F-Zero GX (which is actually present and playable — if you've got an Action Replay — on the little GameCube disc).

Of course, you still have the power here to determine the rankings in real time. Simply make sure you're signed into your Nintendo Life account, click the 'star' icon next to each game, and give it a score from 1 to 10. If you've rated any of these games previously, thank you!

So without further ado, let's dive into the best F-Zero games of all time and see which one comes out on top...

8. F-Zero AX (Triforce)

7. F-Zero Climax (GBA)

F-Zero Climax is unfortunately only officially available to GBA owners in Japan, which is a shame because it's a more-than-solid third effort for the franchise on Nintendo's humble li'l Boy. It might have felt like a mere expansion to GP Legend to some folks, but it demonstrated beautifully developer Suzak's prowess when it comes to handheld racers. Here's hoping it makes its way over to the West in some capacity; more people need to experience F-Zero Climax.

6. F-Zero Maximum Velocity (GBA)

The first handheld entry in the series, F-Zero Maximum Velocity still holds up today as a result of its smooth, skill-based gameplay. There may only be four cups in which to compete, but the varied difficulty and surprisingly steep learning curve when it comes to mastering the vehicles and tracks make this a game you want to keep coming back to. It doesn't rank with the absolute best of the series, perhaps, but this is undoubtedly well-made and impresses in the technical department, delivering an enjoyable dose of the franchise that also really highlights what the last Game Boy could do.

5. F-Zero: GP Legend (GBA)

If the story missions in F-Zero: GP Legend become too gruelling, there's always the option of tackling Grand Prix mode across a variety of difficulty tiers, which helps scale up the challenge as your skills improve. Before long you will be snaking your way around eye-watering turns and hazards in an unblinking state, where your muscle memory kicks in and nothing can break your concentration. That is the true F-Zero experience. That the format endures is testament to the series' gripping, yet savage design. With hours of content and challenge, GP Legend is a stellar handheld F-Zero experience.

4. F-Zero (SNES)

F-Zero was an incredible template on which its sublime successors were modelled, and for that we shall forever be thankful. That's not to say the original isn't a gem in its own right; it's a racing classic that feels fast and tight to this day, but its lack of multiplayer tends to put it behind its sequels, at least in our minds (a criticism that F-Zero 99 addresses). Still, this remains a thrilling 16-bit ride, and we're more than happy to fire it up again — via Nintendo Switch Online if we don't happen to have our SNES hooked up — whenever the notion takes us.

3. F-Zero 99 (Switch eShop)

Despite its relatively unchanged look compared to the 16-bit original, F-Zero 99 is unexpectedly refreshing. Though it may not be the return for the franchise that fans hoped for, it's a triumphant and welcome look back at Captain Falcon's first game with a clever twist. F-Zero is simply suited for the -99 style structure in ways that Tetris, Mario, and Pac-Man aren't; it was already an elimination-style battle royale, just a small one. Adding more players doesn't just feel perfect for F-Zero, it feels natural.

This isn't the definitive way to play F-Zero, but it is a brilliant take that supplements what worked so well in the original with thoughtful additions that make chasing victory utterly addictive.

2. F-Zero X (N64)

Forum wars continue to wage over whether F-Zero X or its successor on GameCube is the superior white-knuckle futuristic racer. Both are essential, of course. The 64-bit entry is metal: pure, simple, guitar-screeching, all-out metal. EAD stripped back extraneous detail to achieve the smoothest, most blistering and nail-bitingly precise racing experience. At this speed, on these dizzying tracks, even the tiniest prod on the spindly analogue stick matters, and the original N64 pad offers peak precision for micro adjustments which make the difference between gracefully sweeping through a corner with nary a pixel to spare… or catching said corner and ricocheting between barriers to an explosive, humiliating retirement.

How much more metal could this get? None. None more metal. Flaming skulls and chromed motorcycles would actually reduce the metal content of this game.

1. F-Zero GX (GCN)

While debate forever rages as to whether the N64 entry or its Sega-developed GameCube sequel is better, we can all agree that both games are rather special in their own right. F-Zero GX's story mode helps paint a picture of the 'F-universe' and those cutscenes featuring Captain Falcon and the gang sure add some pizzazz. The series also certainly never looked better than on GameCube. The breakneck speed and brutal difficulty might put some people off, but racing doesn't get much purer than this, and seeing as this was the last full-blown retail entry from the franchise to come to a home console, this is still arguably the hottest take on F-Zero going. Track it down.

So that's about it; the running order of the F-Zero series. Surprised by the podium? Remember, the ranking above is subject to change according to each game's User Ratings on the site, so if you're not happy with one of your favourites being in the bottom half, have your say by giving it a personal score out of 10 and watch to see if/how that influences the table.

Feel free to let us know your thoughts and share a comment about your personal favourites below.