The Virtual Boy might have gone down as one of Nintendo's most costly failures, but a dedicated and passionate fanbase has grown up around the system, and this group spends a lot of time looking into unreleased projects which could have potentially boosted the console's fortunes – one of which is F-Zero spin-off Zero Racers (also known as G-Racers).
Described as 'F-Zero in a tunnel', Zero Racers was previewed twice in Nintendo Power magazine but never actually saw the light of day. There were reports that it was shown off at E3 1996, but these appear to be false – a fact which has led many to speculate that the game was little more than a series of mocked-up screenshots and that the plug was pulled by Nintendo long before any serious development work was undertaken.
However, Did You Know Gaming has managed to speak with former Nintendo of America localiser and associate producer Jim Wornell, who was with the company for two decades. Wornell says that his role involved pretty much every aspect of getting a game ready for release in North America, and he claims that Zero Racers was 100% finished and ready to go:
Zero Racers was done. We had a complete manual, package and label done for the game. It went through LOT check, it had an ESRB rating. It was complete.
Wornell also reveals that the game was never supposed to have F-Zero in the title, despite some people suggesting the full name was 'F-Zero: Zero Racers'. It was definitely set in the same universe, however, because he says that the four craft in the game were to be piloted by Captain Falcon, James McCloud, Jody Summer and an alien which Wornell believes was Pico, but can't remember for certain.
That means that Zero Racers would have marked the F-Zero debut of both McCloud (a humanised version of Fox McCloud's father from the Star Fox series) and Summer, who appeared in the N64 title F-Zero X.
If the game exists in complete form, then there's a chance we might get to actually play it at some point – if the original files still exist in Nintendo's archives, of course.