This review originally went live in 2016, and we're updating and republishing it to mark the release of F-Zero X on Switch, available as part of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack N64 library.
The original F-Zero on the Super Nintendo really blew gamers away with its stunning use of Mode 7 visuals, colourful graphics, infectious music and tough-but-fair difficulty curve. It was really the first of its kind and has inspired many imitators over the years – and arguably laid the groundwork for the wildly successful Super Mario Kart. Taking all of this into account, Nintendo must have known the expectations were high for the N64 sequel and it duly pulled out all the stops in creating a game worthy of its predecessor.
Races are frantic affairs in F-Zero X; there's a real thrill to be had as you zip around the tracks, finding a way through traffic, trying to hit the boost arrows and avoiding crashing into the barriers. After lap one, you gain use of the famous "Boost Power" where some of your precious energy meter can be exchanged for a burst of speed. It's important not to overdo it, however, or the slightest bump will turn your craft into a flaming mangled mess of metal. Thankfully, the controls are incredibly tight and precise, so when you do hit the wall, it's almost always your fault and not the game's.
Another way to ruin your race day is to fall off the course entirely, which results in a long drop, a big explosion and an instant retirement. As the racetracks are placed above cities, presumably you also mess up some poor sod's garden party. Luckily, you appear to have a friend within the sport's governing body as (assuming you have a spare craft remaining) the race is then restarted from the beginning, giving you another chance to succeed (or maybe just to find a new spot in which to burst into flames).
The tracks are well designed, with a mix of bends and straights of varying width. Sometimes there's a smooth line to take, other times you'll find yourself crashing around the corners. There are loops and various degrees of elevation changes, whilst half-pipe sections feel like a particularly intense bobsleigh ride when you swish side-to-side trying not to get thrown from the track, and tunnels get dizzying as you spin upside down trying to wrest some degree of control. The drives across large pipes suspended high in the sky can be terrifying, with each collision or mistake threatening to end your race.
You can rely on just your driving skill to see you to victory or you can be a little more aggressive, as by using the drift buttons it's possible to perform a spin-attack to try and knock other racers into danger. Doing this can be a mistake as it can send you into a corner awkwardly, slowing your race or even lead to your own destruction, but should your championship rival (helpfully indicated by an on-screen marker) be alongside you, it can be tough to resist. If you develop a taste for this extreme road rage the game also features a "Death Race" track where the aim is to take out the other 29 competitors as quickly as possible.
In addition to the main game mode, there is a practice mode, time attack, VS battle and death race. The death race is good fun as you have to take out the other racers by any means possible (the Black Bull craft is highly recommended!). These features are what you would expect from a game like this and extend the game's lifespan considerably. There are several cups of increasing difficulty to compete in and when all those are beaten you can try out the random track generator for kicks.
Initially, just six of the racing machines are available for player selection, but the rest unlock as you progress through the game. Each has a different rating for body, boost and grip, and once selected a slide meter is available to adjust the performance of the craft, depending on if you favour acceleration or speed. Once you're happy with your pick you take on one of the Cups – each consists of six three-lap races; score more points than the other competitors to become champion.
There are four main Cups in the game, but you can also unlock the "X Cup". The twist here is that the tracks are randomly generated and the unfamiliar layouts can lead to many a disaster as you stumble your way around the unknown dangers. A random selection of course parts can lead to some straightforward stress-free drives, but other concoctions can be brutally difficult. For example, one course we encountered saw thirty cars enter a corner and only thirteen make it out the other side. On another X-track the Nintendo Life mean machine was the only one that managed to finish the race. Amusingly, it then plummeted to its doom during the victory lap.
With the regular tracks you'll be kept busy, trying to figure out the best line, learning a good way to manage the controls, knowing where it's safe to spin-attack and how much boost power you can use before you can safely make it to a recharge strip. The cups get more difficult and there are (eventually) four difficulty settings to tackle, so there's plenty here to keep you occupied. As well as the Grand Prix mode you can take on "Time Attack" where shaving tiny fractions leads to hours of "just one more go".
Visually, the game has a simple, stripped-down appearance that can look very basic at times. Where there are no flat colours there are low-resolution textures and the fogging effect doesn't always hide the distant track popping up into existence. What it does do, however, is move along quickly and smoothly, even at the start as the thirty different craft jostle for position.
With 30 racing craft and 24 exciting tracks, there's a lot of fun to be had with F-Zero X. An enjoyable multiplayer mode, the crazy unpredictable nature of the X Cup and trying to improve your times in the Time Attack and Death Race modes all add to the replayability. The visuals can look a bit basic at times, but the smooth frame rate and the speed at which you're hurtling around the tracks help to make up for this. If you are in any way a fan of the racing genre this game cannot be recommended any more highly. It's one of the finest non-Mario games that Nintendo has ever made and deserves your attention. Dare we say it? This is the best game in the F-Zero series.
The "best the series has to offer?"
No. It's very good, don't get me wrong. But GX is not only the pinnacle of the series, but a damn good racing game that holds up in gameplay and visuals 2 decades later.
With this and the MK DLC the online pass is looking more and more like a thing worth getting - especially assuming they are adding more in the future.
I didn't enjoy X much, it felt empty. I would say GX is the best.
GX is light years ahead of this. These N64 games haven’t really stood the test of time, I went back to them in the Wii U days and kind of wish I hadn’t as it ruined my memories of such a great system……the best analogy I can use is when you bump into the fit girl you went school with and she’s now in her 40s and looking really rough. Better to have the good memories.
Still haven't touched any game in the series outside of the SNES one for like 5 minutes. Would like to try out GX someday, though.
@CharlieGirl so much that they used the artwork on the splash page from GX to talk about this "best" game.
I agree. Only played this a couple of weeks ago and while GX is glitzier, this has absolutely got it where it matters. Better track design allows it to stop short of the unnecessary frustration factor of GX.
The one thing F-Zero X did better than GX was having a built in cheat code to unlock all racers and tracks from the get-go. Because nuts to the unlocking process when you just want to play multiplayer with friends and family out of the box.
GX was overall better; would be nice to get a remaster of that game with the AX content...
Welp, looks like I'm getting the expansion then.
Echoing others that GX was the pinnacle of the series. Though I do still get a kick of X every now and then.
GX was a more complete and varied experience for me. It's harder yes, but that makes it all the more thrilling for me, that it's tough to master. I'm also a sucker for the garage in F-Zero GX and found a cool piece of homebrew to convert any image to to F-Zero machine sticker so I made some cool custom ones with my own stickers, love it ^^.
@MostHandsieBoy Huh? That's the cover art for the Japanese version of F-Zero X.
Like most I prefer GX, in fact it is my favorite game if all time. Not racing game, game.
That said, X holds up shockingly well. Probably the most responsive controls of any game released on the N64, and it somehow maintans a smooth 60fps running at blazing fast speeds. I even think the simple visuals hold up well.
@Damo after my posting - i was whisked away to a hellish purgatory - where I presume my soul will lie in wait until someone saves it through a FZero quest of some sort. I expect to be here forever.
I spent more time on the SNES and N64 games, but GX is my favourite. In terms of visuals in X, they were poor, even when it was released, but for good reasons. The lowered the quality on purpose in favour of a higher frame rate.
I wish the online multiplayer they've added to these classic games was better done. Being able to play games like Super Mario Kart and F-Zero X online should be an amazing thing but as it is, I've yet to even try it as it's limited to friends only.
Multiplayer X trumps GX for me. The X cup combined with the Slot Machine Of Death kills it every time. At uni one of my mates would kill himself as quickly as possible every race, just so he could torture everyone else with the slot machine.
GX is breathtaking though, and I still haven’t unlocked all the AX stuff in it yet, it’s excruciatingly difficult.
@Damo @daveisbored does this version suffer from the same analogue stick deadzone issues that plagued the Wii U release?
GX for me
GX without question. X has aged badly - and feels so empty and lacking in charisma. GX still holds up as an excellent racer in its own right.
No mention of the DREADFUL framerate issues?
Everyone's saying that GX is better, and it definitely could be (I haven't played any F-Zeros, excited to try this.) However, I don't think that GX being better makes X bad. Either way, I'll make sure to enjoy this game, it sounds like a better Mario Kart.
I would rate this higher than GX if it was X+DD Expansion. Without that content, it's hard to say, but it's still a very solid and very fun game to play. I especially adore the comic-style menus and soundtrack here.
I think X is accessible while GX is more hardcore. Same design but very different developers and philosophy. Anyway, GX is the one for me!
I want to take the chance to congratulate Nintendo for always listening to the fans and give us exactly what we were asking for all those years. Thanks to give us the chance to rent an emulator with perfect frame rate and on a handheld with the most amazing sticks on the market. Thanks!
@Browny I'd argue that X also having a Death Race is another thing it did better. While only a little side attraction, it's a mode I love to tackle once in a while and it was kind of missed in GX.
Other than that and your mentioned cheat code I'd say GX is better in every way, but X is still immensely enjoyable to me.
So many great memories of playing this game split-screen at sleepover parties… 🙂
GX is still my all-time favorite racing game, But i'll definitely enjoy this one
World records on F-Zero X are so freaking spectacular.
Nothing beats flying in the air at 2000km/h
I cant remember there being this much slowdown on the original cart???? Nso version, oh my
HmmmmmmI love the original, but this is without any doubt the best in the series.
gonna be saying GX as with everyone else but X was also totally wicked, the clean and simple visuals in-game and the comic style everywhere else are both like candy to me and lord that soundtrack is killer
Yeah, literally no one will agree that x was better than gx.
Can't wait to replay it. Never liked the visual style, not even in the 90s. The SNES aesthetic is far more charming and ageless. But X is a very good, intense racer. Hope the 64DD content makes it into the service at some point.
Ya GX is definitely better.
I never got this back in the day as it always looked a bit sparse to me, but when I picked it up years later I was shocked at how much fun I had with it. GX is still a beautiful game even now, but I think I may actually prefer playing X.
X is good. GX is better.
Megaman X is very good.
what about the emulation? no problems?
@gaga64 That was fixed in the Wii U release. It's fine here
Missing a G… that’s all I have to say.
I find the SNES game too hard to follow - the visuals hurt my eyes.
So I am excited for this one
Sorry but i disagree. F-zero GX is the better game. I just couldn't deal with the difficulty in story mode though. Never did unlock everything. I would like to get that done one day. It still bugs me that it's one of the GameCube games i never fully completed.
Love this game, but GX was the real zenith. Either way, Nintendo are plum silly for refusing to give this series another chance.
GX is much, much better. I mean, there's no comparison really, GX is the best F-Zero by a country mile. It still looks and plays spectacularly today.
Yes, that soundtrack. I love how they went full-on metal. I like all the F-Zero music, but going straight up hard rock and metal was a great decision. I think I'ma have to dig this one back out.
Don't ask me to choose between X and GX. It's like forcing someone to line up their children and pick a favourite.
(GX does win hands down on music though. Give me a full-on rave over Iron Maiden tributes any day.)
@Damo I thought it was improved, but not completely “fixed” to the standard of the N64 version.
Good to know either way though, thanks.
X definitely plays and controls better than GX in my opinion. GX looks nice, especially at speed, but it’s just not as fun to play. I agree this is the pinnacle of the series.
@hbkay No-one's mentioning it but it's dreadful. I can run the game through emulation on my gaming PC setup for the purpose and it's seamless running in full HD.
On NSO? it's unplayable.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy X as well. Always felt the controls of X were a bit smoother overall compared to GX.
I'm just glad to see F-Zero getting some love at all from Nintendo. Even if it is just through emulation on NSO.
GX for me is peak F-Zero. It's one of those games that just got better and better with every iteration (I'm not surprised Nintendo aren't sure what to do with it next lol!) GX's controls are tight as fudge and the analogue triggers were very subtle - honestly, asking for a port without them is lacking appreciation for the game. SEGA are at their best when they make thrilling arcade experiences and GX had it in spades.
N64 game is awesome, mind. 2nd best F-Zero game. (But the SNES game is ace too so 2nd place isn't that shameful!)
there was NO slowdown (or, virtually none, but i remember distinctly that rock solid 60fps was the tradeoff for sparse environs and lack of textures) and in the OG cart on N64.
im not impressed that there apparently is, here 😕
i would pay upwards of ten bucks for this game, alone.
earth to nintendo: nobody wants to pay indefinitely for inferior versions of 25 yo games they can't own.
i cant believe im even saying this.
i didnt feel bad for pirating games before (though i own a copy of this one) and nintendo is really helping me out in this regard.
Why can't we have a new one???! With crisp amazing graphics and music. Even a story mode etc. COME ON NINTENDO.
Amazing game. But definitely not the best the series has to offer when F-Zero GX exists.
F-Zero X is a great game to be sure, but GX makes it inferior in every way.
This game is
"Way out in front!"
This NSO version is the first I've played with noticeable slowdown. I've done one Death Race and the first cup so far (docked); some choppy stretches in all races but it tanked the hardest in one section of Big Blue. Even the old 50hz PAL version was smoother overall by virtue of being more consistent.
I never owned X, just rented it and thought while it was very impressive to look at, it got old quickly. GX was on an entirely different level. Not only was it visually the best looking racer during that Era, it also had the best gameplay. Like others have said GX still hold up to this day, especially when in 4K.
@Browny I always felt the opposite, because when your vehicle would begin to drift in X I felt you lost too much speed because of it. Other than that I'd say they are about on par control wise, at least in terms of how much fun it is to control them.
But yeah I'm glad they're showing the series a little love as well, and I really hope Nintendo sees the excitement and sees it as a hint to make a new entry!
GX is awesome but a bit too difficult. The soundtrack of F-Zero X is the highlight.
Online multiplayer (F-zero X - Switch Version) is UNPLAYABLE. Lag, Lag....lag....Frame Rate drops...lag....., terrible.
No mention of online?
You're literally paying for an expansion pass of an online subscription. Shouldn't the online aspect be reviewed?
The online on these games has been pretty atrocious. Nintendo's servers or online infrastructure is abysmal. That should be taken into account in these reviews. As online play is a huge marketing point by Nintendo for this version.
GX was fundamentally better in every way for me, but the difficulty curve is just... unplayable after a point. For the layman at least, and I'm certainly no pro!
Brilliant game, the only negative for me is not being able to just buy the game. Instead of having to pay into a service. That's why I'm out.
It’s true. X is the best in the series, easily besting GX in the all-important gameplay category. All professional reviewers agree on this point.
@durrdevil The online is just the basic lobby-based system for all these NSO retro apps. It’s friends-only, and peer-to-peer meaning if you have a good connection to your friends, you’ll have a great online experience. If you (or their) internet connection sucks, you’ll have a bad experience. Not much to say about the online mode. It’s just a way to simulate the couch multiplayer of the original.
@ToneDeath This is true. While certainly playable, the framerate is not consistent in this version. This game needs the “post-release” attention that Ocarina got from the Nintendo porting team.
@CharlieGirl FzeroGX is pretty good has better race mechanics and high tier visuals that still stands in the modern era. But FZero-X tracks have much better design than FzeroGX, and even if the gameplay is simpler, single campaign and multiplayer mode are much fun.
F-Zero Maximum Velocity on Gameboy Advanced is the first F-Zero game I every actually gave a chance. Great game huge improvement on the SNES version.
@durrdevil There's no mention of online because this review is from 2016.
I maybe a tiny bit sore that they didn’t add Kirby 64 for Kirby month (March) I’m still happy that the F-zero fans are finally getting a bone thrown their way.😄
Also I don’t like to complain as long as people like something that they like I’m happy.
I loved X and went into GX thinking I’d love it, but found it too hard and complex, so for me X is the truest most fun F-Zero.
Loved X but definitely prefer GX. Would be happy with a remaster of the latter.
All the AX content is included in GX.
X better than GX? It's like saying the og Paper Mario is better than TTYD, come on XD
I hope we'll get a remaster of GX one day, with online and some extras included...
My first introduction to F-Zero was that odd blue guy with the Ascot who yells his name a lot in Smash Bros. Melee.
Then I saw him on the cover of his very own game right when I was wondering what game to get next.
Having come from racing games like Mario Kart and Extreme G I thought I could handle F-Zero GX but man it was TOUGH and there was no weapons to help cover for sloppy driving. Luckily I was at a time in my life where I had the time to dedicate to a single game to push past the steep learning curve and "get good". I also appreciated that Sega hid all the arcade levels in the game too so its really like 2 games in 1.
Instead of going backwards I would love for Nintendo to give the wheel to a 3rd party like Shin'en or Sega again.
While I am of the opinion GX is the best in the series, F-Zero X isn't far behind. In fact, I spent more time with this game than any other in the series. It's the game that made me truly fall in love with F-Zero, to the point that, when GC originally released and I got one, and I'd heard it had a new F-Zero GX, my first game purchase was automatically that.
F-Zero X is a stone cold classic. It's not nearly as brutal as GX, and the audio obviously isn't as high quality, or the graphics, but the gameplay is as fun as ever.
Man I wish Nintendo would remaster GX or give us a new entry. It's been far too long.
glad to have another take! i swear if all or most of my fave 64 games are on there, and running smoothly, ill subscribe. they seem to be getting close!
This has become my all-time favorite Switch game overnight, but no one really likes F-Zero and there's nowhere else for it to really go, so we'll never see another one.
I think GX is up there for best racing game ever made but X is amazing too. I think it's the very first 60fps polygonal game I've ever played so it has a place in my heart just because of that.
It is, but good luck unlocking it.
I was never able to. I love GX and it’s my favorite racing game of all time, but people are speaking truth about the late game difficulty on the final cup and the story mode. I could never get enough to complete it. It was bone crushingly hard.
With this and the Mario Kart tracks, I might finally get the expansion
Lol that tagline. Well played. RIP DMX!
Removed - unconstructive; user is banned
@mumbles Oh. Lol
GX custom mode... Nothing more for me to say. 2200kmh at max boost combo'd with a zipper equals excitement you've never known lol.
No way, GX is a LOT better game. X has been dated pretty badly, but GX is still very much on top of its game.
It's Xellent. GX is better though
"I'd still pick the SNES version if I could only have one F-Zero," -
Well if you own the NSO Expanion Pak you don't need to choose. You get both games for one price. Let's hope someday the Gamecube and Gameboy versions comes.
Great game but I prefer it on my USA n64 as the borders on Switch online is a complete joke
Great review, and good to see support of F-Zero X being the pinnacle of the series. GX was almost ruined by some poor track design that included barriers and weird off-camber corners. The F-Zero ethos is about holding the speed, not gimmicks that instantly kill you. X really should be remade as an ultimate version, complete with the track editor and 40 of the best tracks from GX, AX and the 16 bit era.
@Ogbert That’s how I felt, after playing Star Fox 64, on the 3DS. I hunted that game down. I purchased it, after Nintendo seemed to have stop shipping copies. But the 3DS was still their latest piece of hardware. Kind of surprised by that. Didn’t think Nintendo did that with 1st party titles, while the system was still selling.
I was so excited. I hadn’t played it since the early 2000’s. Had so many fond memories. When I finally played it, I was so disappointed. It was slow and the world felt empty. My memories were full of white knuckle action! 😂
I preferred GX but played this a lot on the Wii VC. Interestingly I spent more time on it on the Wii than the N64. Great game.
Fast racing Neo / RMX is a better game than any F-Zero and underappreciated on both Wii U and Switch. The N64 game is more fun than the Gamecube version - which has twitchy controls and is too fast and nausea inducing to be enjoyable
I loved the early 2000's Sega arcade energy that GX had (makes sense considering AX) it just had that specific vibe.
Also i agree with analogue triggers, i do hope that a theoretical switch 2 includes them.
I definitely have a soft spot for X too, and i definitely feel like sacrificing visual detail for that smooth framerate was a good call (then we got GX which had both a great framerate and stunning visuals)
Love this on N64, but the switch online version is much harder to control!
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