F-Zero is an electrifying futuristic racing video game series created by Nintendo in which players pilot a wide variety of hover cars called Machines on several planets all with different terrain. The games stand out from something like Mario Kart by having a chance to be eliminated from a race by exploding after taking too much damage, having the vehicles drive at especially rapid speeds, making players keep track of their Energy so they can stay in the race, and offering racetracks that mess with gravity in unique ways. Because F-Zero is so different from Nintendo’s other racing video game mainstay, there’s no reason they can’t have focus on both franchises.
F-Zero has a massive fanbase, is represented in every Super Smash Bros. game, and even had an anime series based on it. So, why has it been almost two decades since the last F-Zero game was released?
In a recent interview with IGN, retired Nintendo game designer Takaya Imamura mentioned that F-Zero isn’t a dead franchise, but it’s difficult to revive without a “grand idea.”
Nintendo, especially recently, seems to have a bad habit of focusing a little too much on these “grand ideas” for their games, creating their games around gimmicks. Instead of fine-tuning the gameplay and creating new mechanics for a sequel, they tend to pick one new mechanic to focus an entire game around, like using Cappy to possess other beings in Super Mario Odyssey, using Gooigi to solve puzzles in Luigi’s Mansion 3, having Kirby ride in a mech for Kirby: Planet Robobot, and driving anti-gravity cars in Mario Kart 8. It doesn’t make the games bad whatsoever. These are all great games. It’s just unfortunate that they apparently don’t make a game at all if they can’t think of a gimmick.
If a game is fun, it doesn’t need to focus on a gimmick. Nintendo could just release an F-Zero game with new levels and racers, along with some classic ones, on the Switch so people can take it on the go and give it online multiplayer. It’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t sell well.
If Nintendo truly wants that grand idea, there are plenty of options they can go with rather than waiting 17+ years to release the next game in the series. An obvious choice would be robust customization options for the vehicles and tracks. Players being able to show off their unique vehicles to other gamers online would add an extra layer to a multiplayer experience. Player-generated race tracks would shake up the gameplay while also allowing the players to get their hands on the unique, futuristic level assets. Seeing what people come up with would be a lot of fun.
They could easily make a unique addition to the franchise by having a variety of multiplayer game modes. Battle Royales are particularly popular right now, so it wouldn’t be too farfetched to see that done in F-Zero. Imagine racing around a track with no finish line, blowing up competitors or launching them off the edge until there’s one winner left. Similarly, another game mode could be point-based. Each player could gain points for blowing someone up, and the player with the most points at the end of a time limit wins. The list for potential game modes is nearly endless, and they can make the series feel fresh and new while keeping the spirit of the older games.
The F-Zero games have always allowed players to crash into each other and even slam others into barriers. This could be spiced up a bit by adding short-range or melee weapons to each vehicle. That way it still doesn’t play like Mario Kart, but adds to the competitive gameplay. Instead of collecting one-time use items, each vehicle could have their own upgrade, whether it be a saw blade or flamethrower, that stays on for the entire match to take on any vehicle that gets too close.
Another way Nintendo could keep the series fresh enough that reviving it is worthwhile is to write a compelling story. Captain Falcon thwarting the diabolical plans of Black Shadow while competing for the Grand Prix prize money against other racers who need the cash for their own individual needs offers a lot of material for entertaining story lines. A racing game with an interesting story would definitely stand out.
Whether or not Nintendo needs some gimmick or “grand idea” to revive F-Zero, it’s tragic that fans haven’t gotten to play a new installment in so long. One would think these game design experts could think of some way to bring it back. Until that glorious day comes, the classic games are still worth playing again or checking out for the first time.