F-Zero X was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998 and was the second game released in the F-Zero series. It had an incredible sense of speed for the time considering the hardware and miraculously runs at 60 frames per second. The game is often left in the shadow of its Gamecube sequel F-Zero GX. The series has notoriously remained dormant since that release, and fans have requested a new game from Nintendo for years.
The N64 title was released a few months before The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and for me, these two titles are the best that were released on the Nintendo 64 that year. I remember it being a great game to play while drinking fizzy drinks and eating sweets as a kid. The N64 had a small catalog of games compared to the Playstation, but Nintendo went for quality over quantity, and this is one game that exemplifies that approach. This article looks back at the classic F-Zero X.
The game expands on the more limited presentation of F-Zero on Super Nintendo with detailed character portraits on the top speed/acceleration selection screen just after the vehicle/character selection screen. The game is set in an inclusive, futuristic society where aliens of a diverse range of forms co-exist together and for some reason racing using high-speed vehicles that can reach 1600 km/h is a thing. The cars look slick and could be inspired by real-life high-speed vehicles. I think the concept of futuristic racing that games like F-Zero X represent is a stroke of genius, and can only really be done in a medium like video games.
The soundtrack in this game is great. The music is of a rock/metal variety and fits the gameplay. Some of the songs are great to listen to when you’re speeding through a circuit like Fire Field at 1000km/h. The mode options are limited but as you progress you unlock more cars. The game is very difficult, but if you put the time in, you can master it, and unlock more and more cars. Overall, the presentation and art direction are great and fit the gameplay.
I’ve been playing F-Zero X recently using an 8Bitdo SN30 Pro2 controller (which is a great Bluetooth gamepad), and one of the things that have struck me is just the great sense of speed when you start mastering courses like Silence. It’s so cool that the N64 can produce a game with this speed. I’ve heard that the models and environmental features were simple and limited in order to allow the game to run at 60 frames per second, and I think this was a worthwhile sacrifice. The vehicles usually stay stuck to the track when you’re racing (apart from on jumps obviously), but sometimes when you pick up great speed on a course like Silence, the speed can cause the car to fly and basically shoot off the track. I think this is really cool and probably realistic.
There’s no game on the Nintendo 64 that can create this sense of speed. Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer, and Extreme G are also futuristic racers on the platform and are also great games, but I don’t think that they quite manage the sense of realistic speed and physics as in F Zero X. The pipe levels where you travel over and inside pipes are also really cool and work well. If you’ve never played F-Zero X I’d say it’s definitely worth giving it a go, just to try and achieve this sense of speed. In the realism and feeling of speed, I feel that F-Zero X and F-Zero GX are on a completely different level from the original Super Nintendo F-Zero and the Game Boy Advance games. I think that this is due to the 3D models and true 3D tracks.
Multiplayer and Circuits
F-Zero X had a great two to four-player multiplayer mode. This was a step up from the two-player mode on the original F-Zero. The four controller ports on the N64 are iconic of the system, and extraordinary experiences like multiplayer Goldeneye, Mario Kart 64, and F-Zero X could be had on the system. The adrenaline-inducing speed of F-Zero X was always good to experience with some mates. The hardcore metal soundtrack also worked well to get people in a good mood at gatherings.
The courses or circuits from F-zero X are diverse in layout. Some can be straight tracks where it is possible to pick up consistent top speeds, some are full of crazy jumps, some are within pipes, and some are on the surface of pipes. Tracks are graphically simple which allows the game to maintain a consistent 60 frames per second, and because of this, the game is the fastest game on the Nintendo 64.
F-Zero X had an updated version that included an expansion that allowed track editing. This version was released exclusively on the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive, but because of that add-on’s failure, the title was only released in Japan. F-Zero X’s true sequel, F-Zero GX released for the Gamecube in 2003 and was accompanied by F-Zero AX an arcade game that was built on the same engine as F-Zero GX and even had some cross-compatibility. You were able to take your Gamecube memory card to the arcade and use the same car that you had created.
Apart from this, after F-Zero X, there were a couple of Game Boy Advance F-Zero games, but nothing new from the franchise since F-Zero GX/AX. The 3DS seemed like a perfect platform for a sequel since it used stereoscopic 3D, but alas, this never materialized. There have been rumors in the last year or so of something happening with the series, and F-Zero X has been re-released on Nintendo Switch Online, but no big new announcement has been made. F-Zero X is still as fast as ever, and if you’ve got the patience to master it, and like adrenaline-fuelled action, then it’s definitely a title to pick up.