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Today marks the 10 year anniversary of one of the greatest racing games of all-time, F-Zero GX, for the Nintendo GameCube. The sequel that was Nintendo’s last console-based entry for the franchise came out in July 25, 2003 at Japan and one month later here at the states. F-Zero GX was also an one of a kind game with Nintendo publishing and Sega developing it, specifically Amusement Vision. This specific team from Sega was known for some of the greatest arcade racing games ever with hits like Daytona USA and Super GT, otherwise known as Scud Racer. With such a pedigree at the helm, F-Zero GX was truly something special back in 2003 and even today still being one of my personal favorites.
That Sega touch along with F-Zero’s signature fast-paced futuristic style of racing was something that can’t be replicated. Sure, the closest was the WipeOut series, more notably WipeOut HD for the Playstation 3, but nothing came close to F-Zero GX’s sense of speed and brutal difficulty. After a successful N64 outing with F-Zero X, GX was the series at its full potential with amazing graphics for the GameCube era, 60 frames per second, and surprisingly deep gameplay, both on a casual and higher level. It was also Nintendo and Sega’s chance to give the characters some more personality with the addition of a story mode starring the main character of the series, Captain Falcon. Yeah, the cutscenes were borderline cheesy, but it give players another mode to mess around with besides the standard grand prix and time attack.
Most people would remember F-Zero GX as being one of the most challenging games of all-time and indeed it is. The story mode was notorious for it especially with chapters that are very hard even on the game’s normal difficulty. The opposing AI somehow always manages to get a lead even if you’re dominating a race as one slight mistake can cost you victory. The same can be said for the classic grand prix mode on harder difficulties where the AI can be aggressive and even kill you. With that challenge, however, the victory is much sweeter when it happens and it is still some of the more satisfying moments in the past decade of videogames.
The beautiful track design and racing physics were also contributing factors to how beloved GX among Nintendo fans and even racing fans. From varied tracks that have loops and pieces that feel like they never end, death defying jumps, and obstacles to avoid, there’s always danger at every turn and straightaway in this F-Zero. The intensity also remains unmatched compared to most of today’s racers, but the closest game that can rival that is arguably the Burnout series. You can thank the game’s sense of speed as if you’re really going 1000 or more kilometers per hour for how intense GX is. All of the character’s cars feel different when it comes to the physics. Of course, stats do vary with these cars, but their handling and design also caters to their personality in some way.
Another cool part of F-Zero GX’s release by Nintendo and Sega was F-Zero AX, the arcade version that was also a moving cabinet. I personally had fond memories of this version playing it at a Las Vegas arcade, back when arcades were still around there, in front of a big crowd. I guess someone like me how to showcase how amazing the game can be when played right. AX only had a handful of exclusive courses and characters, but it is another classic arcade racer in Sega’s repertoire of arcade hits throughout the years. The big part of these two versions were the connectivity features as players can bring their GameCube memory cards to an AX cabinet to unlock those exclusive tracks and characters. In addition, custom cars from GX can be played on arcade as well. The AX content can still be unlocked in GX the old fashioned way, however, but it was of course a little more difficult.
When it comes to racing games back in 2003, F-Zero GX had it all from a variety of modes on multiple difficulties, replay value, local multiplayer, car customization, and the notorious challenge, but the only thing that would've made the game perfect was online play with 29 other players. Sure, the game industry was in its infant stages when it comes to online multiplayer with Xbox Live and Playstation 2 online games being a year old, but Nintendo was late to the party back then and still is even with the Wii U. It was a dream concept back then and still is today due to how Nintendo mishandles their IPs. F-Zero was meant for the HD era if GX was any indication, but Shigeru Miyamoto has claimed on multiple interviews that the franchise does not need any significant improvements. In other words, Sega made the pinnacle of the series and I don’t mind them try to top themselves with a Wii U iteration, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon with how things are going at both Nintendo and Sega.
Ironically, F-Zero GX is Nintendo’s best racing game ever despite not being developed by them. Sega’s Amusement Vision team put together an one of a kind masterpiece that remains unchallenged even in today’s technology of game consoles with a new generation around the corner. Ten years later, the game holds up very well and the community continues to push the game’s limits with the speed run videos seen above. Little parts of F-Zero have been included in other Nintendo games since GX with Captain Falcon in the Super Smash Bros. games, a mini-game in Nintendo Land, and track design influences in the new Mario Kart 8. Despite those inclusions, the fans have been clamoring for a new F-Zero for a long time now. Even a HD version of GX similar to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD would be fine for them and me as well. Until Nintendo thinks its right to return to the franchise, we won’t see one, but until then, there’s always F-Zero GX, which still remains as one of the greatest racing games of all-time.