A Love Letter To My Favourite Racing Game Of All Time: F-Zero GX

I've played a lot of driving games. Some, like Gran Turismo, I play because they're like an interactive version of a glossy car brochure. Others, like Dirt, I play for the sensation of barely keeping in control of a car that looks a lot like the one actually parked in my garage.

And then there's F-Zero GX.

Released in 2003 for the Nintendo GameCube, it's my favourite pure racing game of all time. As in, when I want the sensation of trying to drive something faster than someone else, this is the game I go to.

Like other F-Zero games, or even other sci-fi racers of its ilk (like Wipeout), you control a futuristic hovercar as you race through fantastic landscapes and borderline absurd visions of future cities.

So what makes this one so special? It's not one thing. It's a combination of a few things.

The first is that, even nearly a decade later, it still looks amazing. Packed with pre-rendered cutscenes that propel a "story" and pushing the GameCube's hardware (which as Resident Evil 4 showed was more powerful than most gave it credit for) to its absolute limits, its visuals trump anything that could even be mustered years later on the supposedly more powerful Wii (or even some PS3 and Xbox 360 launch games).

The second? It was made by Sega. Yes, before the company's more public union with a line of awful Olympics games, F-Zero GX marked one of the first, and most effective partnerships between the former rivals. While the game was published and "overseen" by Nintendo, development was handled by Amusement Vision, a spin-off division of Sega (technically a second-party developer at the time) responsible for the Monkey Ball series.

This meant that, like Monkey Ball, control was everything. While you can argue that almost every WipeOut game has featured racers that are difficult to really come to grips with, F-Zero GX's vehicles were sharp, snappy and instantly responsive.

Which is lucky, because the third reason was they needed to be. Rather than simply resort to having the player just race, GX's story mode often threw these awesome little scenarios at you, like the second chapter's infamous "boulder race", a white-knuckled canyon duel that had you not only needing to beat a fast opponent, but juggle avoiding a bottomless ravine on one side of the track while dodging giant boulders rolling across the screen from the other.

Sure, it was corny, and like most major GameCube titles - at least those published by Nintendo - could be seen by some as being a little too "juvenile". But that's part of the appeal for me. This is, as far as driving games go, the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing. Because underneath the cartoon cutscenes and ridiculous characters lies one of the slickest, most responsive and challenging racing games ever developed.

Bonus: the game was also available outside your house. An arcade version was developed and also released in 2003, only it was called F-Zero AX. While it was mostly the same game, it had a net feature which allowed arcade gamers to use cards to track their progress, and an even neater one which let GameCube owners bring their memory cards in, put them in the arcade cabinet and unlock content in GX.

So, yeah, whenever I hear people clamouring for a new Pikmin game, or, now that there's a new Pikmin game, something else from Nintendo, I always sigh a little and remember GX. And wish, just quietly, that Nintendo is going to use the Wii U to unleash another round of kick-ass futuristic racing on us.


Comments

    So glad to hear I'm not alone with this! Such a great racing game. The track design was awesome, and the speeds felt amazing. Much like Wipeout, it was one of those game that I wasn't great at, but I just couldn't stop playing it.

    Nice article!

      I concur. The F-Zero series is one of the best. F-Zero X and GX are still my favorite racers of all time. I really think a reissue of F-Zero X on the 3DS would rule so much that i will actually buy a 3DS for it. C'mon Nintendo, make it happen! Or if not that, a new F-Zero title for the Wii U.

    Did anyone get to play AX? The Arcade version. They had it in at Intencity Macquarie Centre for a about 4 weeks. The guys told me there was only 1 imported to AU and it was sent around the country spending only a month or so in 1 place. I spent easily $200 working through it with my Memory card in slot trying to unlock all the extras for my copy of GX at home.

    This is grounds for slotting it into the Wii tonight with GC controller and going nuts. I think I will see how it plays on a huge Plasma at 60 frames of gorgeous.

      Movie world in the gold coast, has Fzero AX in their intencity arcade played it about two weeks ago Fucking awesome game the cockpit moves as you corner

        I found one while I was in hong kong, which was really awesome. The whole seat turning when you turn thing did get a bit much after a few rounds though. Iirc there are two versions, one where the whole machine tilts and one where only the seat tilts. I played the second one

        Aw man, why is it locked up in there for? If it was at the Timezone there (mots amazing arcade I've ever been to) I would have just up and moved there.

        I have seriously never wanted to play an arcade game so much as this one. It's at the very top of my list of hypothetical lottery win purchases.

        My missus is always hassling to go up to the Goldie for Movie world. Now I've got an excuse to pack my old memory card and head on up. Woo Hoo.

    Never played it, but used to hammer the SNES version in my hayday.

    Always more of a wipeout fan myself, f-zero doesn't feel great to me in terms of physics.

    Second only to Metroid Prime when it comes to the Gamecube's software library.

      Windwaker.

    Been trying to get this to run perfectly on Dolphin for ages now. It's smooth with flickering textures.

    X > GX > everything else ever.

    F-Zero X was one of the best mulitplayer games of all time. Playing with four mates who all loved it and took it seriously if you won by more than half a second you killed it!
    That combined with score tables that added up until you decided to stop playing meant that you could literally play all night.

    Love this game so much. I think I only ended up with maybe three chapters left to finish on Very Hard, haven't got a clue how on earth I managed to get to that point though. Also, playing this game with the Logitech Speed Force - takes a while to get used to, but amazing once you hit your groove.

    Somewhat agree with the above though, I think I might actually like X better. If only for the music. Can't say I've experienced multiplayer on it, since I only landed myself a copy a few years back.

    Also relevant:
    http://www.somethingawful.com/automaticturban/junk/fzero.mp3
    (alternative: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=711267)

    I enjoyed the SNES version more. I would rent it from the local video ezy every few months and make sure I beat everyone elses times.

    one of my favourite gamecube games, and one of the hardest ive ever played, unlocking the AX tracks was one of the best rewards for an insanly hard game ive ever had.

    thanks! never realised the sega connection before! king of reflex racing. awesome on GBA, SNES something unworldly good on GC

    I like the part where you said Wipeout.

    You lost your machine........ RETARD!

      Yeah, I always said that along with the cube. Good times.

    Aced this and beat just over half of the staff ghosts. So many memories. The jaw dropping escape through the closing doors of an exploding tunnel. The escalating battle of trading ghosts with a mate, non stop boosting through lateral shift, sigh....

    An AV developed sequel would literally be the only thing that would convince me to buy a Wii U.

    I'd love a new F Zero. Or a Star Wars Racer (that isn't a mini game).

    Ditto + the amazing sense of speed it gave. Truly miss it.

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