F-Zero has never had it easy. It was an SNES launch title alongside Super Mario World, and we all know which game became synonymous with the console. F-Zero’s innovative “Mode 7” graphics were a revelation at the time, and made racing games feel more immersive. But Mode 7 would soon be used for a little game called Super Mario Kart, and we all know which game is considered the more influential.
So while F-Zero may have been in the shadows of more prolific SNES games, on its own merits it’s a more than capable racer.
Players choose between four vehicles, each with their own statistics, and race through various futuristic tracks. You can choose between different cups and difficulty levels, even the easiest of which provides a good challenge.
The races are fast-paced, turns are sharp, and not only do you have to worry about falling behind the other races, but about your vehicle being destroyed as well. Your health bar depletes every time you run into a wall or bump into other racers. Should it deplete entirely, your car explodes, and you have to start the entire cup over. Health can be replenished by driving on certain pits near the starting point of each lap.The added game over element makes what is already a challenging racer all the more difficult. It may not be for everyone’s liking, but it rewards those seeking a challenge.
The graphics are mostly pleasant, with the aforementioned Mode 7 allowing for scaling and rotation effects that still hold up. There are admittedly some areas where the graphics don’t hold up so well, but given that F-Zero was pushing racing games into new territory at the time, the shortcomings are forgivable.
A huge, retrospective drawback is the lack of multiplayer or any additional modes. F-Zero holds up in a lot of ways, but the complete absence of multiplayer takes a lot away from the experience. The racing available is tight and precise, but with very little else to offer takes away replay value. And without being able to share the experience with a friend, it’s no wonder that Super Mario Kart stole F-Zero’s thunder.
Still, you can’t take too much away from F-Zero. It was novel back in its day for its graphics and fast-paced racing, and everything it has to offer has held up well, but it lacks the substance of other SNES games. There is certainly fun and challenge to be had with F-Zero. But you may find that, just as was the case back in the day, your racing skills will most likely drift back to Super Mario Kart.