6 Reasons Why F-Zero Is The Best SNES Racer

Posted by Steven Collier on Nov. 6th, 2015


When the Super Nintendo first launched, there were only two games available for it. One was the instant classic Super Mario World. The other was the greatest racing video  game of all time:  F-Zero.

If that seems like overly high praise, then I don’t think you fully understand why F-Zero is such an important game. Without this glorified Tech Demo, the history of Nintendo may not have been nearly as successful. F-Zero put the SNES on the map and secured a future for the Nintendo brand. Still think I'm exaggerating? Well then, buckle your chinstraps and settle in because I'm going to lay down six reasons why this was the greatest racing game of all time.


Believe it or not, F-Zero was the first racing game to ever be set in the future. It pioneered a Science-Fiction subgenre that had never before been seen in racing games. That might seem like a purely superficial feature, but it actually did wonders for fleshing out the world of F-Zero. Most racing games featured pretty conventional vehicles and locales. F-Zero’s unique setting gave its designers free-reign to make the vehicles and racetracks as fantastical as they liked. And, boy did they ever.


Racing games don’t usually offer a lot in terms of narrative.
But, F-Zero was the exception:

In the year 2560, humanity has finally made contact with multiple alien races. This interplanetary collaboration has led to unprecedented advancements in the fields of technology, science, and medicine. Unfortunately all of these industries are run by insane trade-barons who control most of the universe’s wealth. And, they’re bored. So to amuse themselves, they have created the most dangerous Grand Prix in existence: F-Zero. 

If you didn’t catch all that, let me put it like this: Nintendo basically invented  pod-racing a decade before George Lucas.


Remember how I said this was a launch title for the SNES? In 1990 there were already a number of well established 16-bit consoles on the market. Nintendo was late to the show, and needed a game that could really flex some graphical muscle on day one, if they wanted to catch up with some steep competition. F-Zero was that game. It was specifically designed to showcase every technical trick SNES could perform, including the unmatched power of Mode 7. 

Mode 7 was the name of the revolutionary algorithm that allowed SNES backgrounds to be scaled or rotated. It’s what makes F-Zero look and play like a 3D game, even though it isn’t one. But more importantly, it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before.  Super Mario World might have made more sales, but F-Zero was the game that made people pay attention and propelled Nintendo into the new console generation.


The soundtrack to F-Zero is one of the best Nintendo ever produced. Tracks like “Big Blue,” “Mute City,” and “Port Town” alternate between being exhilarating and almost unfathomably smooth with incredible ease. It perfectly compliments the tone of the game’s intense speeds without ever overshadowing the action on screen. The score was so well received that in 1992, Nintendo actually commissioned a special Jazz Fusion album covering all of the game’s music.


When you wiped out in F-Zero, you WIPED OUT! Using its fancy Mode 7 graphics, the SNES would treat you to a slow, rotating shot of your vehicles smoldering remains every time you crashed and burned. And believe me, that happened a lot. If other drivers ram you, you take damage. If you bump into a wall, you take damage. If you drive over one of the innumerable land-mines left scattered across the tracks…well, you get the idea.

F-Zero was not a game to be played casually. Anyone who claims that Nintendo only made games for children never played this one. Every turn was a potential deathtrap. And, if you wanted any chance of winning you had to memorize the layout of every raceway like the back of your hand.


Obviously, a racing game is nothing without, well, racing. And this is where F-Zero absolutely delivers. Because you pilot a futuristic hover-car, without any wheels, there isn’t much traction behind your raceway maneuvers. In terms of real world physics, it’s a bit like trying to pilot an air-hockey puck.

Now that might sound frustrating, but nothing could be further from the truth. F-Zero is all about knowing when to let your car slide along, and when to put the pedal to the metal and gun it! Its floaty controls are designed to emphasize this mechanic and the formula works flawlessly. Piloting F-Zero can feel a bit like free-falling as you madly drift around at speeds exceeding 450 Km/h, but that’s what makes it such a thrill to play.

Buy F-Zero Today

Buy F-Zero Today

F-Zero broke the conventional racer mold. It’s design, mechanics, and presentation were all revolutionary for their day. More than any other racing game in history, it elevated the genre to a previously unimagined height, and paved the way for other franchises. Without F-Zero championing Mode 7 graphics, there would have never been a  Mario Kart. In fact, there may have been no SNES as we know it. But, even if you ignore its historic significance there's one last reason you really should care about F-Zero: it still feels just as rewarding to play today as it did 25 years ago. Very few games can boast of aging that well. But the greatest racing game of all time is certainly one of them.

So, have I won you over to my admiration of F-Zero? Or do you think takes second place to a rival contender? Tell me in the comments. I’d love to hear your opinions on Nintendo’s legendary Sci-Fi racing series.

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