Release Date: July 25, 2003
Platform Played On: Gamecube/Wii
2018 Placement: #42 (+12)
What It Is:
The Gamecube iteration of Nintendo’s high-speed racing series (and the last one they made, R.I.P.), F-Zero GX is high-octane futuristic racing on insane tracks that loop, twist, turn, and go upside-down – and those are just the easy tracks. Boost zones refill your meter that allow you to nitro your way through the tracks, and you’re up against 29 computer-controlled characters ranging from Samurai Goroh to Black Shadow to The Skull. There are different cups with progressively harder difficulties like most racers and the good old time trial modes. There is also a story mode where you play as Captain Falcon, the racer’s most famous driver, in many different scenarios that include, but are not limited to, regular races.
Because of how fast the game moves, a lot of the skill involved in winning races in F-Zero GX is simply learning the tracks and knowing the best maneuvers on them. Replayability is high due to the number of cups and the number of difficulties available for each cup, along with a Vs. Mode that allows you to race against your friends. It’s a fantastic racer that really lives up to the golden age of arcade-style racing games.
Why It’s Important To Me:
F-Zero GX hits a specific niche of racing game for me. It’s an absolute blast to play, the cars feel fast and are unique and futuristic, but there isn’t the bombastic randomness of games like Mario Kart. There aren’t “weapons” in the game but you can eliminate opponents through spin attacks and better driving. Aside from Wipeout, there aren’t many other games that successfully blend this sort of sleek style with high speed racing.
It also has great music (as to be expected for games on my list). Osc-Sync Carnival, the theme for the Lightning courses, is probably an all-time favorite racing track for me in the energy it brings to a race. There’s also Planet Colors and Feel Our Pain, the latter of which is right up there with Osc-Sync Carnival as a beast of a white-knuckle song to listen to when you’re fighting for first place. And it’s not an F-Zero game if you don’t bring up the fantastic Mute City rendition. Just an all-around fabulous soundtrack that elevates the frenetic competition you are in while playing this game.
My Strongest Memory:
So it took me a two week break to build up enough strength to write about this game – it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I knew coming into it this would be a weirdly emotional game for me (especially for a GameCube era arcade racer) but it is still hard to talk about why specifically this game continues to resonate in my mind decades later.
In 2008, while I was visiting my long-distance girlfriend and many miles away from home, I discovered she had been cheating on me. She was out for the day (at college classes) and I was at her place, by myself, with no idea how to process or deal with the information that had suddenly landed in my lap. So I sat down, channeled my anger, my frustration, and basically every emotion I was feeling into F-Zero GX. I reached some sort of zen-like ultra state as I beat two cups on harder difficulties that I hadn’t even gotten close to finishing before. I also went into time trial and played a course I was having a bunch of trouble with (one of the Sand Ocean tracks, I remember that very clearly) over and over and over again. I absolutely hated that track whenever I played it and I focused all my hate into the time trial and made it my bitch. I honestly don’t remember how long I kept looping that time trial but it was at least thirty minutes and could have reached an hour. Again, zen-like out-of-body experience.
It surprisingly calmed me down as I raced all the rage out of me. I also haven’t been able to touch the game ever since because it’s like some sort of emotional talisman now. I deposited all my fury into this game over that one instance and for that I’ll always remember it and also always rank it highly in my mind, simply because it helped get me through a very specifically difficult time of my life.
Why It’s #30:
When a game has such a strong emotional resonance, even associated with a “negative” event, it can’t rank low on my list. It’s also a really strong game on its own merits – a worthwhile racing game to own and play. And maybe someday Nintendo will make a new F-Zero that is not associated with a random traumatic event of my life and I can freely play that one.