Now that Mario Kart is one of Nintendo’s top selling franchises, some might wonder what the point of a new F-Zero game would be. Never mind that the series has a completely different setting and some deep, deep lore, it seems like they’re stuck. Take note that the last official F-Zero game didn’t make it out of Japan. Even Nintendo luminaries like Shigeru Miyamoto seem to have given up, publicly asking what else they could do that they haven’t done before. I’m sure internally at Nintendo there are ideas (an F-Zero minigame was included with Nintendoland on Wii U) but they must not be that exciting if the company isn’t even pretending to hint that one might be coming.
So, the question is: what can be done about F-Zero? How can Nintendo bring it back without making it pointless? I have an idea. But before I share it, I want to preface this by saying I’m not the biggest fan of racing games. I only care about F-Zero because Captain Falcon is in Super Smash Bros, and F-Zero GX on Gamecube remains one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. So keep in mind, I might not be the best person to suggest a way forward for the series.
Here’s the thing about F-Zero, though: it still has potential. Not as a straight racer, no. Instead, what I would love for Nintendo to try is developing a new entry as a racer/side-scrolling beat ‘em up hybrid. Kind of like Techno Cop on the Sega Genesis, but less violent and more cohesive. This would be the story mode, anyway. The rest of the game could be the F-Zero many know and love. But as a way to shake things up, I’m imagining Streets of Rage side-scrolling, mixed with the usual F-Zero racing, and a story that looks at Captain Falcon’s life as a bounty hunter, not just as a racer.
Imagine how one of these levels could play out. Let’s say one day, tracking down a bounty, Captain Falcon engages Samurai Goroh in a chase. This would be the part of the level that feels like classic F-Zero – a one-on-one race through Mute City and into the desert that would end with Captain Falcon catching up to Goroh, or time running out. The best players could even have the option to overtake Goroh for extra rewards, but in F-Zero fashion, this would be extremely difficult to achieve.
After the race ends, Goroh jumps out of his car and the chase continues on foot. Except here, he calls in his desert bandit lackeys, and Captain Falcon must dispatch all of them to catch up again. This would be the side-scrolling part, where we would get to see Falcon use a moveset based on his appearance in Smash. There would also be a meter building up over time for special moves. Once full, the player could activate a few different specials, including one-hit Falcon Punches and Falcon Kicks, the ability to throw opponents off screen, and also the opportunity to call in the Blue Falcon for extra damage.
Once Captain Falcon catches up with Goroh, the fight would continually escalate, with Goroh pulling off as many moves as Captain Falcon, until they’re both flinging cars at each other, trying to send the other to the bottom of the canyon. When the fight is over, and Falcon has his man in handcuffs, we would then go back to Mute City, where Captain Falcon can participate in Grand Prix races, get more bounty hunting missions, go to his garage, or just stay home and pig out on chips while watching TV. He could even go on a date or meet up with other racers for side activities.
The reason I think any of this could work is simple. Nintendo has spent a lot of time developing the world of F-Zero (seriously, look at how much there is in the F-Zero wiki). Drawing upon the other racers and their backstories would give the opportunity to show some of their important moments, instead of just telling us about them in their bios. Including all of these characters on and off the track would really fill out the open world, and give the Captain plenty of people to interact with as well.
Speaking of Captain Falcon, I think it makes sense to have his Smash moveset integrated into an F-Zero sequel because that’s where most fans know him from now. Why confine Captain Falcon to a car for an entire game, when he has so much more going for him? The F-Zero anime even used a Falcon Punch as part of its climax. It’d be a waste if he didn’t get to show off his physical prowess.
This also presents an opportunity to change the tone F-Zero. With Metroid and Star Fox having a clear handle on serious sci-fi space adventures, it would be interesting to have Nintendo’s other space-set franchise balance that out by going for something wackier. Give us that scene of Captain Falcon going home and eating chips, or trying to have a meeting with Jody Summers, only for it to be misconstrued as a date. Give us something, because other F-Zero games don’t have much of an identifiable personality. Captain Falcon is a serious man. The Grand Prix races go fast. Some of the dialogue is awkward. That’s about it.
Poking some fun here and there would make things more interesting and give the game some heart. Of course, the rest of the game would be brought into the modern gaming landscape, too – online races, HD graphics, editing tools for custom tracks and cars – the list goes on. It’s also worth pointing out that the Switch library doesn’t have a first party side-scrolling beat ’em up. This new version of F-Zero would be filling a gap in the Switch’s library.
What I’m suggesting probably sounds like it’ll never happen. Ultimately, I’m comfortable with that. This is, after all, my “dream” F-Zero – not the one I expect them to make. If Nintendo were to make something like this, I imagine HAL Laboratory would handle the beat ‘em up segments, since they developed Captain Falcon into his Smash Bros incarnation and thus know his moves the best. Meanwhile, a studio like Shin’en Multimedia, who made Fast Racing Neo on Wii U and Fast RMX on Switch would get a crack at the racing stages. Their games already seem like F-Zero homages, so working on one would be the next logical step.
In a world where the Switch is as popular as it is, and even JRPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 can sell over a million copies, I think this F-Zero game would do well. Plus, since Mario Kart 8 Deluxe came so early in the Switch lifecycle, fans might be looking for another Nintendo racer to play soon. My idea probably isn’t what fans would want, and there would probably be some backlash because it doesn’t just focus on racing. But, the fans also want F-Zero back.
Since Nintendo seems hesitant to make a “F-Zero, just in HD” kind of sequel, they would probably try something different anyway – I submit my racing/side-scrolling beat ‘em up as one of the best routes they could take. But really, they just have to reinvent the series. Try something new. See how it turns out. If they don’t, they might wind up sitting on the IP forever, and for fans, I’d assume they’d take something new, even if it was different, over nothing at all.
A version of this post can be found here.