Review – F-Zero 99

In September 14th, 2023, a new Nintendo Direct showcase announced something us F-Zero fans had been waiting for basically twenty years: a brand new F-Zero was finally coming out! The beginning of said trailer, showcasing the old-school Mute City track from the original F-Zero, was enough to make our hearts skip a beat. Sadly, that was a sucker punch. Nintendo was announcing a new game in the franchise, yes, but not exactly a new MAINLINE one. They were announcing, and releasing at the same day, F-Zero 99, a pseudo battle royale spinoff using assets and gameplay elements from the 1991 original, instead of actually being the follow-up to F-Zero GX everyone has been asking for.

F-Zero 99 racers

If you think that cluster of ships up ahead looks like a confusing mess, it’s because it is.

Disappointing (or better yet, tone deaf) reveal aside, it’s time to face the truth: F-Zero 99 is going to be, for a while, the closest to a new game in the franchise we’re getting. So it’s only fair to give it a try and see if Nintendo were able to adapt the racing game’s formula to a battle royale mindset. It did work with Tetris 99, after all. Not to mention the fact that, twenty-five years ago, F-Zero X for the Nintendo 64 had included a pseudo batte royale mode of sorts, where pilots would be driving around an eternal loop of a track, destroying each other until only one ship was left intact. Nintendo could make this work. Did they? Well, not quite.

The weird thing is that F-Zero 99 is barely a battle royale at all. Yes, it is about ninety-nine drivers racing at once, but this isn’t an endurance test, with each lap reducing the total number of pilots until only one is left alive. Each race is comprised of four laps, and only about five racers are disqualified per lap. Doing some quick math, you’ll realize that more than seventy pilots will complete each race.

F-Zero 99 team

Gain points for your team by hitting other players and just not being a crappy pilot.

My question is… why? Why did you come up with this utterly bizarre take on battle royale, but only dipping half a pinky into the genre itself? Especially considering it wouldn’t even have been the first time a battle royale mode would have been included in an F-Zero game! As a result, whilst the idea is somewhat sound, playing it almost feels pointless. You need to go out of your way and suck TREMENDOUSLY in order to be disqualified from a race, because this is still, at its core, a racing game from 1991, with very little in terms of control complexity and physics. At the same time, it is very hard to win a race. In fact, it feels like the game just randomly dictates who’s going to win a race or not.

The tracks are laid out exactly as they were in 1991, but keep in mind that they were made with a handful of concurrent racers in mind. Not ninety-nine, plus the randomly generated ships that are plastered around to either give you sparks (like Mario Kart‘s coins) or explode in front of you. There is no space to overtake drivers properly, or time to react to anything happening onscreen. It is utter madness, but not in the fun, Mario Kart way. Your ship feels like a pinball going through the motions, just hoping to last until the next repair strip.

F-Zero 99 freeway

Collect enough sparks/coins to get momentary access to a freeway on top of the actual racetrack.

If you’re lucky, your weak spin attack will eventually hit someone and destroy them. I have never been able to determine the proper way to do that: sometimes I’d succeed at destroying someone and having my health bar filled, other times my spin attack would do nothing. If I happened to collect enough sparks on the track, I would be able to access a special freeway on top of it, letting me accelerate freely and overtake some more ships in the process.

No matter the mode you decide to play F-Zero 99 in, be it the free-for-all base mode, a Grand Prix comprised of a few races, or a team-based effort, that’s your gameplay loop. Four laps, ninety-nine drivers, random collisions, and the sensation you are not exactly putting your racing gamer skills to the test, all while being greeted to basically the same presentation from the 1991 original, MIDI-based music and all. Well, the graphics aren’t exactly the same, with the game actually using 2D assets on a 3D plain to emulate a faux-Mode 7 presentation. A neat idea in theory, but the increased screen size and aspect ratio stripped off any semblance of speed. The speedometer might indicate 450km/h, but you will feel like you’re driving a VW Beetle.

F-Zero 99 unlockables

Can you unlock new ships? Nope, but you can unlock new decals. You can get a red paint job… for the BLUE Falcon…

This is not the worst idea Nintendo has ever had, but it’s really poorly implemented. F-Zero 99 feels restrained, never fully grasping the concept of an actual battle royale, just punishing the smallest percentage of players per race. It’s just a revamped take on the SNES original, with just more drivers per race, with a lot less room for skill, and more room for nonsensical mayhem. It’s free and devoid of microtransactions, but it’s also really short on content, with just four ships and a handful of tracks. It is not what fans of the franchise were hoping for. It might not be as insulting as Star Fox Zero or Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash when it comes to reviving dormant IPs with unnecessary experimentation, but it’s still a huge disappointment for those still cherishing F-Zero GX as the zenith of racing gaming as we know it.


Graphics: 7.0

Using the original F-Zero‘s 2D assets on a 3D plain help create a faux-Mode 7 effect, but the increased screen size and aspect ratio stripped off any semblance of speed.

Gameplay: 6.5

It controls fine for what it is, but gameplay elements just feel somewhat pointless. The spin attack doesn’t feel very powerful, the battle royale rules are half-baked, and there is no option to customize controls.

Sound: 7.0

It is the same soundtrack from the SNES classic. This is a good thing in theory, but it almost feels like the game is still in mono, just like in 1991.

Fun Factor: 6.0

If you want to do an F-Zero battle royale, go all in. This could have been more interesting if the developers had decided to actually embrace the madness of a battle royale in a racing game setting. As it stands, it feels like an occasionally entertaining but rushed experiment.

Final Verdict: 6.5

F-Zero 99 is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.