Like it or not, F-Zero 99 is necessary if you want to see this franchise survive

F-Zero 99
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Announced at the September 2023 Nintendo Direct, the reveal of F-Zero 99 wasn’t exactly the grand return fans of the long-dormant series necessarily wanted to see. A 99-player battle royale in the style of Arika’s Tetris 99 and Pac-Man 99, the first F-Zero title in nearly two decades initially didn’t inspire confidence.

Reception has been much warmer in the days since, however, with fans and streamers alike struggling to put down the Nintendo Switch Online freebie. I was similarly praiseworthy in my F-Zero 99 impressions piece, too, citing that its one-more-round element as one of the multiplayer racer’s finest aspects.

Still, as fantastic and fresh as F-Zero 99 feels, especially among the best racing games of recent years, it still has its detractors. Why did Nintendo choose a multiplayer-only battle royale to put the franchise back on the map and not, say, an F-Zero GX remaster or a brand new single-player experience entirely? Whether you like F-Zero 99 or not, there’s a very simple answer to this; one that just might ensure you’ll be seeing a lot more from Captain Falcon and pals in the near future. 

Racing points

F-Zero 99

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Admittedly, F-Zero 99 would not have been my first choice when it comes to bringing the series back into the spotlight, either. Watching the Nintendo Direct presentation live, I also felt quite lukewarm about the announcement. At the time, I would’ve much rather have seen a Nintendo Switch port of the Sega-developed F-Zero GX, which I personally think is among the greatest racing games of all time; right up there next to Ridge Racer Type 4, OutRun 2, and Gran Turismo 4.

And there’s really one simple reason for that. While I’m lucky enough to own a physical copy of F-Zero GX and the original hardware to play it on, not everyone’s in the same boat. So I’d love nothing more than a remastered port of the game, with modernities like 1080p resolution as well as the chance to play it on the go with some of the best Nintendo Switch accessories like the fabulous Nitro Deck.

But in hindsight, I think that would be a little shortsighted. Yes, a GX port would be a fantastic thing for existing F-Zero fans. But it’s important to remember that the futuristic racer has never been one of Nintendo’s first-rate franchises, never reaching the lofty sales figures enjoyed by The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing, and especially Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

As fantastic as it is, F-Zero just isn’t that popular in the grander scheme of things. That’s not to say there’s a lack of interest. But opting for a remaster over an original title only serves to please that existing fan base. What F-Zero needs to do, if it’s to have any kind of future, is grow. 

Back on track

F-Zero 99

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Right now, that’s exactly what Nintendo seems to be achieving with F-Zero 99. Yes, it’s early doors, with the game being less than a month old and yet to receive more content updates, tracks, and modes; we’re very much still in its honeymoon phase. But by playing the game regularly since launch, I’ve never once witnessed it struggle to fill out 99 slots in an online race. On the contrary, it often does so remarkably quickly.

Add the fact that F-Zero 99 is a free download for anyone with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription (and with no additional paid content as of yet), and the franchise has never been more accessible in the modern era. And if it’s managed to onboard you successfully, both the original F-Zero and F-Zero X are right there to experience in NSO’s retro game libraries, with the GBA’s F-Zero Maximum Velocity also coming soon.

In short, F-Zero 99 has put more eyes on this excellent series than ever before. By providing an original and obscenely fun multiplayer game that also has a relatively low cost of entry, it’s proven to be a very low-risk gamble that’s got series veterans and newcomers alike excited for its future.

Whether you’re particularly keen on F-Zero 99 or not, it’s still important to acknowledge that it’s laid down some important foundations for a potential full return for the franchise when, before that, there simply wasn’t any at all. 

For more Nintendo Switch goodness, be sure to check out our guide to the best Nintendo Switch games you can play in 2023. 

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.