F-Zero is a marvel of 16-bit, psuedo-3d graphics. (And oh my god, has it really been twenty-one years since this game came out?!)
Nintendo needed a graphical showcase to show off the abilities of its successor to the wildly popular Nintendo Entertainment System (the Famicom in Japan).
F-Zero demonstrated that the 16-bit era held fantastic possibilities for basic gameplay in the third dimension, with its beautiful Mode 7 renderings of futuristic racing courses (with a stutter-free framerate to boot).
And that flawless framerate is put to good use: F-Zero offers challenging, incredibly fast racing action that demands quick reflexes and undivided attention.
But it's not just the sense of speed that makes F-Zero great. Players must be very careful with timing of the allocated speed-boosts (one for every completed lap), and protection of their racer's energy. Run into the course barrier, or other racers, and your craft takes damage that, naturally, lowers your energy level. When it's all gone, your ship explodes. (There's also the little matter of avoiding the bomb drone racers that explode on contact. Those are real fun when they appear.)
Throw in courses that require impeccable braking on turns, the odd proximity mine obstacle here and there, jumps that will send you to your doom should you fail to land in the right spot, and gravity wells that require use of the L and R buttons to avoid, and you've got the makings for a timeless racing challenge. (Oh, and each one of the four craft choices has a different acceleration curve, adding more strategy to the mix.)
F-Zero may very well have been the first racing game that I ever played with a console controller. Two decades later, it is still one of the best. I never tire of giving the relentless Fire Field one more college try, to see if this will be the time that I can master it on the hardest difficulty. The graphics are still mesmerizing, with all of those flashing dots travelling past you on the side of the track.
And even by today's standards, F-Zero is still one of the fastest racing games ever programmed.
That's just the way I like 'em.