I should have played more F-Zero as a kid.
F-Zero X might be the best racer on the Nintendo 64. I haven't played them all, and my experience is mostly limited to Mario Kart, but I feel confident in that statement. Simply put, it's the sense of speed. F-Zero X has it. Not only does it have the best sense of speed, it isn't afraid to slap you around with it. "Blink and you might miss" is a hyperbolic cliché, and this is the only time I've seen it actually apply.
As Nintendo converted their hit SNES franchises into 3D renditions, F-Zero X might have been the most straightforward to implement. It had to be smooth, it had to be fast, and it had to sound amazing. For these main bullet points, I would argue they nailed them all within the contraints of the hardware. The Nintendo 64 isn't exactly known for its blistering frame rate, but F-Zero X turns that stereotype right on its head. I challenge you to find a dropped frame while playing this game, they're nowhere to be found. The gameplay is equally impressive. With tight and responsive turning, tricky yet learnable cornering, and the ability to wreck other pilots; the game gives you the tools you need to become a F-Zero champion but doesn't hold your hand in any way. Combining this with remixes of the previous soundtrack and blistering guitar driven jams, the incredible score will keep you fueled for hours.
And you will need many hours to experience everything this racing game has to offer. It's almost too much to list. Five different game play modes. Four GP cups on three difficulty settings (and an unlockable Master difficulty). An astounding twenty-four pilots to unlock past the starting six you have available. A randomized X Cup to keep things fresh. And multiple rom variations with all new tracks from the ill-fated disc drive expansion. Going back to play this game now is almost overwhelming with everything available to you.
However, because of some hardware limitations, F-Zero X can suffer in a few small areas. The excellent soundtrack is presented in monoaural sound due to compression requirements, while the ambient sounds are in stereo. The recorded speech for the game also suffers greatly from compression, sometimes taking multiple listens to deciper what is being said by the robotic commentator. The visuals apart from the tracks and hovercars also take a noticable drop in quality. Since the game is so fast and the action is so frantic, one could argue that most of your time is spent focused on your hovercar. But that didn't stop future iterations from populating their environments with pleasing geometry. F-Zero X just doesn't have much outside of the tracks. This does keep up with the aesthetic present in the original game, but it would have been nice if there was more to flesh out the universe you are careening through at breakneck speeds.
Overall, it's easy to see why this game is regarded as a masterpiece among F-Zero and Nintendo 64 fans alike. There just isn't a comparable experience on this console or any of its contemporaries. My only regret is I didn't play it more when I was younger.