The F-Zero universe, officially stylized as F-ZERO, refers to the Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties that hail from Nintendo's F-Zero series of futuristic racing games. The universe's primary representation is the playable character Captain Falcon, and has been on his own in this form since the franchise's debut in the original Smash Bros.
As of the Japan-only release of F-Zero Climax in 2004, the series has been on hiatus and has now been largely dormant for almost 15 years, only receiving primary representation in the Smash Bros. series, two courses and a kart in DLC Mario Kart 8 (which were included at launch in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) and a minigame in Nintendo Land since Climax's release outside of amiibo functionality.
The F-Zero series is set centuries into the future, where humankind has since adapted its social framework into a galaxy teeming with a variety of sapient alien races. Multi-billionaire tycoons seeking entertainment sponsor high-tech racing tournaments that are spiritual successors to the Formula One races from centuries past, and are named the "F-Zero Grand Prix". F-Zero races are conducted in plasma-powered hovercars that hover one foot above the track with anti-gravitational technology and can reach speeds of well over 1000 kilometers per hour, and gigantic miles-long tracks hanging far above the surface of various planets comprise the courses in each game. The F-Zero Grand Prix is an extremely dangerous high-octane sport; careless racing machines regularly fly off the tracks to their doom on the surface of the planet far below, while others get demolished as they literally push and grind against each other while vying for first place. Every racing machine comes equipped with a shield barrier to ensure its longevity somewhat, but some of that power may be diverted to a boost in speed.
Several dozen F-Zero racers race at a time in some games, and each pilot has a different reason for taking part in the grand prix, whether it is intergalactic fame, the monetary grand prize, or satisfying some sort of vendetta against another racer or group. Each individual machine is balanced in relation to each other with different gradings in the areas of Body, Weight, Boost, and Grip. The wide cast of humans, aliens, monsters, androids, and other life forms that race against each other are designed in an aesthetic style reminiscent of American comic books, and the recurring character that is the closest to being the series' "mascot" is a space-faring bounty hunter named Captain Falcon, whose wardrobe gives him the appearance of a comic book superhero and whose multiple rivals resemble stereotypical supervillains. Disregarding the alternate-universe GP Legend subseries, there is usually little heed paid to continuity between installments in the series, and little focus on up-front storytelling in a given game itself, except for the story mode in F-Zero GX.
The original F-Zero had a very privileged position in Nintendo's release timeline; it shared the spotlight with Super Mario World as the "other" primary launch title for the Super Famicom and one of several launch titles for the Western equivalent, the Super Nintendo, and was the technical showpiece for the console's innovative "Mode 7" graphics-rendering technique. This form of texture mapping available on the SNES allowed a raster graphical plane to be rotated and scaled freely, and its usage in F-Zero to partially simulate three-dimensional environments without processing polygons was lauded for providing F-Zero the most convincing racetracks that had yet been seen on a home console. F-Zero was widely praised and financially successful both for its technical achievements and for delivering responsive gameplay supplemented by a wide track variety and a steady increase in challenge, and is credited both for reinvigorating the racing genre and for establishing a sub-genre of racing games that featured a futuristic aesthetic.
Considering the success of the first game, Nintendo notably did not jump into developing a sequel for several years, and what was technically the second installment of the franchise, BS F-Zero Grand Prix, was released in two separate incarnations as downloadable titles for the Satellaview, a Japan-exclusive attachment for the Super Famicom, in the mid-1990s. But the next installment to receive widespread public attention was F-Zero X for the Nintendo 64, which made the transition into polygonal graphics and was released in mid-to-late 1998. The game was received positively for its hard rock soundtrack and its focus on refined gameplay and an abundance of tracks (including randomly generated tracks), all while keeping the graphics running at an unbroken 60 frames per second (it was purportedly the first racing game to do so), though not every review outlet felt that the lack of detail in the graphics and texturing was made up for by the smooth framerate. A subsequent Japanese-only release for the short-lived Nintendo 64DD add-on, the F-Zero X Expansion Kit, was the first 64DD disk exclusively designed as an add-on to work in conjunction with a Nintendo 64 cartridge inserted into the base console; it primarily added both a vehicle-creation feature and a track-creation tool that was virtually the same tool used during the development of the game itself.
The series mirrored its roots as a technical showcase for a newly launched Nintendo system with the Game Boy Advance launch title F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, which transplanted the Mode 7 presentation style of the original into a handheld game. Then, the series made its most technically advanced appearance yet in F-Zero GX for the GameCube in mid-2003 (the first-ever collaboration between Nintendo and Sega), where it was lauded for being the best racing game for the GameCube; critically acclaimed elements include its visuals, high sense of speed and intensity, track design, challenge, and fleshed-out single-player modes, with some criticism leveled against a very sharp difficulty slant. An arcade counterpart to this title named F-Zero AX was published by Sega for the Triforce arcade system board (a system that was conceived from a business alliance between Sega, Nintendo, and Namco), and it featured special connectivity with the GameCube title in which a player that inserted a Nintendo GameCube memory card into the F-Zero AX system could instantly unlock content in F-Zero GX that would normally require successful playthroughs on high difficulties to access.
Following this, Nintendo attempted an alternate-universe take on the franchise with a 51-episode anime series, F-Zero: GP Legend, which began airing in October 2003, and two companion games for the Game Boy Advance, the first a game of the same name and the second titled F-Zero Climax, were released in Japan near the end of 2003 and 2004, respectively. However, a 4Kids Entertainment localization of the anime was only partially aired before being cancelled, and F-Zero Climax was never released outside Japan. Despite F-Zero having been consistently featured as one of the contending Nintendo franchises in every installment of the Super Smash Bros. series since that series' inception, the F-Zero franchise itself has remained dormant ever since the release of F-Zero Climax, and only some series elements have made intermittent and minor appearances outside of Smash Bros. since then.
F-Zero is one of the "bonus franchises" in the original Super Smash Bros., for it contributes one unlockable character, one victory theme, and absolutely nothing else - no stages and no items based on F-Zero repose in the game. Before being unlocked, Captain Falcon makes his appearance in Samus' stage (both Samus and Captain Falcon are known to be bounty hunters, in addition to both having originated from science fiction franchises). Super Smash Bros. also marked the only time to introduce an F-Zero newcomer.
F-Zero had its representation in the Smash series expanded upon in Super Smash Bros. Melee, with one character, two new stages and many new trophies, and all 30 F-Zero Racers appear together in those stages and trophies as well.
Melee is the first game to introduce stages for the F-Zero series.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (F-Zero series)
A fair amount of content from the F-Zero universe appears in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
On the final character select screen (after all characters are unlocked), Captain Falcon joins the Star Fox characters in the sixth column. All these characters fly spaceships (hence having a choice of fighting only up to two of these in Classic Mode).
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (F-Zero series)
Main article: List of stickers (F-Zero series)
Main article: Masterpieces
There has been little to no F-Zero releases since Brawl barring cameos in Mario Kart 8 and Nintendo Land. Nevertheless, the series continues to be represented, arguably more closely linked to Smash Bros. than its own releases in the minds of those who know little to nothing about F-Zero.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (F-Zero series)
Main article: Masterpieces
The F-Zero universe returns in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
All F-Zero stages from past games aside from Mute City have returned.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (F-Zero series)
Arrangements and remixes unique to Ultimate.
Arrangements and remixes from previous Smash Bros. titles.
Tracks directly sourced from the F-Zero games.
Main article: List of spirits (F-Zero series)
Games with elements from or in the Super Smash Bros. series