Best Star Fox Games, Ranked (2024)

By Steve Watts on

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Since its first release in 1993, Star Fox has been one of the biggest vehicular shooter brands around. Nintendo set a new standard for technical prowess when it pushed polygons on the Super NES, a feat that was incredibly impressive despite its rudimentary nature. Since then, Fox McCloud has become one of the company's most recognizable stars, featuring in every Super Smash Bros. game with wingman Falco also joining for most of them. But the core of the Star Fox brand is the on-rail shooter, which balanced white-knuckled fighter pilot action with acrobatic stunts and hidden secrets.

Fox and his friends have been through a lot together--eight games when including spin-offs. And while Nintendo has mostly hewed closely to its shooter roots, it has also found ways to expand on the Star Fox concept with new ideas and gameplay styles. These experiments have sometimes worked better than others, but they're consistently interesting and unique. Here are our favorite Star Fox games.

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8. Star Fox 2

Star Fox 2, the direct sequel to the original groundbreaking SNES game, was canceled in 1995 as Nintendo prepared for the advent of higher-fidelity 3D games on the N64. Over the next two decades, it lived only as a rumor and prototype ROMs that made their way out among fans and gaming history buffs. That changed in 2017 when Nintendo restored the game and released it officially for the first time as part of its Super NES Classic Edition, one of several mini-consoles released around the time that house a library of classic games. A few years later, it also came to the Nintendo Switch Online service.

While the official release satisfied the curiosity of longtime Nintendo fans, the actual game just isn't all that great. The rudimentary graphics and simple controls just aren't able to keep up with its ambitious ideas, and it's over almost as soon as it begins. This one is more of a curiosity than a game that ever did, or could, stand on its own.

7. Star Fox Zero

The most-recent Star Fox game is also one of the worst, perhaps shaking expectations that Nintendo still has a steady hand on the yoke of the beloved rail-shooter series. Star Fox Zero had all the pieces in place, like the increased graphical fidelity of the Wii U and decent enough flying mechanics. But it invited unfavorable comparisons by modeling itself after the fan-favorite Star Fox 64. Parts of it seemed to be a total reimagining of SF64, in fact. And if you're going to come at what many regard to be the pinnacle of the series, you need to nail it. Instead, Star Fox Zero was a pale imitator, recalling some great moments but stymied by awkward controls and an overreliance on the Wii U gamepad that often saw you looking down at your controller rather than the TV screen.

6. Star Fox Guard

Star Fox Guard is a radical departure from the standard Star Fox game, and not at all what Star Fox fans would have hoped to see out of a new game when it launched on the Wii U in 2016. But it's decent enough for what it is--a bonus pack-in game that came with Star Fox Zero. Instead of the dogfighting action that has defined the series since its inception, or even the tanks, subs, and on-foot segments that came to be a regular part of later entries, Star Fox Guard is a tower defense game. It made use of the Wii U gamepad for a two-screen experience, having you swap between an array of cameras to fire at approaching enemies. It got praise for its clever enemies like the chaos robots, which would interfere with cameras or even show you fake footage to throw you off. But it was also criticized for being a bit bland and short, and for the lack of online sharing for the level editor.

5. Star Fox Assault

This traditional, if middling, entry in the Star Fox franchise released for the GameCube, and serves as a direct story sequel to Star Fox Adventures. Andross' nephew Andrew takes center stage as the new villain, and Fox and his crew of mercenaries have to battle against an invasion of Aparoid creatures. The major new elements were the on-ground blaster combat and the ability to swap between your Arwing and Landmaster at will, so stages were built to support both vehicles. It was a perfectly serviceable sequel but critics by and large felt it was a little too similar to prior entries and the design was simplistic.

4. Star Fox Command

Star Fox Command is another game that broke heavily from its traditional rail-shooter roots, but this time the experiment largely worked. Instead of the usual Star Fox stage design, you were in command of the team's aircraft carrier, the Great Fox, along with all of the team's Arwings. Using a tactical command map, you had to plan routes to keep the Great Fox safe as it journeyed through stages, and then hop into all-range battle mode to shoot down enemies yourself. This lost some charm of its bespoke level designs that were designed like stunt courses, but it was a good fit for the Nintendo DS. The bite-sized levels were an easy way to hop in quickly for short bursts, and the stylus controls worked surprisingly well. It also expanded the world of Star Fox immensely, introducing tons of new characters and relationships. Director Dylan Cuthbert later stated that he saw this game as a sort of "alternate timeline" to have more flexibility with the characters.

3. Star Fox

The original Star Fox hasn't aged as gracefully as some of the others. Even at the time, it was clear the Super NES was struggling to handle the load. But for many gamers of the era, it was the first mainstream game to center around polygons and a truly 3D space. It had difficulty spikes as sharp as its razor-like Arwing pieces, but it was an incredible technical achievement and a vision of the future. For setting the template of Star Fox and giving us a vision of the future, it deserves a place of honor.

2. Star Fox Adventures

Star Fox Adventures is as divisive as it gets in the series. In the days of the 3D action-platformer, Nintendo and Rare went in a totally different direction. Inspired by the success of the Legend of Zelda series, Fox and his crew abandoned their Arwings for an Adventure mode presented as a third-person action-adventure game. Fox had a staff that he could use to dispatch enemies and solve puzzles, as well as build up a full skill suite. Arwings were present but extremely deemphasized, consisting of a handful of on-rail shooter segments as you travel from place to place. One reason? It didn't begin its life as a Star Fox game, and was initially planned as a new IP called Dinosaur Planet.

Not only was gameplay a huge departure from the norm, but the story was as well. Rather than a planet-hopping excursion across several biomes to battle an evil space-overlord, this one placed Fox and his band of mercenaries on a single planet--the aptly named Dinosaur Planet--with a narrower focus on Fox himself and a new ally named Krystal. All these changes were a lot for longtime Star Fox fans, leading to its divided reception. But among critics, it's one of the most highly rated in the series. As long as you take it on its own terms, it's a great game and an example of how Star Fox could stand to break from tradition more often.

1. Star Fox 64

Nintendo set the standard for Star Fox in its very second released video game, and it's been chasing it in almost every release since. Star Fox 64 was everything the series aimed to be. The rail shooter segments consisted of branching paths that imbued the game with multiple ways of approaching its difficulty, as well as tons of secrets and hidden paths to unlock. The gibberish-speak of the first game was replaced with voice acting that would be at home on any Saturday morning cartoon. It expanded the roster of characters beyond the core four pilots to include several allies in the fight against Andross, along with ROB and your carrier ship, the Great Fox. And since Star Fox 2 had been scrapped, SF64 was our first introduction to all-range mode, a full 3D mode that let you get into intense dogfights with other ships.

The graphics were a visual feast on the N64, and they were given a bit of polish for its 3DS re-release years later. In fact, the 3DS port showcased how well the game had aged. Whereas the first Star Fox is an interesting artifact, Star Fox 64 is still just uproariously fun to play. This is also the best example to date of Star Fox venturing outside of its usual comfort zone of airborne dogfights, as it introduced both the Landmaster tank and Blue-Marine levels that had clear similarities to the Arwing but felt special as a nice change of pace.

Star Fox 64 is skill-testing, rewarding, and still a fantastic game all these years later. Nintendo has never quite matched this level since the release of Star Fox 64. This is the ultimate Star Fox

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