Nintendo hasn’t always given Starfox the most love among its tentpole franchises, but the series has still cultivated a loyal cult fanbase over its almost 30-year history. Here are all of the games in the mainline series ranked from worst to best.
7 – Starfox Zero
Starfox Zero (2016) is likely the worst received entry in the franchise due to its wonky gyroscopic controls. The game’s campaign mostly covers the same ground as Starfox 64 left fans hoping for a new storyline disappointed.
Still, for fans who are willing to persevere, there may be some respectable Starfox gameplay to find beneath the awkward control scheme.
6 – Starfox Command
Starfox Command (2006) has some interesting elements for hardcore fans of the series like a branching storyline to explore that expands on some of the major character arcs from other games in the series. The game ditches the on-the-rails gameplay the franchise is known for in favor of free-range combat in 3D spaces.
Unfortunately, Starfox Command is held back by its forced and frustrating touch screen controls and a turn-based strategy system that is interesting at first but wears thin and gets repetitive as the game progresses.
5 – Starfox 2
Nintendo cancelled Starfox 2 in 1995 when the game was nearly complete. Except for a few who managed to get their hands on ROMs of the game and play on emulators, most gamers didn’t get to experience this game until Nintendo released a finished version of the game as part of the Super NES Classic in 2017. The game eventually made its way to the online service for Nintendo Switch owners.
Starfox 2, unfortunately, doesn’t hold up terribly well today with a framerate that makes it borderline unplayable. Still, the game is most notable for the innovations that Nintendo carried from the cancelled game to Starfox 64 like the “all-range mode” and ground vehicles and, surprisingly, platforming sections that later inspired the classic Mario 64. The game also features interesting new characters that don’t appear in any other entry in the series.
4 – Starfox Adventures
Starfox Adventures (2002) was never originally intended to be a Starfox game at all. Originally conceptualized as Dinosaur Planet, the game was meant to be an adventure game in the vein of The Legend of Zelda with a new female protagonist, Krystal. She was eventually sidelined to the role of a damsel in distress, in favor of Fox McCloud as the game changed direction.
The clunky grafting of Starfox onto a game that originally had nothing to do with the franchise shows. Starfox Adventures is largely centered on third-person combat, exploration, and puzzle-solving, and the few Arwing sections of the game feel like a tacked-on afterthought. The result is a game with Starfox characters that feels completely different than any Starfox game before or since.
The adventure gameplay is mostly fine, albeit with a few frustrating areas, but none of it really holds a candle to the more refined gameplay of the Zelda series. This leaves Starfox Adventures feeling more like a curiosity than a classic in the realm of Starfox 64.
3 – Starfox Assault
Despite its myriad flaws, Starfox Assault (2005) still marked a (sort-of) return to form for the series. The multiplayer and on the ground aspects of the game are largely forgettable, but the Arwing missions delivered more of the classic space combat that was largely lacking from the Legend of Zelda-inspired Starfox Adventures.
The story introduces a new threat to the Starfox franchise, known as the Aparoids. These insect creatures aren’t terribly compelling in a narrative sense, and they’re especially annoying to deal with during the ground-based sections of the game, but they at least make for some interesting boss fights in the Arwing segments that stay true to the spirit of Starfox 64. It’s also fun fighting the rival team StarWolf again after their notable absence from Starfox Adventures. Most of all, Starfox Assault proved Fox McCloud is at his best in the cockpit of an Arwing.
2 – Starfox
While the original Starfox (1993) may feel dated by the standards of modern video games, the game’s innovation for the time of its release is undeniable. Starfox was one of the first games to begin exploring the possibilities of 3D game design with its polygonal ship and enemy models, and the fact that this was achieved on 32-bit hardware remains a remarkable feat to this day.
Starfox also carved out the basic framework for the characters and story that Nintendo would go on to more fully flesh out in later entries in the series. Additionally, Starfox changed the course of aerial combat in video games forever, with the 3D environments allowing players to experience the thrill of flying between obstacles and through archways like never before.
1 – Starfox 64
Star Fox 64 is the pinnacle of the Star Fox franchise. The game offers a variety of fun and challenging levels and a high degree of replayability. The branching paths encourage players to scour each level for secrets that will change the trajectory of their playthrough. Expanding on the on-rails gameplay of the original Starfox, Starfox 64 introduced “all-range mode” which allowed players to freely explore a three-dimensional space at different points throughout the campaign.
Additionally, Starfox 64 introduced a new tank-like vehicle called the “Landmaster” creating new opportunities to add variety to the campaign. The game also introduced voice acting, bringing the fuzzy characters and story to life in a way that wasn’t possible on the Super Nintendo’s hardware.
Starfox 64 is a fan favorite in the franchise and the game’s lasting legacy is apparent throughout the franchise. Starfox Zero is essentially an updated retread of the Nintendo 64 classic with gyro controls. Some of the levels in Starfox Assault clearly draw inspiration from missions in Starfox 64, and Nintendo even released a remake of the game on Nintendo 3DS. The dogfighting gameplay in the all-range sections and the multiplayer also inspired the space combat of games in other franchises like the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series.
Only time will tell if any future additions to the franchise manage to surpass Starfox 64, but for now it remains the apex of the franchise.