SD F-1 Grand Prix (グランプリ): The Japan Only SNES F1 Racing Romp

SD F-1 Grand Prix SNES game box
The box for the Japan only SNES game.

SD F-1 Grand Prix was a Japanese exclusive back in October 1995, arriving right at the end of the Super Nintendo’s life.

Riffing off Nintendo’s Super Mario Kart (1992), it’s an obscure title for those of us in the West. And if it’s obscure and a bit weird, you can guarantee we want to check out the thing!

Checking Out the History of Super Deformed F-1 Grand Prix on the SNES

Yes, SD F-1 Grand Prix stands for Super Deformed F-1 Grand Prix. Or グランプリ in Japanese.

Japan loves its motorsport and the nation is a huge fan of Formula 1, but never has produced a race winning driver.

The “super deformed” bit is actually Japanese slang called chibi, which is used to described something diminutive. Basically, it’s a caricature in Japan for characters are drawn in an OTT way as you’ll often see in anime and manga.

From Japanese developer Video System Co. in Kyoto, SD F-1 Grand Prix. It’s a spin-off from its 1990s F-1 Grand Prix games.

Just check out this brilliant flier for the arcade game!

F-1 Grand Prix by Video System

“Something fantabulous this way comes!”

Yes. Yes! As major advocates of the adjective “fantabulous”, we’re also delighted to see the joys of broken English in gaming… in action… right there!

Well, whatever, Video System Co. also wanted to produce SD F-1 Grand Prix as a king of wacky alternative. And that’s what we got!

This is basically the world of F1 in 1995, revamped in a cutesy cartoon way featuring the real tracks from that era and the real drivers.

For example, Damon Hill is a guitar playing bird, Mika Häkkinen is a canine, and Michael Schumacher is a wolf. Here’s Häkkinen below looking too cool for school.

Mika Häkkinen is a canine in SD F-1 Grand Prix

Also there’s a depiction of former Tyrell driver, Ukyo Katayama, who’s portrayed as a kamikaze mouse. Stylish!

In others words, it’s F1 from 1995 playing out in a parallel universe.

If you know anything about the sport around that era, 1995 followed a disastrous 1994 season during which Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were killed.

Understandably, the game doesn’t mention that. But Senna does feature in a kind of homage—he’s the end of game boss as the fastest driver to beat.

Obviously, SD F-1 Grand Prix looks like Super Mario Kart. It also plays a great deal like it, with similar modes and features.

But there are some unique ideas, such as two commentators (who appear on screen) passing judgement on your driver skills as you race.

We believe those two were the genuine commentators for Fuji TV at the time, condensed down into chibi versions. Naturally.

It’s a bit of shame this game didn’t make it to Europe, as Murray Walker would have been fantastic in this!

Although he did lend his vocal sounds to the 1997 F1 PlayStation game.

However, for SD F-1 Grand Prix the use of commentators is a bit odd as Video System Co. decided to use no background music.

So you kind of just race around in silence, other than your motor ticking over. It’s a bit of an odd decision.

It’s made even weirder as there’s some remarkably upbeat music to go with menu screens in the game.

So, yes, despite being a Mario Kart rip-off (and there have been plenty of them in recent years), there’s not that much more information available about the game.

We have seen some players describe it as an incredibly difficult game. Much more so than Nintendo’s 1992 title.

And one that’s, apparently, good fun as well. Which makes it all the more of a shame it didn’t get a wider international release.

Still, and to note, there’s a hack of Super Mario Kart available that Mike Matei test ran in 2019. It’s called Super Mario Kart – F1 Tracks and it’s not difficult to pick up online, featuring all F1 tracks and all the original Super Mario Kart characters.

Whereas getting a ROM of SD F-1 Grand Prix is hard work. But worth it if you think you’d like to give this curiosity a whirl.

Dispense with some gibberish!

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