On Sept. 14, 2001, GameCube made its grand debut in Japan. The fourth home console ever made by Nintendo was supposed to big one for the major publisher. Not only were they still competing with SEGA’s last-ditch effort in the Dreamcast, but they had to deal with the upcoming PlayStation 2 from Sony. Not only that, but Microsoft was throwing its hat into the ring with the Xbox. It was going to be a crowded home console market, but Nintendo was not that far off from being the top console creator in the world, so they had the confidence they could compete.
So, how did they do? Well, that depends on who you ask. While the PS2 dominated sales numbers, many look back fondly on the GameCube for having a consistently strong library of games. It may have not had quite the library of a PS2, but what it did have were some truly unique experiences. Their library was unique, and it’s helped all of us who grew up with the GameCube look back on it fondly. Now that it has turned 20, let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the console’s best games Games.
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II
- Skies of Arcadia Legends
One part of the GameCube library that was actually very strong was a significant list of ports. When the Dreamcast discontinued and SEGA switched over to third-party publishing, many of its games were sent to other consoles. Easily the most bizarre for longtime players was seeing a SEGA logo on a Nintendo console. The console wars between the Super Nintendo and Genesis were fierce, with SEGA going straight at Nintendo in many of its marketing.
So, to see Dreamcast games like Phantasy Star Online, Skies of Arcadia, and Ikaruga on the GameCube was quite the surprise. These games became an essential part of the GameCube library and were a reason to buy the console.
First Party IPs
- Super Mario Sunshine
- F-Zero GX
If there is one thing Nintendo is known for, even to this day, it’s a deep library of beloved IPs that they can pull from at any moment. While some fans feel like their favorite characters have been forgotten forever in recent years, the GameCube felt like it was trying to play all of its hits. We of course got our guaranteed Mario game with Super Mario Sunshine, but there were some big surprises on there as well. F-Zero GX is an incredibly difficult but extremely fun racing game that fans want to see again, and Pikmin was a brand new IP that that shocked people with its charm. There are games and experiences that can only be had on a Nintendo console and it’s their IPs that made that possible.
- Super Smash Bros. Melee
- Luigi’s Mansion
- Mario Kart: Double Dash
Another strong aspect of the GameCube was a series of really fun spin-off titles. It even launched with one in Luigi’s Mansion, which was not critically beloved at the time, but it gave Luigi a personality beyond being nothing more than “green Mario.” These spin-offs were also a source of some really fun party games. Mario Kart: Double Dash is still considered by some to be the best Mario Kart game ever made because of the ability to use two characters at once. Super Smash Bros. Melee is still immensely popular as both an esport and a party game. Not every console can say it has a series of spin-off titles that are just as good as its mainline IPs.
Third Party Support
- Viewtiful Joe
- Eternal Darkness
- Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
One of the bigger — and honestly deserved — criticisms of the GameCube was it lacked the level of third-party support that its competitors had. However, when the GameCube did get support from those third parties, they ended up with some true gems. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is a delightful game that captures a lot of the spirit of Star Wars by allowing players to play through moments from the movies. It’s genuinely one of the best Star Wars games ever made. Viewtiful Joe is one of the wackiest games ever with incredible visuals and a style that has yet to be replicated.
Then, there’s Eternal Darkness, one of the most horrifying games of that generation of consoles. Eternal Darkness was unique, because when the player’s sanity would drop below a certain level, it would start messing with them by doing things such as turning the volume down, pretending to delete their save, or messing with their TV in a way that really only works on CRT’s. Some of the gags are a little dated now, but it’s still a great game from the GameCube and worthy of the praise it gets.
- NBA Street: Vol 3
- Custom Robo
- Soul Calibur II
The GameCube was all about unique experiences. That’s what separated it from other consoles at the time and it provided them in plenty of fun ways. One of them was through Custom Robo, a great action RPG that, while a little dated at times today, is still fun thanks to a concept that was fairly unique at the time. The ability to change out robo parts to make our mechs feel like our own was a fun one that, while more common today, wasn’t everywhere yet.
The other two experiences are ways that made third-party games like NBA Street: Vol 3 and Soul Calibur II must-get on the GameCube in particular. You could play as Nintendo characters! Have you ever wanted to dunk on someone with Mario? You could. Ever wanted to use Link in a fighting game? You could do that, too.
The Best of the Best
Before Metroid Prime came out, there hadn’t been a Metroid game in eight years when Super Metroid came out on the SNES. They skipped the Nintendo 64 entirely, but the wait was well worth it. For, some there is no Metroid as great as the Prime series. Instead of going with the traditional 2D side scroller route, the developers decided to take it to a first-person perspective. Changing Metroid into an exploration-based FPS was a brilliant move because it allowed players to experience the series from a unique perspective. We weren’t just thrown into the eyes of Samus. Instead, we got to see everything from her HUD, which made it feel like we were actually inside her helmet. That little detail ended up being the best change they could possibly make and helped turn Metroid Prime into a must-have experience on the GameCube.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
This wasn’t Mario’s first foray into the world of RPGs. Super Mario RPG on the SNES is fantastic, and Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64 is maybe the perfect entry-level RPG. However, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is for many the best of the genre. Hysterically funny writing, colorful characters, a fantastic hub world in Rogue Port, and the ability to play as Bowser and Peach made this game feel gigantic, except it never overstays its welcome. No chapter is too long, no level too big, and no boss fight too daunting. This game was so good that the developers felt the formula for it had peaked and immediately took the franchise in a new direction afterward. For some, it has never come close to the same level of excellence. It’s one of the best games on the GameCube and a must-play, even to this day.
Resident Evil 4
This counts. Yes, Resident Evil 4 is technically a multi-platform title, but it was originally a GameCube exclusive. That exclusivity only lasted 10 months, but what a glorious 10 months it must have been for Nintendo to have a AAA third-party title on their console. Also, it’s arguably the best Resident Evil game ever. RE4 was praised at the time for taking the franchise in a more action-oriented direction while still managing to keep some scares, and has been ported numerous times as a result. There are so many different versions of this game it’s almost comical, but it’s an example of how great it was when it came out and why people rushed to get a GameCubesso they could play it. Despite being considered a console “for children,” the GameCube had two of the best horror games of the generation.
The happiest game ever created. When Animal Crossing first started advertising, it left a lot of people confused. A game with no fighting or shooting, and all you do is fish, catch bugs, and talk to animals? Sounds boring.
Well, it wasn’t boring. Animal Crossing was one of the first GameCube games to make use of the internal clock inside the console. This meant that everything taking place in the game was happening in real-time. This also meant that you could celebrate holidays, such as Halloween or Toy Day (Christmas) inside Animal Crossing with your villagers. When it wasn’t a holiday, the player could spend their days collecting money, buying new furniture for their house, or helping out their animal neighbors. The writing for this game is hysterical and will leave the player constantly wanting to learn more about their villagers to the point where some of them get annoyed move away. This can be a bummer, but then, new personalities move in and it’s not so bad. Animal Crossing is what you make out of it and the game is always fun. It was a necessary part of every GameCube owner’s library.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
This is a great Zelda game. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was criticized at the time for being too “cutesy.” While players wanted a realistic and darker-looking Link, what Nintendo gave them instead was a cell-shaded colorful experience featuring Link as a child. The backlash never made sense, because that art style helped the game look great while also featuring the same Zelda charm that make people fall in love with the series. Dungeons are fun, characters are great, and the tools you get along your journey are some of the best in the entire series.
What will create a division among fans is how they feel about the sailing. The world has been flooded, making every body of land into an island and the only way to get there is by sailing. For some players, getting to sail the high seas is a blast. For others, it’s a waste of time that makes the exploration not fun. No matter what, it’s a very unique experience that matches the console’s identity of providing something that can only be found on the GameCube. Criticisms aside, it’s still many people’s favorite Zelda game, and it even received an excellent HD port on the Wii U that fixed some of the exploration issues.