In the current land of retro gaming, the GameCube is remembered as an underrated gem with an excellent library. But it certainly wasn’t always that way! Released in November 2001, the console struggled against the stiff competition of the Playstation 2 and original XBox. Personally, I saw most of my friends pass on the system. I never quite understood why it was written off as not being “cool” during its heyday, but maybe my love and support for it during release is why I have so much GameCube nostalgia today!
I always think of the GameCube around the holidays, and had an extra dose of inspiration this year reading this amazing GameCube Anthology from Geeksline! Strongly recommended if you’re a fan of the system or just video game history in general. It’s incredibly thorough!
Getting the ‘Cube
I got my GameCube the day it launched, but I seemed to be the only one excited about it! I remember getting off work at PetsMart (my high school job), and driving straight to Toys’R’Us to grab one along with a copy of Star Wars Rogue Leader (one of the best launch games of all time, in my opinion). There were plenty available, which was probably a sign of things to come in terms of sales. Similar to my Nintendo 64 nostalgia, the GameCube represents a big transition in life: I was about to start college and move away from home. Nintendo had been a huge part of my childhood, and getting the new Nintendo system felt a little like hanging onto a piece of that.
Sadly, I no longer have my original purple GameCube! I gave it to a friend along with two of my controllers when the backwards compatible Wii came out (which is how I still play all my GC games via the component cables). I’ve been interested in picking up another GameCube, but for whatever reason, feel it has to be a “special” find and not simply purchased from eBay. I want it to have a good story behind it!
A most excellent holiday
To me, one of the most memorable things about the GameCube was the quality of its launch line up! True, we didn’t have a “traditional” Mario for the first time in Nintendo history, but we had a plethora of stellar titles within a month of launch! By Christmas, the GameCube had Star Wars: Rogue Leader, Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. WOW. These are the games I showed off to my skeptical friends during the first few months I had the system!
The launch games are still some of the system’s best! Star Wars: Rogue Leader might be my favorite Star Wars game (improving on the already stellar original!). Smash Melee is still the Smash of preference for a big chunk of the community, and Luigi’s Mansion has a massive cult following (side note: play Luigi’s Mansion 3 if you haven’t-it’s a delight!). I don’t think another Nintendo system has launched with so many strong titles so quickly!
When Nintendo wasn’t cool
Nearly everyone I knew had a Nintendo 64. But in the transition to the new console generation, most of my friends passed on the GameCube, and opted for a Playstation 2 instead. Grand Theft Auto III was all the rage, and I was straight up mocked for choosing a little purple cube over the “mature” PS2! I eventually bought a PS2 as well (let’s be honest, the game library is phenomenal, and I had to play Final Fantasy!). But both then, and now, I prefer the ‘Cube! Much of my GameCube nostalgia was about supporting Nintendo and its excellent games even when it wasn’t popular (which would happen again in the Wii U era!)
Nintendo tried to appear more “mature” by releasing a slew of games targeting older games, particularly by partnering with Capcom. Though most of their planned games never released, they did make some excellent new Resident Evil games. The Resident Evil REmake was (and still is!) fantastic and terrifying, and we all know Resident Evil 4 was a revelation! But even Resident Evil didn’t drive many sales of the console. The games saw much better sales on other platforms once they were ported over.
It’s all about the games
Game quality is why Nintendo continues to be my favorite in the world of video games. The library for each of its home consoles is simply spectacular. And the GameCube was no different! Just as the Wii U had a phenomenal library but struggled with sales, the GameCube did too. Aside from the awesome launch games, here are a few personal highlights:
Metroid Prime 1 and 2
Metroid Prime is still considered one of the best games ever created, for good reason. To this day I cannot believe Retro Studios managed to convert all that makes Metroid spectacular and atmospheric from 2D to 3D, seamlessly, on their first try. The game holds up magnificently today. And the sequel, while a bit more flawed in terms of mechanics and pacing, is still excellent too!
Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
It’s so funny to think about how “controversial” these beautiful graphics were when this game released. People outright refused to play it because it was too “kiddie”. How far we’ve come! Wind Waker appears on almost every Zelda fans’ top 10 list, and often hits the top 5. It’s a joy to experience today, either on the GameCube or via the phenomenal Wii U upgrade. And the Ocarina of Time “Master Quest” disc that came with Wind Waker pre-orders is bonus nostalgia!
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
For whatever reason, I recently had the urge to play through this game again! I actually picked up the old Nintendo Power Player’s Guide for some extra GameCube nostalgia, and it was glorious. The charm of this game is nearly unrivaled, and despite some tedious backtracking later in the game, it holds up beautifully. I adore these characters, graphics, world, and all the gameplay. And like most Paper Mario fans, I’d love to see a return to this style of game!
This game almost singlehandedly created a new genre of sanity-based psychological horror (and we haven’t seen much of it since!). I didn’t play this game until the waning days of the GameCube (my roommates and I picked it up senior year of college) but we had an absolute blast playing through it! It‘s genuinely scary, and the time-hopping, character-swapping story is intriguing and well told. Check it out if you haven’t! (and let me know if you find this Eternal Darkness hat)
The GameCube had a wide variety of quirky innovations (as per protocol with Nintendo). One of the coolest new pieces of tech was the wireless Wavebird controller! The rumble feature was sacrificed, but the controllers worked beautifully. It was awesome to play games cordless and a good distance from the TV. And with almost zero lag! I still have both of mine today and primarily use them when I play GameCube games.
And let’s not forget the Game Boy Advance connectors. It allowed for off-screen play or menu selections while the main game was still going on the TV. Pretty neat! Granted, these things weren’t utilized much. But Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was a BLAST if you had a friend (or two, or three!) and enough gear to play through the game. Pac-Man Vs. was another brilliant use of the tech, and there were some cool unlocks in games like Metroid Prime as well!
Looking at eBay prices right now, I can see a lot more folks have jumped on the GameCube train! It wasn’t appreciated in its time, but certainly seems to be now, and it’s great to see that. Prices for several games have skyrocketed, largely because there isn’t another way to (at least legally) play them yet!
Let’s hope we see some sort of GameCube “virtual console” on the Switch, or at least some additions to the Nintendo Switch Online library! I hope newer generations of gamers can develop love for the ‘Cube too.
Do you have GameCube nostalgia from when it released? Or did you discover it later? What are some of your favorite games or memories? And do you think we’ll ever see the library re-released digitally? Let me know in the comments below!