The GameCube 20 Years Later

"Nintendo Gamecube" by Pete Slater is licensed with CC BY-ND 2.0

The GameCube was Nintendo’s sixth-generation console. In contrast to the standard size CD-ROMs used by the Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s first foray into the market, the original Xbox, the GameCube used mini-discs. The entire console was quite small and even had a handle on the back for portability. It was not as simple as the grab-and-go of the Nintendo Switch, but it was a cute idea for the time.

Standing out from the crowd, the default colour for the system was a soft purple (officially Indigo), with black, silver, and orange available later. The Gameboy Advance, released around the same time, also used this purple so everything had a nice matching scheme.

As with most Nintendo consoles, the GameCube had many accessories: The Gameboy Player (the successor to the Super GameBoy) allowed you to play games from the GameBoy family on your TV. It was a small attachment that connected neatly to the bottom of the console.

As well as this, there were more…experimental add-ons. The GameCube-GameBoy Advance link cable lets you connect to some games for additional features, like in The Wind Waker. It was also bizarrely the only way to play Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles multiplayer. Player 1 would use a standard controller, but anyone after that had to have a GameBoy Advance and the cable. Dial-up and broadband adapters were compatible with only a handful of games. Online gaming would come to full fruition in the next generation. Game-specific items like the DK Bongos and Dance Pad were also available.

Captain Falcon, Mario, Kirby and Donkey Kong fight on top of a giant turtle
I’m not great at Smash Bros, but I like the items.

The GameCube controller was slightly smaller than a dual shock and had a unique button layout, with different sizes and shapes for each. The analog stick is still hailed as one of the best in history, and many will fondly remember the iconic clicking of frantic Mario Party mini-games or Smash Bros. matches. The C-buttons were replaced with the new C-stick. It’s so beloved that it has been re-released several times, mainly for use with Super Smash Bros., for both the Wii U and Switch. A chunky wireless controller called the WaveBird was also produced, but my brother claimed it every time—because he was older, of course.

My brother and I received our purple GameCube for Christmas along with Super Smash Bros. Melee. I was 12, and it was the first time I started to understand and appreciate the games I was playing on a more technical level. I can remember my first “wow these graphics are so good” moment, playing Star Fox Adventures and looking at the water effects. While Nintendo has never had the most powerful consoles, the GameCube had hugely improved from the Nintendo 64 before it. The notorious fog was gone, and many more models could be on screen at once. It was reasonably priced at 199 USD at the time of release, 100 less than the PlayStation 2.

It also holds a mildly embarrassing memory for me that for whatever reason takes up space in my brain to this day. My older cousin (mid-30s at the time) was visiting right when I was playing Star Fox Adventures. A cutscene of Fox McCloud gazing objectively at Crystal the fox played, with over the top romantic saxophone music. I’m sorry Alan—I swear I’m not a weirdo.

Fox McCloud looks nervous as General Claw towers behind him
Pictured here: my cousin judging me

The bestselling games were unsurprisingly all Nintendo first-party titles, with Super Smash Bros. Melee holding the top spot, Mario Kart: Double Dash and Super Mario Sunshine coming in 2nd and 3rd. Many games from this time are still highly appreciated as some of the best in their franchises, including Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil Zero, the first two Metroid Prime games, F-Zero GX, and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. It has some of my personal favourites on it, as well.

Interestingly, the console didn’t launch with a Mario title and instead focused on the adventures of his cowardly brother in Luigi’s Mansion. I didn’t end up playing it until years later when the 3DS sequel was announced, but I wanted to see what I missed. I quite enjoyed it, and I’m glad the series has continued. Around the same time, I began renting games again, something I skipped for a generation. I remember enjoying Pac-Man World 2 and 3 quite a lot, although I’m sure they haven’t aged well.

For whatever reason, I became obsessed with the early levels of Super Mario Sunshine (a game that, to my shame, I’ve never beaten). In my Social Studies class every day as a warmup exercise we would write a page about whatever we wanted. Often I would write my own guides for how to get to specific Shines or secrets to be discovered. These assignments were not graded, but I have to wonder what my teacher thought about my impromptu walkthroughs.

The GameCube…did not sell very well. The overwhelming success of the Playstation 2 was hard to compete with. Still—it holds a lot of wonderful memories for me personally and for many others. Games from it are still being ported, remastered and (shh) emulated. Nintendo got their day soon enough with the massive performance of their next console, the Wii.

Written by Lor Gislason

Lor is the resident Indie Game Outreach Expert (patent pending) of 25YL Gaming who will talk your ear off about Wholesome games and Roguelites.

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