It’s important that I cut right to the point: I absolutely love the GameCube. It’s my favorite system. More than the NES. More than the SNES. More than the Game Boy or N64 or DS. I am and will always love the GameCube, and while I don’t expect everyone to share the same feelings, I’m always appalled when I hear it spoken of in a negative light. I’m ready to throw down, because we’re digging into why this glorious system deserves far more credit than it ever gets.
Before highlighting the mountains of good qualities the system touted, I’ll pull out the usual strawman arguments you all (“you all” being those guys that just hate the GameCube because *shrug*) love to jump immediately to.
1. “The GameCube looks like a purple lunchbox!”
Sure, and the NES looked like a toaster, the PS3 looks like a George Foreman grill, an iPhone looks like a coaster, whatever. Compared to how the PS2 and Xbox looked at the time, making a console sleek and attractive wasn’t very high on the priority list of either game developers or consumers.
2. “The GameCube used funny-looking discs!”
So? Just because putting a game on a CD was starting to become the usual thing, specifically something Sony took a risk doing with the PS1, doesn’t mean it was the only way to do things. GameCube games ran perfectly well and in many cases faster than their PS2 or Xbox counterparts, even if you had to swap out discs now and then for larger games, a practice that hasn’t seemed to go away even as recent as…now.
3. “The GameCube didn’t have any good games!”
I don’t have the time to argue with you, though I can very easily recall at least 20 amazing titles for the system off the top of my head, both first-party and third-party, but only Halo on the Xbox, and “amazing” is being generous. Anecdotal evidence? Absolutely, but taste is subjective. I was bored with my PS2. That doesn’t mean I assume it has no good games on it. I just assume by-and-large that it had no games I personally wanted to play. Gaming trends don’t always revolve around your exclusive wishes.
4. “The GameCube was a kiddie system for babies!”
Now we’re ready to stomp some faces, because no statement could miss the mark that hard if you tried, and really only highlights the ongoing debate that’s still raging, more commonly called the “casual vs hardcore debate” of the present.
In the simplest terms, the GameCube, and all of Nintendo’s systems, were just systems. The games from Nintendo tended to lean toward all-inclusive, specifically referred to as “family experiences” as they were safe for all ages, which is a strategy we can’t forget paid off in spades with the Wii. Third parties were free to make more mature games, which they did with some standout results like Resident Evil 4 or Eternal Darkness (which some people like and some people don’t). Nintendo kept doing its own thing and made its own games in its own style. If they started making radically mature games, it wouldn’t have made any sense, as if Rockstar suddenly decided it needed to make a kart racer or Blizzard decided it needed to make a karaoke game. My point is, if you come at the GameCube as if it were a “kiddie” system, I’m going to point at the PS2 and Xbox and list just as many “kiddie” games with the only difference being that all those games were garbage and didn’t sell well.
So, why then would I actually like the GameCube enough to say I’m in love with it? Why would I have such an attachment that it even has a name (Ariel)? Why would I claim that it deserves more credit? For three reasons: It has the best controller ever, it has the most radical departures from major franchises, and it was a complete success as a console.
In my first article, I talked about why the N64 controller gets a lot of undeserved hatred as of late. Well, I have never found a single person who has ever said anything ill of the GameCube’s perfectly formed controller. In fact, every time I mention it, people melt into submission as they begin remembering how superbly contoured it was to their hands, how good the control sticks felt on their fingers, and how perfectly weighted and durable they were. There’s a good reason why the Wii supported the GameCube controller in many cases, and it wasn’t for any other reason than the GameCube controller was and is perfection.
But a good controller means nothing without games that highlight its strengths, and thankfully the GameCube didn’t come to the table empty-handed. Were I to list out every amazing game for the system, we’d be here too long, and specifically, I’d eat through some of the topics I have for later articles. Instead, I’ll point to three games: Super Mario Sunshine, The Wind Waker, and Metroid Prime.
I told you enough about Sunshine when I claimed it was, perhaps, the most important game of the Mario series. My point was that it took things in a whole new direction for the series without sacrificing overall quality. In the fewest words, it was a well-executed risk.
The same description applies to the other two games in terms of the Zelda and Metroid series, respectively. The Wind Waker was a very hard sell for longtime fans due to the radical departure from the dark trajectory the series was heading in after Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, but in that change we were treated to a game that still looks utterly beautiful to this day (fun fact, the GameCube was capable of producing more colors than either the PS2 or Xbox). A lot of games from the age of 3D have aged terribly, but The Wind Waker just keeps getting better and better every year, fermenting in it’s own unique adventure and world. It represents possibly the last time a Zelda game didn’t rely on a control gimmick at its core and had supremely polished gameplay. Naturally, it was shunned at the time, as is the norm when a long running series tries anything different.
But few games try something as radically different from the status quo as Metroid Prime, easily in my top 5 games of all time. Taking the Metroid series, a previously side-scrolling action platformer, and putting it in a first-person perspective, could have been a disaster. Instead, every single aspect of the game was flawless. The controls were unmatched, the music was splendid, and the overall lonely feeling that had been present in every Metroid game suddenly felt truly real and palpable. We were treated to masterful storytelling, but because the game wasn’t a mature-rated game, people never look back at it as being anything but that one Metroid game on the kiddie system.
Pathetic I say! Juvenile! In looking down upon the GameCube, you are looking down upon all that is gaming. Yes, all, as in nothing captures the spirit of gaming more than my sweet, sweet GameCube. New IPs are added (Pikmin, Chibi Robo), Japanese series are granted a chance in the US (Animal Crossing, Custom Robo), established series strike out in new directions (Kirby’s Air Ride, Pokemon Coliseum), and treasured series keep their quality high with logical series evolutions (Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door). And that isn’t even mentioning third-party titles that play best on the GameCube (Soul Calibur !!, Resident Evil 4), or other third-party titles experimenting as they see fit (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Tales of Symphonia).
And if I needed any more ammunition, the GameCube gave us Super Smash Bros Melee, without a doubt the biggest leap from one series title to the next in terms of exploding players’ collective minds. I will hear no more of this “kiddie” system talk. No more of this “failure” business. People assume that since the GameCube was in 3rd place its console generation that Nintendo was struggling. Care to know the number of employees let go as a result of the GameCube’s sales? 0. That’s not a typo, that’s the number zero. As in the company succeeded in its goal without question.
But I’ve tut-tutted far too long now, so I require someone else to do that for me. I need to hear why you personally enjoyed your GameCube, or even why you personally didn’t enjoy it whatsoever. Best system ever? Yes, to me, it was. Best system to you? No, it doesn’t have to be. But awful failure? No, there is no discussion. Leave this place and never return.
Bonus fun fact: The GameCube was capable of 3D without the use of glasses, similar to what the 3DS does. The feature was simply never switched on. Mull that over for a while I listen to my special GameCube music mix.