The GameCube turned twenty years old this week, so let’s take a look back at the legacy of Nintendo’s little purple box.
Though it sometimes seems to be lost in history between the Nintendo 64 and the Wii, the Nintendo GameCube has an incredible legacy. Originally launched in Japan on September 14, it was an unassuming purple box, less flashy than fellow newcomer Xbox or the incumbent PlayStation 2, with proprietary half-sized discs instead of DVDs. As the console generation went on, the war between Sony and Microsoft took centre stage, and Nintendo continued quietly churning out classics for their modest little platform.
Twenty years later, its controller is still fiercely beloved, with adapters and new peripherals designed to preserve its unique design for modern experiences. Some of its titles are still considered exemplary for their series or genre. So to commemorate its anniversary, join us as we look back at some of the GameCube’s finest titles.
5) Tales of Symphonia (2003)
As Tales of Arise sets sales records for the series in only one week, its GameCube predecessor kicks off our list. Tales of Symphonia, the fifth Tales title, came near the end of a golden age for JRPGs, and broadened the system’s library with an epic 50-hour journey. Namco delivered an incredibly full-featured experience, chock-full of things we might take for granted now—voice acting, action-packed battles with AI support, choices that impact the story and relationships, a New Game Plus mode, and more.
Over the years since its release, Tales of Symphonia has arguably been the series’ best game, only truly challenged for its MetaCritic throne in the last few weeks, by Tales of Arise. Personally, its characters still stand out in my memory many years later, especially Sheena and Kratos.
4) The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (2002)
When it was first revealed in the gaming publications of its time, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker caused a lot of waves with fans (pun absolutely intended). Its cel-shaded style was a major departure for the series, which hadn’t seen as much variation at that point. Ultimately, it would breathe life into Nintendo’s big adventure franchise, and since then it’s been hard to nail down with one style.
Its initial reception may have been divided, but Wind Waker went on to become a GameCube classic with its sprawling world, naval exploration, and storybook visuals.
3) Metroid Prime (2002)
Speaking of major tonal shifts, Nintendo and Rare seemed to be gambling with a first-person Metroid game, but nearly twenty years later, Metroid Prime is the GameCube’s highest scoring title—holding a 97 critical score on Metacritic. The new perspective worked out for Samus, and its follow-up Metroid Prime 2: Echoes holds a respectable place on the same charts. All the most intense elements of exploration and combat were intensified by stepping into the legendary Power Armour for ourselves, and the series’ signature atmosphere translated well.
It also featured compatibility with the GameBoy Advance link cable, allowing players to link their copies of Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion and unlock Samus’ new suit and an emulated version of the NES original. In a way, this was a predecessor of Amiibo functionality.
2) Resident Evil 4 (2005)
If we’re comparing Metacritic scores, players have voted Resident Evil 4 the GameCube’s best title with a 9.2 score—tied currently with the original Resident Evil remake. Once a PlayStation mainstay, Resident Evil slowly trickled over to Nintendo’s camp, first with N64 ports, then original entries on GameCube. Resident Evil 0, and the ground-up remake of the first game, arrived in 2002, but Resident Evil 4 made a much bigger splash.
In a departure from the series’ prior formula, the fourth main game traded the familiar locales of Raccoon City and shifted to a single protagonist, Leon. It also put the camera over his shoulder, instead of fixed locations as in previous games, and swapped brainless zombies for more sentient, weapon-wielding foes. To this day, Resident Evil 4 is often cited not only as the best game in the series, or on the GameCube, but as one of the best games of the decade, period.
1) Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001)
If any GameCube game still holds relevance today, it’s probably a tie between RE4 and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Though there’s a great modern successor with built-in network play, Melee remains the top choice for most dedicated Smash fans, with substantial physical tournaments taking place even now in 2021—and also online, much to Nintendo’s legal chagrin, with online mods.
Esport legacy aside, Melee was an absolute beast. It launched mere weeks after the GameCube itself in North America, essentially making it a launch title at the peak of the holiday shopping season. Utilizing the system’s four controller ports and a game engine that accommodates players at most skill levels, it showcased the party and couch-play potential of Nintendo’s new console. And through it all, there was a staggering amount of content to unlock, especially for completionists. The zany action and celebration of Nintendo’s history to-date infused it all with undeniable charm.
Of course, one of the GameCube’s best contributions to gaming was its classic startup jingle. (Did you know there were two alternate versions you could trigger by holding down the Z button?)
It’s hard to narrow down such a solid library to only five selections—did your favourite GameCube game make our list?