Everyone is going wild about the Xbox Series X and the Playstation 5 these days. Of course, the Nintendo Switch has found its niche among the more lighthearted gamers who need that mobility factor. But let’s take a blast back to 2001, the first year that the Nintendo Gamecube hit the market and we all instantly fell in love.
In my mind, the word “nostalgia” is essentially synonymous with the Nintendo Gamecube. Remembering the countless hours I logged in my living room blowing on malfunctioning memory cards and tossing my controller at the ground out of frustration (they were indestructible) takes me back to simpler times. Gamecube games weren’t too intense. They weren’t scary, and they often weren’t overly difficult. They were just pure fun.
The list of great games for the Gamecube is seemingly endless. My friends and I have had numerous conversations that involved shouting titles at each other and responding, “Oh yeah, that game was sick! But do you remember this one?” With so many great Gamecube games out there, it’s hard to narrow down the very best ones.
There were, however, certain titles for Gamecube that stuck out among the rest. These are the games that elevated the Gamecube to its place of nostalgic gaming immortality, and have cemented themselves as some of the best Gamecube games of all time:
1. Super Smash Bros. Melee
Let’s just get this one out of the way. Anyone who has ever heard of the Gamecube has heard of Super Smash Bros. Melee, and for good reason. This game followed Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 and improved it in every way. There were new game modes, new characters, new fighting moves, and an array of maps that just made the game so much more dynamic. Super Smash Bros. Melee was followed by Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii, which somehow seemed to be overstepping its bounds.
Super Smash Bros. Melee hit the perfect sweet spot where it was advanced enough to make the gameplay engaging, but simple enough where anyone who had never played the game before could pick up a controller and hold their own against far more experienced players. Melee was, and still is, the perfect game to play with a group of friends at a party or while your lounging around in your living room.
2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Anyone who’s a fan of Nintendo’s work knows that The Legend of Zelda games are some of their crown jewels, and The Wind Waker really just represented everything that the series was meant to be. The graphics of the game were whimsical and fun, and unlike some of the games that came later in the series, The Wind Waker wasn’t so difficult that you’d spend months trying to complete a single dungeon. That being said, the game was still difficult enough to keep the player’s mind stimulated and thumbs slightly sweaty.
If you wanted to, you could play through the entirety of The Wind Waker without ever getting held up for too long, which meant that you would never get too frustrated and give up on the game. However, that’s not really what The Wind Waker was all about. What made this game so special was the free-roaming aspect, the large map, and the myriad of side missions that made you feel like you were a real explorer. You could hop in the King of Red Lions and sail around the Great Sea for hours on end finding hidden Easter eggs and missions that would yield special prizes.
3. Animal Crossing
While our friends over in Japan got a version of the original Animal Crossing for Nintendo 64, for those of us here in North America, the Gamecube version of Animal Crossing released in 2002 was the first iteration in a series that is still wildly popular today. Who knew that living a relatively mundane life in a town full of animals could be so much fun? There was just something about Animal Crossing that made it so endearing. Perhaps it was all the quirky characters like Emerald the frog or Ursala the bear, or all of the random items you could decorate your home with, or just the simple fact that life in Animal Crossing was just easier and less stressful than life in the real world.
With how much people are loving Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch, it’s only right that we pay homage to the game that started it all. Before the original Animal Crossing came out in 2002, there was no other game like it. Animal Crossing, and every game in the series that has come after it, seems to have a therapeutic effect on the player. Why meditate when you can just kick it in your Animal Crossing village?
4. Metroid Prime
The 2002 title Metroid Prime was the first game in the series to bring Samus into three dimensions. From the very start of the game, players could tell that this was totally different from any other game in the Metroid series. The map was suddenly lifelike with rocky caves and scattered vegetation. Samus Aran was no longer a pixelated mess but a badass bounty hunter with some serious weaponry, and you got to become her through a first-person point of view. Playing as Samus, you’d often find your view obscured by falling rain or have your visor fogged up by steam coming from vents in a cave. This game was a new level of realism for 2002.
It wasn’t just the graphics that made Metroid Prime so special, though, the gameplay was equally as captivating. The game combined the first-person shooter genre with mind-boggling puzzles in a way that felt entirely natural and made the game both fast-paced and mentally engaging.
5. Pikmin 2
While I certainly don’t mean to throw any shade on the first Pikmin game (which was also originally released for Gamecube), the second game in the series made some important improvements. First of all, while there’s a time limit of 30 days in the original game, Pikmin 2 did away with the time limit, allowing players to enjoy the game for as long as they want. Pikmin 2 also ramped up the complexity of the adventures and even added those plump little purple Pikmin that were the meatheads of the Pikmin race.
Pikmin perfectly exemplifies the genius of Nintendo’s developers. Who would think to create a game where you land on a foreign planet and get a posse of alien minions that you have to strategically order around? At its core, Pikmin 2 was a puzzle, but the interesting maps, fun graphics, and intense battles with larger creatures made this game so much more.
6. Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine didn’t stray too far from the script set out by Mario 64. Hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It did, however, use the power of the Gamecube’s graphics to improve the gameplay and transport players into a tropical fantasy world. They also strapped a hose onto Mario’s back that allows you to fly around the map, defeat enemies in a relatively nonviolent manner, and wash away all the slime that Shadow Mario throws at you. The fact that you could enter new levels by jumping into paintings and then appear in the world depicted in that painting was also super cool.
While there were a lot of improvements made to the classic Mario formula, there were also side missions in Super Mario Sunshine where they would strip away Mario’s hose and you would essentially be in a revamped level of Mario 64. It was the perfect happy medium between the old-school Mario and the new-and-improved Mario.