On November 18, 2001, Nintendo bestowed upon North America the greatest gaming console that has ever existed, and may ever exist if the world keeps trending toward imminent destruction. But let’s put that negativity aside and talk about one of the undeniable treasures of our world: the Nintendo Gamecube.
With the recent release of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, there’s been a lot of talk about resolution, GPU, RAM, frame rate, and a whole bunch of other confusing metrics that mean absolutely nothing to the average layperson. Let’s think back to a time when things were simpler, when we were graced with games like Super Monkey Ball, in which the entire concept was simply that you were a monkey… inside of a ball.
While the newest generation of gaming consoles are certainly technological marvels, they seem to lack that sense of youthfulness and novelty that made the Gamecube so great. Let’s take a drive down memory lane, and see what made the Nintendo Gamecube so great.
It Was So Cute
While the design language of newer gaming consoles is sleek and futuristic, the Gamecube was fun, inviting, and so cute. It just made you want to stay in your pajamas all day and eat several bowls of Cheerios while enjoying your favorite games. I mean, come on, the Gamecube would literally make the sound of children laughing when it started up.
The Gamecube came in four main colors: indigo, platinum, black, and orange. But we can’t forget about all those exciting special edition releases that featured themed faceplates for games like Metroid Prime and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness. And with its indestructible cube shape and rear handle, it was so easy to pick up and bring over to your friend’s house for a day of carefree gaming.
Everything that the Nintendo 64’s controllers lacked in terms of ergonomics and ease-of-use was fixed by the Gamecube. With trigger buttons that were easy to reach and rounded handles that were comfortable to grip, there was no reason you couldn’t spend your entire weekend playing through Super Mario Sunshine three times over.
The Games Were… Games
No one is arguing that the hyper-realistic games of the modern age like Cyberpunk 2077 and Godfall aren’t cool. All I’m saying is that Gamecube games were just that… games. There was a novel element to them that made them playful and entertaining. They weren’t to be taken all that seriously, they would never give you nightmares like you might have if you play BioShock 2, and they were always fairly easy to understand.
Take The Legend of Zelda series, for instance. In my opinion, The Wind Waker is the greatest installment of this series to date because of how whimsical and purely fun it was. It was challenging but not too easy, it gave you the freedom to explore an entire world while still keeping you glued to the storyline, and the graphics were interesting but not overly stimulating. Then what happened? Nintendo released Twilight Princess, which was developed primarily for the Wii, and things just got too serious, too difficult, and too dark.
While the predecessors to the Gamecube like the NES and the 64 had the same whimsical element in their games, their graphics were still slightly behind where we wanted them to be. The Gamecube perfectly bridged the gap between grainy old school graphics and the overly realistic graphics displays of today that make it feel more like real life than a game.
It Was a Fine Piece of Hardware
First of all, the Gamecube showed that Nintendo was willing to stick to its guns, even in a world where Sony and Microsoft started creating multimedia devices rather than pure gaming consoles. The Gamecube said no to your DVD players and your cable television, it was meant for the sole joy of gaming.
As a result of Sony and Microsoft’s desire to branch out into other forms of media, the PlayStation 2 and Xbox were majorly unreliable. I think we all remember the infamous “red ring of death” on the Xbox or the blue disc errors on the PS2. None of that with the Gamecube. If you kept your game discs free of scratches, I have no doubt that you could keep playing them well into the next century.
The Gamecube was like a kid’s best friend that would always be there for you. Sure, sometimes it might have trouble reading your controller or your memory card, but just unplug it and blow into the port, and you’re good to go. They just don’t make durable pieces of hardware like the Gamecube anymore.
It Was Meant to Be Shared
Is it just me, or does anyone miss the days of playing video games with your friends instead of sitting in a dark basement all alone? With the advent of online multiplayer and extremely immersive gaming experiences, the social aspect of video games seems to be quickly disappearing from our world. Call me old fashioned, but I miss the days of jamming your friend’s buttons on the final lap of Mario Kart: Double Dash to get that win.
If you have any kind of respect or love for the Gamecube, you’ve undoubtedly played what I might argue is the greatest video game of our generation, Super Smash Bros. Melee. I don’t know if there’s ever been a game for any console that’s been more fun to play with friends. The amount of time I’ve spent screaming at my friends while getting launched off the map by a Falcon Punch probably adds up to months or even years.
And, of course, we can’t forget about the Mario Party games. The geniuses at Nintendo decided to take the concept of a board game and add in all the fun of mini-games that were guaranteed to keep your palms sweaty. If you happened to be over the age of 21 and owned a Gamecube, you had the perfect drinking game right on your television.
They Weren’t Afraid to Take Chances
While Nintendo definitely didn’t stray from their formula of making a console purely for gaming, they still took some chances with the release of the Gamecube. While everyone was anticipating that they’d release a Mario game to coincide with their new console, they made a pretty unprecedented move by instead releasing a game about Mario’s brother Luigi sucking ghosts into a vacuum cleaner as their flagship.
And experimentation continued for Nintendo with all of the wacky and flat-out weird games they released. How could we forget about Pikmin, which was about leading around onion-like aliens that you plucked out of the ground? Or how about Odama, which was a strange cross between pinball and the conquest of Japanese feudal lords?
With the Gamecube, Nintendo continued to make some of the best installments of their classic series, while also branching out into the weird, wonderful, and often unbelievable. Every time you bought a new game and popped it into your console, you hadn’t the slightest clue what to expect.
Is there room in the world for fancy high-resolution consoles like the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X as well as our beloved Gamecube? I think so. That being said, let us never forget all the joy that this wonderful machine brought into our lives and the countless hours we spent mashing buttons and toggling joysticks. The Gamecube represented an era in video games that was purely enjoyable and has yet to be surpassed by any of the gaming consoles that came out after its time. Well, that’s just my opinion…