The Gamecube is seen as the loser of this generation (apparently the Dreamcast lost so badly it’s not even worth remembering as the loser). I own as many Cube titles and Xbox, but going by (American) sales, there’s little room for debate. The Cube lost. But after all talk of winning and losing is over, it remains a fact that the Gamecube was host to a number of awesome games. Most of them were first party, since the console had barely any 3rd party support. Luckily for the Gamecube, Nintendo first party games are some of the best in the world.
Mario Strikers (Next Level Games/2005) – No single player worth mentioning, but with a houseful of competitive roommates willing to put social lives on hold for some arcade soccer action made this a system defining game for me.
Super Smash Bros. Melee (HAL Laboratory/2001) — I hate this game. I’m terrible at it. A friend of mine got third in a tournament a few weeks ago. Name another game from 2001 you can say that about.
Resident Evil 4 (Capcom/2005) — GameCube stakes its territory by making flawless 3D updates of classic games. Xbox stakes its territory by getting an extra point in the graphics column in the review of every cross platform title and by being really big. Resident Evil 4 throws tradition out the window and shows that those stupid little discs can run alongside their behemoth cousins any day. It’s a shame that any day is usually only once a year.
Eternal Darkness (Silicon Knights/2002) – Easily one of my favorite games of all time, Silicon Knights’ horror/adventure game is the most engrossing video game I’ve ever played. The way that you came back to each area, sometimes hundreds of years later, and saw what it had gone through made a real impact on me. It was a Greek tragedy that it didn’t sell more, because it truly deserves everything it got, and more.
Metroid Prime (Retro/2002) – The return of Samus Aran in FPS form was a little shocking, but Retro pulled it off in spades. One of the most innovative things to come from this game was the scan visor. Even when I play other FPS’s, I still push the left D-pad button, hoping to get a little info out of the environment. And I preferred Tallon IV a lot more than Echoes’ Light and Dark Aether.
Zelda: Wind Waker (Nintendo/2003) – When I first saw the original footage at the 2002 E3, I…. really didn’t know what to say. I never thought it would be bad, I just expected something different. Once the game released, however, I completely forgot about the blatant change of visual styles. This was a Zelda game, through and through. The gameplay that was defined in Ocarina of Time was refined to near perfection in Wind Waker. And one of the coolest sights in all of gaming was seeing the big, blue horizon that spanned forever. Nintendo even made sure to have the top of the lighthouse show up first when traveling the ocean. That attention to detail easily puts Wind Waker in a league of its own. And, incidentally, the graphics are actually quite marvelous. Take a look at the first boss battle and you’ll see what I mean.
Resident Evil 4 (Capcom/2005) – If you missed this game, I’ll be nice and blame society. But now you better go out and get this awesome action game. If you wanted to see how it would feel with a whole mess of zombies coming at you from all angles, then you need to pick this game up. Just remember to have fresh underwear on hand.
Tales of Symphonia (Namco/2004) – This was basically the first RPG for the GC that was actually worth looking at. The unique mix of real-time fighting, random battles, and gaining experience was definitely a fresh feeling in the world of turn-based RPG’s. The music, composed by Motoi Sukuraba was also really good, with some songs trumping even the great Final Fantasy compositions. The story wasn’t the greatest, but the voice-acting was spot-on (which had many Metal Gear Solid veterans).
Super Smash Bros. Melee (HAL Laboratory/2001) – If you know people who play it, it’s great fun. Melee has one of the simplest fighting systems there is, yet there is an underlying complexity – such as item catching and air dodging – that gives it a lasting appeal.
Fire Emblem (Intelligent Systems/2005) — I’ll be honest, I am not really sure what the hell the plot was about. Luckily, Fire Emblem games are so much fun to play it doesn’t matter how incomprehensible the stories are. Path of Radiance is the first 3D Fire Emblem and it doesn’t look as nice as the 2D versions, but Intelligent Systems added some nice little extra features to this one, such as weapon forging, assigning extra experience to characters between battles and equippable skills. If you’re a strategy RPG fan, you can’t do much better than this game.
Super Monkey Ball 2 (Amusement Visions/2002) — The main game is a lot of fun but eventually gets impossible. After 658 fall outs in a row, it’s time to check out the multiplayer games (and get some friends). Monkey Target and Monkey Bowling are my favorites but there are enough different games to please most tastes.
Wario Ware, Inc. (Nintendo/2003) — Another awesome party game, Wario Ware is even more fun while drinking. But then what isn’t? Not everyone seems to enjoy this frantic title, but if you can manage to get three other willing participants onto the dance floor, you’ll find Survival Fever is pretty hip. The single player mode is slightly less fun, but stays thoroughly entertaining just by being so bizarre.
Eternal Darkness (Silicon Knights/2002) — This is an excellent example of psychological horror, as opposed to “there’s a zombie chewing on your arm! shoot him in the face! the face!” horror. Eternal Darkness exudes creepiness in a more sophisticated way that any other horror title I’ve played. What it lacks in gameplay (the combat was slightly repetitive and shallow) it more than makes up for in atmosphere. The magic system, which had you mixing combinations of evil runes, was also pretty excellent.
Resident Evil (Capcom/2002) – I can’t think of a classier remake than the one given to the original Resident Evil. A sweeping graphical upgrade made it one of the most gorgeous games of this generation, and the famous Type C control scheme made navigation workable for a change. New areas and story content helped flesh out a rather cheesy and barebones plot, and the re-recorded voices were easy on the ears. REmake managed to take a classic game that had aged horribly and once again showed us its magic.
Metroid Prime (Retro/2002) – If Half Life 2 didn’t come out and blow me away, Prime would be my vote for best game of this generation. It has its problems (though I still believe the backtracking isn’t that bad if you’re at all good at the game), but it managed to translate the Metroid experience not only into 3d, but into 1st person. The exploration, the platforming, and the sense of loneliness on a strange alien world were all there. Samus cooked us up a real treat, and Prime still stands out to me as the Gamecube experience to beat.
Resident Evil 4 (Capcom/2005) – This series strikes again with a new modern classic. My copy of RE4 has been replayed at least ten times by various people, and I know it will many more times. Everything from the visuals to the satisfying action created a next-gen game experience today. I’m still amazed at how playable and pretty it is, and I hope that Capcom stands behind the massive changes they’ve made to the series. As good as RE was before, it has now transcended to a level of greatness that few games can achieve.
Mario Sunshine (Nintendo/2002) – There are so Many naysayers when it comes to Mario Sunshine, but I can’t hate on this game. The setting was a bit too homogenous, but the gameplay was devilishly hard at times. Beyond that sunny exterior there is some serious platforming to be found, and the jetpack-less “classic” levels stand as some of the best running and jumping of the 3d era. Hunker down, figure out that camera (it’s really not that hard), and enjoy the wonders of the “Shine Get!”