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Fifteen years ago today, Nintendo launched the GameCube. The successor to the respectable but beleaguered Nintendo 64, it was also less than a resounding success. In the late 90s, when the N64 was beginning to wane, there were talks of “Project Dolphin,” a console that would eventually become the GameCube. Development began with a company called ArtX, which was later purchased by ATI (later purchased by AMD). Working with ArtX, Nintendo created the Flipper GPU. Working with IBM, they produced a PowerPC based CPU called Gecko. The final product was eventually announced in 2000. By the time the GameCube had launched, Sega had already pulled the plug on the Dreamcast, but many developers turned their attention to not just the GameCube, but also to Microsoft’s Xbox.

Internally, the GameCube had a more powerful CPU than the original Xbox but a weaker GPU. Nintendo also promoted connectivity between the GameCube and the recently-released Game Boy Advance via a special cable. This was used for various functions, such as using the Tingle Tuner in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, to every player having their own screen in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Nintendo also came out with peripherals such as the Game Boy Player, a cable modem, and a Japan only controller that had a full QWERTY keyboard, intended for use with Phantasy Star Online.

While you could play alone, this is how Nintendo wanted you to play Four Swords Adventures in multiplayer mode.

While you could play alone, this is how Nintendo wanted you to play Four Swords Adventures in multiplayer mode.

Notably, Nintendo decided on a proprietary mini disc format instead of standard DVDs. This meant that unlike the Playstation 2 and Xbox, it could not play DVD’s, which were a new technology in 2001 and a notable selling point for consoles. Nintendo did later partner with Panasonic to create a Japan-exclusive version of the GameCube called the Q, which was larger, had a metallic silver finish, and carried a heftier price tag.

Even in 2016, this is the only console Nintendo has ever produced that has played DVD's. With rumors of the NX using carts, it may be the only one that ever will.

Even in 2016, this is the only console Nintendo has ever produced that has played DVDs. With rumors of the NX using DS-like carts, it may be the only one that ever will.

However, the greatest peripheral for the GameCube is the now mundane Wavebird. Most wireless controllers up until the Wavebird used infrared signals, which depended on line of sight. The Wavebird was the first first-party wireless controller to use radio frequency, which allowed for a better range and wasn’t prone to connection issues.

We take it for granted today, but this was the first good wireless controller.

We take it for granted today, but this was the first good wireless controller.

While it may not have had much success with third party developers, Nintendo did manage to create some of the best games they’ve ever made during this era. Some third parties like Factor 5 also did great things with the console. As with other console retrospectives, here’s a highlight of six great games:

 

Super Smash Bros Melee

super-smash-bros-melee

A launch title in the US, Melee was the follow up to the unexpected hit Super Smash Bros. Melee featured more characters, more stages, and far more modes of play than its predecessor. Still considered to be the best game in the series by many die-hards, it’s a common game for tournaments. It made its debut at EVO 2007, and this year saw its biggest player pool with near 2000 entrants—it was the largest Melee tournament to date. While Super Smash Bros Brawl and Super Smash Bros For Wii U/3DS expanded the roster and added more game modes, Melee remains beloved for its physics and a metagame that is unchanged by updates.

 

 

Metroid Prime

metroid-primeLaunched alongside Metroid Fusion, this game not only revived Metroid, but also brought it into 3D. Many were skeptical at the time of the new developer Retro Studios helming the project, and even further skeptical of the decision to turn it into a first person game. Metroid Prime was praised for its detailed, immersive level design, soundtrack, and adding the use of different beams and visors to the series. Nintendo would later port Prime and its sequel, Echoes, to the Wii, remade with Wiimote controls. They were packaged with another title, Corruption, in the Metroid Prime Trilogy, the only game on this list available in the Wii U’s eShop.

 

 

F-Zero GX

f-zero-gx

To date, F-Zero GX is the last home console F-Zero that Nintendo has released. When they eventually release another one, it’ll be difficult to top GX. The game runs at a smooth 60FPS with very little sacrifices to graphical details. Nintendo co-developed GX with Sega, and the game runs on a modified Super Monkey Ball engine. There was also a similar arcade version called F-Zero AX, but it was not a common game.

 

 

 

Eternal Darnkess: Sanity’s Requiem

eternal-darkness

Eternal Darkness is a horror action game Nintendo developed with Silicon Knights. A woman named Alexandra is investigating her grandfather’s murder, and begins to experience the lives of people in the past. Notably the game features the “Sanity Meter,” which Nintendo went as far as to patent. When the Sanity Meter is lowered, the character becomes delusional, hearing noises, seeing things that aren’t there, and the lighting and camera angles will change. Silicon Knights has since closed up shop, and while Nintendo retains the rights to the game, they have not re-released it, nor have they announced any plans for a sequel.

 

 

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

path-of-radiance

Path of Radiance was the first 3D Fire Emblem game, and the first home console entry released outside of Japan. The turn based strategy game follows the hero Ike and a group of mercenaries as they protect and attempt to restore their country’s rightful queen after an invasion by a neighboring country. Along the way, Ike’s father is killed by a general known only as the Black Knight, making the fight more personal for Ike. The Fire Emblem series is notable for its difficulty and for permanent death—characters that die in battler are generally unusable for the rest of the game. Nintendo released a direct sequel called Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn in 2007 on the Wii.

 

 

Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II

rogue-leader

Rogue Leader was a launch title for the GameCube and a sequel to the N64’s Rogue Squadron. Unlike Rogue Squadron, Rogue Leader primarily followed the adventures of Wedge Antilles and not Luke Skywalker. Denis Lawson, the actor that portrayed Wedge in the films, recorded new dialogue for this game. Despite being a launch title, Factor 5 was able to make extensive use of the GameCube’s hardware, and it was one of the most graphically impressive games ever released for the system.

The GameCube was Nintendo’s last traditional console, and the last where Nintendo aimed to compete with performance. In 2006, it was succeeded by the Wii, which was highly anticipated under the code name “Revolution.” While most Wii models had GameCube controller ports, and some games like Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and Super Smash Bros Brawl were capable of using GameCube controllers, the Wii marked a new era in Nintendo’s history and philosophy. The GameCube leaves us a legacy of fun games, odd mini discs, and firmly establishing wireless controllers as a capable technology.

Do you have any fond memories of the GameCube? Do you think that there are any other games everyone should play? Let us know in the comments. 


John Quilty

Staff Writer

I've been a lover of video games, writing, and technology for as long as I remember. I have a B.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and I'm happy to write about gaming and technology for TechRaptor.



  • 15 years, man I feel old. In its day the gamecube seemed to pale in comparison to the ps2, but looking back I can only remember the awesome exclusives it had that still hold up today.

  • Seeing F-Zero GX and Rogue Leader featured here…

    Makes me proud of the fact I own a GameCube.

  • goodguya

    For me the lasting legacy of the Gamecube was the controllers. I love them and I use them for all my emulation.

    The Gamecube also proves that Nintendo doing almost everything “right” would not assure them success. The only truly unusual thing nintendo did was go with the mini-disks. Otherwise they did everything that a “hardcore” gamer would want. They de-emphasized first party software, they created a comparably powered gaming platform with their competitors, they had a controller which served most functions (remember that the Dualshock wasn’t set in stone yet so liberties were going to be taken), and they had “mature” marketing. It didn’t work because Nintendo has to be Nintendo to succeed.

    I have talked with the lead architect on the Gamecube and the N64, Tim Van Hook, and it’s always struck me as odd that Nintendo decided to bring their entire arcitectural design back in house after Silicon Graphics and ArtX. Not to say that it was necessarily a bad move, Sony does that too, just that I wonder if the Gamecube was the primary motivator in that decision.

    Whatever the case, the GC has some of the most unique and amazing games to ever sell in the millions of units and I love collecting for it. It’s such an amazing system.

  • Metalworks

    Don’t forget games like Wind Waker’s with it’s unique cell shaded style and the legendary release of Resident Evil Four.

  • John Quilty

    I left out The Wind Waker because it was ultimately an evolutionary jump from Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, as well as the fact that with Wind Waker HD fixing all problems with sailing and grinding, there’s no reason to really recommend the original.

    I’ll be crucified for this, but I just wasn’t a fan of RE4 when I played it.

  • John Quilty

    I’m not sure you mean by the in-house design. CPU’s and GPU’s are much more complex with many times more transistors now. Nobody is going to really do much customization, and will be using existing designs from Intel, AMD, and Nvidia.

  • Michele

    Gamecube was indeed a unique console. I agree, it sold well, was critically admired but never got the success it deserved. Still a lot of memorable game came out of that console.
    I couldn’t get one at the time but I bought a used one some years ago with a bunch of games. I used it mostly by bringing it to friends house to play a 4 player Mario Party session 🙂

  • Sarusig Musicman

    Wow, you said it all. Absolutely. Also, the GC is a console that is full of rare gem games, stuff that was hard to find, or saved games from dying consoles. E.g.: Skies of Arcadia.

  • goodguya

    For the Wii and Wii-U, the *architecture* was driven by in-house designers, primarily Genyo Takeda. Both Silicon Graphics and ArtX only had specifications to go on. I did an article on the N64’s development and the people at SGI made it clear that Nintendo was only really setting targets rather than establishing parameters.

    https://medium.com/@AguyinaRPG/the-nintendo-64-was-the-culmination-of-90s-virtual-reality-1271aca6f762

    Architecture is far different than what the GPU is. It’s about how developers interact with the system and how the engineers hook the custom chips into it. AMD didn’t create the architecture for the Wii-U for instance, but ArtX made the architecture for the Gamecube.

  • Zepherdog

    I still remember the Resident Evil 4 Debacle like it was yesterday, how people thought it would never be possible to port to the PS2 and all the banter back and fort between both camps. To this day there’s still a katana waiting for Shinji Mikami’s head back at the Nintendo of Japan offices.

    As I never owned a GC and even with all the compromises Capcom took to make it possible (Lower polygon count on characters and environments? Pre-rendered cut-scenes? Longer loading times? Lower overall enemy count? none of that mattered to me at the time), I was glad they managed to release the game because I was totally hooked on it the first time I played it. It was the first game I bought brand new on release date with my own money and I haven’t had that thrill from video games ever since.

  • Metalworks

    Hey man if you don’t like a game then nothing else can be done, besides anyone trying to crucify you for having a difference of taste is an entitled baby.Now if you did article of criticism on what personally make you dislike it that would be an interesting conversation, Hell I’d like that type of conversation on any kind a popular or legendary games of the past.