The Most GameCube Game

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Mento

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Edited By Mento  Moderator
I know people said the Switch and its JoyCons looked like a puppy's face, but look at this little one-eyed stinker.
I know people said the Switch and its JoyCons looked like a puppy's face, but look at this little one-eyed stinker.

As many of you are no doubt aware, Nintendo recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Nintendo GameCube by continuing to not acknowledge it much at all regarding rereleases and the like, and this period of retrospection has me considering its legacy and place in the Nintendo console canon. I certainly wouldn't call it a failure by any stretch, even before I did any digging into its overall sales figures or Metacritic aggregates to back up that assertion, but at the same time it feels perhaps... the least essential? (After the Wii U and a good half of those mid-gen portables with affixes like "New" and "XL" anyway.)

With its relative portability - is it still the only console with a handle? - and inherent sense of fun and frivolity, and almost a complete lack of forward momentum or innovation, it feels the most like the Nintendo progeny that partied their way through college and never amounted to much of anything. Perhaps that's an unfair assessment, but I'd imagine being nestled between its overachieving and paradigm-shifting siblings the N64 and Wii probably gave it the worst case of middle-child syndrome imaginable. (And this strange anthropomorphization is actually endearing the console to me a little bit more, have to say.)

Because I have the brain problems, this train of thought then led to figuring out which of the many (though not as many as I'd like) GameCube exclusives would best epitomize the system's place in video game history and its mix of strengths (optical media! Finally!) and drawbacks (the infamous kidney bean buttons) as a platform. Which of its games best embodied that combination of being small, cute, fun, and wanting to take life easy breezy, to the possible detriment of treading water for a whole generation?

So... which game is the most GameCube? Hypothetically?

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Luigi's Mansion(2001-09-14)

+ It was a launch game and first impressions count for a lot.

+ Luigi's usually seen as an underdog and underachiever, much like the GameCube.

+ Off-beat game that doesn't scream "launch window killer app" but might've had a moment to shine with less pressure.

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Pikmin(2001-10-26)

+ Pikmin are also small and cute much like the system. Endearing little workhorses all.

+ Most successful new Nintendo IP during this era (if we don't include intra-franchise spin-offs like Luigi's Mansion or Metroid Prime).

+ The advanced tech of the GameCube allowed for dozens of the little guys to be active at once and performing different tasks, so it also works as a tech demonstration of what hardware could do at that moment in history.

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Super Smash Bros. Melee(2001-11-21)

+ The GameCube game to have endured the longest, still seen in FGC tournaments today to the chagrin of Sakurai and the many Super Smash Bros. successors he's since helped create.

+ Expanding on the first point, Melee is usually the GameCube game that comes to mind when seeing the system in the wild. If anyone's at a convention toting a GameCube around or holding a bunch of component cables, it's probably to squeeze in some quick Melee.

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Super Mario Sunshine(2002-07-19)

+ The big Mario platformer for the system. Decried as much as adored for its new F.L.U.D.D. mechanics and tropical island setting. The Jimmy Buffett of Mario games.

+ Technically no longer exclusive, as it was recently rereleased in a Switch compilation. However, that compilation is now no longer for sale, so I'm counting it here.

+ This, plus the five dozen Mario Partys that were released for the GameCube, makes me realize how much the system was responsible for a lot of suffering among the Giant Bomb staff (that became our enjoyment).

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Star Fox Adventures(2002-09-22)

+ In most of the above cases of "the GameCube entry in this franchise is one of the weakest" I feel there's some counter argument to be had, especially regarding Metroid Prime, Super Mario Sunshine, and for sure The Wind Waker. Not the case here. If you really wanted to bang the "GameCube dropped the ball" drum loudest you'd do so with this game and its weird last-minute substitution of Star Fox into an unrelated dinosaur-based action-adventure title. Fox McCloud spends 90% of the game outside his Arwing, hitting raptors with a stick!

+ If you were a GameCube detractor, this might be the game you'd use to make your case as to why it was a disappointment in much the same way Paper Mario 2 or Pikmin 2 could be used as a defense by the system's proponents.

+ It's still actually a pretty decent game all told, though far from the system's best. I think more recent Star Fox failures (Star Fox Zero, Star Fox Guard) may also put Adventures in a better light. It certainly would've been better received - if mostly forgotten - without the Star Fox connection.

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Metroid Prime(2002-11-17)

+ A 3D revival of a Nintendo franchise that never gets enough love. Metroid itself could represent the GameCube if it wasn't so sleek, serious, and spooky.

+ Like others on this list, there's a split with those who love this series and those who feel it strays too far from the 2D format that made Metroid and Super Metroid so effective. There's a similar sentiment about the 3D Castlevanias, which would make sense given the connection between the two franchises. Another example of how the appeal of the GameCube and its library can be divisive.

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The Legend of Zelda; The Wind Waker(2002-12-13)

+ Best represents the dichotomy of hate it/love it that the GameCube faces: The Wind Waker should be rightly regarded as a classic, but many couldn't get past its cute appearance.

+ Also spends a lot of time treading water, though in a literal sense. The first Zelda in a while that was more about exploring the world and soaking in the island vibes than it was about making constant forward progress through dungeons.

+ Sure, this got rereleased too. But not recently, am I right?

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Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles(2003-08-08)

+ While it has since been re-released, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles was one of the few games to take advantage of the GameCube's Game Boy Advance Link-up capability. In fact, you needed all your friends to have a GBA and link-up cable too if you wanted to play together.

+ Along with Odama, was an early indication that Nintendo intended to go full steam ahead with the obnoxious hardware gimmicks - best typified later by the DS and Wii and how all games for a time were adapted to use their stylus/motion control features.

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Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door(2004-07-22)

+ Like its N64 predecessor (and Legend of the Seven Stars before it) but to a greater extent, Paper Mario 2 parodizes Mario lore as much as it deepens it and emphasizes a understated trait of the Mario franchise: that Mario and his friends are and always have been performing for an audience. That feels true to the spirit of the GameCube also: the most playful and irreverent of Nintendo's systems.

+ Probably the highest-rated game for the system by those that remember its library fondly. Would be a game a fan of the GameCube might choose to represent what the platform contributed.

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Chibi-Robo!(2005-06-23)

+ Small, cute, and mostly overlooked - much like the system.

+ Began (or perhaps bolstered) the era of Nintendo exclusives from second- and third-parties that were deliberately strange and unconventional with their gameplay and formats; a phenomenon that would become much more pronounced on the Wii with Elebits, Little King's Story, Opoona, et al.

Runners-Up and Disqualifieds

Here's another, shorter list of major GameCube exclusives that, while they had their qualities as games, don't really represent the system the same way as the above do. Feel free to argue if there's a strong case to be made:

  • Animal Crossing(2001-12-14): Actually an N64 game, and it's hard to divorce it from that fact despite starting one of Nintendo's currently most important franchises. Otherwise it'd have that "cute and small and kind of pointless" comparison point on lock.
  • Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (2002-06-24): This has to be the strangest, conceptually and existentially, of all the big GameCube exclusives. Just what about this subversive horror game caught Nintendo's eye? Did they think it would be their Silent Hill? I really like the game, more recent Dyack troubles aside, but it's the one I'd struggle to connect to the GameCube's personality the most.
  • Pikmin 2 (2004-04-29): It's a bigger and more confident sequel, but wouldn't exist without the first. It also didn't need to make a strong case for itself the way the first did and the struggle to find its place in the wider Nintendo universe is something Pikmin 1 and the GameCube had in common.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004-11-15): Same argument as Pikmin 2, albeit Echoes was slightly worse than its predecessor rather than better. Maybe its status as an underappreciated underdog (and a middling middle-child) makes for a more suitable GameCube comparison than the first Metroid Prime though.
  • Baten Kaitos Origins (2006-02-23): I like Baten Kaitos a lot, and it certainly is a weird-ass game from top to bottom that one could argue as a Nintendo-only curio in the same vein as Chibi-Robo!, but it never felt very "GameCube" to me. Ditto Tales of Symphonia, Lost Kingdoms, Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution, and the Skies of Arcadia remaster. They all feel like PS2 JRPGs that got lost on the way to Albuquerque.
  • Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest (2002-02-21), P.N.03 (2003-03-27), Giftpia (2003-04-25): I'd love to hear a case for any of these exclusives being a perfect metaphor for the GameCube. I sadly never got around to playing them.
  • Mario Party 4 (2002-10-21), Mario Party 5 (2003-11-10), Mario Party 6 (2004-11-18), Mario Party 7 (2005-11-07): (Just insert that "Corporate needs you to find the differences between these two pictures" meme from The Office.)
  • To a similar if lesser extent, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!(2003-11-07), Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour (2003-07-29), and F-Zero GX (2003-07-25) are all fine games that felt a little too iterative to work for this exercise.

I now open the floor to the rest of you: Which GameCube game best exemplifies what the GameCube meant to the world, if not necessarily your favorite? Was the GameCube a system you loved or one that just kinda came and went without much fanfare? Maybe it was your first Nintendo console, and introduced all those new and long-running Nintendo franchises one after the other. Maybe you skipped it entirely to focus on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and/or the Dreamcast and couldn't find a spot in your heart (or around your TV) for Nintendo's purple cuboid buddy. Twenty years later, I'm curious what kind of legacy it left behind and I've only really my own experiences to draw from.

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Ben_H

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Definitely Wind Waker. It punched above its weight while constantly being dunked on by the "serious gamers" of the day, just like the GameCube was. Though it had weaknesses that kept it from being truly great, Wind Waker nonetheless had a lot of charm and offered an experience that was unique and fun. Again, just like the GameCube did.

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vaiz

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I think Melee is the Ur Gamecube game. If only because of how much it is still revered. You can buy a Gamecube controller for the switch -- why? Not because of the newest Mario, or the newest Zelda, but to emulate the feel of fuckin' Melee.

Meanwhile, Windwaker and Prime to me really showcase that a console doesn't have to be the most powerful to have great looking games if you have good enough art direction, so I would place them squarely underneath Melee.

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sweep

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#3 sweep  Moderator

I think Melee takes it by nature of it being the only game on that list to take advantage of the 4 controller ports on the front of the console - for me the gamecube was always a social machine, and is the champion of local co-op, so I think Melee (or Double Dash which you've put right at the bottom of the list) takes the crown.

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I buy Wind Waker as the game of the system. Odd, Nintendo design through-and-through, impressive and a testament to good game design.

PN03 was an interesting game. I think of it as an exercise in game design minimalism, especially when every third person game in the PS2/Xbox era was so maximalist and over the top. PN03 was slim, simple, and streamlined. Good music. I can see why it didn't hit very well (or even why it may not hit today) but I do think it's a solid curiosity. It doesn't really embody the Gamecube though.

I also have to flag up Resident Evil 4. It manages to marry solid gameplay-first focus ethos with more mature action elements of the era, but with a goofball story. Don't forget those incredible graphics - arguably the best looking of the generation? Sure, it's been ported everywhere else, but I still have that Gamecube association with it.

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#5  Edited By brian_

It's probably Luigi's Mansion for me. I don't think it's the best GameCube game, but it's the first that pops in my head. The GameCube is also where I think Nintendo solidified it's place as the "Luigi" of the video game industry. They were on the way there with the 64, but with the mainstream success of the PS2, I think that's where Nintendo became the "weird brother", off to the side, doing their own weird, sometimes baffling, thing.

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Four Swords Adventures

The Gamecube was all about bolting on weird accessories for games and nothing matched trying to gather up four GBAs with cables to plug them into the Gamecube for this weird thing you're going to play once.

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GTxForza

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#7  Edited By GTxForza

This is so nostalgic!

F-Zero GX is my personal favorite GCN 1st party game because it's a futuristic racer that consists of the contestants driving their extremely fast racing machines on awesome and beautiful high-speed racing circuits, plus the electronic music keeps me hyped up.

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#8  Edited By ArbitraryWater

Extremely tempted to nominate Wario World, as far as strange one-off games that are interesting and novel but maybe not powerhouses are concerned. Treasure made that game! It's like 3 hours long! It has a weird GBA -> GCN connectivity thing with WarioWare. One of those things spawned a franchise! The other is the one that I'm inevitably going to play on stream.

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cikame

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I always think of Pikmin because it's the one i saw on tv as a kid and thought it looked graphically incredible, and i still haven't played it.

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@vaiz said:

Meanwhile, Windwaker and Prime to me really showcase that a console doesn't have to be the most powerful to have great looking games if you have good enough art direction

The Gamecube is significantly more powerful than the PS2. It's still beaten out by the Xbox, but the Xbox is a pretty big outlier, possibly the most ahead of the competition in raw horsepower that a console has been in any generation.

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The most GameCube-y game of all time is Super Mario Sunshine. Much like the GameCube, it's bright, colorful, cheery, and polarizing. For people like me it was an amazingly good time. For the Jeff Gerstmanns of the world, not so much.

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Matt_Parker

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No Doshin the Giant in this thread? Man...

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TheRealTurk

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I'd pick Wind Waker, because it was reflective of the GameCube in many ways. Generally good with tons of stuff to like, but also a pervading sense that it could have been better if they hadn't been quite so . . . Nintendo about it.

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#16 judaspete  Online

@matt_parker: Doshin the Giant looked interesting, but never came out in the US :(

This is a hard question for me to answer. On the one hand I want to say Super Mario Sunshine for being a fun good time, but also a bit weird. On the other, I want to say Eternal Darkness or Geist for showing Nintendo wanted to branch out and no one was paying attention. And then there's stuff like Odama, for being an early sign Nintendo was gearing up to try something really different.

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Eroq

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@lkennedyl: Came here to post Billy Hatcher with no explanation as well.

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Forestl

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Sunshine is great and also a mess. It is the most Gamecube.

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Kyary

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#19  Edited By Kyary

I'd love to pick Wind Waker. Underappreciated in its time, its style and mechanics have come to be understood as a high point (though, perhaps not the highest) in the series. But c'mon - it's Melee. If you see a gamecube today, odds are it's got a copy of melee in it.

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bxt7280

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Melee is the obvious and objective answer given the Gamecube's portability gimmick.

However, I'd say RE1 remake is my personal choice. It represented a series of "mature" games released during that time designed to compete with the PS2 and XBOX. This included games like RE0, RE4, and MGS: The Twin Snakes. Kept me interested with the Gamecube for a longer period of time.

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eukara

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No BMX XXX? Damn.

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Wind Waker from this list - it’s a damn masterpiece -but SSX Tricky on Gamecube is my favorite because it’s the first game my wife and I bonded over. When she played until her thumb got a crack in the skin from the controller, I knew she was hooked.

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Rejizzle

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Cubivores are literal cubes. Comeon!