Review: Nintendo GameCube

Manufacturer: Nintendo | Year: 2001 | List Price: ~$34.99 | Buy from Amazon

GamecubeIt may be hard to believe, but I’ve been playing video games for 10 years now, and yet the only non-handheld console we actually own is a Nintendo GameCube that we got from a friend a couple of months ago. Though it is over a decade old and didn’t even sell very well when it was out, due to competition from the PS2, the Nintendo GameCube is still beloved my many fans. But is it worth buying in this day and age? Find out as we take a look at the flaws and triumphs of one of the most unique video game consoles of all time.

The GameCube was first released by Nintendo in 2001, as the successor to the Nintendo 64. Due to the success of Sony’s PlayStation console one generation prior, Nintendo had been struggling to maintain its grip on the market. They had always been known for producing hardware that was technologically inferior, and even though their software often made up for it, the Nintendo 64, which had sold only roughly a third as many units as the PlayStation, had shown them that lower hardware specs could detriment sales.

Enter the Nintendo Gamecube, which was second only to Microsoft’s Xbox that generation in terms of specs and certainly more powerful than Sony’s PlayStation 2. For the first time ever, Nintendo used an optical disc format for the system, most likely due to the N64’s cartridges’ turning third-parties away. However, the GameCube controller’s button layout was peculiar, to say the least, and many third-parties couldn’t find elegant ways to port games to work with it. In the end, the GameCube wasn’t the saviour Nintendo intended it to be, selling less than any other console in the company’s history (barring the Wii U, which looks set to sell even less). Even so, a strong lineup of first-party titles have kept the GameCube from fading into obscurity.

Design: The GameCube featured the cheerful, somewhat childish design that its predecessor, the N64, as well as its contemporary handheld, the GBA, also had. The console itself has the standard features one comes to expect from a game system (optical drive, 4 controller ports, 2 memory card slots) but it’s interesting to note that it features a handle, in case you really wanted to bring it to your friend’s house, or on the train, or to school. The controller is what is often lauded as the console’s main draw. Everything seems so well thought out. The A button is the most important, so it’s the biggest and sits in the centre of all the other face buttons. The C-stick, mostly used for camera controls, is used less often, and so sits below the buttons and only has a nub for minute adjustments. On the left side, the analog stick sits above the D-pad since it’s used more. The trigger buttons are unique in that they respond differently depending on how hard they are pushed, but also click to let you know you’re pushing them all the way down. The only complaints I have are that the D-pad is small, mushy, and unresponsive, and also that there is only one Z button, unlike other systems which had four shoulder buttons total. The overall feel of the controller is great, bigger than Sony’s Dualshock but not quite as big as the Xbox’s original controller. In fact, the controller is good that Nintendo are even selling it unmodified for use with the new Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The entire console gives off the impression of hardiness, and I’ve even heard stories of folks throwing their GameCube in anger and it surviving! (Excellent)

Library: The GameCube had some of the best Nintendo first-party titles of all time. Games like Metroid Prime, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Luigi’s Mansion, Animal Crossing, and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! were system sellers and are still often discussed today. A GameCube game that has acquired legendary status is Super Smash Bros. Melee, to the extent that it’s still played at tournaments even to this day. Like I stated above, the GameCube didn’t have as many third-party titles as the Wii or even the N64, but there are still some gems, such as Resident Evil 4 and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. It’s worth noting that although the GameCube’s library isn’t vast by any stretch of the imagination, they had many exclusives at the time, and unless you have an early model of the Wii, you’ll need a GameCube to play them all. (Great)

Value: The GameCube can be bought used online for about $25-$35 + another $25 for the controller. This makes it one of the cheapest game consoles on the market, as long as you don’t mind not being able to play newer games. As I said above, the GameCube’s library really does comprise some good games, but this has the adverse effect of some games fetching up to $50 even used. Watch carefully if you want to find good games for cheap. Often sellers may not know exactly how much some games are worth and it’s up to you to snag them. Nevertheless, the fact that you can get a console and one or two games for under $100 means that the GameCube is still a valid gaming option, even if gamers used to modern graphics will take a while to adjust to jaggier polygons. (Great)

Should you buy it? Yes, if … you are interested in playing any of the games in the GameCube’s library. Most of the games even worth mentioning are GameCube exclusives, so unless you have an older generation Wii, you’ll need a GameCube to even experience them. Luckily, age has not lessened GameCube’s appeal, and I don’t see any reason why even kids today wouldn’t enjoy Nintendo’s underappreciated purple lunchbox.

List Price: ~$34.99 | Buy from Amazon

As always, see all our video game-related reviews here, and check out my always up-to-date list of favourite games!

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