Top Ten Tuesday 29

My Top Ten GameCube Games

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.

Pre-List Notes

Nintendo's odd-looking purple cube with a giant handle was the closest I've ever come to getting a console at launch. With Nintendo's greatness reaching an all time high after the Nintendo 64, everyone was whipped up into a frenzy for Nintendo's next offering. The GameCube even had several great launch titles, two of which made this list. Unfortunately with Nintendo's stubbornness to continue to dismiss the then (and now) traditional CD format (instead using odd mini discs), reliance on slightly progressive iterations of successful franchises on the N64, and the emergence of Sony as a powerhouse in the home console market led to a painful decline in the GameCube's overall library and Nintendo's once prominent seat as king of the consoles.

Top Ten GameCube Games

10) Luigi's Mansion

Nintendo's primary launch title was also one of the system's best, moving Mario's underused brother into the spotlight and tasking him with the Ghostbusters task of clearing out a mansion full of spooks in order to save his brother. The title exuded a ton of charm, and the lighting and shadowing effects did a great job of showing the system's new impressive capabilities.

9) Metal Arms: Glitch in the System

Released Holiday 2003, Metal Arms was one of the last games I played for the system, proving how short lived the Gamecube was for me as well as my new found love of Sony's vastly superior Playstation 2. If there's one thing the GameCube still did best, however, it was four player multiplayer. Nintendo wisely learned how popular the N64 was with splitscreen multiplayer and many titles took advantage of what became standard third and first person shooter multiplayer modes, from team deathmatch to capture the flag and king of the hill. Metal Arms was a good third person iteration, starring a little robot named Glitch with all the weapons you'd come to expect and an entertaining campaign.

8) Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rebel Leader

One of the biggest successes of the GameCube's strong launch lineup was this sequel to Rogue Squadron from the Nintendo 64. Rebel Leader once again put players in the cockpit of an X-Wing (and others) as they flew through the original trilogy of action packed scenes. Remember this was a time when the prequels were starting to come out, so Star Wars was crazy popular. Playing with the fancy new GameCube capabilities while being afforded numerous aircraft options from Y-Wings and Snowspeeders to the Millennium Falcon made Rebel Leader an awesome Star Wars title.

7) TimeSplitters 2

Fans of the two most popular shooters on the N64, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, were waiting for the next iteration on the GameCube. While TimeSplitters 2 never reached the height of its spiritual ancestors, it still provided the great multiplayer first person shooter gameplay that everyone was craving. While the singleplayer game was short and traded in an epic story for goofy time traveling, it did include a spiffty two player co-op mode. But the real draw was the fantastic multiplayer, which built upon the success of its forebears while including new aspects like varying statistics on different player characters, awards to be earned and unlocked, and even a rudimentary level editor.

6) Tales of Symphonia

It quickly became apparent to any Nintendo 64 owner that Sony's Playstation was getting all the RPG love, and the trend continued into the next generation. Nintendo was left with an extremely limited pool of RPGs that weren't entirely exclusive to the PS2, but thankfully the fifth game in the Tales series nearly single-handedly made up for it. While much of my fondness for Tales of Symphonia stems from the aforementioned lack of traditional Japanese RPGs on a Nintendo System, Symphonia is a great game in its own right, with a super cool real time, action-based combat system that was both incredibly accessible and innovative. While the story was confusing in the way a JRPG can be, involving the fate of two worlds and inter-dimensional travel, the interesting characters, epic length, and fun combat was like slipping into some super comfortable if familiar pair of pants.

5) Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Ever since I played the greatness that was Shining Force II on the Sega Genesis I've been on the hunt for tactical RPGs. While there is a general lack of that awesome Chess-like combat and RPG combo that I adore, the Fire Emblem series comes the closest. Eschewing pretty much all traditional RPG mechanics, Fire Emblem boils the entire gameplay down to the tactical combat while inserting a few story telling moments in between the epic battles. Unlike Shining Force, character death in Fire Emblem is permanent. While this works great with the randomized characters of XCOM, having pre-designed characters with varying ties to the story suddenly die often causes a quick reload. Still, the combat satisfies my constant itch (I should really get that looked at) for tactical combat, and Path of Radiance gave me some awesome battle animations and a great story and cast of characters.

4) Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

The best game with multiple exclamation points in the actual title, a GameCube version of Nintendo's famous Mario Kart franchise was a sure thing. While less amazing then the first 3D entry in Mario Kart 64, Double Dash!! was able to bring fans more racers, awesome tracks, and new multiplayer modes, including the ability to have two players pilot one kart. Double Dash!! remains one of my favorite games on the GameCube simply because the formula continued to be awesome multiplayer racing fun, but as evidenced by the lackluster Wii entry, I'm not entirely sure Nintendo can continue to ride its blue sparks.

3) Metroid Prime

Many of the games on my list are either the next entry in an established series, or a successor or iteration of a successful franchise on the N64. Metroid Prime is unique, however, in starting an entirely new 3D version of the amazing Metroid franchise that hadn't been seen since one of my favorite games on the Super Nintendo. Metroid Prime was hotly anticipated as not only a return to the Metroid universe (and a prequel to Samus's previous adventures) but the first to put her in a first person shooter perspective. Many long time fans balked (including me) but once we got our hands on it we were blown away by the excellent HUD and remarkable combination of traditional 2D Metroid and Castlevania style gameplay (Metroidvania!) with the growing popularity of first person shooters. Not to mention a fantastic, moody soundtrack and an intimate story. Although coming from an established (but older) franchise, Prime stands out as starting its own spinoff franchise on a system woefully bereft of more original content.

2) X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

I originally had both X-Men Legends games on this list, but decided to wrap them into one entry and give it a higher honor. The first game was the ancestor to Marvel Ultimate Alliance - giving players control of various X-Men in a fairly typical storyline and some arcade-like top-down action gameplay. But gather some friends and plug in some controllers and suddenly you had an incredibly fun cooperative experience that would establish a core formula seen in many of today's arcade-level titles. The sequel was the very last game I ever played on the GameCube, and one of the few I still own, having been released in 2005, well after I'd written the system off and embraced the PS2. But the allure of Action-RPG superhero couch co-op was still amazing, and this time fans got to play as the bad guys in an epic team-up against one of the most powerful and evil mutants in the X-Men's history. I had an amazing experience playing with friends with both games, and the X-Men Legends games gave me the most fun I had with the GameCube that didn't involve Nintendo characters.

1) Super Smash Bros. Melee

Sure it was a sequel to the mind-blowing awesomeness that was Super Smash Bros. on the N64, but few sequels do I remember being quite as excited about as Melee. SSBM utilized the full power of the GameCube to give us more fighters (Zelda, Ness, Ice Climbers, Gannondorf, etc, ultimately doubling the original roster), huge and fully interactive arenas, tons of new powerups and multiplayer settings, a bevy of unlockables and even new singleplayer challenges. The amount of content packed into this all-star fighting game was incredible and managed to exceed all expectations my friends and I had. Even to this day SSBM is still played in tournaments (even over the most recent entry on the Wii) because of the speed and skill that can be utilized by hardcore players. Even with just casual fans the Smash Bros series has a ton to offer, and I sunk more hours and had more fun playing with friends or just solo with SSBM than any other title on the GameCube. As I mentioned with Mario Kart, however, I'm not sure how long Nintendo can rely on the franchises' popularity going forward, especially with the dubious news that the Wii Fit trainer will be a combatant in the new fourth entry coming to Wii U.

Wrap Up

In making this list I realized that many of the entries that I loved on the GameCube I've yet to ever play on a subsequent system, most notably Fire Emblem (I skipped the Wii entry, but am really looking forward to acquiring a 3DS and Awakening) and Tales of Symphonia. As I mentioned in the Pre-list Notes, most of the games were expected follow-ups to successful N64 franchises - Mario Kart, Smash Bros., TimeSplitters, Rebel Leader. I believe the lack of establishing new franchises was a big part of Nintendo's downfall, and even with the Wii they continued along this path of "safe, expected releases" with a few notable exceptions. It's not all doom and gloom, however; Nintendo remains a strong player in the console market, and is arguably still the most famous name in gaming. The GameCube itself will always be a funny looking console that was overshadowed by Sony's incredibly successful Playstation 2, but I still retain fond memories of the purple cube, and Nintendo provided me some of the most fun experiences I've had playing together with friends on a couch.