Despite having grown up a Nintendo kid, by the time the Gamecube rolled around, I had shifted my focus from the Nintendo and the N64 to PlayStation and the PSOne and PS2. Having separated from my N64-era multiplayer friends by the end of high school and especially into college, I might have been content to skip the Gamecube altogether. But my sister took advantage of the late-in-its life-cycle holiday sales price of $99 for the system. So here are my favorite games of the…
Because I came so late to the system, I wound up missing a lot of the staples of the Gamecube like Super Mario Sunshine and Luigi's Mansion. And since I was primarily a lone gamer during this era, Super Smash Bros. Melee never really resonated with me either. I have it. I played it. But those games are best enjoyed with friends so it doesn't quite make the cut. Heresy, I know. Anyway, let's get to a few of the games that did make the list.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door - A continuation and improvement upon the Nintendo 64 Paper Mario in nearly every way, Thousand-Year Door was a phenomenal turn-based RPG oozing with charm and humor. As Mario adventure's to save Princess Peach from Sir Grodus and the X-Nauts and prevent a long-locked-away demon from being released through the titular door, he meets a colorful cast of characters. As with previous Mario RPG games, this includes a mix of the familiar character types like Goombella the Gooma and Admiral Bobbery the Bob-omb as well as new designs like Madam Flurrie the flirtatious wind creature, and enemy-turned-friend Vivian the Shadow Siren.
While Bowser and Peach don't join Mario directly on this adventure, there are many playable sequences as each character, filling the player in on what they're going through while Mario works his way through collecting the Crystal Stars needed to unlock the door. In one of my favorite recurring bits throughout the game, Mario can visit with Luigi in the game's main town and meet his new companions and piece together his quest for the Marvelous Compass in order to save Princess Eclair in the Waffle Kingdom. Fully embracing Luigi's "poor man's Mario" status, this tale is essentially a tongue-firmly-in-cheek parody of the quest you're playing through as Mario. It's a great bit of (easily missable) writing!
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker - While many people balked at the "Cel-da" art style when The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker came out for Gamecube, I appreciated the beautiful, bold, design choice. In fact, my biggest gripe with the game, as with Ocarina of Time, was that they both were largely just pulling from the same "collect three things, then collect seven things, then fight Ganon" formula of A Link to the Past. That said, I had a ton of fun sailing from island to island and finding every hidden chest on the map, in large part because I always had something beautiful to look at with this game. I even remember hooking up my Game Boy Advance as an early "second-screen experience" with the Tingle Tuner mini-game. Which, in turn, helped sparked the great debate to determine which character is the absolute worst: Navi or Tingle?
Viewtiful Joe - As evidenced by the other selections on this list, I was a huge sucker for bold, artistic styles on the Gamecube; games that didn't look like everything else on the landscape. Paper Mario, Wind Waker and Capcom's Viewtiful Joe all feel as if they were in direct opposition to the direction of "realism" that Final Fantasy and Grand Theft Auto were heading toward. An excellent side-scroller beat-em-up in and of itself, the real charm of Viewtiful Joe was the superhero film aesthetic it invoked, years before the Superhero Movie was the staple it is today.
Stay tuned for Part Two to see the rest of my favorite Gamecube games.