Ten Cubed is…

In some ways it’s hard to believe this day has come. Today is May 17th and that means it is exactly ten years since the launch of the Nintendo Gamecube in Australia.

On May 17th, 2002, ten years ago to the day, my school had a Staff Development Day, so we didn’t have to go to class. It was clearly put on so the teachers could all go grab themselves a shiny new Nintendo Gamecube.

Featuring one of the most comfortable controllers ever designed.

That day represented the first time I had ever purchased a video game console with my own hard-saved pocket money. That little black box was also the first console I had ever taken home on launch day. Its graphical power, quite impressive at the time, blew me away after years playing Nintendo 64 games, but more importantly the Gamecube provided just as many wonderful gaming memories as its predecessor. Its handle and small size meant it never stayed in one place for too long, making temporary homes at friends’ places, where the good times rolled on.

What follows is a list of my top ten favourite Nintendo Gamecube games of all time.
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10. 007 Nightfire
I was late to the First Person Shooter genre on consoles. I was never allowed to play Goldeneye or Perfect Dark on the N64 and Halo represented the ugly, bloated greed of Microsoft to my naive young fanboy mind. But I had grown up loving James Bond movies and when I was fortunate enough to come across 007 Nightfire that affection was translated beautifully to videogame form. The single player campaign told a fittingly camp story packed with cool gadgets, but the four player splitscreen took the cake. No two matches on the Skyrail level were ever the same.

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9. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
A title very few people played at the time of release, FSA had an expensive barrier of entry. To play it as it was meant to be played you needed four Game Boy Advances and four GBA-Gamecube compatibility cables. Having three gaming siblings paid off for me in a big way because together we happened to meet those requirements. What followed was an engaging adventure filled with imposing dungeons, crazy-huge bosses, double crosses, clever multi-screen puzzles, explosive shenanigans, mountains of riches and more double crosses. A criminally underrated game.

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8. Super Mario Sunshine
Not usually held in the high esteem of the likes of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Sunshine was an offbeat vacation from standard Mario platforming that exploded with vivid colour off CRT television screens the world over. Following the insane critical acclaim aimed at Super Mario 64, Nintendo took a risk by introducing a semi-sentient water pump and a bag of new supporting characters into the equation. It was a heap of fun to play and the fact that Mario has yet to revisit the paradise of Delfino Island means it holds up surprisingly well as a unique experience today.

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7. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3 – Rebel Strike
Though I was more impressed by Gamecube launch-window title Rogue Leader (also known as Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2), the threequel makes it onto this list because in addition to a swathe of amazing new content, the disc included the entirety of the second game playable in co-op. More games should do this, because I played Rebel Strike to death as a result. The graphics remained exemplary and the music was as classic as Star Wars music cannot seem to avoid being (One of my favourite title themes ever graced the start-up screen). Star Wars dogfighting on consoles still hasn’t gotten any better than this.

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6. Mario Kart: Double Dash
Like Super Mario Sunshine, Double Dash is often seen as the black sheep of its franchise. Many of the innovations and experiments that debuted in the manic party racer have not seen the light of day in any instalments since. This is a crying shame. The added layer of strategy that picking two characters (each with their own exclusive item) brought to the table was a joy, especially when factoring in the option of two human players per kart. Co-op Grand Prix challenges ate up many of my late night hours in Double Dash‘s heyday.

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5. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
It’s still a little weird to me to acknowledge just how much time this disc spent in my Gamecube, considering it was just meant to be a stop-gap game to fill the time waiting for bigger titles to come along. I picked up this Dreamcast remix alongside my console on launch day and from that moment forward I could never go too long without giving it another spin. Whether I was pushing to beat my best times on any of the fast-paced levels, dabbling in some multiplayer showdowns or grinding for small animals and Chaos Drives to raise the perfect critter in the Chao Gardens, there was never a dull moment to be found while playing SA2:B.

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4. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Perhaps more than any game on this list, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker remains very playable to this day. Its much-maligned cel-shaded graphical style was polished and executed to such a point that its art style still transcends graphical limitations. It rarely shows its age throughout the adventure, which holds more emphasis on story than most Zelda entries. The thrill of exploration is magnified by the sheer scale of the unrelenting ocean, which holds tons of secrets. The score feautures some true classics (Dragon Roost Island, anyone?) and few people who have played it could forget that ending.

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3. Tales of Symphonia
As far as marathon efforts to finish a game go, Tales of Symphonia has to take the cake. It took the best part of four years for my siblings and I to finish this four player co-operative classic, as we could only play when all of us were free and willing. The multi-layered, twist-and-bombshell-laden plot enthralled us as we soldiered on through the lengthy playtime, but it was the real-time RPG gameplay and memorable character interaction that kept us coming back to the game and ultimately the Tales series as a whole. We have since invested in two later titles in the Japanese juggernaut franchise, both of them excellent.

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2. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
What an incredible game. Intelligent Systems is a gifted development team with amazing franchises like Advance Wars, Fire Emblem and WarioWare in their stable, but it is probably Paper Mario: TTYD that pushes them into the position of being my favourite developer ever. Mixing impeccably inventive presentation with addictive RPG mechanics, a boatload of quirky humour and a healthy dose of variety, Mario’s second tree-killing adventure (after the N64 original, which I never played) is an absolute gem of a game that I really feel like playing again, come to mention it.

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1. Super Smash Bros Melee
As good as Paper Mario is, I just couldn’t go past this ridiculously popular party fracas as my number one choice. As the first Smash Bros game I ever owned, Melee spent more time in my Gamecube then any other title. It covered all the bases when I didn’t know what to play; a veritable smorgasboard of single player challenges, a good chunk of which I never even completed, and an unparallelled multiplayer experience as customisable as it ever needed to be. This game had more content than anything I had ever seen before, but the game’s scope hardly mattered as I netted thousands upon thousands of KOs with Sheik. The ultimate party game. Good, good times.

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Where are the others?
As with any top ten list, there are bound to be some honourable mentions left off the final cut. Starfox Adventures was a much-anticipated Rareware game that looked incredible graphically, but represented the beginning of the once-great company’s downfall in the eyes of many Nintendo fans. Starfox Assault fared better for mine, serving as a solid vehicle based third person shooter. I never finished Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin or Metroid Prime, the former because I lost interest and the latter two because they had such infuriatingly difficult final bosses. All three were fantastic games, though. Super Monkey Ball was also a multiplayer classic, as was Star Wars: Clone Wars (unrelated to either of the animated TV series). Both had an awesome arcade feel to them. As for Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem/Killer 7/Resident Evil 0/Remake/4, they were all brilliantly acclaimed games that I was far too scared of playing to even touch. So there you go.

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