Nintendo Gamecube 101: A Beginner’s Guide
Presented by Flake, Opethfan, Beak, and Racketboy
Check out other Guides in the Retro Gaming 101 Series
After Sony helped finish off Sega’s career in the hardware business, Nintendo knew it needed to come up with some solid hardware to follow up the N64 (and finally make the jump into optical media). The Gamecube hardware was actually quite impressive when compared to the Dreamcast and PS2, but it also came out at the same time as the beefy Microsoft XBox. The XBox eventually captured the market of gamers that wanted the most power from their consoles leaving Nintendo to depend on its own franchises to build a legacy for its Cube.
The Gamecube may have been Nintendo’s least successful console to date, but it is still an excellent console to add to a retro gamer’s collection. Looking back it has a lot of charming features on both the hardware and software fronts and can be found easily on the cheap.
- Following the rise of Sony in the game industry with the PlayStation, Nintendo’s dominance was placed into question. By using cartridges instead of CD-ROMs, the Nintendo 64 was limited in storage capacity – which Sony famously took advantage of in marketing Final Fantasy VII from Square, a former Nintendo-exclusive publisher.
- Although coming in a distant second place to the PlayStation in most territories, the N64 was outsold by the Sega Saturn in its native Japan, showing that Nintendo needed to make major changes in their next console. After various failed attempts to develop a disc-based add on or console (one of which ultimately became the PlayStation) the Gamecube was the first console from Nintendo to use optical media for game storage.
- The console launched in Japan on September 14, 2001, in North America on November 18, 2001, Europe on May 3, 2002, and in Australia and New Zealand, May 17th.
- The Nintendo Gamecube was Nintendo’s fourth home console, available for retail from 2001 until it was discontinued in 2007
- Nintendo’s first home console to use a modern format – DVD
- Codenamed project ‘Dolphin’, the Gamecube’s name comes from its distinctive boxy appearance. When combined with the Gameboy Advance Player, the Gamecube becomes an actual cube.
- Nintendo actively sought to correct the mistakes of the N64 and previous eras, by using more spacious storage media and allowing more open relationships with game developers, rather than the exclusivity agreements of the past.
- The Gamecube lagged in sales compared to the PlayStation 2 and newcomer Microsoft’s Xbox, coming third place in sales worldwide, but took the second place position in Japanese sales.
- The system was lauded for its improvements over previous Nintendo consoles, as well as a simple, powerful architecture and a strong library of first party titles.
- The hardware of the Wii is based almost entirely from the Gamecube’s, making the Wii the only current generation console which can provide near perfect backwards compatibility.
- Despite being outsold by the PS2 and Xbox, the Gamecube has a wide library of cross platform and exclusive titles, including many superb Nintendo developed ones.
- Strong Hardware: The Gamecube’s graphical prowess compares favorably to the PlayStation 2’s and is competitive to the Xbox’s.
- Amazing First-Party Titles: Some of Nintendo’s first party titles are among the best they have ever produced, including the Metroid Prime series and the original franchise Pikmin. Other 1st party franchises that received multiple titles include Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong are, on their own, almost enough to warrant ownership of the system
- Several new Nintendo franchises either debut or see their first releases outside of Japan: Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, Custom Robo, and Pikmin among many others.
- Ergonomic controller: Some deem the Gamecube’s controller to be one of the best ever designed, with a very comfortable grip, innovative button layout and multi-use shoulder triggers.
- Inexpensive: Because it was released at a very low price and demand was lower than for the popular PS2 and modifiable Xbox, the Gamecube is still very inexpensive today.
- Low load times: Load times on the Gamecube are quite low, due to the small media and newer laser technology compared to previous generation consoles.
- Four controller ports: Unlike the PlayStation 2, the Gamecube supports four controllers without the need for additional accessories.
- Great accessories: Several excellent and unique accessories, such as the Game Boy player and excellent WaveBird controller were released in both North American and Japanese markets.
- Strong Nintendo hardware: Like almost all Nintendo hardware (other than the delicate NES), the Gamecube is well built and extremely reliable and durable.
- Durable Discs: Mini-DVD’s tend to be more resistant to damage due to reduced surface area.
- Decent 3rd Party Support: Renewed 3rd Party support after the N64 era, especially from former rivals Sega. The GCN library enjoys numerous exclusives.
- Sweet Silence: A very quiet game system.
- Not the Strongest Library: A limited library when compared to Sony’s Playstation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox
- Reduced third-party support: The strength of Nintendo’s first party titles alienated several third party developers, and many titles were available for only the PS2 and Xbox. Although the Gamecube received numerous 3rd party exclusives, it missed out on quite a few 3rd party main stream releases: Final Fantasy, Capcom-Fighters, Mega Man, and Metal Gear are among many key franchises where the Gamecube seemed to get ‘the left overs’.
- No hard drive option, further limiting online gaming options for players.
- Controller, while comfortable, is entirely unsuited to 2D fighters or 2D platformers due to reduced size and awkward placement of D-Pad.
- Kiddy Reputation: System suffered from being perceived as ‘kiddy’ despite having more Resident Evil titles than any console before or after. Nintendo’s own mature title, Eternal Darkness, though well received still did little to shake this stigma. Players seeking a ‘hardcore’ experience gravitated to the PS2 and Xbox as a result.
- Low capacity discs: Compared to the DVD storage of the PS2 and Xbox, the 8cm discs are limited in capacity and as a result many Gamecube games are spread across two discs.
- Poor online options: Online play was less developed than that of the Xbox or even the PS2, with only four online enabled titles. Whereas the Xbox, Dreamcast and slim PS2 included built in connectivity options, an add-on modem or Ethernet adapter is needed for the Gamecube.
- Issues with component video: Only older models supported component video output, and only using a rare and expensive official cable (often found on eBay for ~$100). S-Video connection is the best many models can do
- Disc read issues: Some issues were reported regarding disc read errors, although how prevalent disc issues were compared to other consoles using optical media is unknown. All devices with moving discs are prone to failure at some point.
Even though it was overshadowed by the Playstation 2, the Gamecube had a respectable game library — especially by the end of its lifespan. Here are a few guides that will give you a good idea of games to be on the lookout for when building your GCN library.
- The Best Gamecube Games Under $10 – If you need a good place to start your Gamecube collection on a budget, this list should be your first stop. It will cover most of the Gamecube essentials.
- The Best Undiscovered Gamecube Games – Once you want to expand your Gamecube library out or just explore some more obscure titles, the Hidden Gems series can’t be beat.
- The Best Modern 2D Games on the Gamecube – Check this list out of you like old-school flair with modern polish
- The Rarest & Most Valuable Gamecube Games – Be on the lookout for these valuable titles
- The Gamecube Retro Compilation Library – for a rather modern machine, the Gamecube actually has a respectable number of solid retro compilations
- Gamecube 2D Shooters Library – it doesn’t have as big of a lineup as the PS2 or Dreamcast, but if you enjoy shmups, here’s some solid titles for the Cube
- The Gamecube is relatively easy to alter to play import games. Both hard and soft options exist, though the cost may vary from affordable to quite expensive depending on the means used.
- Imported original titles can be played using a region switch or modifications to the jumpers inside the system, as detailed in this guide.
- Booting backups recorded onto standard 12cm DVDs requires a replacement of the Gamecube’s upper shell in order to fit the larger discs. A mod chip is also required.
- The Japanese GCN library is not significantly different than its NA counter-part and almost all key titles saw releases in NA. PAL gamers will be more concerned with importing.
- Because few GCN games were RPG’s, there are few barriers to importing the few notable titles that were not localized for english speaking markets.
- Japan embraced the Gamecube, and several exclusive colors and models were only released there, such as the DVD capable Panasonic Q.
Add-Ons & Accessories
|Broadband Adapter / GCN Modem
Fits into a cavity on the bottom of the GCN, these allow the Gamecube to get online for the handful of titles supporting online play. However, as of this writing, no Gamecube titles are officially supported for online play. There are work arounds for popular games (such as Phantasy Star Online) that may still give the adapters value.
Shop For Gamecube Broadband Adapter at eBay
Shop For Gamecube Broadband Adapter / Modem at Amazon.com
|Game Boy Player
An add on / disc combo that turns the Gamecube into an actual cube. An adapter that allows the play of Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and Gameboy Advance titles on the Gamecube itself, greatly expanding the consoles library. You can also use it for cool hacks like a 5-Gamecube/TV Zelda Multiplay Party.
Shop For Game Boy Player at eBay
Shop For Game Boy Player at Amazon.com
Gamecube, like the N64 before it, supported 4 player multiplay straight out of the box. The controllers were agreed to be a superior 3D gameplay interface, especially in terms of comfort. However, strictly 2D games (to include Gameboy Advance) titles were difficult to play as the controller had a severely undersized D-pad. Official Nintendo Gamecube controllers came in Indigo (Purple), Platinum, Black, and White
Shop For Standard Gamecube Controller at eBay
Shop For Standard Gamecube Controller at Amazon.com
If you are like most modern gamers and like the freedom of sitting back on your couch without being tethered to the console, the official Nintendo Wavebird controllers are a must. While they weren’t standard issue for the Cube, they set the standard high for first-party wireless controllers. One thing worth noting is that the Wavebirds lack the rumble function of their wired counterparts.
Wavewbird Controllers were availible in Platinum and Grey
Shop For Wavebird Controller at eBay
Shop For Wavebird Controller at Amazon.com
Nintendo licensed Hori to make controllers strictly designed to be played with 2D games and Gameboy titles. These controllers were released in limited quantities and fetch a very high price to this day. Were availible in Indigo and Black.
Shop For Hori Gamepad at eBay
Shop For Hori Gamepad at Amazon.com
Following the standard that Sony set with the PSX, Nintendo finally adopted a flash memory format inserted into the face of the game console as opposed to the controller itself, reducing the price of controller manufacturing significantly. 3rd party options, especially those by Mad Catz, tend to offer more capacity than Nintendo’s own memory cards.
|Gameboy Advance Link Cable
For many key titles, the gameboy advance could be connected to the Gamecube to function as either an extra screen (in a manner not too different from the Dreamcast’s VMU) or as an extra controller, especially useful for GBA player games where the Gamecube’s controller was difficult to use. In many instances, added functionality was unlocked when specific GCN and GBA titles were matched up, such as Metroid: Fusion and Metroid Prime. You can also use it for cool hacks like a 5-Gamecube/TV Zelda Multiplay Party.
Shop For GBA Link Cable at eBay
Shop For GBA Link Cable at Amazon.com
Although Nintendo did not provide a proprietary option, Hori, Pelican and others created excellent 3rd party options for games such as Soul Calibur II and Capcom vs SNK 2.
- The Gamecube is well emulated and in many instances emulation outstrips the original platform in terms of visuals.
- Dolphin is far and away the most complete and compatible Gamecube (and Wii) emulator available today.
- Thanks to the similar architecture between the GCN and the Nintendo Wii, most Gamecube emulators will also support Wii titles.
- Due to the unusual lay out of the face buttons on the Gamecube controller, it may take some trial and error to adapt a standard PC controller to play for Gamecube titles.
- The Nintendo Wii supports nearly the entire Gamecube library with some caveats: namely that the Nintendo Wii cannot recognize any Gamecube add ons such as the internet adapters or the gameboy player. The Nintendo Wii will automatically boot GCN games in progressive scan mode when the Wii is connected to a TV via component cable, making it a great alternative to a GCN component cable.
- Very few PC optical drives will read Gamecube discs, so disc image files will be needed to play.
- The Gamecube is among the most affordable of retro consoles, costing in most instances less than $30 at a brick and mortar store.
- Some games cost significantly more than the system itself, especially some 1st Party titles such as Pikmin 2. The ability of the Nintendo Wii to play GCN titles has kept the games more valuable than the hardware they were originally designed to play on.
- Outside of Japan, very few special editions were released and of these few none are terribly expensive to collect. However, in Japan some varieties of the GCN were released in quantities as small as only 200 units.
- With the Wii being almost completely compatible with Gamecube software and accessories, combined with the low price of the system at retail, Gamecube systems are available for very low prices.
- Some accessories, such as the WaveBird wireless controller, are still highly sought after and can fetch a slight premium.
- Many Gamecube titles are available within a low budget. Check out the best Gamecube games under $10 for more info