The GameCube’s story is, in some sense, a tragedy. Although it boasts one of Nintendo’s most diverse and memorable libraries of exclusive games, the little lunchbox that could stands as one of the company’s worst-selling consoles.
Considering it had to go up against Sony’s behemoth, the PlayStation 2, as well as the new and exciting Xbox, it’s not hard to see why the GameCube failed in comparison. And yet it continues to have ardent fans, reporters Allegra Frank and Julia Alexander emphatically included.
With rumors swirling that Nintendo Switch’s Virtual Console will include GameCube support — a first for a Nintendo system — we dove back into our piles and piles of games, pulling out the GameCube titles we’d love to replay most.
Already on the reported list are Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion and, less confidently, Animal Crossing. These are easily among the best games the GameCube has to offer, so we had to reach a little bit further back into our libraries to see what else could use a revamp.
That wasn’t hard for us. Although we’ve both got 15 years of nostalgia and mountains of games to wade through, some personal favorites easily floated to the top. These are the 10 other games we’re most hyped to see make a comeback.
Kirby Air Ride
We’ll just get this out of the way: Kirby Air Ride is not the best Kirby game ever. It’s downright reviled by a ton of people, Kirby fans and otherwise. This racing game uses literally one button and the analog stick for some pretty shallow gameplay that still manages to be confusing or infuriating.
But Kirby Air Ride is one of my favorite GameCube games ever. It’s a multiplayer racing game that feels more like Mario Party, not Mario Kart; crossing the finish line at record speed is just one of many goals. Instead of just racing against my friends, we used to spend obscene hours in the battle arena-like City Trial mode, boosting into each other to steal power-ups and rare vehicle parts. We’d run around searching for new and improved rides to catch air on, and there were few things more important than unlocking all the boxes in the game’s substantive checklist.
Kirby Air Ride is like a cuter version of Melee where you can only play as Kirby and there are just a few stages available. I always played as Kirby on the “Fountain of Dreams” stage in Melee, anyway, so Kirby Air Ride was the logical next step for me. That director Masahiro Sakurai re-used some of Air Ride’s unique elements, like that unlockable system, for Super Smash Bros. Brawl is no coincidence: This game was innovative, messy controls aside. — Allegra
It’s nearly impossible to talk about GameCube games that should be resurrected on the Switch without bringing up Viewtiful Joe. Developed by Capcom, Viewtiful Joe was released for the GameCube in October 2003. The side-scrolling beat-em up is arguably not the best designed game when it comes to combat, but that’s not what made the game special.
When I think of Viewtiful Joe, the first thing that pops into my mind is the vibrant, bright aesthetic the game has become known for. Every inch of the screen popped and it created an inviting world that was easy to get lost in for hours. Viewtiful Joe was great for a number of reasons but its the unique art style that sticks out more than a decade later. The game was even nominated for Best Artistic Achievement in 2003.
On top of the stunning, comic book-inspired art, there’s the story. Viewtiful Joe takes place over seven segments — or episodes — that begin and end with pretty elaborate cutscenes. The game takes place in two different worlds: the real world and Movie Land. When Joe’s girlfriend Silvia is abducted by Captain Blue’s nemesis and brought into Movie Land, Joe enters the fictional world and becomes Viewiful Joe, set on rescuing Silvia from Jadow, a criminal organization within Movie Land. If it seems goofy and ludicrous, that’s because it is. Viewtiful Joe’s best feature was that it didn’t take itself seriously — except when it came to the actual gameplay — and all of that is incredibly enticing. — Julia
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
Remember when Nintendo consoles used to get critically acclaimed, mature-rated games? R.I.P., the early ‘00s. Metal Gear Solid is one of the best games of its generation, and The Twin Snakes is a bombastic reworking of it that came exclusively to GameCube.
The Twin Snakes reimagined the PlayStation original by pushing the drama to the nth degree. Everything we regard as Kojima-esque is on full display here, from bonkers action sequences to drawn-out cutscenes. That classic stealth gameplay feels so right with the GameCube controller — which, it must be said, I’m not so sure will be compatible with the Switch — and the level and boss battle design is some of the smartest seen in any game ever.
The Twin Snakes is some magical stuff, even if you prefer the original Metal Gear Solid. To my mind, it’s everything that video games should be, frankly, and the idea that we could play it on the go and in high-definition with the Switch is almost unfairly wonderful. — Allegra
Custom Robo isn’t going to be remembered as one of the greatest games of all time, but to this day it remains one of my favorite. On any console. Custom Robo was developed by NOISE and the GameCube-exclusive installment marked the first time that a Custom Robo game had been released outside of Japan. It was also the first game from the developer to include full-motion video, which is an essential aspect to the title itself.
It’s hard to know where to begin with explaining why Custom Robo remains one of the best GameCube games of all time, because it’s a little bit of everything. The storyline, while not great by any stretch of the imagination, is ridiculously entertaining. Seriously, everything about the characters in this game feels exaggerated — and not by choice — but that plays into the enjoyable silliness that sticks with you throughout the entire game. Custom Robo is a game of about customizing robots and having them fight each other in this weird, fourth-dimension looking arena. Nothing about it makes sense and nothing about it should.
The gameplay is also notable. I’m not a big fan of mech games and tend to stay away from them, but Custom Robo is so inviting that it makes it enjoyable for both beginners and hardcore mech fans. The game has enough of a challenge and customization options that those experienced with mech combat games can enjoy it, but is also simple enough to use that those new to the genre won’t be turned away from it. Everything about Custom Robo captures what I look for when I play a game: a challenge, a stupid story, enough cut scenes to keep me entertained and adorable looking robots. — Julia
Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
I’m an unrepentant Sonic the Hedgehog fan, and I’ll proudly call Sonic Adventure 2: Battle my favorite in the series. The City Escape level alone makes the whole game worth it, even if any part of Sonic’s adventure that doesn’t involve Sonic is pretty much garbage.
But there’s something special about Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, even taking my bias into account. It’s the last Sonic game that felt fast, barring the greatest hits-style level collection Sonic Generations. Those Sonic levels are infinitely replayable, and even some of the ones starring Sonic’s friends are fun to mess around in, too. The multiplayer is a fun addition, turning levels into races or two-player playgrounds. And don’t even get me started about the Chao Garden, a surprisingly deep mini-game that gives the whole package some more substance.
Say what you will about Sonic — or don’t, please, because I don’t want to hear it — but Sonic Adventure 2: Battle would be seriously fun on the Switch. We’ve seen it in high-definition on the PlayStation 3, and the game doesn’t look worse for wear. Playing super-fast levels like City Escape on the go sounds like a dream, too. — Allegra
There are a number of snowboarding games that are just as good, if not better than, 1080 Avalanche. For example, SSX 3 came out around the same time and is, in every conceivable way, the better snowboarding game from a strictly gameplay perspective. What I love so much about 1080 Avalanche, however, is the unique approach it to took to the genre and the killer soundtrack that came with it.
1080 Avalanche did one thing really well that I have yet to come across in most other snowboarding games: it felt like a game. One of the issues I have with most sport games is that they’re built to show off the game’s engine. Aesthetic and fluid gameplay takes priority over how the game actually feels after more than an hour. Don’t get me wrong; I’m an avid FIFA player and not having to worry about whether or not the game will lag and being able to see the crispness of everything happening on my screen is incredibly important. FIFA games are built to feel as real as possible, like many other snowboarding games try to do, but 1080 Avalanche never does and that’s what sets it apart. It’s an interesting take on a crowded genre and I appreciated its attempt to standout by not doing what every other game was.
The other aspect of 1080 Avalanche that can’t go unnoticed is the game’s soundtrack. One of the reasons that I came back to this game time and time again was the killer soundtrack it had. Like other sports games, 1080 Avalanche proved to be a pretty good entry point for discovering hot bands and tracks at the time — this included Seether and Jimmy Eat World in 2003 — and worked well with the overall aesthetic the game was going for. 1080 Avalanche won’t be remembered as the GameCube’s best game, but it was definitely one of the titles I revisited the most. — Julia
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
Okay, here’s something I’m starting to realize while formulating this list. My halcyon GameCube days were ... troubled. I had a limited selection of games available to me, because I was a 10-year-old whose parents had the budget for approximately two games a year. What did I spring for? I wish I could tell you I picked up the true classics, like Metroid Prime and Resident Evil 4. But I was 10, and I didn’t have discerning taste, so instead I owned Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg.
Sega’s happy-go-lucky action game isn’t bad! It’s not! It has one of the best theme songs ever, and the conceit of using a ginormous egg to attack, travel and climb around the world is pretty fun. Controlling that egg wasn’t always easy, though, and the story was insipid. But the colorful presentation is something I dearly miss in this age of browns and grays and dread and darkness. (Okay, that’s not true of Nintendo games, but it’s a thing.) An HD sheen would do Billy Hatcher some real good, and its fast-paced enough that a tablet rendition on the Switch would probably be a lot of fun.
I want Billy Hatcher back mostly because of what it represents, however. The GameCube was about throwing new ideas to a wall to see what sticks, and Billy Hatcher ... didn’t quite stick. There are some diehards hoping for a part two, and maybe the Switch can herald that second act. Either way, it’s rare to see big developers try something quirky like a game about color-coded eggs these days, and I miss that dearly. — Allegra
Also developed by Capcom, P.N.03 sticks out in my mind every time I look at a game like Mirror’s Edge. It’s not that the two games were built on the same idea, but the aesthetic is similar and the monochromatic worlds felt so elegant. Unlike Mirror’s Edge, P.N.03 followed a mercernary who was tasked with eradicating a group of berserk robots that posed a threat to humanity.
P.N.03 was directed by Shinji Mikami (creator of Resident Evil) and belonged to the Capcom Five; a group of five titles unveiled by Capcom in 2002 and released in 2003. The game follows Vanessa Z. Schneider, a mercenary who works on colonized planets. The storyline wasn’t great, but the gameplay mechanics were the main takeaway. In many ways, the shooting felt like an old-school arcade game, and there was a charm to it that many other titles at the time seemed to be lacking.
P.N.03, in many ways, encompasses all of the qualities that made a GameCube game great. Like the system itself, the game can be misconstrued by those who don't give it a chance to shine. Upon release, the game garnered negative reception because of the gameplay mechanics, but I poured hours and hours into this game, and I came to love its little quirks. P.N.03 is an interesting game that has developed a small fanbase, but in 2003, it was one of the better sci-fi shooters available for Nintendo players and remains one of my go-to title recommendation for first time GameCube players. — Julia
I just said I didn’t own this, but yo. Yo. I still have my head on straight. Metroid Prime should be on the Switch. It’s just facts. — Allegra
Eternal Darkness was one of the first games I played that truly terrified me. Resident Evil managed to spook me from time to time, but at the age of 11, everything about Eternal Darkness scared me from the beginning to end. The game had an eerie soundtrack, an aesthetic that stayed with you long after you finished playing and a cast of interesting characters that were easy to get invested in. The game follows Alexandra Roivas and took place in a mansion on Rhode Island — the home of Roivas' grandfather — where she's investigating his murder. The entire game took place over four main locations, and although the story is intriguing enough to hold up on its own, the best part of the game is by far the “sanity effect.”
The sanity effect, which was a tool patented by Nintendo, essentially changed the gameplay and landscape for the player depending on how poorly they were playing. A green bar appeared at the bottom of the screen and certain things would cause it to deplete. For example, if you were seen by the enemy, you'd lose a little bit of sanity, but if you used a specific finishing move on an opponent, you would gain some sanity back. The lower it got, the more warped the landscape seemed and the harder the gameplay became. It was an innovative tool that largely enhanced the game, mostly because of the story that accompanied it.
Since then, other games have used a similar device, but there was something about the way that Eternal Darkness used the idea of losing sanity during an investigation into the paranormal that didn't feel exploitive. Instead, it felt contextual and terrifying at the same time, and I've yet to see a game do that as well as Eternal Darkness. — Julia