The Nintendo GameCube (officially abbreviated as GCN), Nintendo's entry into the sixth generation of the Console Wars, was released in late 2001. It marked Nintendo's shift from cartridges to optical discs in response to third parties being driven away by the Nintendo 64's continued use of cartridges, using miniature proprietary discs. The graphical capabilities can be better than the PlayStation 2 despite the limited mini-DVD storage, and in some cases, on par with those of the Xbox. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III actually holds the sixth-gen record for polygon count at 20 million polygons. The GameCube was the first Nintendo console to have fewer buttons on its controller than its predecessor; this was due to the introduction of a second analog stick replacing the N64's C buttons, though this C-stick was smaller than the primary analog stick.
This era also marked the start of Nintendo offering many of its properties to other developers, in order to reclaim losses caused by the N64's poor performance (as the GameCube failed to meet expectations, despite turning in a consistent profit). Bandai Namco ran around with Donkey Kong and made the Donkey Konga series, Dolled Up Installments of the Taiko no Tatsujin series of drumming games. Namco and Rare (under the company's last days with Nintendo before getting bought out by Microsoft) both had Star Fox-based games (although Rare's was too a Dolled-Up Installment, this one born out of Nintendo meddling with the would-have-been Nintendo 64 game Dinosaur Planet). Most famously, Retro Studios rose to fame with the smash hit Metroid Prime and its sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Capcom was working on The Legend of Zelda and liked the 'Cube so much they promised a few exclusive games for it, dubbed the "Capcom 5":
- Dead Phoenix (cancelled)
- P.N.03 (the only game to stay exclusive)
- killer7 (ported to the PS2)
- Resident Evil 4 (ported to the PS2 again)
- Viewtiful Joe (ported to—you guessed it—the PS2)
Additionally, by the time of its release, Nintendo had removed its meddling restriction to ensure that the games met its family-friendly image (the restriction was dropped very close to the end of the N64 era with the release of Conker's Bad Fur Day), which also helped sales to older gamers.
Oh, and this thing is tough, as in physically. There are stories of people having dropped GameCubes off the top of tall buildings and them still being perfectly intact, and one G4 segment circa 2003 involved Morgan Webb abusing a PS2, GameCube, and Xbox, with the GameCube surviving every single bit of abuse. It's gotten a reputation for being damn near indestructible; someone once fended off a mugger with a knife with his GameCube and it wasn't even damaged. Intentionally trying to break it is just about the only way to go. Considering Nintendo's history of making their products Tonka Tough, there might be a reason for that.
Its code name during development was "Project Dolphin" and there are often little nods to this throughout later N64 and early GameCube games, such as Super Mario Sunshine being set on "Isle Delfino" (Italian for dolphin), Olimar's ship in Pikmin being called the "Dolphin", and a painting of a dolphin in Donkey Kong's house in Donkey Kong 64. Additionally, the water-centric gameplay of Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is believed to be a more subtle reference to Project Dolphin, for obvious reasons. All official games and products also start with DOL in their product code. An early rumoured release name for the console was "Starcube", which was apparently dropped for copyright reasons.
There was a stylish-looking variant of the GCN that played DVD videos and contained other multimedia functionality called the Panasonic Q, but it was only sold in Japan and nowadays can only be bought by those who do not care about the health of their walletnote . Interestingly enough, there are some models of the Panasonic Q that lack region-locking, but it is unknown if these are official models or mods, due to the Q's obscurity.
The GameCube, just like the Sega Dreamcast, is a perfect case of Vindicated by History. During its lifetime, it did not manage to sell as well as its competitors, and was the worst-performing home console created by Nintendo until the Wii U. note
By far the biggest reason was that Nintendo's reputation of being a company that made games only for young children had fully metastasized during the previous generation. An image that was down straight lethal in the early 2000's, since the industry not only had completely moved on from children as the biggest demographic, but also both developers, gamers and the gaming press started to seriously advocate for video games to be taken seriously as a new art form. In other words, Nintendo was trapped in a video game equivalent of the Animation Age Ghetto (in some circles, they're still are up to this day), and although they tried to shed that image by green-lighting more teen and young adult-oriented games, these efforts were deemed too tame to be anything meaningful, specially when compared to the libraries of the Play Station 2 and Xbox.
Thus, the console received lots of undeserved hate due to its toy-like design and moves like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker changing the dark and semi-realistic atmospheres of its two predecesors for a cartoony cel-shading art style. Something that prompted what was the first and probably biggest video game backlash on the internet before social medianote .
Another big issue was third party support. Nintendo managed to get a lot of companies on board for developing for the system, and it surely received many more third party titles than the N64 ever did. However, the vast majority of these titles were multi-platform games: very few companies dared to develop any exclusives for it, and most of the few that did were only because Nintendo struck deals with them by publishing the games or even partially producing them. On top of that, almost all of these multi-platform titles performed worse on the GameCube than on its two competitors, often significantly so, so this support started to dwindle after the first couple of years. Couple this with the aforementioned "kiddy" reputation and many T and M-rated titles were released on the PS2 and Xbox, but not the GameCube. Probably the most iconic example of this was the fact that the GameCube was the only 6th Generation home console that never received a Grand Theft Auto game.
There's also the fact that many of Nintendo's first party titles for the console were divisive when they first came out. Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were considered absolutely groundbreaking in their day due to the more than successful leap from 2D to 3D, while Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (even leaving aside the aforementioned backlash) didn't perform such a big leap by comparison, which left some people cold. Other games like Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Star Fox Adventures, Star Fox: Assault, Wave Race: Blue Storm and 1080º Avalanche were also pretty contested, and although games like Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin received overall positive reviews, their reception among gamers was not as warm as their current appreciation would make you think.
However, several of these games and others have become Cult Classics over time, or have simply been revisited and given the accolades they deserve. It helps that the much more successful Wii was fully compatible with GameCube games until later in its life, making it easier for people to play games for the latter without actually having to buy one. With critics putting increased emphasis on the importance of loading times in the modern age, the GameCube's design towards faster loads (in the form of smaller disks and special RAM caches) is also becoming more appreciated.
And of course, there are those titles that were absolute hits among gamers from day one. The most clear example of this would be Metroid Prime and (to a lesser degree) its sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, which gloriously brought back the Metroid series after skipping the N64 altogether, and many people consider the best titles of the console, even to this day. A title only contested by Super Smash Bros. Melee, a game that, was not only the biggest seller on the console, but single handedly created one of the biggest and most devoted fan communities in video game history. The absolute masterful remake of Resident Evil, F-Zero GX, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader and Tales of Symphonia are other examples of exclusive titles that had a really warm reception even back in the day. Not to forget the GameCube version of Soul Calibur II, which was considered the best out of the three versions, in no small part due to Link appearing as a guest character (a practice that has become a staple of the fighting genre ever since).
Additionally, the GameCube's controller was also a case of Vindicated by History. The non-orthodox layout of the front buttons and the fact that it had two fewer buttons than the controllers from its competitors (a shoulder button and "Select"-like button, to be precise) were common criticisms during its day, to the point that many third party developers considered it a liability for porting some of their titles. However, it has been consistently praised from day one for its comfortable design, which was almost ergonomic for pretty much all demographics, and now it's deemed one of the most, if not THE most comfortable game controller ever designed. The growing popularity of the GameCube controller among Super Smash Bros. fans eventually led to Nintendo re-releasing the controller specifically for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, complete with a controller adapter. This bundle was also repeated with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch, three generations after the GameCube being released.
One of the biggest reasons of the growing appreciation for the system is the people who played with it when they were children reaching adulthood. Although the industry as a whole was fully focused on teenagers and young adults during the early 2000s, that's not to say that kids had become irrelevant. Even the PS2 and Xbox had their fair share of family friendly titles. However, kids were no longer the ones driving the narrative, not only because they had become a smaller demographic, but also because the discord had fully moved on from the schoolyard to the Internet, where their voice had become all but silenced next to their older counterparts. But now that the children who played with the GameCube have entered their 20's, they had taken the opportunity to voice their appreciation for the console that marked their childhoods, turning it into probably the biggest "nostalgic" home console of the 2010s.
- The CPU is a 486 MHz IBM PowerPC 750CXe based CPU codenamed "Gekko". While it was internally a 32-bit processor, it has a double-precision 64-bit FPU (which Nintendo got marketing mileage out of by misadvertising the system as 128 bit, most notably with its tech demo "Super Mario 128"). It's essentially an enhanced version of the processor found in Apple's G3-based computers.
- The GPU was a joint venture between Nintendo and ArtX. ATi later bought ArtX, which explains the badge on the console. Codenamed "Flipper", it's a 162 MHz GPU superficially similar to ATi's own Radeon 7500 for the PC.
- Audio was done on a custom 81 MHz Macronix DSP that supported 64 CD-Audio quality channels. However it could only output stereo sound, but there was support for Dolby Pro-Logic II for surround sound if the speakers supported it.
- 24 MB MoSys 1T-SRAM main system RAM. 3 MB embedded 1T-SRAM within Flipper.
- 1T-SRAM is a type of RAM that is both high density and avoids the low-level complexity of DRAM.
- The fact that the Flipper has embedded RAM in it made it extremely fast, compared to the RAMBUS RAM used in the Nintendo 64.
- 16 MB DRAM used as buffer for game disc drive and audio.
- Games were stored on a 8cm optical disc based on the DVD standard and created by Matsushita (Panasonic). A key difference is that the GameCube uses Constant Angular Velocity (in which the disk spins at the same speed regardless of the reading laser's position) rather than Constant Linear Velocity (in which the disc spins slower or faster depending on the reading laser's position to achieve a constant velocity of the laser beam traveling across the disc surface). The total storage capacity of the disc is 1.5GB. The three main reasons why this format was chosen was to reduce load times, to make piracy harder, and to avoid paying licensing fees to the DVD forum. Much like what had happened with the N64, Nintendo's choice of the lower capacity storage medium was criticized by some developers. However, while there were a few games that had to come out on multiple discs, and a few others that cut content or used extra compression to fit on one, it was overall much less of an issue than the N64's cartridges.
- To store game saves and other data, the GameCube used memory cards similar to the PlayStation. For better or worse, cards were formatted into blocks and capacity was Colour-Coded for Your Convenience. Gray came with 59 blocks, black with 251 blocks, and white with 1011 blocks. There's also memory cards that can save off of SD cards as well. Each block is about 8KB.
- The GameCube could output all forms of standard definition resolutions, including progressive scan. However, progressive scan could only be officially enabled on NTSC hardware; PAL hardware requires softmodding to enable progressive scan output. Furthermore, even in NTSC regions, outputting in progressive scan required a special cable (component cables for the US, and D-Terminal cables for Japan) that was only available through Nintendo's website at a time when most televisions only supported S-Video at best, so it was rarely used by gamers.note These days, the component/D-Terminal cables are increasingly rare and exceedingly expensive, often going for $200-300 USD online. Because they connected through the DOL-001 GameCube's Digital AV port, the cables required the use of a built-in proprietary digital-to-analog converter chip, meaning no third-party variations exist and fan-made after-market cables only pop up once in a blue moon. Additionally, due to the low sales of the component/D-Terminal cables, the Digital AV port was excised from the GameCube in 2004, via the release of the DOL-101 model; no visible differences exist between the 001 and 101 aside from the difference in port numbers. If you want to play your GameCube games in progressive scan, your best bet is to just play them on your Wii with its much cheaper and common component cables. However, in the modern day, the digital port on the DOL-001 turned out to be very easy to convert to HDMI, and there are two fan-made HDMI adapters being made. They're still fairly pricey compared to standard cables (right now they are all 3D printed and hand made), but it's a fraction of the cost of official component cables. The Wii is still a much more practical option for 480p, though.
- Maximum in-game polygon count is about 20,250,000 polygons a second, or about 337,500 polygons a frame at 60FPS. This is about 10 times more than the developers could push on the Nintendo 64; Maximum Polygon count is 60 million a second.
- Maximum pixel throughput is 648 megapixels per second.
- It supported all the nice graphical features at the time, such as anisotropic texture filtering, anti-aliasing, and bump-mapping. Color output is at 24-bits, the system also had a 18-bit color mode but only a handful of games used it.
Add-Ons and Expansions
- The first generation models had two AV outputs, one labeled Analog AV Out for standard use with composite cables, and the other labeled Digital AV Out for component cables and D-Terminal cables. Though the output from the socket was actually digital, the cables that used Digital AV Out used a digital-to-analog converter chip in the cable connector, meaning that actual output is analog. The chip explains why such cables, especially the component cable, were never produced by other companies the way the Wii component cable is today (the Wii seems to only output analog video through its AV port). Due to very few people using the component cables, Nintendo quietly released a second model that had the Digital AV port removed.
- While this port may have seemed silly in 2001 when the system was released, it was INCREDIBLY forward thinking. It is a digital audio/video output. While it does require a DAC (as part of the official component cables) to convert that output to component, it does not require a DAC to convert to HDMI, which didn't exist yet at the time of the GameCube. There is a fan-made HDMI adapter that plugs directly into the DOL-001's digital port. It's still a bit on the pricey side for an adapter (right now, they are being hand made with a 3D printer), but it is a fraction of the price of the component cables. Also, while the Gamecube (model DOL-001 only, 101 removed the digital port) can output digital video in this fashion, the Wii cannot, meaning there is no way to hook up the Wii to an HDMI display without a separate analog/digital converter box.
- There were three expansion ports total. One was for a high-speed network adapter/modem used for online/LAN games (which was swept under the rug due to piracy applications). One was for the Game Boy Player. The last one never got used.
- Using a special link cable, the Game Boy Advance could connect to one of the GameCube's controller ports. This was used in Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD to transfer Pokémon back and forth. It was also notably used in Animal Crossing to allow access to Animal Island and free pattern tools. Some games also allowed the GBA to be used as a controller, such as with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure or the Game Boy Player (detailed below), though a GameCube controller could work just fine in most cases. However, Square Enix was a notable abuser of this with Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles 1, where each Game Boy Advance was a controller.
- The Game Boy Player, released in 2003, could allow you to turn your GameCube into a home console GBA. Being a spiritual successor to the Super Game Boy, it was capable of playing Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance game paks on a TV. Because the games were letterboxed to preserve their original aspect ratios, the parts of the display not taken up by the game were occupied by one of twenty interchangeable borders, similarly to the Super Game Boy. However, the Game Boy Player couldn't display Game Boy games in color, nor did any games built with the SGB in mind retain their SGB-exclusive special featuresnote when played on the Game Boy Player. There were also a number of compatability issues with certain types of game paks and devices; The Other Wiki has a full list of them and the issues they had with Game Boy Player. Among other issues, the Game Boy Player could not play GBA Video paks, would need to be physically picked up and tilted for motion control games, and was incompatible with Action Replay. The add-on also required a startup disc in order to function, as the GameCube could only run optical-based media and the Game Boy Player was a cartridge-based device that plugged into the bottom of the GameCube. For the Japan-only Panasonic Q, a special gray Game Boy Player exclusive to it was released, as the Q's lower region was larger than that of a regular GameCube, with the Game Boy Player's outlet being repositioned accordingly; because of this structural difference, a regular Game Boy Player cannot be plugged into the Q, thus necessitating the gray model. The Game Boy Player was discontinued in 2007 with the GameCube itself.
- There are three versions of the intro jingle; the one played upon startup is dependent on whether 0, 1-3, or 4 players are pressing the Z button. The music is in a 7/8 time signature.
GameCube games and series include:
- Alien Hominid
- Amazing Island
- Animal Crossing 1.x (the series made its international debut on this system, based on the Nintendo 64 version released only in Japan, which is why the game features an N64 logo as a decorative item)
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Backyard Sports
- Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance
- Baten Kaitos
- Baten Kaitos Origins
- Batman: Vengeance
- Batman Dark Tomorrow
- Battalion Wars
- Beyond Good & Evil
- Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
- Bleach: GC: Tasogare ni Mamieru Shinigami
- Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain
- BloodRayne (only the first game)
- Bloody Roar: Primal Fury
- Bomberman Generation
- Bomberman Jetters
- Bounty Hunter
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds
- Castle of Shikigami II (Japan-only)
- Cel Damage
- Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex
- Crazy Taxi
- Custom Robo (international debut again)
- Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix
- Darkened Skye
- Digimon World 4
- Donald Duck: Goin' Qu@ckers
- Donkey Konga
- Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
- Doshin the Giant (was planned for an American release at one point, but plans were later canned)
- Dragon Ball Z: Budokai
- Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
- Evolution Worlds
- The Fairly OddParents: Breakin' Da Rules
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles 1
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (the first home console installment in the Fire Emblem series that was released internationally)
- Freaky Flyers
- F-Zero GX
- Goblin Commander
- Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee
- Gotcha Force
- The Haunted Mansion
- Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life
- Harvest Moon: Magical Melody (in Japan and North America; it was released for the Wii in PAL countries and later it was given an Updated Re-release for the same console in North America.)
- Hello Kitty Roller Rescue
- Ice Age The Meltdown
- Ikaruga (For those who didn't import the Dreamcast version.)
- The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
- James Bond
- Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death
- Kao The Kangaroo: Round 2
- Kirby Air Ride
- The Legend of Zelda
- Lego Star Wars: The Video Game
- Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
- The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
- Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
- Lost Kingdoms
- Luigi's Mansion
- Mario Golf Toadstool Tour
- Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
- Mario Party 4 through 7
- Mario Power Tennis
- Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
- Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
- Mary-Kate and Ashley Sweet 16: Licensed to Drive
- Medal of Honor: Frontline
- Medal of Honor: Rising Sun
- Mega Man Anniversary Collection
- Mega Man X Collection
- Mega Man X: Command Mission
- Metal Arms: Glitch in the System
- Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
- Metroid Prime
- Mickey Mouse
- Disney's Hide & Sneak
- Disney's Magical Mirror Starring Mickey Mouse
- Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance
- Mortal Kombat: Deception
- Naruto: Clash of Ninja
- Need for Speed series
- Over the Hedge
- Pac-Man World 2
- Pac-Man World 3
- Pac-Man World Rally
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
- Phantasy Star Online Ep. 1 & 2 (improved from the Sega Dreamcast/PC version), enhanced remakes of the same called "Ep. 1 & 2 Plus, and Ep. 3 C.A.R.D. Revolution''. These were the only games on the GameCube that had online capabilities.
- Pikmin 2
- Pinball Hall Of Fame: The Gottlieb Collection
- Pokémon Channel
- Pokémon Colosseum
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
- Puyo Pop Fever
- Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc
- Reign of Fire
- Resident Evil (the "REmake")
- Ribbit King
- Rogue Ops
- Rugrats: Royal Ransom
- The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian
- Shadow the Hedgehog
- The Simpsons: Road Rage
- Second Sight
- Skies of Arcadia Legends (an Updated Re-release of the Dreamcast classic)
- SNK vs. Capcom
- Sonic Adventure DX (another Dreamcast Updated Re-release)
- Sonic Adventure 2 Battle
- Sonic Heroes
- Sonic Riders
- Soul Calibur II (starring NGC-exclusive Guest Fighter, Link!)
- Spartan: Total Warrior
- Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy
- Spider-Man: The Movie
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom
- Spyro the Dragon
- Star Fox Adventures
- Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
- Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
- Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike
- Summoner: A Goddess Reborn (A port of Summoner 2 for the PS2)
- Super Mario Sunshine
- Super Monkey Ball
- Super Monkey Ball 2
- Super Monkey Ball Adventure
- Super Robot Wars GC
- Super Smash Bros. Melee
- Tak and the Power of Juju
- Tales of Symphonia
- Tengai Makyou II: Manjimaru
- TimeSplitters 2
- TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
- Tom Clancy Series
- Tomb Raider: Legend
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4
- Tony Hawk's Underground
- Tony Hawk's Underground 2
- Tony Hawk's American Wasteland
- True Crime: Streets of L.A.
- TY the Tasmanian Tiger
- Ultimate Spider-Man
- Viewtiful Joe
- Viewtiful Joe 2
- Viewtiful Joe: Red Hot Rumble
- Virtua Quest
- Wario World
- WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$!
- Wave Race: Blue Storm
- Winnie the Pooh's Rumbly Tumbly Adventure
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Falsebound Kingdom