The Nintendo GameCube (officially abbreviated as GCN), Nintendo's entry into the sixth generation of the Console Wars, was released in late 2001. In response to third parties being driven away by the Nintendo 64's continued use of cartridges, Nintendo shifted away from that format and toward optical media with this system, favoring proprietary mini-discs. Its graphical capabilities are capable of surpassing the PlayStation 2 despite its limited mini-DVD storage, and in some cases, its performance was on par with 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 to replace 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 development of many of its properties to other developers. Bandai Namco Entertainment played around with Donkey Kong and came up with the Donkey Konga series, Dolled Up Installments of their own Taiko no Tatsujin series of drumming games. Namco and Rare (under the latter company's last days with Nintendo before their purchase by Microsoft) both had Star Fox-based games (although Rare's was also 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". They are, in order of release:
- P.N.03 (the only game to stay exclusive)
- Viewtiful Joe (ported to the PS2)
- Resident Evil 4 (ported to the PS2 again)
- killer7 (ported to—you guessed it—the PS2)
- Dead Phoenix (cancelled)
By offloading the development of some of their less iconic intellectual properties to third parties (and likewise offloading the associated costs), Nintendo managed to reclaim some some of the losses incurred by the N64's poor performance in the previous generation. While the GameCube also failed to meet expectations (at one point, Nintendo had to halt production of the console, as they were manufacturing them faster than they could be sold), it did ultimately manage to turn in a consistent and overall profit.
Additionally, by the time of the GameCube's release, Nintendo had mostly removed its restrictions ensuring that their games met their family-friendly image (this process was in fact underway close to the end of the N64 era, with the release of Conker's Bad Fur Day). This also helped encourage 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 finding them still perfectly intact. 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 knife-wielding mugger 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. Super Mario Sunshine was set on "Isle Delfino" (Italian for dolphin), Olimar's ship in Pikmin was called the "Dolphin", and there was 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 thought by some 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 rumored release name for the console was "Starcube", which was apparently dropped for copyright reasons (or because a Nintendo executive insisted the word "game" be in the name).
Nintendo received some criticism for not featuring DVD playback in their new console, bucking the trend set by Sony and Microsoft with their respective entries in the Sixth Generation. However, there was a stylish-looking variant of the GCN that played DVD videos and contained other multimedia functionality that saw limited release. Called the Panasonic Q, 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 due to the Q's obscurity, it remains unknown whether these are official models or mods.
The GameCube, like the Sega Dreamcast before it, is a perfect case of Vindicated by History. During its lifetime, the GameCube was outsold by both of its competitors, and was Nintendo's worst-performing home console until the Wii U. note
By far one of the biggest difficulties Nintendo tried (and mostly failed) to surmount was their reputation as a company that made only children's games, which had solidified during the previous generation. This image was downright lethal in the early 2000s. For one thing, the industry's demographics had shifted, and adults now made up the bulk of gamers. In addition, developers, gamers, and the gaming press had by this point begun to 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 (and some consider that they still are). Although they tried to shed that image by green-lighting more teen- and young adult-oriented games, these efforts were still deemed too tame to be meaningful, specially compared to the libraries of the PS2 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 semi-realistic and comparatively darker atmospheres of its two predecesors for a cartoony cel-shading art style. This decision prompted what was among the first (possibly the first), and probably biggest, examples of video game backlash on the Internet in the days before social media (in fact, it could even easily give many social media-driven backlashes a run for their money).
Another major 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 worse, so this support started to dwindle after the first couple of years. Couple this with the aforementioned "kiddie" reputation, and many T- and M-rated titles wound up getting 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.
It didn't help that many of Nintendo's first-party titles for the console were considered divisive when they first came out. Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, one generation prior, were considered absolutely groundbreaking in their day, transitioning gracefully from 2D to 3D. Meanwhile, Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (even leaving aside the aforementioned backlash) were less impressive transitions to the newer technology, and left some fans cold. Other games like Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Star Fox Adventures, Star Fox: Assault, Wave Race: Blue Storm and 1080º Avalanche were also contested. More damning still, while games like Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin received overall critical acclaim, popular enthusiasm for them is largely a matter of hindsight.
However, several of these games and others have become Cult Classics over time, or have simply been given their deserved accolades retroactively. 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 'Cube 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 clearest example of this would be Metroid Prime and (to a lesser degree) its sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, which brought back the Metroid series after skipping the N64 altogether. Many people consider these the best titles on 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 also single-handedly created one of the biggest and most devoted fan communities in video game history. The absolute masterful remake of Resident Evil 1, 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 (though Symphonia did appear on the PS2 eventually). Then there's 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 unorthodox layout of the face buttons, and the fact that it had two fewer buttons than the controllers from its competitors, (to be precise, it was one shoulder button and one "Select"-type button less) 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 ergonomically friendly for pretty much all demographics. As with many other aspects of the console, the controller is now deemed one of the most, if not the most comfortable game controller ever designed (its limited versatility though is still a point of contention). 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 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, complete with a controller adapter.
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 market, not only because they had become a smaller demographic, but also because the discourse surrounding it had fully transitioned from the schoolyard to the Internet, where their voices were collectively all but silenced next to their older counterparts. But now that the children who played with the GameCube have entered their 20s, they've 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. Each block is about 8KB. Gray came with 59 blocks (4Mb), black with 251 blocks (2MB), and white with 1019 blocks (8MB)note . The GameCube is also capable of reading a 2043 block card (16MB), but no official card with this capacity was ever released. There's also memory cards that can save off of SD cards as well.
- 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. According to Nintendo, less than one percent of all GameCube owners purchased 480p-compatible cables. 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 along with Serial Port 2 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.
- The GameCube is capable of stereoscopic 3D with a special peripheral. A stereoscopic 3D screen that supposedly would've plugged into Serial Port 2 was planned, but Nintendo ran into issues concerning the cost to manufacturer the device which apparently would've been even more expensive than the GameCube itself. Because of this, Nintendo was forced to scrap the add-on early on.
- 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.
- The Nintendo GameCube actually had stereoscopic 3D capabilities built in, but would've required a special LCD screen to use it. However, Nintendo was unable to produce it without it costing much more than the system itself and was forced to scrap it. Only one game was confirmed to be developed with 3D support in mind, that game being Luigi's Mansion. However, 3D support was cut from the final game after the 3D screen was cancelled, though a 3D Luigi's Mansion experience was finally realized in the 3DS sequel and subsequent remake of the original also for the 3DS.
- 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, though it is rumored that the unreleased 3D screen would've plugged into it. The latter port was removed on the DOL-101 model.
- 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.
- 1080°: Avalanche
- 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)
- Backyard Sports
- Baldurs Gate: Dark Alliance
- Baten Kaitos
- Baten Kaitos Origins
- Battalion Wars
- Beyond Good & Evil
- Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
- Black & Bruised
- Bleach: GC: Tasogare ni Mamieru Shinigami
- Blood Omen 2: Legacy of Kain
- BloodRayne (only the first game)
- Bloody Roar: Primal Fury
- Bounty Hunter
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds
- Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium
- Castle of Shikigami II (Japan-only)
- Cel Damage
- Crash Bandicoot:
- Crazy Taxi
- Custom Robo (international debut again)
- Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix
- Darkened Skye
- Digimon World 4
- Donkey Kong:
- Doshin the Giant (was planned for an American release at one point, but plans were later canned)
- Dragon Ball Z: Budokai
- Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2
- Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
- Evolution Worlds
- The Fairly OddParents!:
- Fantastic Four
- 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
- Harvest Moon:
- Hello Kitty Roller Rescue
- Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
- Ikaruga (For those who didn't import the Dreamcast version.)
- The Incredible Hulk:
- 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:
- Lost Kingdoms
- Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects
- Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
- Mary-Kate and Ashley Sweet 16: Licensed to Drive
- Medal of Honor:
- Mega Man:
- Metal Arms: Glitch in the System
- Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
- Metroid Prime
- Minority Report: Everybody Runs
- Mortal Kombat:
- Naruto: Clash of Ninja
- Need for Speed series
- Over the Hedge
- 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
- The Powerpuff Girls: Relish Rampage
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
- Puyo Pop Fever
- Reign of Fire
- Resident Evil:
- Ribbit King
- Rogue Ops
- Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku
- Scooby-Doo: Mystery Mayhem
- The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian
- The Simpsons:
- Second Sight
- Skies of Arcadia Legends (an Updated Re-release of the Dreamcast classic)
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- Soul Calibur II (starring NGC-exclusive Guest Fighter, Link!)
- Spartan: Total Warrior
- Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy
- Spirits & Spells
- Spyro the Dragon
- Star Fox:
- Star Wars:
- Summoner: A Goddess Reborn (A port of Summoner 2 for the PS2)
- Super Mario Bros.:
- 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