Games: If there's one thing gamers love, it’s top 10 lists.
...Unfortunately, my top 10 has now been reduced to a top 9 since Super Monkey Ball was disqualified. I didn't know that it had been included on some compilation discs after the initial GameCube release, thus negating its status as a 'Cube-only game.
(Thanks to Gamevet from GC for the heads-up.)
There were a few also-rans that I considered including to round out the group like Star Fox Adventures (smoothly competent, but derivative), Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (good concept, weak execution) or Cubivore (startlingly original, but too simplistic), but neither one was solid enough to justify calling them equal to the gems I've listed here. It's no secret that Nintendo systems of late have had a much smaller selection of software than the competition, and this is one case where that sad state of affairs is quite obvious.
Having tried any and everything that caught my eye and with no new games coming down the pipe, this is my definitive list of personal picks. I literally can't find a tenth game worthy of being added to the list, so 9 it is.
Just one quick note before I get started-- some of you may be wondering why a few great (or at least popular) titles aren’t on this list, so I'll say that there were two criteria for the selections:
1> I had to love the game.
2> Any game listed must be a GameCube exclusive.
There were a handful of other discs which could have made the list, but I'm not counting anything that received a multi-console release-- that’s another list for another day. These are titles that make their home on the GameCube, and the GameCube alone.
Without further ado, and in alphabetical order:
Animal Crossing: Athough it seems a little outdated in some ways today, getting a part-time job at Nook’s store and having nothing more pressing to do than search for bugs or cast a line out into the sea was pretty mindblowing at the time. Avoiding any conventional sense of progression and structure, getting dropped off in a small town and spending days actually caring about home décor was a fantastic trip outside the box.
Chibi Robo: Out of all the games on this list, this one is probably the most underappreciated title of the bunch. In spite of the sickeningly cute graphics, Chibi Robo was a challenging and sophisticated concept that combined open-world ideas with engaging quests on a much smaller scale than most developers aim for, and was quite successful for it. Confined to a single house and its accompanying backyard, this little silver robot proved that you don't need vast landscapes to have big adventures.
Lost Kingdoms: Another criminally unappreciated game, this quirky title blended real-time action with the ability to customize your character's abilities through use of collectible cards earned along the adventure. The ever-changing skillset provided by the cards kept the gameplay feeling minty fresh until the end, and the drive to explore and discover every corner of the world for new cards gave it legs. Although the sequel bungled things that the original got right, I'd love to see this series get another chance.
Metroid Prime: A fair and accurate description of this game could be “making the impossible possible". Never in a million years would I have imagined something so intrinsically two-dimensional could translate so perfectly into three. Retaining the flavor and tone of the sci-fi exploration Metroid is made of was a true feather in Retro Studios’ cap, and brought Samus Aran to a new generation of players in flawless form.
Paper Mario: the Thousand-Year Door: Though it was basically just an iteration of what was achieved on the Nintendo 64, there's no disputing the fact that this game is a superb blend of action and RPG. The innovative combat engine kept players in the game instead of clicking through menus, and the adventure is full of humorous, clever moments.
Pikmin: Although there's been a new drive recently to bring RTS-style games to consoles, I think Miyamoto hit it on the nose the first time out with this one. Efficiently commanding a small army of flower people is effortless and natural, the streamlined resource management of “eat what you kill” cuts through staid genre conventions with a laser, and shrinking everything down to a near-microscopic scale was a charming stroke of brilliance.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures: Taking the multiplayer mode first seen in the GBA version of Link to the Past, this game brought a new singleplayer adventure using multiplayer mechanics (still playable in multi if you’ve got three friends) and a bizarrely engaging mix of new and old elements from the history of the series. Like the final game in my list below, Four Swords was a new (and successful) twist on the classic formula.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: Yes, another Zelda. It's completely true that the endgame item-fetching foisted on players was a catastrophic mistake, but Wind Waker gets just about everything else right. The playful cel-shaded visual style was a breath of fresh air, and the complete redesign of the overworld was a great shakeup for the lauded series even though I wouldn't have minded spending a wee bit less time in the boat. Regardless, it's a perfect example of taking something old and making it new again.
So there you have it, my Top 9 GameCube list. Disagree with my choices? Have some suggestions of your own? Post a comment or send me an e-mail and let me know what you think.