The GameCube’s 15th anniversary gives us a chance to look back on what would be Nintendo's last "traditional" video game console before they started experimenting with the Wii. Even though Nintendo has been viewed as the "kiddy choice," there are some surprisingly dark and challenging GameCube games made for older gamers that many seem to forget about.
Looking at the library it's easy to see why. Nintendo's flagship titles have stayed within the E to T rating of games, and Nintendo tends to be very protective of their family-friendly brand.
To help flesh out their library, Nintendo has always had help from third-party developers to try and attract an older and more 'hardcore gamer' crowd. For this list, we're going to look at some of the best games from the GameCube that broke the kiddie stigma.
1. Metroid Prime Brought a Grim Atmosphere and Amped Up the Scale of Metroid
Our first game is going to be one of several 3rd-party collaborations between Nintendo and another developer. Despite the passionate fandom of Metroid, it rarely achieved the same level of popular success as Mario and Zelda, which could be why Nintendo were willing to hand over the reins to Retro Studios.
Metroid Prime is not an M-Rated game, but this was the first time that a Nintendo property was seen as not "E for Everyone." The game follows Samus on a dark and atmospheric quest to stop space pirates, Metroids, and series baddie Ridley.
The major innovation, and what earns a spot on this list was how Retro Studios made Metroid Prime into something unique. Instead of making another Metroid 2D action-platformer, Metroid Prime transformed into a first person shooter/adventure. This choice surprised everyone, especially because translating Metroid into a first person POV really clicked and it plunged the player deep into a rich and grim world. Metroid Prime quickly became recognized as one of the best games on the GameCube.
Retro fully embraced first person, turning the game's UI into Samus's HUD visor. You now had a 3D version of the same classic progression of hunting for upgrades, but the real success of first person was that you had a whole new experience of fighting the enemies and bosses. For the first time in a Metroid title, you really had a sense of scale for the huge monsters that Samus fights.
Despite not being a Nintendo in-house team, Retro understood what made Metroid great and was given the chance to make two more games in the Prime series. If you can find it, the entire trilogy is available on the Wii with controls modified for the Wii-Mote interface. Metroid Prime is easily one of the best takes on a Nintendo property since Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars by Squaresoft.
2. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem Introduced One Hell of a Sanity Mechanic
Eternal Darkness Sanity's Requiem was developed by Silicon Knights and tells a history-spanning tale of Elder Gods and horrifying mysteries.
Despite being a horror game, there is a robust combat system built around using spells and targeting specific parts of enemies. Each character/storyline takes place in a completely different time period, which impacts the weapons and puzzle solving.
One level has you fighting monsters in a Mayan Temple and another has you going mad in your colonial home during the 1800s. Going "mad" is a major part of the game. Eternal Darkness features a sanity meter which drains based on what the player sees. If your sanity meter drops too low, the game literally starts to alter your perception of the game world, presenting you with things like distorted graphic effects and a 'fake' blue screen of death.
Eternal Darkness represented a high point for both the GameCube and developer Silicon Knights.
3. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes Is a Violent Collaboration
Our next pick is one of the most fantastic collaborations seen on any Nintendo platform: The Twin Snakes was a three-way partnership between Nintendo, Konami, and Silicon Knights to bring Metal Gear Solid to the GameCube.
Metal Gear Solid was rebuilt from the ground up for its GameCube debut, featuring updated graphics, re-recorded dialogue, and gameplay upgrades from Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty. Instead of a traditional isometric view, Twin Snakes allowed Metal Gear Solid fans to explore the gritty and violent world of MSG with a 3D camera.
In a library full of outlandish, cartoony, and exaggerated worlds and characters, Twin Snakes brought a realism and dark intrigue not seen elsewhere on the GameCube.
Even though the Twin Snakes was developed by Silicon Knights, Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima had input to make sure that the game was held up to the same standards of the original.
Despite Metal Gear first appearing on the NES for US audiences, this would be the last time we would see a Metal Gear game on a Nintendo platform until the later port of Snake Eater.
4. Resident Evil Remake Perfected Old-School Resident Evil
Now it's time for Capcom to take over this list. Resident Evil is the perfect example of a series that is not meant for kids. That doesn't mean kids don't play it, of course, but it's certainly not meant for kids.
Capcom could have simply ported this survival horror original game over to the GameCube, as it was only six years old at the time. Instead, we got one of the biggest remakes of any game in the history of the industry at the time.
Capcom rebuilt Resident Evil from the ground up for the GameCube version. While the game's story and setting remained the same, everything else was totally fresh.
The entire mansion was redesigned with new rooms and puzzles, providing new paths for Jill and Chris's playthroughs. New enemies were added, along with changes to the zombies that made them even more dangerous. Zombies could now transform into stronger enemies unless they were killed a certain way, increasing the need for specific survival strategies.
While Resident Evil Remake still featured static camera angles, the graphical upgrade was so great that the game still holds up today for modern fans. Resident Evil Remake would arguably be the best Resident Evil game, if not for our next pick.
5. Resident Evil 4 Essentially Invented the Action Horror Subgenre
One of the biggest shocks during the mid '00s was the announcement of Resident Evil moving to the GameCube for the next official entry. This wasn't going to be a port or a prequel or remaster, but a completely original Resident Evil title on the supposedly kid-only Nintendo system.
Resident Evil 4 was met with heavy development problems, with the game being redesigned four times from scratch. When series' creator Shinji Mikami finally took over the project, he decided to radically change the formula.
The changes made would eventually lead to Resident Evil 4 redefining the horror genre and giving birth to the action horror subgenre. The use of a over-the-shoulder camera and free-aiming with your weapon would become standard elements of third person shooters, including Gears of War, Dead Space, and many more.
Resident Evil 4 allowed players to play as a strong and heroic character, but still challenged them with deadly and horrific monsters as well as escalating threats. Using deranged villagers instead of generic zombies gave the player some downright chilling scenes of townsfolk chasing after them with weapons.
While it may seem quaint today to talk about Resident Evil 4, you have to remember that there was no other game like it on the market, and it still represents the best that the GameCube had to offer.
6. Killer 7 Was Gratuitious and Bizarre
Finally for this list, I have a game that I'm sure most of you reading this probably did not play. Killer 7 was a part of a collection known as the Capcom Five, five original games that Capcom produced for the GameCube. While the quality of the five were hit or miss, it did give us one of the most unique games of all time. Similar to Resident Evil 4, Killer 7 also went through several revisions before we got a nightmare-inducing finished product.
Killer 7 is difficult to explain, because even to this day I'm not sure what happened – but I do know it was violent, bizarre, and gratuitous.
The story from its "simplest" view point: you play a gang of assassins known as the Killer 7. Your mission was to go around the world to stop a terrorist group of monster suicide bombers called "Heaven Smile." But here's where it gets weird: the Killer 7 are actually the multiple personalities of one person who switches between them with "the power of television."
Killer 7's gameplay was on-rails and maneuvered you through some of the most visually striking environments in early 2000s video games. The Heaven Smiles were all invisible, and you had to scan for them when you hear their laughter. In each stage, you had to switch between the various members of the group in order to solve puzzles, and upgrade them with new abilities and stats. Each stage ends with an insane boss fight and the game was not shy about gratuitous imagery and swearing.
Killer 7 also had the impact of introducing US gamers to Goichi Suda, or as he's famously known as now: Suda 51. Suda would go on to produce such violent oddities as No More Heroes and Lolipop Chainsaw.
Happy Anniversary, GameCube!
The GameCube was one of my favorite consoles growing up, thanks to a great mix of first and third party games. While we did focus on games for older audiences, there were still plenty of games for everyone to enjoy.
Besides the games mentioned here, the GameCube also saw refinements of previous Nintendo franchises, as well as some inventive gems like Pikmin and Animal Crossing. Even though this was the time where Microsoft and Sony began to pull ahead of Nintendo in terms units sold, the GameCube was an amazing console and had one of the best libraries around.
For modern fans, the Nintendo platform of choice for diverse games would currently be the 3DS . Unlike the Wii-U, the 3DS's conventional control scheme has provided a great foundation for designers.