A Love Letter to the GameCube
The Nintendo GameCube turns 20 this month and it’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. The GameCube was my first console: a tiny silver box that came bundled with Metroid Prime, a controller (but no Memory Card!), and an entire childhood worth of afternoons curled up with some of gaming’s greatest classics. F-Zero GX, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue, Star Fox: Assault, The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition, and Metroid Prime molded my burgeoning perception of gaming and made me realize how powerful gaming is as an interactive medium.
It was a special console for me, the first console that I ever owned and the one that I used for the majority of my childhood. It introduced me to my two favorite Nintendo series (Metroid and Super Smash Bros.) and also paved the way for my love of story-focused gaming. I owe a lot to the GameCube for its great quality and family friendly selection of games, which allowed me to play games without worrying about choosing between content and quality.
I remember my first encounter with the GameCube very clearly. I was standing in front of the video game display case at my local Walmart that held a GameCube and a PS2, surrounded by family. It was my seventh birthday and my Maw and Paw gave me the choice between the GameCube and the PS2 for my birthday present. I was a little unsure which console to pick, but ultimately settled on the GameCube even when my Dad suggested picking the PS2. Why?
To be honest, I had one video game on my mind that day in Walmart and it wasn’t a Mario game, a Zelda game, or even a Metroid game. Nope, it was–of all things–a Godzilla game. That’s right, a Godzilla game.
I was a big fan of the Godzilla series growing up, having watched a lot of the classic Godzilla films, and I had seen Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee at my local video rental store (yes, kids, we actually did rent VHS tapes back in the day). Every time we went to the video store, I stopped by the game section, looked lovingly at the box art for that Godzilla game, and furthered my resolve to buy a GameCube to play it.
I still remember choosing between the consoles, weighing the pros and cons of each console and I simply couldn’t stop thinking about the Godzilla game and I made my decision with that in mind. Ironically enough, while the game weighed heavily on my thoughts that day, I never actually bought it. I rented it from the same store a few years later and I was pretty unimpressed.
After I picked the GameCube, my Maw and Paw purchased it for me and we rode back to our house in their van. I can picture the scene still. I rode back quietly, as excited as perhaps I have ever been, not knowing that I was beginning the steps toward picking up a hobby that I would still enjoy years later. The trip back home is still one of my fondest childhood memories.
While slow at first, I gradually began to build a vast library of GameCube games, Christmas-by-Christmas, birthday-by-birthday, and trade-by-trade. I received Super Mario Sunshine and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door for my birthday one year, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue along with Shrek 2 (yes, Shrek 2) for Christmas another year, and Super Smash Bros. Melee (sans case) for free from an upperclassman at my school later on. I had an opportunity that, in today’s world of mobile gaming and free-to-play mediocrity, many kids don’t have, access to good, quality games.
I have so many great, nostalgic memories of my GameCube, memories filled with attempts at clearing challenging games such as Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and F-Zero GX and hours spent on the Internet pouring over strategies for besting the final boss of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, that I find it difficult to separate the amazing console of my youth from the complete commercial failure that the GameCube ultimately was.
Everything about the GameCube appealed to me as a kid. From it’s durability (I dropped the console on solid concrete at least 3 times growing up,) to its small size for easy storage on trips (that console went everywhere I did for a number of years), there wasn’t a single aspect of the console that I didn’t like. Even the controller, lampooned by critics as a toy, is my favorite controller of all time and still my choice for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U nearly ten years after my uncle gave it to me.
I know the GameCube wasn’t and still isn’t many critics favorite Nintendo console, but it doesn’t matter to me. That small box of pure joy changed my life and introduced me to a medium that I was to fall in love with. That fateful choice at a Walmart in rural Virginia was a factor in molding me into the person I am today and, while a commercial failure, it’s still my favorite console of all time. I know it wasn’t popular with everyone, but I love the GameCube.