Over the holidays we’re republishing some of our best features, interviews, opinion pieces and talking points from the previous 12 months from staff and contributors alike — articles that we feel represent our best of 2021. In them you’ll find our usual mix of thoughtfulness, frivolity, retro expertise, gaming nostalgia, and — of course — enthusiasm for all things Nintendo. Enjoy!
The North American 20th anniversary of Nintendo’s cube-y console is upon us and we’ve come to realise that two entire decades is long enough for people to either forget the GameCube’s charming boxy shape or even grow to adulthood without ever handling Nintendo’s handled hardware. “0 years is also plenty of time for anything less than the very best and brightest examples of the system’s library to quietly fade from memory.
So while this is the perfect time to dust off much-loved copies of F-Zero GX, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Metroid Prime for one more happy go, why don’t we dig a little deeper and celebrate the console’s wider and more unusual releases as well? Here we pick out some slightly more obscure imports and curios that often get barged out of the spotlight by Wind Waker, RE4 and the rest…
“More Kururin” is really all the description this game needs — who doesn’t want to play more Kururin?
The simple-to-grasp yet difficult-to-master wall-avoiding gameplay that made the launch GBA title such an unexpected highlight is present and correct here, the all-new 3D surroundings sensibly used to lightly enhance rather than over-complicate the already perfect formula. Sadly this title turned out to be the final outing for Nintendo’s whirly action-puzzle series, but at least it went out on a high.
Somehow this imaginative mix of pinball and feudal Japanese warring got a worldwide release, and we’re very glad it did. Use giant flippers to propel the titular ball towards your enemies, order your troops via the oft-forgotten GameCube microphone, and do your very best to get your bell to the goal in time.
Part-arcade action, part-tactics, part-shouting, Odama won’t be everyone’s idea of a must-have title, but then again we’d hope for nothing less unusual from the mind responsible for the Dreamcast’s most famous talking fish, Seaman.
Doshin the Giant debuted on Nintendo’s expensive and exclusively Japanese 64DD add-on, although this European-released port of the giant’s island-based shenanigans is thankfully slightly easier to get hold of.
Reminiscent of Populous before it and From Dust after it, the aim is to use your god-like powers to raise and lower the terrain to better suit your island’s inhabitants and generally help them out, which in turn will result in them loving (or hating) your giant yellow form.
Another project initially imagined for Nintendo’s Japanese N64 disc drive, although this one has the distinction of never releasing on that earlier rewritable format. The striking low-poly visuals used to navigate the blocky Cubivore world help to abstract an experience that routinely asks you to not only defeat your enemies, but tear them limb from limb before consuming their bodies, all in a bid to mutate, mate, and be reborn into a form capable of overthrowing the Killer Cubivore.
Smash Bros may now have excellent versions of two of the most popular Belmonts, as well as a huge quantity of fantastic remixes of classic Castlevania tracks to go with them, but there’s still only one crossover fighting game that lets legendary vampire killer Simon take on Transformers‘ Optimus Prime.
It’s fair to say nothing’s ever going to beat Sakurai’s series when it comes to crossovers, but Konami’s attempt to take the genre throne is at the very least a colourful jumble of recognisable faces and grin-inducing ‘Wait, they really included that guy?!’ character choices.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4
AKA: ‘That time Shinji Mikami, forever most famous for giving the world the survival horror masterpiece Resident Evil, decided he wanted to create an intense and deeply stylish action game’.
One of the infamous ‘Capcom Five’, P.N.03 features distinct enemy types that work together within tightly controlled arenas to make each room its own mesmerising score attack action-puzzle sequence; and with a little practice players will find themselves executing perfectly timed balletic twirls straight through incoming laser fire, all the while enveloped by the clean lines and smooth curves of unmistakably Y2K-style architecture.
Publisher: Activision / Developer: FromSoftware
Combine the depth of an RPG with the irresistible nature of card collecting, add a dash of action and you’ve got GameCube exclusive Lost Kingdoms, a dark adventure from a quirky little developer called FromSoftware. Whatever happened to them?
In yet another twist away from RPG norms, the heroine, Katia, never attacks directly herself and is instead entirely reliant on the monsters she summons forth from the cards she buys, captures, and transforms, with players aiming to build a deck capable of taking on the mysterious entity behind the deadly Black Fog.
Far more than a repackaged bundle of previously released classics (not that we ever mind seeing games this good make a comeback), this tricky trio of Nintendo-born puzzlers — that’s Panel de Pon, Dr. Mario 64, and Yoshi’s Cookie — contained on one convenient disc look and play better than ever before.
Whichever title’s your personal favourite, you can look forward to competitive matches against up to four players as well as the chance to take the game on the portable; just connect a GBA to the console and download the original release of these evergreen brain-teasers (and don’t turn the power off until you’re done).
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
‘What if The Legend of Zelda, a series famous since the ‘80’s for its fiendish puzzles and absorbing dungeon-based solo gameplay, suddenly became a frantic cooperative riot?’ asks Four Swords Adventures — and the only answer possible is: ‘It’d be a heck of a lot of fun’.
With an enjoyably episodic adventure at its heart, a competitive mode for those times you want to unleash Link’s familiar arsenal against your friends, and a beautiful ‘SNES+’ graphical style, there’s plenty of reasons to keep your SP fully charged and, even when playing alone, there’s a lot to love. It’s never been easy (or cheap) to set up the quantity of handhelds and cables necessary to play it with a full group of people, but it’s always been worth the effort.
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD
Guide the first member of the DK Crew to banana-collecting victory in this accessible platformer that uses the most unusual control scheme of them all — bongos. That’s right! Grab your plastic percussion and tap, slap, and clap your way through 16 worlds of fruit-themed adventure.
A muscular monkey’s mightiest moment? Maybe not, but the team that made this went on to make Super Mario Galaxy, which should tell you something. If you’re tired of bringing out the same old rhythm games at parties, this makes for an ape-tacular alternative.
That’s our list, but we’re sure you can come up with plenty more! Which offbeat GameCube games would you recommend?