Remember the Nintendo GameCube? The beloved little console that was discontinued in 2007 celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, and die hard Nintendo fans around the world are taking note of the occasion. Although taken out of service to make room for the Nintendo Wii that was launched in 2006, the GameCube is remembered fondly by gamers and critics worldwide for its many innovations – some of which continue to influence the gaming world to this very day. Widely considered to be one of the most underrated consoles in video game history, we take a look at 9 innovations sparked by the Nintendo GameCube.
The GameCube looked like no other video game console before or since. That is because the GameCube looked exactly like what its name described – a cube. Nintendo partnered with Japanese design company ArtX for the look and feel of the console, which was to be fun and innovative. While most game consoles before and since have tended to be flat rectangles, the GameCube was a square cube that was taller than most other consoles and had an unforgettable look to it. This helped to distinguish the GameCube from the two main consoles it competed against, the first generation Microsoft Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 2. Following the Nintendo 64, the GameCube, which was originally called “Project Dolphin,” ended up taking console design in a whole new direction. Taking a cue from Apple and its Mac computers, the GameCube was also available in a range of different colors – from indigo to orange.
Remember memory cards, those removable plastic cards that you use to insert into a console to save your game on? While the GameCube wasn’t the first console to use memory cards, it pioneered the concept of multiple memory cards ranging in size from two megabits to eight megabits, which enabled people to save many games at once for their console. This meant that people generally didn’t have to delete certain game progress from their console so they could make room to save another one. When one memory card filled up, people could simply buy another and it immediately gave them more storage capacity.
7. Handheld Compatibility
One of the most innovative features of the GameCube was the fact that the console was compatible with the Game Boy Advance handheld gaming device. People could connect their GBA to the GameCube via a “link cable,” and this enabled players to access exclusive in-game features using the handheld as a second screen and controller. No other console offered this kind of functionality and it took the GameCube into some really cool directions.
People loved that their handheld could work in tandem with their console and the fact that they could literally play the games they had for their Game Boy Advance on the GameCube. This was one of the things fans loved most about the GameCube, and it helped to strengthen people’s devotion to the Nintendo brand. So it is understandable that a good number of people were upset when Nintendo dropped compatibility with its handheld devices with the launch of the Wii console in 2006 (although if the rumors about the Nintendo NX are true, it looks like the company will bridge the gap between traditional consoles and handhelds like never before).
6. Strong Library
Having an impressive and large library of games is standard today, but the GameCube truly pushed new boundaries with its library of games, as the console is known for having a high number of quality titles. From Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker to Metroid Prime and Pikmin, the games released for the GameCube are generally viewed to be of a high quality. There were few games issued simply to make a fast buck such as those tied to movies released in theaters. Many people who have held onto their GameCube and continue to revere the system do so because of the impressive game library the system has to offer.
5. Optical Discs
Optical discs are a bit of a double edged sword. While they were truly innovative for their time, they were so unique that they became a bit of a problem for Nintendo. Optical discs were the propitiatory media Nintendo used for GameCube software. They were like mini DVDs, as they were significantly smaller in size than traditional DVDs, but this meant that the GameCube could not support traditional DVDs and CDs in the same way that the Xbox and PlayStation 2 could. You couldn’t play music or watch movies on a standard GameCube; it was a pure gaming machine.
However, what the optical discs did offer that was innovative was superior three dimensional graphics. Some game console aficionados claim that the graphics for the GameCube remain among the best ever created (for their time), and cite games such as Metroid Prime as examples of the GameCube’s superiority in the graphics department. For that you can thank optical discs.
4. Motion Controls
Nintendo did not go all-in on motion controls until the launch of the Wii in 2006. However, the company first took out a patent for motion controls and motion controllers and began experimenting with the technology with the GameCube. The company began working with Factor 5, an independent software developer, on motion controllers and that would take the gaming experiment in a whole new direction. Factor 5 experimented on this concept with the GameCube. Initially, Nintendo planned to launch its motion control technology as part of a next generation GameCube console to compete with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 before deciding to go with a completely new console in the Wii.
Even though it was released in 2001, Nintendo was thinking far ahead with the GameCube. In fact, the company developed stereoscopic 3D technology for the GameCube that would have made it compatible with 3D television sets of the future. While other rival consoles of the day also had games with 3D graphics, Nintendo really pushed the boundaries with some titles such as Luigi’s Mansion and Metroid Prime. Nintendo likely would have gone further with its work in 3D had the development of 3D televisions not stagnated due to a high price point and lack of consumer interest. Nevertheless, many gamers and fans feel strongly that the GameCube, its graphics, and its 3D technology helped push the gaming industry into important new areas.
2. No Mario At Launch
One thing that helped the GameCube develop and retain such a loyal following were the titles available for the console at the time of its launch. These included fan favorites such as Luigi’s Mansion and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. There were 15 total games available for the GameCube at launch, all of them well received by critics and fans. And, interestingly, the GameCube is the only Nintendo console ever not to offer a Mario game at its launch. This might seem strange, but fans say it shows that the GameCube was more about innovation and moving forward than clinging to nostalgia and helping gamers relive their childhood as has been the accusations leveled at Nintendo in recent years.
1. Wireless Controllers
The era of the wireless video game controller arguably started with the Nintendo GameCube. It’s hard to imagine now, but controllers used to be connected to consoles via wires. However, Nintendo blew this concept up with its innovative WaveBird Wireless Controller that was designed specifically for the GameCube and used radio frequencies rather than wires to connect to the console. Sold on its own or in a bundle with marquee game Metroid Prime, the WaveBird blew people’s minds at the time and sent Microsoft and Sony scrambling to come out with their own wireless pads.
While standard today, wireless controllers were truly unique back in the early 2000s, and were quickly embraced by gamers who were happy to get rid of the tangle of wires on their living room floor. While not as reliable as the wireless controllers of today that rely on infrared technology, the WaveBird nevertheless pointed the video game industry in an important new direction, and is another innovation that gives the GameCube a lasting legacy.