People ask me all the time why my first console purchase of every generation is Nintendo brand. After all, starting with the Nintendo 64, their systems have been rather bare bones in terms of RPG’s and for someone who likes them so much to consciously make that choice seems like a strange one. There are a couple of related reasons for this:
1) Nintendo first-party releases are compelling enough to make me buy a whole system just to play them.
2) They have crazy good multiplayer games.
Those two things were exactly what made me want a GameCube and continue to support it throughout the years. Heck, it was my only console that generation until 2004 when my brother and I pooled in for a Playstation 2. Titles like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Metroid Prime were obvious enough choices to hold my interest, but the system was also home to more niche games like Lost Kingdoms and Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. In terms of sales, the Gamecube may have lagged behind the competition, but it didn’t matter to me. I was having a blast.
But more than anything, those four controller ports had seen more action than any other system before or after. It was THE party system for me. And I spent many countless nights in both high school and college losing sleep over its vast multiplayer library. The purpose of this piece is to highlight some of the games I played the most on that system. The ones that caused me to break controllers. The ones that allowed me to spend time with my brother and friends. The ones that still compel me to keep them around. These are my ten favorite multiplayer GameCube games.
There is one rule that I imposed on myself: I tried to limit it to games that allowed four-player simultaneous play in some fashion, rather than ones where you just take turns or only support two or three people. I also tried to pick ones that were exclusive to the console at the time (although I did make one exception). Another fun fact: eight of them were published by Nintendo. See? I told you my two reasons went hand in hand. Yay for consistency!
#10 Mario Power Tennis
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Release Date: 11/08/2004
One would think that I would’ve been let down by this game. After all, not only does it offer very little in terms of enhancing the gameplay in the original Mario Tennis on N64, but they took out Baby Mario as a playable character. BABY MARIO! But then I remember that Camelot is responsible for creating Golden Sun and all of the Shining Force games that didn’t suck, and I can’t help but go “Aw, I can’t stay mad at you…”Â
While I wasn’t a fan of the Power Shots and the new gimmick based courses, they at least let you turn those off and allow you to enjoy the game the way that you want. There are also minigames that you can participate in, allowing you to lob tennis balls filled with paint in order to complete a portrait or one where you use balls of water to remove dirt from a course. You can also play different variations of the standard tennis game like one that allows the use of items during the match, or one where you have to hit the ball through a set of rings first. It adds variety, but none of it measures up to the intensity of playing doubles matches with three of your friends, an experience that wasn’t topped for me until Wii Sports did it with their version of tennis.
It should be noted that this game did see a re-release on the Wii with the addition of motion controls, but my limited time with it proved unenjoyable compared to the standard controls. At least you can still play the original on the Wii and hook up your Wavebirds instead.
#9 F-Zero GX
Developer: Amusement Vision
Release Date: 08/26/2003
If anyone had told me in the 90’s that Sega would be developing Nintendo franchises, you would have been laughed out of the room. That idea at the time sounded about as absurd as Pepsi introducing the next flavor of Coke. I mean, these two companies were out for BLOOD. If one thing can be said about Sega, it’s that they know a thing or two about speed (or so their blast processing would have you believe), so a franchise like F-Zero was right up their alley. Thankfully, they were able to do it justice.
Much like the previous F-Zero games, you move fast. And losing control even for a second will send you careening off of the course into a spectacular display of flames. It doesn’t help that your opponents can employ spin moves or slide attacks that can damage your vehicle and cause you to spiral into oblivion. There are a ton of unlockable vehicles and parts to choose from which employ different stats best suited for some courses and not others. You needed to learn what worked best fast if you wanted to succeed in the various circuits. There was also a story mode this time around that centered around Captain Falcon, and it was HARD (but I still beat it!) That wasn’t the best part though.
You can play this insanity split screen with up to four players. Unfortunately, it’s not very accessible to newcomers with the complexity that its courses bring, but it’s still a blast to cruise at blinding speeds against your friends when you don’t know when that next bend is about to occur. Chances are, you won’t make it and neither will they. And everyone will laugh about it at the end.
This is a franchise that needs to come back in some form. It’s probably too late for the Wii, but here’s hoping the Wii U will bring some F-Zero love next generation.
#8 Super Mario Strikers
Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: 12/05/2005
I generally dislike sports games, but somehow if you throw Mario into it, all of a sudden it’s a grand time. I don’t quite understand it either, but I roll with it anyway.
I can’t think of a soccer game that I had played prior to this one. The sport, and games based on them, generally don’t interest me and I was almost about to pass this one off. I’m glad I didn’t. This is another one that you can play four players, and you can even play cooperatively if you want in order to unlock some of the more difficult to obtain characters. You’ll need the extra help, because the A.I. can be grueling. Especially if you try to play the game the way my friends and I did and approach it like tackle football. C’mon, the stadiums are lined on the inside with electric fences, how can you not?
There are also the classic Mario power-ups scattered about that you can use against the opposing team. Banana peels to make them slip, mushrooms to increase your size, and turtle shells to launch at your enemies are all fair game in a standard match. Team captains (such as Mario, Luigi, etc) can also utilize Super Shots that are worth two points instead of just one, but you can turn these off if they feel cheap. There’s also a lack of variety in terms of different modes, which is unusual for a Mario sports title. But the main game is so addicting, you probably won’t notice.
Mario Strikers Charged adds in some motion control minigames to the mix as well as online play, and is also a solid addition to your Wii library. It’s also more likely to give you carpal tunnel than this one, so do with that what you will.
#7 Super Monkey Ball
Developer: Amusement Vision
Release Date: 11/18/2001
The fact that I even remotely considered purchasing this game was a surprise even for me at the time. However, since launch lineups are generally pretty limited, it’s always the best time to try new franchises and I took a chance on some monkeys… and their balls. I was glad I did.
The main mode was entertaining enough. Navigate a course in the same way as Marble Madness only you do so from a third person view rather than a top down one. The game gets more challenging as it goes, throwing more and more difficult courses into the mix. To this day I don’t think I ever got through some of those expert courses.
The party games that you have access to are arguably more interesting than the primary game itself. While you could play through the courses with friends by taking turns, the party games allow for all four players to participate at once. Monkey Race is pretty self explanatory, sending players around laps on a course to see who can finish first. You can also pick up Mario Kart-like items that let you get temporary speed bursts or fire shots to slow down your opponents and allow you to get ahead. Monkey Target has you speed down a ramp and hang glide your way over a target with a point value on it. When you think you are over one that you want (the ones with larger point values are generally harder to reach), you must drop down and hope you land on it. Monkey Target was my personal favorite. You are dropped inside a ring and your ball has a boxing glove attached to it via a spring. You must then punch everyone else off to score points. The one with the most points (or bananas rather) is the victor.
But that’s not all.
There are also a set of minigames that you can unlock simply by playing the main single player mode. Monkey Bowling, Monkey Billiards, and Monkey Golf are amusing spins on the activities they mimic. It’s a little lame that you are forced to unlock these rather than have them open from the start, but I suppose they had to have something to strive for aside from just trying to complete the courses. Some might argue that Super Monkey Ball 2 is the better game, and it certainly is an improvement in some respects. This one just has more nostalgic value for me and I enjoy its courses more. You can’t go wrong with either choice.
#6 The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Release Date: 04/24/2006
Love it or hate it, the connectivity with the GameBoy Advance was a neat invention, one that appeared to be inspired on some level by the VMU screens on the Dreamcast controllers. I mean, what a better way for owners of both a Gamecube and a GBA to get more out of the games they already own by making use of a little purple cable? It was a natural fit for Pokemon fans for sure, but I don’t think anyone expected Nintendo to go to this extreme make it practically a requirement for the next Zelda game. And despite the money investment required in making it work, it led to one of the most fun multiplayer games on the system.
Four Swords Adventures, in keeping with the concept established by the GBA release of A Link to the Past, allows four players to each take control of a different color Link and work together to reach the goal. The only problem is that each player has to have their own GBA, which depending on the model could cost you over $100 on top of one of those $10 link cables for each player. Assuming you have all of this at your disposal though, the game makes impressive use of the technology.
Despite being a cooperative game, you are also competing on some level with your friends in order to earn the most force gems. Most of the action takes place on your TV, but whenever you enter a house or a cave or the like, the action will switch to your GBA screen, so only you can see what you are doing. That way, if you happen upon a hidden cache of some sort, no one knows about it but you.
Aside from the main adventure, there’s also a Shadow Battle mode that is essentially a death match of sorts between the four players. This mode is pretty forgettable, but there if you wanted to slap the hell out of each other.
#5 Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: 02/09/2004
Of course, it wouldn’t be my list if I didn’t have at least one Final Fantasy game on it, right? Considering I did not have a Playstation 2 at the time, the fact that I would get any FF title at launch made me ecstatic. I was living in the snowy tundras of Fargo at the time and drove through a snowstorm to get to a GameStop and pick up this game. Unfortunately, the shipment was delayed on account of the snow. So not only did I have to drive back through the storm empty handed, but I had skipped class that day for no reason, and had to wait until the following day to get to play it.
When I finally did get it though, words can’t express the joy I experienced. While I was originally apprehensive at the fact that each player had a GBA and link cable requirement, much like Four Swords Adventures, I was fortunate in that both my girlfriend and college buddy had their own GBA’s and link cables in addition to the one I got packaged with the game. It was time to get our quest on.
The game was pretty light on story, though there was some light exposition on how the only way to repel the miasma that has consumed the world is to carry around a crystal that must constantly be refilled by a substance called myrrh every year in order to sustain the protective barrier it provides. You are also introduced to the four races of the Crystal Chronicles universe, such as the Clavats, the Lilties, the Yukes, and the Selkies. Each can learn any ability, but have different stats and can wield different equipment.
The purpose of the GBA systems was that each player could manage inventory on their own screen without cluttering up the TV for the other players. I think the idea was so that you wouldn’t be disruptive to your teammates, but you can’t move while you are managing inventory, so everyone has to wait for you anyway. You also get fed maps that display different information for each player, so you had to work together to navigate the stage. One player had to be in charge of the crystal as well, since venturing outside of its protective range exposes you to dangerous miasma and saps your health. Multiple players can even combine spells in order to create a more powerful version of that spell or even a whole new spell altogether.
The game has its flaws, but I sunk many hours into it over the span of multiple playthroughs, both with college buddies and my brother. If you have the equipment to try this yourself, I’d recommend checking it out, as you can find the game itself on the cheap.
#4 Mario Party 4
Release Date: 10/21/2002
The Mario Party franchise is notorious for taking all of the unfairness of your traditional board game and packing it into video game form. I’m completely serious when I say that, you can absolutely suck at the minigames and still come out ahead because all it takes is one bad roll and someone can take all of your stars. And yet, it manages to remain fun so long as you are not playing by yourself. It’s a great party game if only to remind your fellow players that they only reason they won is because the game felt sorry for them.
So why this one over the other three entries on the system? I didn’t enjoy the way Mario Party 5 employed their item system not to mention the minigames were not all that memorable. The sixth and seventh entries added a microphone peripheral to try and mix things up a bit, but I think the formula had gotten stale at that point. Mario Party 4 is where it’s at.
Besides, it’s the only game in the series that has the Dungeon Duos minigame, which is arguably the best in the whole franchise. Yes, it’s nothing more than a simple obstacle course where you are forced to mash buttons to achieve victory, but it’s so frantic and you are forced to rely on a partner in order to succeed.
Oh, and that volley ball game they stuck in there was pretty decent too.
#3 Phantasy Star Online: Episode I & II
Developer: Sonic Team
Release Date: 10/29/2002
Welcome to the console exclusivity exception to my list. Not only is it basically a port of the Dreamcast version, but it has a few things going for it that blows the Xbox release out of the water as well. One of two online enabled Gamecube releases (the other being Episode III), this version of the game adds an entire episode’s worth of content into the mix. Oh, and one other thing that has driven up its market value long after its print run has ended.
Four player split screen.
Like most people, I did not invest in purchasing a modem for my GameCube. It wouldn’t have mattered even if I did, as I was not interested in paying a monthly fee to play with strangers when I could be sitting next to my friends while grinding monsters and killing bosses. My high school buddies and I delved deep into this game when I first got it, but my bro and I ultimately were the ones that completed both episodes. I went on to start another character in college when my buddies there started getting into the game.
There were three different races to choose from and of those, three separate classes. You could also customize the appearance of your character, though it was a bit limited. There was a large variety of weapons you could choose from as well, some that were slow that hit hard, but others that were quick and delivered more hits. Not to mention ranged weapons and magic you could use. Each attack had to be timed, so you couldn’t just spam the attack button and hope for the best. You had to actually hit it at the end of your swing in order to continue the combo, and different kinds of weapons had different timing. PSO also employed the same kinds of techniques as other MMO’s, tempting you to trek back through the same areas again to obtain better gear or earn more levels so that you may advance further.
In all of the Phantasy Star releases since this one, I haven’t been able to find one that tops the experience found here, though here’s hoping that Phantasy Star Online 2 manages to at least come close.
#2 Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
Release Date: 11/17/2003
Not only is this my second most played GameCube game of all time, this is my absolute favorite entry in the Mario Kart franchise. I loved the variety of tracks this time around, the plethora of characters, and the selection of different karts you can use. Not to mention the two person per kart setup is probably the most innovative thing the series has done since its inception. So now four players can compete in the Grand Prix at once and unlock all of the cups and characters, as you can have two people per kart.
While it would seem at first that having two players delegated to separate tasks would be limiting, the level of teamwork that comes with this setup is both thrilling and rewarding. One person focuses on the driving and handing off items to the other player if he/she has any, while the other concentrates on dispensing items at the right time or slamming into nearby karts. Want to switch it up? Both players can just immediately swap places while the kart is in motion and the race will continue business as usual. And if you’re one of the handful of people that own the broadband adapter for the GameCube, you can LAN multiple systems together in order to have sixteen players at once. I doubt most people knew this feature existed, much less had the opportunity to take advantage of it, but it’s there and is at least cool in concept.
That’s what made Mario Kart Wii all the more disappointing for me. While motion controls were an entertaining gimmick, and it was great that they added online play, the rest was a step backwards. The addition of motorcycles didn’t do anything for me and the computer A.I. seemed even more cheap than they were before. As if unlocking characters and cups wasn’t difficult enough, now you can no longer do the Grand Prix with your friends. Plus, they took away the two person karts! HULK SMASH!
Ahem… so yeah, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! is the best Mario Kart ever. If you love the franchise and still own a GameCube (or a Wii), get it. It’s better than the Wii version, I promise.
#1 Super Smash Bros. Melee
Developer: HAL Labs
Release Date: 12/02/2001
I hate feeling like my number one choice is a rather cliché selection, but I guess that just means there are many out there that feel the same way I do. This is the one game that has swallowed more hours of my time than probably any other GameCube game combined. And what sucked was that was the very reason my friends hated playing it with me, since I had played it so often I could hold my own even in 3 vs. 1 matches.
And really, what’s not to like? To take what is essentially a fighting game and remove the aspect of failure when you run out of health and instead make it so that you have to smack your enemy so hard he/she flies out of the arena is an awesome innovation. Add an assortment of items, four player simultaneous play, and characters from every major franchise that Nintendo has under their belt, and its apparent that this game is firing on all cylinders. Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii adds more characters and online play, but the addition of the Final Smashes imbalances things a bit. On the other hand, I didn’t care much for the “wave dashing”Â technique that had to be mastered in order to compete in Melee tournaments, so I would say that both of these games are about equal as far as which one I like better.
Right, so back to Melee. Some of the best experiences I’ve had in a video game were with this game, battling neck and neck against an equally skilled player. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of fighting games, though I do dabble in them a bit. This isn’t what one would consider a “hardcore”Â game in that genre, simply because it doesn’t require the mastery of combos, and stage layouts and items are as big of obstacles as other players are, even if you aren’t skilled in their use. However, even though it is simple to learn, it is difficult to master. It’s crazy to see the kinds of things people can pull off in tournaments, such as strategies that I’d never even thought possible. It’s a unique experience and one I can return to over and over again without losing any bit of enjoyment each time I return. And that’s what makes it my favorite multiplayer GameCube game of all time.
Tags: Gamecube, multiplayer, Nintendo, Top Ten