If I were to ask you what the defining gaming console of 2023 has been so far, what would you say? The Xbox Series X, with its surprise drop of Hi-Fi Rush? The PlayStation 5, with the promise of upcoming exclusives like Final Fantasy XVI and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2? Or maybe the Nintendo Switch, with six years of massive sales leading us to the doorstep of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom?
While all of those are admirable choices, it’s clear to me that the defining console of 2023 is none other than the Nintendo GameCube, which is finally getting the love and admiration it deserves after over two decades thanks to many of its most iconic games getting remastered, remade, and rediscovered by a modern audience.
It’s always felt like the GameCube got lost in the shuffle of its own gargantuan console generation. The PlayStation 2 was a global phenomenon and remains the bestselling console ever at 158 million units. Its list of classics puts it in a rarefied atmosphere – defining entries in the Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Final Fantasy, Persona, God of War, and Kingdom Hearts franchises, alongside individual masterpieces like Okami, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Katamari Damacy.
And on the other end of the spectrum, while the Xbox didn’t have the depth of Sony’s library, the first two Halo games redefined the FPS genre on consoles and helped revolutionize online play into the ubiquity that we have today.
But while the GameCube had a lot going for it – great installments in Nintendo’s biggest franchises, a fantastic and revolutionary controller in the WaveBird, and a neat li’l handle – it was overshadowed by both of its contemporaries, as well as the tidal wave that came afterwards in the Wii. Fans of it like myself are ride or die, but in the grand scheme of things, it seems to have gotten a bit lost to time.
That is — until now.
In the AAA space, the first quarter of this year has been defined by remakes and remasters. Three of the biggest and most celebrated games of 2023 have been new takes on old experiences. While the Dead Space remake kicked things off in January, Metroid Prime Remastered’s surprise drop defined February, and Resident Evil 4’s remake seems to be every bit as successful as what Capcom achieved with Resident Evil 2. And would you look at that – if you take a glance at Metacritic’s highest-rated GameCube games ever, you’ll see Metroid Prime at the top with a 97 and Resident Evil 4 just behind it with a 96.
Of course, RE4 would eventually land on pretty much every console under the sun, but both it and Metroid Prime are games I still deeply associate with my initial playthroughs on the GameCube. What the console’s library lacked in quantity, it most certainly made up for in quality.
But the GameCube love in 2023 doesn’t stop at those two games. This year also saw Tales of Symphonia hit Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, though the remaster is a bit rough around the edges. We have the Baten Kaitos games coming back later this summer, along with the latest installment in the Pikmin series, which was one of the GameCube’s defining new franchises.
Digging even a bit deeper, this year’s Fire Emblem Engage felt like a celebration of the series’s history, which a lot of folks in the West first discovered via Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee, as well as the excellent Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. And with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on the horizon, weirdos like myself are revisiting classic Zelda entries, including Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, both of which originally debuted on the GCN. Side note – Nintendo, please let me put my sad old Wii U out of its misery and release the HD versions of these two on Switch.
On top of all of that, there’s still a treasure trove of GameCube games that I’d love to see make a comeback in some form. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door might be the pinnacle of Mario’s RPG history, Skies of Arcadia Legends made one of the best Dreamcast games even better, Rogue Leader is a top-tier Star Wars game, Viewtiful Joe was Clover at its finest, rumors continue to swirl that F-Zero GX could return, and Wario World proved once again that greed is good. And though many people associate the console with family-friendly games, classics like Killer 7 and Eternal Darkness were some of the defining M-rated experiences of the generation.
The question here is how we’d see some of these games return. Could they be standalone remasters, or is there a possibility that Nintendo expands its Switch Online offerings? We’ve recently seen Game Boy and Game Boy Advance get added to the service, but would they be willing to push it even further? Perhaps this is something Nintendo is saving for the follow-up to the Switch, which has to be coming eventually… right?
Alongside all of this, it feels like we’re in a moment where a lot of new games are being described as having a kind of “GameCube energy” to them. Hi-Fi Rush is a prime example of one of this year’s biggest surprises that felt like it channeled an aesthetic and design sensibility that would’ve fit right at home in the Dreamcast / GameCube early ‘00s era of things like Viewtiful Joe and the Capcom 5. And this makes sense, given that there’s an entire new generation of developers who grew up with those and are now making games of their own. It’s not dissimilar to the 8-bit retro boom we saw in games like Shovel Knight last decade.
So while the GameCube might not have come out on top of its own console generation, it’s clear that its legacy is alive and well in 2023, not only in the actual games themselves, but in how the console would go on to influence an entirely new generation of creators.