Released in 2001, the Nintendo GameCube was the successor to the Nintendo 64. Nintendo finally abandoned the cartridge format and released a CD/DVD based game system. But they decided to go with a smaller proprietary MiniDVD Disc instead of using a standard DVD drive like the Microsoft XBOX and SONY Playstation 2 at the time. So you won’t be playing any DVD movies on your Nintendo Gamecube, but that’s OK, I got this baby for playing games!
Nintendo had hoped to regain the video-game market lead back from Sony with the Gamecube (having lost it against the PS1 with the N64) but it wasn’t in the stars. It was actually right around this time that Nintendo started to become known as the younger, more kid friendly system while the Xbox and Playstation became the more “hardcore” systems, mostly due to more online play options and first-person shooters.
Call it what you want, that doesn’t change the fact that the Nintendo GameCube has some fantastic games available like Super Mario Sunshine, Zelda Wind Waker and the incredible Resident Evil 4. Let’s take a closer look.
The GameCube, while not actually a cube at all (maybe a cuboid or rectangular prism?), measures 6 x 6 x 4.3 inches. It is a cool compact package that I personally really like the design of. The Nintendo GameCube originaly shipped in two color options: Indigo (purple/blue) and Black. There would also be a Platinum Silver version released but that was about it. You didn’t see the same massive color variations that the Nintendo 64 had gone through.
On the front of the unit we have four controller ports similar to the Nintendo 64 (the controller position is marked with small dots above each port). Below those are two memory card slots for saving games. There is no internal memory on the GameCube to save games so you will need a memory card. There were three card sizes made by Nintendo (.5MB, 2MB & 8MB) and larger options are available from 3rd party manufacturers.
- Unit Lifetime: 2001-2008 (US)
- Units Sold Wordlwide: 22 Million
- Resolution: 480i, 480p
- Colors Available: 16.7 Million
- Colors on Screen: 16.7 Million
- Power Requirements: 12V 3.25amps
- Sound: 16-bit PCM Stereo
- Games Released US: 648
The top of the Nintendo GameCube features a clam-shell like door for the Mini-DVD games, which you open by pressing the Open button in the front-right corner. At the top left of the lid is a white power button and on the bottom left corner of the lid is a Reset button. Front and center of the lid is an orange LED light that will shine when the power is on.
The left and right sides of the machine are free of any ports or connection, although on the right side you can see two sections that do open up when you remove the covers to ports located on the bottom of the system. So let’s talk about those!
On the bottom of the Nintendo GameCube we have two ports that are behind large cover panels. The first and smaller one located towards the rear of the machine is the high speed parallel port. This port is used with the Game Boy Player add-on that allows you to play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games on your TV. The larger port towards the front of the unit was used for either a broadband or phone-modem adapter for online games, but don’t get any ideas, the SEGA Phantasy Star Online series (which was awesome) were the ONLY games to ever make use of “online” gaming on the Nintendo GameCube. Nintendo didn’t run or operate and online server, they just made a modem (which had to be bought separately) and gave developers the option to use it, which they chose not to.
On the back of the Nintendo GameCube or the business end if you will, are the connection ports. But before we talk about the ports, you may notice the large black arching handle on the back, which is just that, a large black carrying handle so you can lug your cube around like a suitcase when you go to a friend’s house. At this point though I would just make them come to my house if they want to play. Below the handle are the three ports:
Digital AV Out: This port is used with the now rare Nintendo GameCube Component Cable. This cable will allow your Nintendo GameCube to display in 480p, which was HD for the time. I personally am a video-quality snob, so I ordered a set as soon as I found out they were available. You could only order this cable from the Nintendo website, not at any store, and Nintendo only produced them for a very short time. In addition the hardware required to display at 480p is actually built into the cable itself and not the system. There is a small box on the cable which contains the board and is the main reason you do not see any 3rd party options for this cable. As such they have become super expensive. But, if you want HD output, but can’t get the cable, you can play your Nintendo GameCube games on an original Nintendo Wii. The orginal Wii is backwards compatable with the GameCube and its controllers and Memory Cards. Plus the HD cable for the Wii can be easily found for under $20. A Nintendo Wii with several games and all the cables would probably be cheaper than the GameCube Component cable to be honest.
Analog AV Out: If you had any Nintendo system before the GameCube then you are familiar with this port. This will use the same Nintendo Multi-out cable or you could just call is the Nintendo RCA. This will allow you to connect to the TV using RCA or S-video.
Power AC Out: This is where you attach the power supply to the machine. The Nintendo GameCube uses a special power supply brick (DOL-002).
As far as durability of the Nintendo GameCube I would say it’s decent. Like with all of these older Disk based game systems the cd-drive itself is the weakest link. I bought a new Nintendo GameCube from the store probably within the first few months of its release. I had the drive replaced on that system, under warranty, twice. But, I have since had probably 30-40 units in and out of my possession while I was selling them and would say they had a high working success rate. I can’t recall any consistent issues with controller ports or any other functions of the system other than the drive, so they are fairly hardy machines.
A few years into the life of the GameCube, Nintendo made the only modification I’m aware of to the unit. They removed the Digital AV Out port. So this means that you could no longer use the super-rare Nintendo Component cable and get 480p graphics from the unit. You still have the Analog AV Out port that works with the old reliable Multi-AV Cable. Other than that, the systems were cosmetically identical.
So if you’re a video-quality-snob like myself, then this unit would not be for you. But most people won’t notice and/or care about the image quality between Composite, S-video or Component and if you fall into that category, then this version of the Nintendo GameCube is absolutely fine.
So you can tell which version of the GameCube you have by taking a quick glance at the back. If you only have the analog port, then you’ve got a DOL-101. Of course you can also see the model number on the bottom label too.
The Nintendo GameCube Controller
The GameCube controller is about as close to what we consider a “standard” modern (two analog sticks) controller that Nintendo ever made. And it’s a good one!
On the left half of the controller you get the main analog stick and a D-pad. On the right side the A, B, X, Y action buttons have been altered from the Super Nintendo / N64 layout style with the A button now being the big green main center and the other buttons laid out around it. The red B button to the bottom left and the X & Y buttons being grey and are top left and right. Below those is the second analog control stick. It is yellow and has a smaller thumb pad than the left one. In the center of the controller is the Start button.
On the top of the controller are Left and Right shoulder buttons and in addition to those, on the right side above the R shoulder button is a smaller, purple, Z button.
These controllers are rock solid if you ask me. They hold up well over the years and I have no complaints.
The Nintendo GameCube Wavebird Wireless Controller
Released in 2002 the Wavebird Controller for the GameCube was Nintendo first wireless controller. It is laid out the same as the original wired controller with a few extra features.
Below the start button is a power on-off switch with a small LED below that, and on the bottom of the controller is a dial. This dial is used in conjunction with the transceiver base that plugs into the system. On the back of the controller is a battery compartment for 2 AA batteries.
To use these awesome controllers you plug the transceiver, which does not require any batteries, into the Nintendo GameCube. You can plug up to 4 Wavebirds into one GameCube. The transceiver has a small black dial on it like the controller. You need to set the dial on both the transceiver and controller to the same channel. There are 16 channels available. It does not matter which channel you use as long as they match, and if more than one controller is being used, they must have different channels.
The only thing the Wavebird does not have is the rumble feature due to battery needs.
These are very good and very cool controllers. So much so that Nintendo still supports these and the original wired GameCube controller on the Wii, WiiU and the Switch!
Nintendo GameCube Games
The Nintendo GameCube was capable of some very nice graphics and while it may not have matched its competitions polygon pushing power on paper, you couldn’t tell that from the games. Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime and Zelda Wind Waker are just a few games that show what the system is capable of.
In addition to Nintendo’s 1st party titles, SEGA, who had just gotten out of the hardware business with the end of the SEGA Dreamcast, started making games for other systems. This was the first time you could play Sonic on a non-SEGA machine. In fact several Dreamcast titles including Sonic Adventure 2 and Crazy Taxi were ported to the system along with new titles like Super Monkey Ball.
The GameCube is also home to the original masterpiece Resident Evil 4 and the gorgeous remake of the original Resident Evil.
The disks are about half the size of a normal DVD and only store about 1.5GB compared to 8+GB on DVDs used on the competitors systems. Due to the smaller storage space some games required 2 disks.
The games came in the same cases as DVDs, with clips inside to hold a full sized manual and one or two disks.