Being cool means being comfortable in one’s own skin, ignoring peer pressure, and forging a unique path with undersized discs and a convenient handle. With its playfully purple exterior, quirky awesome controller, and a library of some of the most innovative and inventive games ever released on one platform, the GameCube may be the most Nintendo console the company has ever produced, and as a result, it’s also one of the most beloved.
Though its library may not have been as packed as some of its competitors, much of what the GameCube did have was destined to become classic, changing gamers’ expectations for even their most revered franchises in addition to being just plain fun. While it’s never an easy task to rank an abundance of greatness, the staff here at Goomba Stomp has determined the list of the 35 best games Nintendo’s little console had to offer. Enjoy!
35. Time Splitters 2
Combine the frantic, mission-based first-person shooter action of the N64’s Goldeneye with a few episodes of Quantum Leap, and what results is the very weird and very awesome Time Splitters 2. Fans of Rare’s Bond will feel right at home with the look and feel of this sequel to the PS2 exclusive, which sees players taking on the role of a space marine named Cortez, who must time-travel to various points in the past (and our current future) and assume the role of someone living there to stop an evil alien race from using magic crystals to alter history and take over the universe. It’s silly stuff from a plot perspective, but what other game allows the players to be an Old West bounty hunter in one stage, a Prohibition-Era Chicago detective in another, and a 24th-century robot in the next?
The amount of variety, coupled with slick, responsive controls and plenty of bizarre side content, like decapitating zombies or collecting bananas, makes the single-player experience a memorable one. Even better, Time Splitters 2 allows for split-screen co-op in its story mode, doubling the firepower (or brick power), so taking down those nasty ETs is, even more, fun. With a host of multiplayer options standard for the time and the cheesiness of a Syfy Channel movie, Time Splitters 2 is one of most purely entertaining titles the GameCube has to offer. (Patrick Murphy)
Treasure has a record of creating cult classic games. Sin and Punishment, Mischief Makers, and Gunstar Heroes are some of their more notable titles. Originally released in arcades and then ported to consoles like the Dreamcast and GameCube, Ikaruga stands out as one of the most polished shmups (shoot ’em ups) of the early 2000’s. Its hectic gameplay is focused less around dodging bullets and more on absorbing them. The game’s gimmick is polarity. Every enemy in the game shoots some combination of black or white bullets, and your ship can absorb bullets that match its polarity; however, getting hit by a bullet of the non-matching color will kill you. This gimmick works both ways and hitting enemies with their opposing color racks up more points for your score. You can also choose to do a “pacifist” run of sorts; all enemies and bosses will leave after a certain amount of time, and as long as you can keep absorbing bullets until then you can beat every stage without opening fire.
The work of 4 individuals, Ikaruga looks great for its time. The 3D models of the ships still fly, the two distinct bullet colors stand out, and it all meshes together nicely. Curiously, Ikaruga comes with a built-in rotate mode where you can have the game flip its axis 90°, lining it up with a classic vertical arcade cabinet. All console versions of the game can do this, but the GameCube version is the first one to also have a widescreen option. Ikaruga is frantic, fun, addictive, and is still one of the best shmups out there. (Taylor Smith)
33. Super Mario Strikers
There are two types of people in this world which we inhabit: those who like FIFA and those who don’t. Personally, I’ve always been part of the latter category. Like many others, I had no interest in sports, and the gameplay was too slow-paced for me. But when I come to think of it, I would probably have liked it if the stadiums and teams were smaller, the players were all from Mario games, and you could pick up power-ups, such as shells, banana peels, and special attacks. Luckily, a game that does exactly that was released for the GameCube, and it provided everyone who has no affinity for sports with a chance to finally enjoy a football game.
Super Mario Strikers is hectic, to say the least. There’s never a dull moment because there’ll always be a dozen shells bouncing rapidly from wall to wall while you try to maneuver yourself across the field, hoping to score a goal. Luckily, the game mechanics are simple, and almost anyone can have fun with this game and be good at it without thinking too much of tactics and different approaches to the sport.
The different game modes also provide you with a reason to keep going. Instead of including only quick matches and multiplayer, the game comes complete with a tournament mode, giving the player an ambition, erasing much of the repetitiveness. I could find myself playing this game for hours upon hours, and I still do.
Super Mario Strikers stands alone as the game that successfully melded soccer and Mario Kart together as a whole, a job it did surprisingly well, and the mechanics and game design are good enough to make this a staple for any GameCube aficionado out there. (Johnny Pedersen)
32. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Until Ubisoft decided to resurrect this popular puzzle platforming series, players had no idea how much fun running along walls could be, and what a shame it would have been to miss out. While the original Prince of Persia (which can be unlocked in this game) is mostly known for incredibly smooth animation that also could prove cumbersome when dealing with the many deadly dungeon devices the nameless protagonist faced, The Sands of Time turns its princely hero into a balletic maestro of movement, scaling heights and rounding corners of each booby-trapped room with the grace of a gravity-defying gazelle. Gone is the two-second wait after pushing the button for a jump to be completed, and in its place is satisfying responsiveness that makes navigating stages set against a Persia straight out of One Thousand and One Nights an absolute joy.
Though combat can still be a bit clunky, the pitfalls are the real star of the show, and there are enough devious ones that players will find themselves making good use of the titular grains via the Dagger of Time, a useful item that, among other things, allows for perilous mistakes to be corrected by rewinding time. The result is a free-flowing sense to platforming that holds a challenge without becoming overwhelming, an inspiration for future series like Assassin’s Creed, and one of the best games of all time. (Patrick Murphy)
31. Beyond Good & Evil
Originally meant “to pack a whole universe onto a single CD,” Beyond Good & Evil didn’t quite meet the lofty goal it set for freedom and exploration, but this tale of a young photographer/martial artist named Jade and her pig “uncle”/friend/whatever who uncover a human trafficking conspiracy involving a malicious alien race and a corrupt government has certainly left an impression with those who played it. Armed with a staff, a camera, and a sense of journalistic obligation, Jade sets out to uncover the truth about her strange world by solving puzzles and fighting foes, furthering her investigation as she documents evidence of the DomZ’s atrocities.
Simple Zelda-ish gameplay aside, it’s the world-building of Creator Michel Ancel and his team that deserves the bulk of the credit for this gem’s ever-growing reputation, and while he may not have been able to fully articulate his vision, the striking art direction, beautiful ambiance, and colorful cast of characters provide enough inspiration to get through any tedious stealth moments or clunky hovercraft races. Jade and Pey’j are nicely fleshed-out, the villains are truly despicable, and the mature themes are as compelling as ever. Sometimes an engrossing atmosphere is enough for a legacy, and because of that Beyond Good & Evil has lived on in the minds of those played it long after. (Patrick Murphy)
30. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
While Japan had been playing Fire Emblem games on home consoles since 1990, the West had only known of the series as a portable franchise. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was a big deal not only for being the series’ first worldwide console release, but also being the first game to use 3D models, fully animated cutscenes, and to feature voice acting. It was a huge step forward for the franchise in terms of visuals and set a high standard for later games to live up to.
Despite its overhaul in visuals, Path of Radiance plays it safe when it comes to gameplay. It sticks to its roots, combining several mechanics from across previous titles to help build a good experience. Combat is still dictated by a rock-paper-scissors mechanic, with a few outliers and oddballs thrown in the mix to keep players on their toes. Each member of Path of Radiance’s 40+ playable cast has their own unique story that can be expanded upon through pre-battle support conversations. There are plenty of other things to do in the pre-battle menu, though, such as crafting custom weapons and helping units level up with bonus experience acquired during missions.
It’s no mystery why Path of Radiance commands such a high price given its scarcity, overall positive reception, and a great amount of polish. The game’s positive feedback is what led Intelligent Systems to make the next Fire Emblem title, Radiant Dawn, a direct sequel. (Taylor Smith)
29. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Even though Triforce Heroes can be considered an upgraded version of it, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures is still ridiculously fun to play. Teaming up with three other players to take on huge dungeons is not just a tagline. Puzzles are designed around four Links, and it’s great to slowly come to their conclusions with your friends. Every Link needs to do his share, or no progress can be made, so there’s always a cooperative vibe going on. You don’t mind working together because the entirety of the game is designed around teamwork. There’s also tons of variety here, from all kinds of different items and locations to unique enemies that need to be taken down using different strategies. Four Swords is not a very lengthy game, but so many options are available for puzzle solving, combat, and exploration that it has a Mario Party level of replayability.
However, Four Swords is more than just co-op game. Brilliantly, players can find, collect, and steal rupees from their fellow Links. These rupees are used to revive yourself once you’ve been downed, so if you steal rupees from your teammates, you get to survive longer. If you have the most rupees, you are enemy number one. It’s enough to cause an unending spiral of betrayal. The system is similar to Super Mario 3D World’s crown. It does almost nothing, but all of my friends would toss me into an endless abyss just to make sure I couldn’t have it.
Despite this, Four Swords Adventures is a pure-blooded co-op experience. You’ll have to work with your friends to make it to the goal, and that’s what makes it fun. A sense of comradery is constant; you’ll be crying over, fighting, working with, and hating your friends the entire time. (Ricardo Rodriguez)
Chibi-Robo! is an adventure platformer set in a 1960’s-style American household where you, a 10cm tall robot, assist with chores and various forms of problem-solving. Development for Chibi-Robo! was originally put on hold in its early stages, where it was meant to be a point-and-click style adventure. However, Shigeru Miyamoto saw some potential in this cute little robot and decided to overhaul the project. Miyamoto made the right call, making this quite an enjoyable title. Even washing dishes is cute and fun (never thought I’d say that). Chibi, although the smallest member of the house, easily has the biggest heart (especially when fully charged) and would do anything to make sure the family is happy, even if it is completely draining. Released early in 2006, Chibi-Robo! was met with mostly positive feedback for its clever use of music and sound cues, the enjoyable platforming, and multiple tasks laid at poor Chibi’s mechanical feet. Although it was not a commercial success, it did receive a Japan-only “New Play Control” re-release on the Nintendo Wii in 2009. Chibi-Robo! is an extremely charming gem for the GameCube that can be found for relatively cheap today. (Koru Taylor)
27. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
Long before Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X, Monolith Soft developed a cult classic GameCube-exclusive JRPG that few remember or even have heard of, despite being one of the best late entries in the Gamecube’s library. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, like many JRPGs, may not have the most original, clear narrative and, further falling into the stereotypes of the genre, is hampered by some poor voice acting and rough dialogue, but despite those shortcomings, the rest of the game shines through as brilliant, captivating, and one of the best RPGs of its time. Uniquely, the player doesn’t take on the role of the one-winged protagonist, Kalas, but instead operates as his guardian spirit, making suggestions to Kalas and guiding him in his journey across kingdoms of floating islands full of winged inhabitants. Chemistry with Kalas is rewarded with a bonus in combat, an enticing system that genuinely helps the player relate to the protagonist. The rest of the cast, while annoying in part, are all fairly relatable and will feel like old friends by the end of the game.
The game’s combat is also distinct, utilizing cards called Magnus to attack. While several games have used deck systems since, Baten Kaitos is the earliest I can remember to feature such a system, and does so with far greater success than it’s peers. What truly makes the game stand out is its phenomenal art direction, boasting captivating color combinations, character animations, and beautiful settings and vistas. Graphically, the game is a testament to what the GameCube is capable of. Perhaps even more beautiful is the striking soundtrack, which perfectly conveys the excitement of battle, leaving players feeling the heat of the fight and pulling on the player’s heartstrings when appropriate. For fans of RPGs, Baten Kaitos is a must-play and remains an enthralling, picturesque journey through the clouds. (Tim Maison)
26. Skies of Arcadia Legends
Released as an enhanced remake of an already critically-acclaimed Sega Dreamcast RPG, Skies of Arcadia Legends lets you go beyond the clouds in a world of airships, pirates and booty. You control the Air Pirate Vyse and his friend Aika who are part of the Blue Rogues (the good pirates) on a mission to stop an evil empire from destroying the world using extremely powerful ancient weapons. A turn-based RPG with a very welcoming learning curve for newcomers and unique airship battles that offer loads of strategic depth, there is something for all RPG skill levels here. You can equip moonstones to mix up battles, which will allow you to learn new skills and spells, and there is a spirit gauge for special attacks.
The story isn’t anything new, but it is quite charming and has plenty of humor and surprises, including loads of mysteries to solve. Legends adds nearly 25 new discoveries and more bonus missions for those that love gold quests, and the characters ooze personality. Vyse and friends sail around the skies recruiting new members of the crew, each with small amounts of voice acting and backstory. Arcadia itself is a world rich in its beauty, full of floating islands and many lands to uncover. Another new feature of the GameCube remake is the wanted list, which features difficult battles where the enemy levels up like the player, meaning you will always have a tough fight ahead of you. Other changes include faster load times over the Dreamcast version, a far less annoying random battle mechanic, new secrets and hidden fights, brand-new subplots and plenty of side missions to keep you busy. While not a very difficult game, it is of a decent length, easily 40-50 hours if you see all there is to see in the world of Arcadia. (Koru Taylor)
25. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
When Metal Gear Solid released back in 1998, it took the gaming world by storm. This was the most cinematic game to date, with fully realised cutscenes and voice acted lines that told a compelling and mature tale of betrayal, hope and political intrigue, complete with a healthy dose of giant robots. What could be better than that? How about a graphical overhaul, with the much-improved mechanics from the sequel, Sons of Liberty? Released in 2004 exclusively for the Nintendo GameCube, The Twin Snakes took all the best bits of Metal Gear Solid 2 and mashed them together with an updated version of the genius classic. The result was the best way to play one of the world’s best games, even if a little bit of the brilliance was lost in the process.
The game featured all the updated mechanics of the second game but combined them with the original level design of the first. This made some sections of the game far easier, especially with the introduction of first-person aiming, but while the AI was given a significant upgrade to help combat this, that disconnect between level design and mechanics reduced the difficulty of the game significantly. Many also felt that the new cutscenes were stylistically off-theme, feeling as though they missed the point of Snake’s relative vulnerability. Despite all that, the core of Twin Snakes is still one of the best games of all time made much more accessible (and certainly much prettier). If the updated graphics and mechanics weren’t enough of a sell, all of the voice work was redone (allegedly thanks to leading man David Hayter sacrificing a large portion of his own paycheck) in order to improve the quality of the original. (Rowan McDonald-Nyland)
24. Super Monkey Ball 2
Super Monkey Ball 2 is a brilliant sequel. It takes the bananas concept of the original – monkeys in hamster balls competing in remarkable ways – and rolls much farther with it than the original ever dreamed of. Central to the game is the challenging Story Mode, a series of courses that challenge the player to get their monkey from point A to point B. While simple in concept, the amount of coordination and mastery of controls required to complete the game is daunting but never frustrating, encouraging players to improve and try again. The game also features a difficult Challenge Mode, which features similar, progressively difficult stages to overcome.
While those are a fun diversion, the true strength of the game lies in it’s multiplayer, a crazy collection of party games that range from golf to boxing, all featuring the titular monkeys in their balls. Favorite mini-games from the original also make their return with immense improvements. Monkey Target, for example, a mode in which players launch their monkey off of a ramp and then proceed to use an open monkey ball as a glider, previously played by players taking turns with one controller, now allows all players to all take flight at the same time. A multitude of other mini-games are also progressively unlocked, including Monkey Baseball, Dogfight, Soccer, and Tennis, all fairly amusing, with some outshining the rest. Super Monkey Ball 2 is fun for all kinds of players and perfect for monkeying around with friends. (Tim Maison)
23. F-Zero GX
Sega and Nintendo teamed up and redefined the futuristic racing genre with F-Zero GX, a game which features difficult, high-speed racing styles and brilliant track designs while retaining the basic gameplay and control system from its Nintendo 64 predecessor. GX also introduces a story mode element where the player assumes the role of F-Zero pilot Captain Falcon through nine chapters while completing various missions. The game offers 20 different tracks and over 30 unique pilots, as well as a custom craft editor where players can create their own vehicle. It marked Sega’s first collaboration with Nintendo after having dropped out of the hardware market – and it’s the pinnacle of the series. After all these years, other racing games are still playing catch-up. (Ricky D)
The GameCube hosted more Star Wars games than any other Nintendo home console, but none (including the sequel) could come close to delivering the kind of magical moments that abound in Factor 5’s amazing launch title, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Hardly a more whiz-bang introduction to what sensory feats the little purple box was capable of could be found at the time, and not many have bettered it since. From the very first stage players are bombarded with seemingly hundreds of enemies firing a chaotic swarm of lasers, from pesky TIEs to the lumbering AT-ATs, the action rushing by at an arcade speed to the spot-on John Williams themes and familiar sound effects.
Though the initial onslaught might overwhelm rookie pilots for a moment, tight controls make sure that dogfighting comes off fluid and natural; locking S-foils in attack position never felt so good. From the ubiquitous Hoth level to the epic fleet assault on the second Death Star, Rogue Leader covers all the classic moments from the first trilogy, but the plenty of new missions also retain that Star Wars feel, expanding the universe and giving players another look at how an insignificant rebellion tackled a mighty empire. By honing in on exactly what the N64 original did best – vehicular combat – then enveloping the gameplay in the rich trappings of a beloved universe, Star Wars Rogue Squadron: Rogue Leader did what no other had before on a Nintendo console: it transported fans to that galaxy far, far away. (Patrick Murphy)
21. Resident Evil: Zero
While co-op is common amongst modern Resident Evil titles, Resident Evil: Zero was unique for allowing players control over two characters at once. Players start the game is S.T.A.R.S member Rebecca Chambers – also present in the first game – and quickly encounter newcomer Billy Cohen, a former soldier accused of killing several people. From there and throughout the bulk of the game, players can choose to control either Billy or Rebecca at any given time, with the other one following closely behind. Each has their own health and inventory, meaning that players have to deal with twice as much (though of course, they have twice as much inventory space to do so).
Capcom also decided to do away with the series staple of “item boxes”, opting to let players drop items where ever they pleased and come back to grab them at any time. While this meant fairly lightweight management (players could just drop everything in a central room), it also meant more backtracking than ever. On top of that, this title also had what was probably the weakest story in the series. While it does fill in some of the blanks from Resident Evil, it does so with a villain straight out of a B-grade anime and dialogue that’s laughably bad for all the wrong reasons. Still, from the fantastic introduction sequence aboard a zombie-filled train to the gloomy and atmospheric mansion, Resident Evil: Zero managed to instill a great sense of tension and dread, even if we were battling as much with some design decisions as we were with hordes of the undead. (Rowan McDonald-Nyland)
20. Soul Calibur 2
Soul Calibur 2 is the culmination of everything that made its predecessors – Soul Edge and Soul Calibur – so great. Several unique characters and a combat system that is both relatively easy to learn and nearly impossible to master makes for one hell of a fighting game, and that’s without even mentioning all of the single-player offerings. There are all of the usual fighting game trappings, such as arcade mode, practice, versus and so on. However, Soul Calibur 2 also introduced a single-player mode called Weapon Master, which chronicles the player’s adventures as they travel the world to find the legendary sword, Soul Edge.
Each mission is given a fairly length text-based introduction before players find themselves battling under unique and varied conditions, such as constantly draining health or an opponent that can only be hurt with throws. This mode also lets players collect several different weapons for each character, which come with both visual and mechanical changes. Some weapons exchange defense for attack or come with a longer reach. Regardless of their effects, simply building a collection of weapons makes for hours lost as players jump into every mission they can find. The combat itself is the highlight. Players can swing vertically for more damage or horizontally for a better chance to hit, as well as move in eight directions. This is all on top of parries, guards, dodges and other special attacks that make for one of the most satisfying combat systems in gaming history. Of course, the GameCube version also introduced Link from The Legend of Zelda as a playable character. Here, Link is the complete package – bombs, arrows, a boomerang, you name it. While he was never considered a “top-tier” character (and all platform exclusive characters were banned from competitive play anyway), Link is constantly a blast to play. Plus, this was the game that introduced Raphael, who is objectively the best character in any Soul Calibur game (fight me). (Rowan McDonald-Nyland)
19. Star Fox Assault
For the kids that were born too late to experience the Nintendo 64 at the peak of its popularity, the GameCube provided them with their introduction to the world of Nintendo franchises, be it Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Bros, or even Star Fox.
When it comes to the latter, the system provided us with two installations – Star Fox Adventures and Star Fox Assault. And while Adventures was a shot at innovation and reinvention of the franchise, Assault stayed true to its predecessor by revolving around what was the norm for the series – spaceships, explosions, tanks, space, you name it.
Star Fox Assault made itself stand out from other games in the franchise.
While the games typically involved exclusively vehicular action, Assault made the player feel like he or she was part of a high-end strike team. Fox and associates were now able to take the gameplay to a whole other level, as they would often take the combat to ground level, as foot soldiers. This was not only incredibly cool to watch, but it also played like an entirely new game, adding a large amount of depth to an already awesome game.
This also provided us with a multiplayer feature we couldn’t stop adoring. Groups of friends would now gather at the nearest GameCube system, ready to take control of Fox, Falco, Skippy, and Peppy in a game that was nothing like anything else the system had to offer. One could battle on foot, hop in a tank, gather weaponry, take the battle to the skies by jumping in a ship; the opportunities were endless, and the levels we were provided with were varied and immersive, making the whole game an utter delight from start to finish. Star Fox Assault provided me and many other children with our first brush with Star Fox, and we were all loving it.
18. Tales of Symphonia
Tales of Symphonia was plenty of Nintendo fans first foray into the Tales series, and what a first game it was. It’s got a lot of character and charm to its visuals. Symphonia is the first Tales game to venture into the third dimension, and it’s where the series’ pastel-styled graphics started to take form. The charming cel-shaded models and environments looked great for 2003, and they still look pretty good today. It wasn’t just a precedence for graphics that Symphonia set for the series, though. Every 3D Tales game can trace its roots back to Symphonia‘s free-running arena-like combat system. An intricate library of spells and special moves can be assigned to shortcuts in skirmishes, moves can be canceled into one another, dodging is done in real-time rather than by just a random number generator, and spacing and blocking are key elements of battle in harder fights. When you’re in combat, Symphonia feels more like a fighting game than an RPG.
It’s not just graphics and combat that make Symphonia the gem it is; story and longevity play a huge role too. This is one of the few two-disc GameCube titles, and it lives up to that size with the main story almost 50 hours in length, and that’s not even touching on the myriad of side-quests and odd events you can encounter along the way. Lloyd and his band of friends are on a journey to restore harmony to their world, but they’re dragged into a conspiracy much bigger than any of them could have imagined. Allies and enemies come from all different kinds of backgrounds in a story that becomes much larger than the typical hero’s journey. Its charismatic cast of characters are all voiced in most cutscenes, adding an extra little layer of depth to who they are and creating a memorable RPG party. Overall, Tales of Symphonia is a staple any JRPG fan should try at least once, be it the GameCube original or the HD PlayStation 3 port. (Taylor Smith)
17. Viewtiful Joe
Viewtiful Joe represents everything that made the fourth generation of consoles so special. Its look is unique, taking advantage of the shell shaded art style to channel that iconic comic book aesthetic. And that comic style is spread to its story and even gameplay, both oozing with charm and polish. The dialogue between characters and areas you find yourself in are highly reminiscent of America in the 1990s, which was just a generally goofy time. Interactions are usually packed with “dudes,” “far outs,” and extremely elongated “whoas.”
A big chunk of Viewtiful Joe is not only based on the 90s as a whole, but specifically one of the 90s’ greatest pop culture sensations: The Power Rangers, and huge mechs and silly suits aren’t the half of it. The entirety of the gameplay is based off the show’s corny visual effects and genuinely cool fighting sequences. Joe can punch, kick, and dodge just like a Ranger, but he also gains the ability to control certain camera effects like slow motion, fast motion, and zooming in and out. These affect the platforming and puzzle solving as well, providing constant variety throughout the journey.
Don’t let Viewtiful Joe’s cartoony visuals and goofy attitude fool you, however; it’s seriously hard. I’m talking difficulty that aggravates you to controller-destroying, wall-headbutting, console-hurling-into-space levels. At first, only a few enemies will surround you at one time. Then, without notice, dozens of baddies will attack, while some shoot you with a rocket launcher from a distance, while two helicopters dive bomb towards the battlefield, while you uselessly flail in anguish. Though, it remains accessible. I still recommend it to any who enjoy awesome games, and who have absolute control over their temper. (Ricardo Rodriguez)
The original Pikmin is a charming little game that served as a grand tech demo for the GameCube, showing off a number of unique models it could handle, the system’s powerful graphical capabilities, and Nintendo’s ability to competently create a real-time strategy game on the console. That said, Pikmin 2 is the full realization of these ideas, removing the original game’s more frustrating elements and delving more into what makes the series interesting.
While Pikmin 2 is still a hybrid RTS/puzzle game, there’s a huge emphasis on exploration. The 30-day time limit from the first game is gone, but the day-to-night timer is still there. You still have to manage your time properly, but there’s no rush or punishment for not optimizing how you go about collecting treasure across the foreign planet. The game rewards curious players, hiding many of secrets well out of the way, and making maps so big you can’t possibly cover them in just one day. Pikmin 2 also introduced dungeons, micro levels within levels that don’t consume your timer, which is pretty good since they can sometimes take hours to complete (an average Pikmin “day” is about 13 minutes).
While making the game more accessible by removing the time limit is great, where Pikmin 2 really excels is in the variety of things it adds to give the game more strategy elements. Two new Pikmin types add layers to combat and puzzle solving. Large purple Pikmin can stun enemies they’re thrown at and lift the same amount as 10 Pikmin of any other color, and small white Pikmin can dig up various pieces of buried treasure and deal with enemies and traps that use poisonous gasses without harm. Pikmin 2‘s other big upgrade was adding a second captain in the form of Louie, allowing skilled multi-taskers to complete a variety of challenges and puzzles at the same time. It also led to an interesting VS mode, probably the game’s weakest element, but worth trying at least once.
Pikmin 2 is without a doubt the best games in the franchise. The amount of polish and in-series innovation it has makes it a must-own for any GameCube collector. Both it and the original are available on the Wii with “new control style” re-releases, with the first game having just been added to the Wii U’s line of digital download Wii titles. (Taylor Smith)
15. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem debuted in the summer of 2002 with a different take on the horror genre. Set in a Rhode Island mansion (shudders), you play as Alexandra Rovias, who is investigating the murder of her grandfather, Edward. Inside his mansion, you find a secret room full of strange treasures and keepsakes, including a strange book called The Tome of Eternal Darkness that is bound by human flesh. When Alexandra reads this book, she starts reliving the lives and histories of 12 others, including her grandfather. With each piece of the Tome scattered throughout the enormous mansion and multiple starting paths to take, there is plenty to experience within these walls. Eternal Darkness isn’t anything new from a combat standpoint, but it is a unique game mainly due to its timeline story and “Sanity Effects” that play several psychological tricks on the player. It further pushes the horror by making you question what is real. You’ll hear strange sounds, see things that aren’t really there, and witness the walls bleed. Your volume will turn itself down, your memory card will “delete” itself, or your character’s head might fall off without warning. These effects, combined with engaging story development and solid gameplay made Eternal Darkness lauded across the board, a must-play game-winning many awards, despite it’s modest sales. (Koru Taylor)
14. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
While the Metroid Prime trilogy is rightly touted as being home to some of the finest games in the franchise, Echoes is often cited as the weakest of the three, and not without reason.
The light and dark world mechanic had been used by Nintendo before, most notably in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. On top of the old hat concept, Echoes also deviated heavily from its progenitors by actually punishing exploration for large sections of the game, as any time spent in the dark reality damaged the player outside of safe zones.
Qualms aside, Echoes does still offer a lot to love. Its beam system was completely original, and it came up with more new gadgets and mechanics than either of its Prime siblings. It also introduced one of the franchise’s most popular antagonists in the form of Dark Samus. Though this was another riff on an idea that originated in the Zelda series, Dark Samus is still a great villain, and the encounters with her are tense and memorable.
Though not Metroid’s finest moment, Echoes is an astute reminder that even a subpar Metroid game is generally heads and tails above everything else on the market. (Mike Worby)
13. Resident Evil (REmake)
There was a lot of sour grapes for Nintendo fans during the reign of the N64. While Nintendo’s first-party products kept fans from starving completely, exciting new franchises like Resident Evil bypassed the console almost entirely.
Luckily, Capcom rectified this with a smorgasbord of Resident Evil titles on the GameCube, beginning with one of the best remakes in gaming history. Resident Evil, often called the REmake to distinguish it from the original, is a remake so successful that it actually renders the original nearly unplayable by comparison.
The REmake took everything that worked about Resident Evil and improved upon on it while excising all of the refuse along the way. With new additions to the plot, sharper graphics, tighter gameplay, and a notable lack of terrible dialogue, the REmake is rightly touted as one of the all-time great remakes in an industry that’s now full of them.
To boot, it still looks great today, even if certain gameplay elements don’t necessarily hold up so well. If you have PS Plus, then hopefully you grabbed the HD remaster last month for free, as it’s well worth a playthrough, both as a time capsule and as a genuinely great survival horror title. (Mike Worby)
12. Super Mario Sunshine
Following the worldwide success of Super Mario 64, developers at Nintendo were under a lot of pressure to follow it up with another 3D platformer set in the realm of the Mushroom Kingdom. The GameCube, with its improved graphics and processing power, provided the developer with an opportunity to explore entirely new designs and gameplay mechanics, which manifested itself in the form of Super Mario Sunshine.
The most crucial difference between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine is, of course, the completely revamped mechanics, as seen in the introduction of the F.L.U.D.D device, which allows Mario to make use of water and velocity in order to transport himself across gaps in the vivid, unique environments of the game. This whole concept sounds like it would be amiss amongst gamers, but it proved itself to work perfectly, and once again Nintendo had proven themselves unrivaled in innovation.
While the F.L.U.D.D mechanic is probably the most prominent difference between Sunshine and other Mario titles, the fact of the matter is that nearly every component of the game differs from the norm of the franchise. Whether you look at the aesthetics, the characters, or even the setting of the game as a whole, Super Mario Sunshine was a fresh breath of life from the company and remains a staple title for the system. (Johnny Pedersen)
11. Animal Crossing
It’s tough to coherently convey why Animal Crossing is so fun. As a human who moves in to the midst of a village of friendly animals, you wander around, chat with animals, decorate your house, and try to pay off a mortgage. Contentedness with the size of your avatar’s home is an impossibility, and continually you’ll find yourself in the pitfall that is an expansion and a brand new mortgage. You can never have enough stuff, you want a new look, and you need more money for it all. In short, Animal Crossing is one of the most true-to-life, microcosmic experiences ever captured in a video game, all wrapped up in a charming, cute, animal-themed bow. Perhaps the true charm of Animal Crossing is in its clever characters, funny AI animals who act all on their own, share with the player, ask for help, advice, or a new catchphrase, and can even adopt a catchphrase from a neighbor. Perhaps those seemingly living animals feel even more real existing in a world that persists even when the player isn’t present.
The most fun might be seeing that persistent world change with the seasons, bringing new things to do and collect on top of shaping the look of the town. Perhaps it’s the variety of things to do, from fish to digging up fossils, to bug hunting, to redecorating that’s the most enjoyable. Hell, there are even classic NES games to play inside the game itself. Or maybe the variety of collectibles, including clothing, decorations, and furniture sets that make Animal Crossing so enticing. There’s certainly no end to the things achievable in game, like completing the museum’s collection, finishing a furniture set, or paying off that last mortgage, and whether in a period of ten minutes or ten hours, there is always something entertaining to do. Then again, perhaps Animal Crossing is so addictive and so amusing because it allows you to do virtually whatever you want within your tiny, life-like town, be that absent-mindedly chasing butterflies or conscientiously working toward that next payment. Animal Crossing can be whatever you want it to be. But I’m of course being facetious with all of this. The most fun thing to do is hit your neighbor with your net. (Tim Maison)
Whether a gentle allegory about environmentalism or a twisted tale of an elitist spaceman who subjugates an entire plant/animal hybrid species and sacrifices them for his own personal agenda without batting an eye, Nintendo’s Pikmin is irresistibly charming fun. The mix of puzzle-solving and exploration with some light real-time strategy proved the perfect fit for console gamers, accessible in its simple controls yet deep enough for experienced players to sink their teeth into. The pleasure of playing as the giant-headed Captain Olimar comes from, believe it or not, time management, as planning out moves to maximize the efficiency of a day’s work turns out to be immensely satisfying. Breeding Pikmin like the Matrix robots bred humans takes precious minutes away from important spaceship parts-hunting wall-breaking, so when the spirit one of those little guys floats up into the sky and dissipates into thin air with a painful squeak, the player really feels the hit his or her resources just took.
The solid gameplay is also supported by crisp visuals depicting the world as the ants in Miyamoto’s garden must see it, with giant forests formed from blades of grass, and mutant predatory bugs that rule the night. Though the 30-day time limit before Olimar suffers oxygen poisoning and a horrific death may turn some off who just want a relaxing adventure on a not-so-alien planet, this is still a Nintendo game after all, and most shouldn’t have a problem finding most of what they need for the spaceman to escape alive. A quirky little system deserves quirky little games, and that’s exactly what the GameCube got when Nintendo made one of their best with Pikmin. (Patrick Murphy)
9. Mario Kart: Double Dash
Since its inception on the SNES back in 1992, every Nintendo home console has had a Mario Kart, and Double Dash is definitely one of the cooler games in the series. On top of more than doubling the playable roster of characters, Double Dash is one of the few Gamecube games to make use of the GameCube Broadband Adapter, which lets you hook up multiple consoles. The game’s gimmick and namesake are being able to swap between two racers on one kart. With the adapter, you can have full 16-man races, a feature no other console Mario Kart title can do. The only true way to really experience Double Dash is with 7 friends, two consoles, and two TVs for an 8-man race.
There’s more to Double Dash than just its awesome LAN options, however. It’s the first game in the series to allow you to pick your racers and kart independently of each other, giving almost 200 different combinations of drivers and karts. The game also has a co-op race mode, something that hasn’t been done since. Co-op lets players swap between using items and driving and also gives access to new moves, such as allowing the player riding in the backseat to steal items off of other players and increase the amount of initial boost you can get at the start of the race.
Double Dash is an oddly innovative and experimental title on the GameCube that helped redefine Mario Kart. Freedom of kart choice has been a staple ever since, and the massive local races you can have on the DS and 3DS games, as well as the online races on the Wii and Wii U entries, all call back to Double Dash and its use of a LAN connection. A personal favorite of mine and many others, Mario Kart: Double Dash is a “must-own” for the GameCube. (Taylor Smith)
8. Luigi’s Mansion
After being Mario’s sidekick for more than a decade, Luigi was finally given the chance to once again star in his own game. Luigi’s Mansion was a launch title for the GameCube, and the second title in the Mario franchise where Luigi is the main character, (the first, being Mario is Missing!). The game features some refreshing ideas, a unique and atmospheric experience, an entire cast of new characters to populate the Nintendo universe, as well as one of the best examples of sound design found on the GameCube. It was an extreme departure from what Mario Bros. games are known to be, and a virtual textbook of video game special effects. (Ricky D)
7. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
No stickers, no cards, nothing; it turns out that the key to making a beloved Nintendo role-playing game and the best game in the Paper Mario franchise is simply to stick to the genre basics of progression and deliver a whimsical storybook adventure in a visually stunning world. The Thousand Year Door does exactly that, giving fans of the N64 original wittier and often hilarious dialogue, distinct and engaging characters, and that ever-satisfying timing-based combat system that the Mario RPGs are known for.
The plot, unfolding around the mystery of a seaside town called Rogueport and the predictable disappearance of one Princess Peach, probably won’t knock anyone’s socks off, but the compelling narrative or no, charm has always been at the heart of the appeal of Paper Mario, and The Thousand-Year Door is loaded with it. From the seven party members that join the heroic plumber to lend a hand, like the sassy Goombella or the grieving Admiral Bobbery, to the diverse cast of Mushroom Kingdom favorites populating the land, the astounding amount of personality on display can’t help but pull the player into this pop-up world come to life. Thankfully the gameplay doesn’t pull them out of it, so full attention can be given to grinning over the reams of clever puns and marveling at the amazing attention to detail on display. A couple of sequels later, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door still stands as the benchmark for the franchise, and one of the best GameCube games. (Patrick Murphy)
6. Resident Evil 4
Series creator Shinji Mikami reinvented the wheel with the fourth numbered entry in the Resident Evil franchise. Reinventing the series was a risky move, but fortunately, Capcom nailed it with a new over-the-shoulder third-person aiming system that reinvigorated the genre. There is a reason why this game is cited as one of the primary inspirations for many extremely successful third-person shooters such as Uncharted, Gears of War and Dead Space. Resident Evil 4 did for the action-horror genre what Super Mario 64 did for 3D platformers. By combining horror with genuinely clever, exhilarating survival combat and an oppressive atmosphere, Capcom created a near-perfect game and arguably one of the finest video games ever made – and its greatest achievement is how fresh and vital it remains after all these years! (Ricky D)
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
The first Tony Hawk game may have set the bar, but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 kick-jumped that bar of quality and landed a perfect 1080 manual. It was the final game to use the classic formula, and it perfectly nailed the template. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 took everything that was great about the first two games and refined them even further with dozens of new tricks, exciting stages, and plenty of goals to achieve not to mention more interactive environments and amazing visuals for its time. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 let players skate around everything from a cruise ship to a broken motorway overpass to Roswell, a fictional level located in New Mexico, and even Canada’s Olympic Park, located in Calgary. Better levels, more play modes, a better soundtrack, make this edition remain the definitive Tony Hawk game for many die-hard fans, like me. (Ricky D)
4. Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess is probably most remembered for being the introduction for many fans to the Wii, but it was also the swansong of the GameCube. And what a beautiful song it was. Coming off the also magnificent Wind Waker four years prior, Nintendo decided to take things in a darker direction. In fact, people have called Twilight Princess the darker version of Ocarina of Time, and those who are familiar with the N64 classic certainly see a few similarities…okay, a lot of similarities. Taken on its own merits, Twilight Princess is an outstanding game, period, in addition to being one of the best in the series. Its dungeons are some of the most well-designed in the franchise, including the roller coaster tracks of Arbiter’s Grounds and the mysteriously icy Snowpeak Ruins. It’s also noteworthy that, for a game that supposed to be dark, it tackles mature themes like loss and mortality without abandoning the series’ roots. With its refined mechanics taken from The Wind Waker, an art style inspired by the illustrations of Brian Froud, one of the best sidekicks in the series in the enigmatic Midna, and one of the best-told stories in video games, complete with a very poignant ending, Twilight Princess is a masterpiece. (Mark Sylvia)
3. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Director Eiji Aonuma’s swashbuckling adventure The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, set 100 years after the events in Ocarina of Time, stands as one of three best games released in the series thus far. Along with the N64 classic and A Link to the Past, The Wind Waker masterfully baits and hooks players in with its perfect blend of polished design, tightly crafted controls and beautiful presentation. Utilizing a completely new look with cel-shaded graphics, the game casts players in the role of a familiar young Link who sets out on a long voyage across troubled seas, into dark dangerous dungeons and against ruthless foes to save his kidnapped sister. At the time of its release, it was immediately evident that Wind Waker was going to be different from the previous Zelda titles, yet it’s surprising that the grandeur of The Wind Waker‘s bold, thick strokes, lusciously saturated palette, and the notably boyish protagonist with his humongous, expressive eyes ever caused so much controversy back in 2003 — because over a decade later, the game’s legacy remains defined by its visuals.
Players with keen eyes and an appreciation for art will know that Nintendo doesn’t just do things for the sake of pure experimentation. When developing The Wind Waker, Nintendo not only created a hugely stylistic world down to every last detail but also pushed the power of GameCube to do so. Upon closer inspection, cel-shading clearly was the right choice. This is a game that emphasizes the vastness of the open ocean and the open sky, and, with the application of cel-shading, every wave, every gust of wind is beautifully pronounced against a backdrop of colorful hillsides, small villages, and coastal locales. And like all previous titles in the series, the dungeons prove to be the most enjoyable aspect of this game, despite having so few. It is within these dungeons that Wind Waker shines. The true beauty of the visuals stands out, as each dungeon is brought to life with an astounding amount of detail. It’s ultimately not difficult to see why The Wind Waker has become something of a classic in the years since its release. Overall the Wind Waker is a huge achievement in every way, from the classic mix of sword-swinging action, perplexing puzzles, stirring storylines, vibrant art, evocative soundtrack, a cast of colorful characters, beautiful melodies and a fantastic battle system that propels the adventure and exploration. For many, the Zelda brand represents the pinnacle of gaming, and The Wind Waker stands tall, side by side with the very best. (Ricky D)
2. Super Smash Bros. Melee
The original Super Smash Bros. for the N64 is uncannily fun to play and is as entertaining now as it was when it released in 1999, yet two years after its release the game was outdone in almost every capacity by its successor, the ever-popular and still played Super Smash Bros. Melee. Melee offers everything the original does (a clash of lovable Nintendo mascots) but significantly expanded. From the outset, there are fifteen playable characters in Melee, three more than the original, including the unlockable characters, with ten more to be unlocked with progression through the game. What’s more, those fighters are almost perfectly balanced. Consequently, Melee allows every player to truly play to their preference. On top of that, there are twenty more brilliantly crafted stages on which to play, adding a lot more variety in the locales than ever before.
Melee is also responsible for the series’ staple tournament mode, not to mention the increased number of items and modes to boot. It also introduced new single-player modes that would become staples of the franchise, Adventure mode, and All-Star mode, allowing players to push their skills to new and unexpected limits. Melee also debuted trophies, collectible statues that provide interesting bios for characters both in the game and non-playable characters, providing fun context for the larger wealth of material the game derives its characters and stages from. With graphics that truly demonstrated the strengths of the GameCube, fun single-player and multiplayer gameplay, well-designed stages, impeccable character design and control schemes, and beautiful balance, Super Smash Bros. Melee is correctly considered one of the best fighting games of all time. (Tim Maison)
1. Metroid Prime
When Metroid Prime was first announced, amid several reinventions of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, it was met with an understandable level of backlash and skepticism. The notion that one of the most beloved side-scrolling series of all time would be forcibly morphed into a first-person shooter was not a popular one.
Luckily for fans, they turned out to be dead wrong. With a little help from Texas-based Retro Studios, Nintendo was able to deliver arguably the best Metroidgame yet, while simultaneously changing the game on what people could expect from the FPS genre.
All of the key mechanics from the series made the jump from 2D to 3D without missing a beat, and new ideas like alternate visors and physics-based morph ball puzzles make the game a unique challenge, even for longtime fans.
Without a doubt the finest game on the GameCube, and one that still sits in my personal Top 10, Metroid Prime was the best reason to pick up a Nintendo’s little purple box and remains an undisputed classic that still holds up today. (Mike Worby)
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What’s love got to do with it? Link’s 5 Best Almost Romances in ‘Zelda’
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on February 14th, 2016.
For all the fairy tale aspects and emphasis on collecting hearts, the Legend of Zelda games aren’t exactly known for getting overly lovey-dovey. Despite having two characters who are clearly meant for each other, Link and Zelda have been basically all about business over the last thirty years, putting work before pleasure. Sure, there have been the occasional sideways glances or insinuations in between killing the pig monster that’s trying to take over their world, but otherwise the relationship has mostly stayed strictly platonic, full of the kind of stiff mutual respect that leads to underpopulation.
Zelda, of course, is burdened with the many responsibilities that come with running a kingdom constantly under siege by the forces of darkness, as well as presumably having to consistently fight the urge to give in to Stockholm syndrome during each of her many kidnappings. So basically, she’s pretty busy, really focusing on her career right now. She’s also royalty, so that’s intimidating (and most likely requires a similarly noble suitor). And Link? Don’t mistake his oversleeping for laziness. This guy needs his rest so he can slay monsters and push boxes that should be way too large for him to push. The Chosen One just doesn’t have time to play the Hyrule Field, and frankly, just like with a superhero, it’s probably best he doesn’t get to close to anyone.
Still, there have been hints of love over the last few decades, with Link’s opportunities extending to relationships of tenderness and awkwardness alike that have offered hope of a Happy Ever After for the hero in green. Unfortunately, he’s killed fans’ hopes by blowing every one of them, whether by tragic twist of fate or simply running away in embarrassment. Oh well. Here are the best of the “almosts”:
Throughout all of the Zelda games, one thing has become apparent: Link doesn’t really do guy friends. This trait is on full display in Ocarina of Time, but while Link may never be bros with that jealous jerk Mido, that doesn’t mean he’s all by his lonesome. His companionship with an actual Kokiri is clearly a deep, meaningful one, and so Saria becomes one of the most endearing characters in the game. Sure, Malon is cute in that farmer’s daughter kind of way, but she seems more in love with horses than heroes, and besides, with a dad who can’t take care of himself, you know the honeymoon would be short. But Saria genuinely cares. She gives Link an ocarina, a pretty cool gift if you’re a forest person, and she teaches him a song so that they can always be in contact (hint, hint). Add to that the long, sad, lingering look on Saria’s face as she watches her “friend” cross the bridge to adventure, and you know there was something going on.
So after defeating Phantom Ganon in the Forest Temple and revealing Saria as the Sage of Forest, her resigned acceptance that their carefree days are behind them is a bittersweet acknowledgment (and reminder) that duty will always come before happiness. Mido’s revelation later that she had been waiting all this time for Link’s return doesn’t help with the melancholy, her unfulfilled pining just another casualty in the fight. But hey, at least she gets to hang out with a bunch of other misfits who are similarly trapped by their fated responsibility! Including…
I’m not sure that anyone has thrown themselves at Link more than Princess Ruto. As a spoiled brat being carried around inside a giant fish that ate her, Ruto develops a one-way relationship that culminates in her believing the two to be engaged when she hands over Zora’s Sapphire, all while blushing profusely. These aggressive signals couldn’t be any more obvious, but Link does a great job of playing it cool and clueless. She really doesn’t pull too many punches though, and it’s hard to explain why he doesn’t bite. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their lives with someone who’s rude, entitled, and bossy? So what that she’s an entirely different species and any offspring would be freaks of nature?
Even when older Link meets her later, she finds time to bring up their love life amidst all the seriousness of being a very important Sage, scolding Link for making her wait so long, then explaining how she can’t be with him until her duties are over. It’s all hilarious until you think about what would happen if Princess Ruto ever really did get free. Sorry fish lady, but the princess for Link is in another castle.
With its tropical setting, one would think that Link’s Awakening would be one of the best chances for Link to find true love, but alas, even though he meets the girl of his dreams (who even looks like Zelda!), yet again it’s not meant to be. It’s hard not to instantly relate to Marin and her fascination with the young lad who washed up on Koholint’s shore. She has been trapped on an island her whole life, imagining a big exciting world out there beyond the vast ocean’s horizon, and yearning to see it. What kid (and many adults) can’t identify with that feeling? Link represents discovery, adventure, and the enthusiasm and verve she displays because of this is infectious. She definitely likes him, but does she like him like him?
Though quick to chide Link for hitting a cucco or smashing a jar, she’s rather shy about her feelings, but a couple of things slip. Sitting side-by-side on a log at the beach, she reveals her deepest desires and asks to know everything about him (before awkwardly laughing the question off), and later on top of a mountain, nearly confesses something before being interrupted by her father. The game itself even seems to think Link has a shot, asking after the hero “acquires” her and holds her high above his head like a treasure he just found, “Is this your chance?”
Sadly, however, Marin’s story may be the most heartbreaking of all Link’s ladies. She knows that when the Wind Fish wakes up, all of Koholint, herself included, might vanish into memory. She pleads with Link that “some day you will leave this island… I just know it in my heart… …Don’t ever forget me… If you do, I’ll never forgive you!” Marin just wants to exist, to feel, and Link, the person who has awoken that inside her, is destined to be the one that takes that from her. Getting the best ending to the game reveals some hope that maybe these two will meet again one day, in a magical land far away.
Has Link ever had a more fully-formed relationship with anyone than what he shares with the impish former ruler of the Twilight Realm? Following the classic Hollywood arc, the two start out bickering and irritated with each other, Midna constantly hounding her wolfish companion, with Link begrudgingly powering through the pain in order to get to the princess he actually likes. Naturally then, over the course of many trials and monster-shaped obstacles, the two slowly began to develop a mutual respect and liking for each other, as tragic backstories are revealed and codes of honor are put on full display. By the end, when sassy beast turns into great beauty (a nice twist on a classic fairy tale trope), Link is left speechless (big shocker), much to Midna’s delight. “What? Say something! Am I so beautiful that you have no words left?” This is called flirting, people. If I was Link’s wing man he would’ve received a nudge in the ribs right here.
In fact, most of their interactions over the entire game comprise of her playful teasing, the type of schoolyard antagonizing that is akin to pulling someone’s hair and running away. If Link’s the kind of guy I think he is, these insults will only add to the liking. On top of that, her mysterious nature and later trusting openness can only strengthen the interest. Of course, what it could easily boil down to is just that really, they’re the perfect match: she’s funny and talks a lot, while he’s well, Link.
Unfortunately, he stays true to silent form, and after a brief pause at the end where she clearly wants to admit her feelings but (I’m assuming) feels awkward with Zelda around, Midna departs back to her own dimension, never to be seen again, all because a certain green-clad idiot just stands there and lets her destroy the Mirror of Twilight (with a tear nonetheless) having never told her how he actually feels! Stupid Link! Rookie mistake, pal. Live and learn, plenty of fish in the sea, and all that crap.
Ah, but which Zelda? Well, in the entire franchise, there are really only two with whom Link had any real chemistry beyond teaming up to save the kingdom, but the best of those is the one that wasn’t even a princess. In Skyward Sword, Zelda is a happy youth, the kind of spirited person that everyone is drawn to, a force of positivity and happiness. She also has had a crush on Link for years, as the two have been particular friends since they were kids, much to the annoyance of a jealous Biff-type schoolmate of theirs. This really is the boy-next-door meets girl-next-door story that has less of a fantasy feel than the other games, feeling more grounded and accessible.
Much of this realistic feeling is owed to the amount of awkwardness between the two whenever they’re left alone in the beginning and things start to get real. Zelda often fishes for compliments on her choice of clothes or weirdly, her harp, while Link stammers his way through the several “aw, shucks” responses. This is all highly endearing in a puppy love sort of way, but throughout the game we are reminded as well of how deeply these two really care for each other, with Zelda risking her life without a moment’s hesitation to save Link from falling, or the goddess’ plot exploiting the fact that Link would “throw [himself] headfirst into any danger, without even a moment’s doubt” to save her.
Still, though there are many acts of bravery and sacrifice on both sides that outwardly prove love, the beating heart of Link and Zelda’s relationship in Skyward Sword lies in the small moments, glances, and gestures that have players rooting for these two crazy kids to come through in the end. Zelda nervously folding her hands in his presence, Link’s embarrassment at the implication of a kiss, the playful way she is constantly pushing him off the edge of high places and endangering his life, etc. While the end makes no guarantees, as one of only three people living on the surface, this is Link’s best chance to make a life for himself outside of killing things.
Ten bucks says his “be aloof” strategy drove her straight to Groose.
And that’s it! So, while romance has never been a main focus of the Zelda series, that doesn’t mean Hyrule doesn’t have a pulse. Link’s made a life out of collecting hearts, and despite all the misfires with the ladies and fish ladies, Link’s still young. He’s just got to get back on that horse and find someone that’s not his horse. After all, it’s dangerous to go alone.
Though you could always choose the bottle…
Indie Games Spotlight: Apple Arcade (Almost) All the Way
We love indie games here at Goomba Stomp – after all, they can offer some of the most groundbreaking, creative experiences out there. However, with so many coming out every single week, it can be hard to know which of them deserve your attention. That’s why we’ve started our new Indie Games Spotlight series, where we’ll highlight some of our favorite new independent games every other week.
Our inaugural issue is dominated by the recently released Apple Arcade. Apple’s ambitious new service has brought with it plenty of standout titles to discuss, including some from respected creators like Devolver Digital and WayForward.
Devolver Digital Joins the Arcade
Apple Arcade is upon us, coming with a slew of stylish indies from a variety of developers new and old. One of the service’s most immediately prominent supporters is the boutique publisher Devolver Digital, which is supported Apple’s platform with some exclusive new titles, two of which we’ll highlight below.
First is Bleak Sword, a compact brawler that takes place entirely in stylish dioramas. Inflicted with a deadly curse, players must traverse through the isometric black, white, and red environments to right the wrongs of their world. The action has been streamlined to work equally well on both mobile devices and traditional gamepads, although it has also been spiced up with some RPG elements like spells to cast and stats to upgrade. It’s available to play now for Apple Arcade subscribers.
The second release is Cricket Through the Ages, which features “inarguably accurate recollections” of the game of cricket throughout human history. Some of its true-to-life scenarios include one prehistoric match between cavemen and dinosaurs, another taking place during a medieval joust, and of course, one in outer space. Featuring simple one-button controls and support for both single- and multiplayer, this historic romp may not be exactly accurate, but it certainly does look ridiculous and fun. It can be played now on Apple Arcade.
Mosaic Paints a Bleak Picture of the Daily Grind
Mosaic is all about one of the most mundane aspects of existence: the daily grind. It takes place in a seemingly pristine world where there’s little more to life than clocking in and out of work and whiling away the idle hours with mindless mobile games. As reality becomes gripped in a “harrowing technological autocracy,” it tasks the player with becoming the lone rebel to shatter the façade.
With its polygonal 3D visuals and subversive narrative, it easily draws plenty of comparisons to Playdead’s iconic Inside, as well as more recent experiences in the same vein such as the excellent FAR: Lone Sails. For those looking for a more introspective, provocative experience, Mosaic should be well worth checking out. It’s available on Apple Arcade now and will come to consoles and PC later this year.
Get your Zelda Fix with A Knight’s Tale
Between the remake of Link’s Awakening and the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild, Zelda fans certainly aren’t starved for content. However, if you want even more Zelda-like action beyond what Nintendo is offering, then A Knight’s Tale looks like it could do the trick.
A Knight’s Tale ticks all the Zelda-like boxes: stylized cartoon graphics, a massive world to explore, puzzle-filled dungeons, and simple action-based combat, to name a few. Powered by Unreal Engine and boasting of more than 30 hours of content, it’s looking like a hefty serving of Triforce-inspired goodness. Unlike most other games on this list, no Apple Arcade subscription will be required to play this adventure when it launches across all consoles (yes, including Switch) and PC this fall.
Spidersaurs: Contra Meets Cartoons
Remember being a kid and waking up every Saturday, eagerly anticipating a morning full of colorful, action-packed cartoons? That’s the feeling that Spidersaurs aims to capture from its very first trailer. It presents a post-apocalyptic world that’s being ravaged by mutant dinosaur-spider hybrid and pairs this with a run-and-gun gameplay style that’s reminiscent of classic Contra games.
Perhaps the most notable thing about Spidersaurs is the pedigree behind it. It’s being developed by WayForward, the creators of all-time indie classics like the Shantae series as well as more recent hits like River City Girls. It’s safe to say that whenever WayForward is involved, a quality product is more than likely to result. It should be well worth a look, especially since it’s available now exclusively on Apple Arcade.
Go on an Emotional Adventure with Mutazione
Mutazione offers a completely different type of cartoon experience than Spidersaurs. This narrative-focused adventure game is a slow, laid-back experience populated by otherworldly characters and presented with a delicate hand-drawn aesthetic.
It tackles the topic of growing up, putting players in the role of 15-year-old Kai as she leaves home to care for her ailing grandfather in a mysterious, forested world. It teases a mixture of relaxing slice-of-life activities – making friends, playing music, going to parties – while also alluding to a broader spiritual journey. Like so many other games on this list, it’s available to play now on Apple Arcade. It’s also available for purchase on PS4 and PC, for those who haven’t dived into Apple’s new service yet.
‘Borderlands 3’ Looks to the Stars While Stuck on the Ground
After a long hiatus, Borderlands returns… pretty much the same as it always was, for better or worse.
Borderlands 3 is one of the most bizarre gaming experiences of this generation, a highly-anticipated, long-awaited sequel clearly feeling the pressure of living in its predecessor’s enormous shadow. Both beholden to its past and searching for its future, Borderlands 3 is a strange amalgamation of abundantly familiar elements and a few new ideas, most of which never truly find harmony with each other during the game’s lengthy campaign.
Borderlands 3 is perfectly content to just be more Borderlands, with all the expected thrills and frustrations one would expect from that philosophy.
In its attempts to look forward and backward at the same time, Borderlands 3 ends up feeling like a series of half-measures, a collection of systems and story beats that, in the few moments they’re able to take evolutionary steps for the franchise, feel like there’s still room for the now decade-old series to grow. Unfortunately, across the 50+ hours I’ve spent traversing, shooting, and constantly marking items for junk in my inventory, Borderlands 3 hasn’t offered those moments nearly enough, too often falling victim to its old habits, using its legacy as a crutch, rather than a device to propel the franchise into its (admittedly uncertain) future.
It doesn’t help Borderlands 3 front loads some of its worst writing; the opening act of the game is gratingly awful, hammering away at the same few punchlines for its characters as players embark on the series of fetch quests that comprise the game’s opening hours. Beginning some unidentified amount of time after Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3 opens on a war-ravaged Pandora enraptured by its inhabitants latest obsession: the Calypso Twins, who have seemingly galvanized the majority of the Crimson Raiders in their quest to… well, we’ll talk more about the Calypso Twins, and their role in the story, a bit later.
Early on, Borderlands 3 is desperately trying to prove to the audience it is still the same ol’ Borderlands, interrupting its genitalia references to break the fourth wall and acknowledges that yes, we’re once again beginning with a series of annoyingly spread-out fetch quests to introduce characters and establish tone. But the delivery of the game’s typical blend of meta humor and pop culture references feels stale on arrival; the lengthy fetch quests just feel like simplistic mission design, and “big dick energy” jokes just don’t hit like they used to in 2019.
(There’s also an entire plot line built around Ice-T as a sentient teddy bear, who calls his in-game wife a bitch constantly, in between dick jokes. It’s as terrible as it sounds.)
Borderlands 3 quickly establishes these abundantly familiar rhythms – and then, surprisingly, doesn’t do much to expand upon them through the rest of the game’s main campaign. Though Gearbox has called this title “the big one” in the past, it doesn’t feel like a major step forward in any sense of the word – and at worst, Borderlands 3 occasionally feels like a regression of what it does best, a slow burn of slight disappointments which add up to a confounding experience.
There’s also Borderlands‘ absolute dismissal of Twitch culture; as the introductory chapters of the game catch players up on the Calypso Twins’ sudden accrual of power, Borderlands 3 has a strangely “old man yells at cloud” feeling to it (to myself borrow an overused meme for a moment), an odd feeling for a game that prides itself on its own (debatable) edginess and camp.
The Calypso Twins are built around the stereotypical cult of personality associated with the biggest streamers of the world – and boy, does Borderlands 3 not spare an ounce of vitriol for the admittedly complicated, often disturbingly regressive world of streamer culture (though they do have a weapon that is a direct Dr. Disrespect reference, and also feature some of the most elaborate Twitch integrations of any modern game). But Borderlands 3 admonishes creator and follower alike with an empty dismissal of the “influencer” – in a rather bleak application of its signature nihilism, it buries any kind of interesting exploration of the Twins- as either characters or societal critique – under a thick layer of cynicism.
It never really even contemplates their place as unifers in a galaxy full of corporations addicted to war profits, under a thin, cynical veneer of disregard for their place in any culture, Pandorian or human – its critique of streamer culture ultimately just feels empty. At times, it even feels hypocritical; unsurprisingly, Borderlands 3’s consistently been one of the most-watched games on Twitch since before its public release last week (plus again; there are multiple streamer-related references sprinkled through the game). It’s contradictory at best – and when considering how thin the public personas of Troy and Tyreen are actually defined outside of “shitty streamer people and their shitty followers”, it just feels weird.
Like the story, the shooting and looting of the game is immediately familiar, though it is a much more welcoming feeling: the single biggest improvement to Borderlands 3 is the shooting, which feels tighter and heavier than it has the previous three entries in the series. If there’s a truly transcendent evolution of the game’s formula, it’s found here: the shooting is simply magnificent from the word go, especially with the new traversal elements of mantling and power sliding, movement options that do wonders to bring life to the game’s many, many, many, many engagements with massive groups of enemies, hidden baddies, and massive (-ly lengthy, though mostly well-varied) boss encounters.
The class selection is also fantastic; there’s a distinct rejection of Borderlands 2‘s semi-linear class system, with each of the game’s four characters featuring multiple unique skill trees players can utilize to create an impressive diversity of builds with. There are hints of old characters in Fl4K, Zane, Amara, and Moze, but those elements are welcomely remixed and expanded upon, in creative ways I just wish the rest of Borderlands 3 would take a hint from; I’ve never had so much fun switching between characters in a previous game, experimenting with the intersections of their diverse ability sets, and seeing how the game’s Legendary and Anointed equipment rarities can further those builds is easily the most satisfying part of the game (though admittedly, all four classes take until about level 30 before they truly unlock their mechanical potential).
It is worth noting the game’s technical performance is as inconsistent as its narrative; for a game that’s been in development for so long, Borderlands 3 feels particularly unpolished for a finished product – hell, between writing and editing this review, I lost a collection of 50 legendary items out of my storage bank because of a widespread bug, kind of an unforgivable mistake for an entire game built around loot hunting.
Outside of the major performance issues widely-reported since the game’s release – including the virtually unplayable “Resolution mode” on Playstation 4 Pro – Borderlands 3 is ripe with the glitches of the past: broken mission objectives, inconsistent AI companion pathing – and, as an added bonus, the expected bevy of Unreal Engine quirks (like falling through the map multiple times). Though it seems like a small complaint, waiting 5-7 seconds for your in-game menu to load in every few minutes in a 2019 video game quickly becomes frustrating, one of many examples of Borderlands 3‘s many rough edges.
(Playing as Moze in multiplayer was a particular low light: from the gravitational physics of my character completely breaking, to glitches that rendered my player utterly unmovable, Borderlands 3‘s co-op modes are frustratingly janky, to the point split-screen co-op is almost unplayable in its current state.)
But the most frustrating part of Borderlands 3 is (outside of the character classes, of course) how risk-averse the entire affair is; in terms of mechanics and systems, it is mostly an integration of Borderlands 2 and the new elements of The Pre-Sequel, with a couple of light improvements around the edges. For example, there are now gear scores attached to every item a player picks up; there’s still no way to effectively manage an inventory, or even a consistency to how the scores are formulated, but hey, at least there’s kind of a way to compare gear (which one will do constantly, since inventory management is a still a hot mess).
For every tiny improvement, there’s a concession attached to it; a great example is the game’s map and mission tracking systems. While the map now shows the topography of each area, a useless mini-map and a thoroughly aggravating menu UI make juggling multiple missions an absolute chore (even though one can switch missions on the fly with a touch of the button, there’s no way to see multiple objectives on the map, or even switch between them while in the map menu).
This persists across the entire Borderlands 3 experience: and as the tale of the Calypso Twins and the Great Vault lurches through its interminably lengthy second and third acts, it begins to wear on the experience. For better or worse, Borderlands 3 further entrenches itself in the habits and rhythms of Borderlands 2 – which, after seven years, begins to feel stale in areas, frustratingly reluctant to change, or even reflect on its well-established sensibilities (or on itself; there are literal jokes made about CEO Randy Pitchford’s many controversies, which are… uncomfortable at best). And while the game certainly demonstrates the effectiveness of carefully refining its (rightfully celebrated) mechanics, its absolute reluctance to take creative risks begs the question of why it took so long to bring this game together (or, at the very least, begs the question of whether Gearbox really wanted to do a Borderlands 3 at all, and only green lit the project after the overwhelming failure of Battleborn).
As the game moves through its middle chapters, it just feels lacking in a way Borderlands 2 never did, even with its predecessors own inconsistent humor and pacing. Though ostensibly a journey spread across the galaxy, featuring a massive cast of familiar and new characters, so much of Borderlands 3 feels small and isolated. Every area of the game is broken up into tiny segments, covering small areas of these seemingly massive planets – an experience itself constantly broken up by lengthy loading screens and regular back tracking, which doesn’t exactly vibe with the game’s epic, world-hopping scope.
The absence of the player-characters in the central narrative is another head-scratching omission; despite the inclusion of unique dialogue for every character throughout the game, the four main personalities of Borderlands 3 feel underdeveloped – a problem that persists considering how little they’re seen during the most important moments of the game. They’re explicitly excluded from so many of the game’s cinematic moments, they almost feel absent from the game’s actual story (despite the inclusion of unique dialogue for every character throughout the game, an experiment that pays off to mixed results).
I think about the ending of Borderlands 2, and how much potential it held for the future of the series: the promise of exploring entire planets with friends, finding Vaults and hidden pop culture references was almost breath-taking in its ambition. With its series of linearly-designed, stunted “zones” and limited planet selection at launch, Borderlands 3 never really harnesses the long-gestating potential for growth; and as the story begins building towards its climactic moments, it only further highlights the creative dissonance that plagues so many aspects of the game.
The clearest distillation of Borderlands 3‘s identity crisis is found in the game’s story, which struggles to justify itself as something more than just “another” Borderlands game. It is torn between its desires to attempt something new (at least, at times), and the emotional attachment it knows the audience has with the characters, rhythms, and memorable moments from the first three games of the series. It leads to a story that often follows a template: travel to new area, meet familiar old character for a mission, fight through a series of gently-guiding corridors while constantly staring at the map, rinse, and repeat for thirty-five hours.
Save for the occasional interlude and amusing side story – though that often finds itself stuck in its own loop, with a collection of ancillary characters who either wants to remind you how funny poop is, or how much people in this world enjoy murder and death – to the point its cynical nihilism is no longer humorous, and eventually becomes exhausting.
Sure, there are a couple new characters introduced, but they’re left to the fringes of the main narrative, which is, for all intents and purposes, a retread of Borderlands 2‘s major beats. Yes, it occasionally attempts to subvert expectations, but mostly by presenting a mirrored version of the series’ previous events – where Borderlands 2 was about an evil father manipulating their disgruntled child and the Vault Hunters, Borderlands 3 is basically about mad children manipulating their father and the Vault Hunters – but it is satisfied to simply just be that story, and not much more (and at times, even becomes wholly illogical… remember The Watcher and their foreboding warnings? Neither does Borderlands 3, apparently).
There is one particularly strong section of story, however, and it comes in an unexpected place: after serving the role of enigmatic mission giver (and named member of the Borderlands 2‘s lamest DLC), Sir Hammerlock’s arc in the middle section of Borderlands 3, while disappointingly divorced from the central events of the game, is emotionally propulsive in ways none of the other story is, a moment where Borderlands 3‘s themes find their voice for a too-brief amount of time.
Part love story, and part exploration of the intersections of family and legacy, Borderlands 3‘s tale of Hammerlock and the Jakobs family is so satisfying,the one time Borderlands 3 stops screaming at the player in its desperation to be funny or surprising. For a few hours,the overwhelming nihilism of Borderlands‘ eternally cynical world view melts away, and the series truly offers something akin to hope and possibility in its world. It represents the beautiful essence of Borderlands expansive set of characters, companies, and legacies, and is the rare moment where Borderlands 3 finds harmonic brilliance between its shooting, looting, joking, and genuine attempts at emotional beats.
But like most of the other familiar faces in Borderlands 3, Hammerlock’s story is contained to his few chapters on his home planet; for a game that ultimately turns on a story of family and shared purpose, there’s so much of Borderlands 3 that just feels like it is missing the mark, or ignoring it altogether. Outside of Lilith and Claptrap (and for a brief time before her quickly-forgotten disposal, Maya) none of the game’s previously playable characters factor into the narrative in any way – hell, most of them, like Axton, Gaige, Salvatore and Krieg, don’t appear or are barely mentioned at all, which kind of takes away from the game’s attempts to be an all-encompassing adventure through the history (and theoretical future) of its surrogate family of bandits, adventurers, scientists, and adventure seekers.
Instead, there’s a lot of focus put on a handful of underwhelming new characters (including Ava, the game’s single biggest missed opportunity relegated to Whiny Teen tropes), only occasionally interjecting those sequences with familiar faces: multiple major characters of the series have precisely one mission dedicated to them through the story, which again feels like Borderlands 3 lacking confidence in its own identity, unable to commit to forging new paths, and instead peppering serotonin-laced doses of nostalgia across the story as a half-measure to cover up that Borderlands 3 really has nothing new to say about its world, its people, or the story it’s been telling now for a decade.
Borderlands 3 is perfectly content to just be more Borderlands, with all the expected thrills and frustrations one would expect from that philosophy. That doesn’t make it an abject failure, of course: it’s still a game I’m going to play for hundreds of hours with my friends, thanks to the sheer diversity of gun play and character builds (it is a sequel to one of my favorite games of all time, after all) – but there’s a distinct feeling Borderlands 3 could’ve been so much more than… well, just more of the same Borderlands. Seven years after its last mainline entry (and five after its forgettable, under cooked “pre-sequel”), just being Borderlands one more time makes it feel like a series stuck in the past, retreating to safe waters by simply remixing the old game… with a strangely newfound (and ultimately, superficial) hatred of streamer culture layered on top to feel relevant in 2019.
That allegiance to the past ultimately comes at a cost; it makes the few moments Borderlands 3 tries to evolve stand out in stark contrast to the rest of the game, complete 180’s in emotional tenor that are never met by equal risks taken in gameplay design, or the construction of the main narrative. When the dick jokes and meme references subside, there is an emotionally satisfying core deep inside Borderlands 3, one that highlights the spaces in between the game’s consistently enjoyable shooting and looting gameplay loop (there’s a particular photo I discovered in the game’s later moments that literally brought me to tears, a quietly poignant and beautiful moment this game desperately needs more of).
But that version of Borderlands 3 only comes out in fits and starts, often hindered by the series’ allegiance to its old identity, one that time, and most of the gaming industry, has passed by (at least, during the main story; I’ll be back next week with thoughts on the post-credits/endgame experience). There is a great version of Borderlands 3 somewhere, a more driven action-RPG with a tighter campaign experience, a more ambitious, fully-formed story, and a true expansion of its celebrated mechanics to marry to the game’s wonderfully diverse class set and enhanced movement options. It’s just not this inflated, safe iteration of the series, one that drowns its few iterative innovations in a sea of repetitive familiarity.
Could Apple Arcade Be the Best Gaming Subscription Service Yet?
Gaming has its fair share of subscription services, but with its flexibility and clarity, Apple Arcade could be among the very best.
Gaming has moved beyond consoles and physical storefronts. The past few years have seen the birth of ambitious new projects like Xbox Game Pass and Google Stadia, which aim to change the way you play your games. Apple has now entered the fray with a subscription service of its own, Apple Arcade. This might look like little more than yet another effort from a major company to capitalize on major trends, but in reality, this new project has the potential to be the best gaming subscription platform yet.
So…what is it?
Apple Arcade is a basic concept: for $5.00 per month, you gain access to an expanding library of games that can be played across all Apple devices, including Mac, Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad.
Compared to other subscription platforms out there, Apple Arcade is refreshingly simple. Unlike Xbox Game Pass, you don’t need to spend extra money to play your games on additional platforms; for that one monthly price, every game can be played across every one of your Apple devices. And unlike Google Stadia, a solid internet connection isn’t required to play your games. Every title on the Arcade can be natively downloaded onto the device of your choice and played regardless of the strength of your WiFi.
The mention of iPhone and iPad may have already set some readers on edge – after all, the gaming community can’t agree on much, but it has generally determined that mobile games aren’t always the best. They rarely provide the same caliber of experiences as console or PC games, so why would anyone want to spend a monthly fee to play a bunch of mediocre mobile games?
However, Apple Arcade is intensely curated to provide a high quantity of stylish, memorable games from some of the most respected creators in the field. For instance, famed indie publishers like Devolver Digital and Annapurna Interactive are fully on board, with multiple exclusive games planned to launch with the service. That’s not to mention the sheer number of highly anticipated indie games like Overland, Sayonara Wild Hearts, and Shantae and the Seven Sirens that will be included in the Arcade. Appple’s website promises that more than 100 different games will be available to play over the course of the launch period this fall, so if the game library can keep up this quality, then it could be promising indeed.
What makes Apple Arcade so special, anyway?
It seems like every company and their mother has a storefront nowadays. Ubisoft, Blizzard, Epic, and even Rockstar have all debuted platforms of their own, while Google Stadia is trying to remove traditional platforms entirely. In such a crowded environment, how can Apple Arcade possibly stand out? Simply put, Apple Arcade is already set to be the most flexible and easy-to-understand gaming subscription platform yet.
Every one of the many subscription platforms out there touts its “flexibility” in allowing you to choose what games to play and where to play them. Apple Arcade does the same thing but with one major difference: less limitations. As mentioned earlier, each game can be downloaded directly onto your device, and with save data being stored in the cloud, progress can be carried on between every one of your Apple products. Meanwhile, platforms like Google Stadia effectively shut down without constant WiFi access.
In terms of price, Apple Arcade continues to stand out. For $5.00 a month, you can play over a hundred unique titles. Compare this with the $15.00/mo price of Xbox Game Pass or the $10.00 subscription price of Google Stadia Premium, and Apple Arcade easily comes out on top (that’s not to mention that you still have to pay for Stadia games individually on top of the monthly fee). For reference, a year of access to the more than 100 games in Apple Arcade costs the same as the retail price of a single triple-A retail title. You won’t need to invest in a new controller either, since PlayStation and Xbox gamepads are fully supported.
Even when it comes to the games included, Apple Arcade should stand out from the crowd. Stadia may already have some massive third party blockbusters like Cyberpunk 2077 and DOOM Eternal, but they don’t offer much incentive to be played on Google’s streaming service instead of traditional consoles or PCs. On the other hand, Apple Arcade’s low price point and more practical flexibility offer a compelling reason to play games on Apple’s service instead of purchasing them individually on other platforms. That’s not to mention the handful of exclusives available at launch or coming soon after, from famous minds like SimCity creator Will Wright and the father of Final Fantasy himself, Hironobu Sakaguchi.
The world of gaming certainly has more than its fair share of subscription services. Yet Apple Arcade stands out for its clarity, its accessibility, and its remarkable library. With these factors combined, it could become the very best gaming subscription on the market.
Sirfetch’d is the Leek ‘Pokémon Sword’ Needed
Fortunately, Pokémon Sword specifically, has given more reason than just filling the pokédex for future Galar trainers to go seek out this elusive duck. Meet Sirfetch’d!
Ever since we were chasing pokémon around the tall grass of Johto, it was obvious that among the Kanto pokémon given evolutions, Farfetch’d was the one that had been forgotten. A pokémon with more dishes than moves, Farfetch’d had the usability of a fork scooping water, becoming a time-dwindling nuisance due to its rarity. Fortunately, Pokémon Sword specifically has given more reason than just filling the pokédex for future Galar trainers to go seek out this elusive duck. Meet Sirfetch’d!
Sirfetch’d is easily one of the best-designed pokémon for Pokémon Sword and Shield that has already been announced. With a sword and a shield made from its previous garnishing, and a prideful stance that oozes confidence, Sirfetch’d genuinely looks like the next stage of evolution from the woefully inept Farfetch’d. What we don’t yet know is its stats and, as a consequence, what tier it will be in competitive gameplay. But what we do know is it will be a fighting type with the ability steadfast, much like the fellow knight Gallade. Its signature move, Meteor Assault, will be debuting in Pokémon Sword and Shield, which inflicts heavy damage that forces the user to recharge the next turn.
The announcement of Sirfetch’d only creates curiosity as to who its opposing pokémon will be in Pokémon Shield. It’s doubtful that there will be another evolution for Farfetch’d, as Sirfetch’d is shown already in command of a shield, so the play on sword and shield will not feature in a twin evolution. The likelihood is another pokémon that has been neglected for so long, and in dire need of a renaissance in the franchise; something like Dunsparce from generation two would be ideal, considering that, like Farfetch’d, it manages to be both rare and pointless.
What has made the addition of Sirfetch’d and some of the other Galar region pokémon so appealing is their alignment with the inspiration and theme behind Pokémon Sword and Shield. Sirfetch’d breathes the nature that the games are trying to convey, but so does Corviknight in its chivalrous demeanor. Crucially for Corviknight, it’s another hint at a Victorian England inspiration behind Pokémon Sword and Shield; the raven in the Tower of London is as iconic as the factory chimneys that tower above Galarian form Weezing. Even the possessed teapot is taking a less casual approach to the stereotype.
But honestly, it’s quite charming to see so much inspiration derive from a region of the world. Kalos was inspired by France, but the only pokémon that conveyed a French stereotype was Furfrou, which feels like a missed opportunity in hindsight. If Pokémon is to continue using regions of the world as the inspiration behind their generational games then, from what we’ve seen so far, Pokémon Sword and Shield could be ideal templates.
That’s not to say there haven’t been any poor designs. The two legendaries, Zacien and Zamazenta, are the rather generic canid legendary pokémon. Rolycoly looks like the love-child of Beldum and Minior, while Impidimp looks like it fell off the pages of a lost Atom Ant storyboard from the sixties. However, if there weren’t contemptuous new pokémon in Pokémon Sword and Shield, then the games would exist without reliable antagonists; getting through Pokémon Moon without the humorous Bananarama Dugtrio would have been an emptier experience. That is why it is easy to accept an Impidimp as long as there is a Sirfetch’d.
This is partly why it is easier to look forward to Pokémon Sword and Shield than it was to Pokémon Sun and Moon. There was a slight drop in pokémon design quality from X and Y to Sun and Moon, while so far, the designs in Sword and Shield have improved from Sun and Moon. The announcement of Sirfetch’d only confirms that designs have at least been slightly improved and we can await with great anticipation for what pokémon the opposing exclusive will be in Pokémon Shield.
Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Indie Game reviewers.
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