When Did the Nintendo GameCube Come Out and How Many Games Are There for the Console?

The Nintendo GameCube is one of the most fondly remembered video game systems of all time, thanks to its exceptional catalogue of releases.

The machine was actually a relative latecomer to the sixth console generation, arriving almost 12 months after the PS2 and over two years after Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast.

It debuted in its native Japan in September 2001 and came to North America shortly thereafter on November 18. For those in the States, that actually makes it 3 days younger than the original Xbox.

For Nintendo, the GameCube represented a lot of firsts as well. At the time, it was the manufacturer’s only platform to use optical discs as the primary storage medium, and it supported online functionality for select titles (which is now obviously very commonplace). Not to mention, it also had a range of exclusive games that have since gone on to become bona fide classics.

It even laid the groundwork for some features that would be expanded upon in later console generations. For instance, players were able to connect up their Game Boy Advance handhelds to the system, and then use them as secondary screens, much like the Wii U’s GamePad.

The History of the GameCube

Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata With GameCube
Image shows Shigeru Miyamoto (on the right), creator of the Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong and Pikmin franchises. The legendary game designer is posing next to the GameCube in 2001. On the left is the Director of Nintendo Corporate Planning of the time, Satoru Iwata.

Reflecting on the GameCube’s legacy, Nintendo expert “Marionova” (who co-runs the Forest of Illusion gaming preservation group) said: “It was a pretty amazing console. While it wasn’t the most popular and had some of the weakest sales of that generation, it left behind a truly incredible library of games, such as Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.

“Like with the rest of Nintendo’s consoles, [the] exclusives were one of the main reasons it stood out. Other than that though, it didn’t have much else going for it. It was one of Nintendo’s last consoles without a gimmick.”

Indeed, the GameCube only managed to shift a modest 21.74 million units worldwide. This figure pales in comparison to the PS2’s staggering 155 million sales, as well to the performance of its immediate successor: the Wii.

Speaking of which, ever since the release of the latter console (which became a global phenomenon) Nintendo has moved away from trying to directly compete with Sony and Microsoft. Nowadays, the publisher focuses much more on doing its own thing, emphasizing the use of motion controls, gimmicky peripherals, and colorful family-friendly releases.

With the GameCube, on the other hand, they were aiming for the same crowd as the PS2, putting out edgier titles like Resident Evil 4, TimeSplitters 2 and Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. They even made a deal with Shinji Mikami to produce a line of third-party exclusives (known as the Capcom Five), that were decidedly grittier and more action-oriented than the games you normally associate with the company.

Of course, this didn’t pan out as intended and they learned a valuable lesson. Modern Nintendo has a much more consistent house style now — with Animal Crossing, Super Mario, Pokemon and Zelda at the forefront — and it knows exactly what its audience wants, which has paid off in spades.

How Many Games Were Released for the Nintendo GameCube?

Super Mario Sunshine Screenshot
Image shows the upscaled version of “Super Mario Sunshine” from the “Super Mario 3D All-Stars” bundle on the Nintendo Switch. The original game was one of the biggest hits for the GameCube system.
Nintendo of America

Describing why the GameCube didn’t quite take off in 2001, Marionova explains: “The console wasn’t a huge hit right from the start. While people seemed to love the games Nintendo showed off, there wasn’t much else that could compare against the other consoles. For example, both Xbox and the PS2 were capable of playing DVDs, while the GameCube did not offer that functionality, which is probably another reason why it sold so poorly.”

As Marionova points out, although there were hardware limitations with the GameCube, one thing that no one can dispute is that it had some killer apps. Titles like Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metroid Prime, Luigi’s Mansion and Resident Evil 4 have gone down as indelible classics. In fact, that last game is so treasured that it has been ported to over 10 other systems in the intervening years since its launch.

The GameCube’s library is absolutely amazing, but you might be wondering just how many releases there were in the end. Answering this question is a lot more difficult than you might think, as the gaming industry is not exactly known for preserving its history.

While some have suggested that there were only about 550, Wikipedia editors have compiled what is probably the most exhaustive list of GameCube releases. This one totals around 653 entries yet, even then, the count is slightly muddled by the fact that there are bonus discs, expansions, and bundles to consider. Not only that, but some of these games were only released in certain territories, which makes it even harder to come up with a definitive number.

Newsweek has contacted Nintendo itself to ask if they can confirm the official list, but they were unable to look into this request.

Corroborating the Wikipedia list, expert preservationist Marionova estimates that there were at least 650 games released in North America for the GameCube. They are in a position of great authority on the subject. After all, they have dedicated a lot of their time to archiving Nintendo’s history, restoring prototypes for unreleased games and collecting vintage cartridges.

When asked if it’s easy to find the old GameCube discs, Marionova said: “Tracking down the physical versions of these games is a big challenge, which is why so many fans are forced to turn to piracy. Games like Super Smash Bros. Melee or Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door can cost you more than a brand-new Switch release.

“On one hand, there really aren’t great ways to get these games legally. Nintendo doesn’t offer too many ways to play them. On the other hand, it’s still piracy so not everyone will be happy about it.”

Nintendo GameCube Games on Display
Image shows boxes for Nintendo GameCube releases on display during the grand opening of Nintendo World in the Rockefeller Center.
James Leynse/ Corbis/Getty Images

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