The 10 best GameCube exclusives (other than the obvious)

Three days ago marked the Xbox's tenth anniversary -- which means today is the GameCube's tenth. Those two systems are emblematic of the rift between "core" and "casual" gaming that formed seemingly around them -- nobody really thought there was a difference in previous generations, but the contrast between the Mountain Dew-green, imposing Xbox and the family-friendly, lunchbox-shaped, honestly adorable GameCube underscored the growing divide.

Just as we did with the Xbox, we're celebrating the GameCube today with a look at ten of its exclusive titles. More of these led to sequels and ports elsewhere, but in almost every case, there was some aspect of the game that never "clicked" away from the GameCube. Oh, and we're not listing the obvious ones. Yes, we all liked Smash Bros. and Zelda. Where's the fun in bringing those up again?

After the break, find an utterly arbitrary list of GameCube games we liked. But first, we have to begin properly: like this.


Baten Kaitos (Exclusive Spirit Guarding)

Remember when Namco could be counted on to deliver RPGs regularly? This one is exceptionally unusual, casting the player as a spirit who accompanies the protagonist, and deploying cards in battle.

The result is that you aren't represented on screen by an avatar -- instead, the protagonist, and everybody else, talks directly to you, because you are a character in the story. Of course, you never forget you're in a video game, what with the save points, and the use of cards to represent objects. But luckily, those (constantly evolving) cards are used in a deep battle system.


Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (Exclusive Double-Barreled Platforming)

Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is proof that while Nintendo built the Wii around weird, gimmicky controls, it picked the wrong gimmick. The correct answer was bongos.

This odd side project, a side-scrolling platformer controlled with the drums from Donkey Konga (a much more sensible music game built on the Taiko Drum Master framework) was so good that the team who made it went on to be put in charge of the Mario games. On one hand, this is a good move, because the Mario Galaxies and Super Mario 3D Land are fresh, creative takes on the franchise. On the other hand drum, EAD Tokyo is now far too busy and high-profile to do anything this bizarre again.


Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (Exclusive GBA Party Time)

Nintendo released a Game Boy Advance/GameCube link cable peripheral, and started a third-party development fund called the Q Fund, and Square created a shell corporation owned primarily by Akitoshi Kawazu, and all of that almost exclusively resulted in this one game, about four people escorting a bucket.

For a while, it looked like Nintendo was going to get really experimental with the connectivity idea (your own screen separate from the TV? It'll never work!) and before it dropped the idea, this co-op dungeon crawler acted as a convincing proof of concept. Unfortunately, it was the concept that you should have four GBAs and four link cables.


P.N. 03 (Exclusive Deadly Twirling)

This game is intended for the robot-hating ballerina inside all of us. With a flamboyantly animated heroine placed front and center, P.N. 03 is easily mistaken for a clumsy Devil May Cry, but it's really much closer to a shooter. As the improbably named Vanessa Z. Schneider snaps her fingers and blasts lasers from her palms (don't high-five her under any circumstance), the game's underlying clockwork becomes apparent. Dodge, shoot, dodge, and listen for the distinct sounds that portend the enemy's attacks, and you've figured out how to dance. [Note: Ludwig Kietzmann contributed this entry, because only he has the moves necessary.]


Chibi-Robo! (Exclusive Happy Points)

Even house-cleaning becomes an epic quest, when it's being done by a six-inch-tall robot who has to find a power outlet every few minutes. As the friendly toy robot attempts to keep his masters' house clean, he also has to defeat evil "Spydorz," and save two families living under the roof: the human Sanderson family, driven apart by financial worries, and the toys in the house, who come alive at night.

Chibi-Robo! is the quintessential Skip game; almost all of the developer's games, and, in fact, games from people tangentially connected with the company, deal with a quiet character performing favors to bring happiness to a community of quirky characters. And it's much more touching than any game about a robot scrubbing floors has any right to be.


Phantasy Star Online Episode III (Exclusive Compressed Alternate Reality Data)

The classic Phantasy Star RPG series was abstracted into an online multiplayer action-RPG, Phantasy Star Online. And then that was further abstracted into a tactical card battling game. You'd have every reason to be skeptical, and in a lot of ways you'd be right.

But it's worth weathering the total gameplay change, for another chance to inhabit PSO's sparkling future, and to experience another brilliant soundtrack. The card-based gameplay is a lot more accessible than it would seem, too.


Cubivore (Exclusive Mating Limericks)

It wasn't a huge hit, but there was kind of no way for it to be. "Mommy, I want the game where you make a cube-shaped pig and tear other cube animals apart to make it evolve," no child ever said. "I want my Cubivore to mate in the Love Tunnel so its offspring will have a new appendage."

Evolution and predation become mixed up into a clever gameplay mechanic, as you devour parts of different-colored enemies to alter your own shape -- to alter which edge of your body you add weird square flaps to. [Image: The Speed Gamers]


Eternal Darkness (Exclusive Tub Girl)

Starting with the coolest Nintendo logo of all time, Eternal Darkness unfurls a mystery that grips within moments and spans hundreds of years. Like Lovecraft at his best, the environments and unsettling story ooze a discomforting, unshakeable aura of evil. Even casting spells - a trifle in most games - elicits sinister voices that imply a horrible transgression. But here's the brilliant part: all that serious horror is paired with a twisted, self-aware sense of humor. In one moment you're worrying about your character's fragile sanity, and in the next your heart stops over stupid game stuff like ... missing save files. This is a video game griefing its players. [Note: Ludwig Kietzmann contributed this entry, as I was too human to do it justice.]


Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (Exclusive Yoshi Tranq)

A collaboration between Konami, Nintendo, and Silicon Knights, this GameCube remake of Metal Gear Solid almost, sort of brought it into Metal Gear Solid 2's style. You can hang from handrails, you can stuff enemy soldiers into lockers, you can tranquilize enemies, and -- most game-breakingly important -- you can shoot in first-person view.

All the cutscenes were replaced with flamboyantly overdone action sequences by director Ryuhei Kitamura, and the controls were mixed up into a nonsensical scheme in which you have to press Start + A to open the codec, but pressing Start alone does nothing.

Wait, why do we like this again? We know we do, if not ... why ...


Mr Driller: Drill Land (Exclusive Sinking Feeling)

There have been plenty of Mr. Driller games before and since, so why care about a Japan-exclusive GameCube iteration? For one thing, it varies the core gameplay in five different ways, including a sort of RPG based on The Tower of Druaga, and a ghost-hunting version. For another, it frames these as attractions in a theme park. You know, for amusement.

There's also a story mode, featuring undeniably adorable character art. Of the characters. In this puzzle game. In this App Store age of stripped-down, streamlined puzzle games (like Mr. Driller!), the excess of Drill Land stands out in a good way. [Image: GameFAQs]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.