The Top 20 Games of 2001-2005

Unsurprisingly, Game Boy Advance + GameCube = years of great games. But which is the best?

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 05/03/2012 17:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)

It’s funny to think of how far The Wind Waker has come since its debut at SpaceWorld 2001. Rumors circulating the event had claimed that Nintendo was going to unveil a brand-new Legend of Zelda title at the show, but that excitement was quickly soured the moment gamers laid eyes on Link, dolled up in a new cartoony guise, outwitting a group of goofy-looking Moblins. That this came after the more realistic Zelda demo of the previous SpaceWorld certainly didn’t do it any favors (nor did it help prepare anyone for the imminent shock of its art design), and many left the event denouncing the series– and the company– for life.

Ironically enough, it was these very same visuals that contributed most to The Wind Waker’s timelessness. While it may not have strayed all that far from the Zelda mould in terms of its gameplay, it was its radical art style that truly set it apart from other Zelda adventures. Nintendo employed some of the most advanced cel-shading of the time to shape Link’s world, eschewing the rugged fields of Ocarina of Time for the vast expanses of the Great Sea. And that’s nothing to say of its moving storyline, which took Link from his tiny island home to the four corners of the world in search of his missing sister, or its beautiful soundtrack, which fused Celtic influences with traditional Zelda melodies, making Link’s GameCube debut one of the most heartfelt entries in the entire franchise. While we may have never gotten to see a full cel-shaded Hyrule (DS simply didn’t have the graphical fidelity to do the art style proper justice), The Wind Waker will always be remembered for its artistic daringness, which is not something that can be said of too many blockbusters.

Why Katharine Byrne loves The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

It started with a camera. It’s not the most obvious reason to love The Wind Waker, but I’ll admit here and now that I was one of those silly people whose mouths dropped in disgust when I first saw the game’s debut trailer. Led astray by that awe-inspiring demo at SpaceWorld 2000, I threw my hands in the air and wailed in betrayal. “How could they do this?” I cried. “What possessed them to come up with this?” Of course I still bought the limited edition version of game on day one– I wasn’t so disgusted that I refused to buy it full stop– but by the time I was finished with it, I was disgruntled nonetheless. It was too short, too easy, not enough Zelda for my liking. Sure, the added bonus of the Ocarina of Time: Master Quest sweetened the deal, but my first impressions were certainly far from proclaiming it the best GameCube game ever.

Then a few years passed and I played it again to try and fill in the gaps of my Pictograph gallery, and a miraculous transformation occurred. Unlike other GameCube games which had aged horrendously, The Wind Waker still had all its charm and personality intact. The bright blue sea and the deep red of the King of Red Lions still shone just as brightly as before, and as I lined up my shots and took a deeper, more intimate look at this desolate world, I quite literally saw the game through a different lens.

Before I had breezed through the dungeons without stopping to appreciate the finer detail, but I know now how short-sighted that was. It may lack the textures and realism of Twilight Princess, but The Wind Waker is all about detail. From the vivid expressions on Link’s face to the pockets of character on Windfall Island, finding and capturing those little droplets of life out on the huge ocean was immensely more satisfying than anything the Zelda series has produced before or since. It gave me the chance to observe and understand the game from a completely new and unfamiliar perspective, and it wasn’t long before it completely won me over. It’s by far the most human and endearing game the series has ever seen, and it’s all thanks to that little Pictobox.

Why Michael Contino loves The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is only the third Zelda game I ever played on consoles and it could be my series favorite. Sailing above Hyrule with the game’s epic soundtrack, felt amazing. I really felt like I had been through Ocarina of Time and was now sailing above a place, filled with precious memories. Cel-shading was a great choice for a Zelda game and it is reassuring to see Nintendo not sacrificing story elements for art style. The Great Sea contained enough treasure to keep players busy along with a colorful cast of characters with more enthusiasm than a hat-wearing Goron.

Why Adam Sorice loves The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

We all have theories about what makes a brilliant game. Some people think it takes characters that grip your attention, others argue you need a gameplay or art style truly original but I don’t think you need any of those things. A brilliant game is one that offers you just as much pleasure when you’re progressing through the story as it does when you are actively avoiding it. The Great Sea in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is one of a select few titles I’ve ever come across that offered this pleasure to me, as I whiled away whole afternoons bobbing about on gentle currents in the middle of a vast ocean, exploring tiny islands and admiring the view of a candy coloured world of innocence and true exploration.

Beyond the oceans wide, Wind Waker is a tour de force of imagination, beauty, fondness and action. From the minimalistic, catchy music in Beedle’s floating shop to that feeling of giddiness when you roll underneath a Darknut and slice their armour off from behind to the fear I felt as a 10-year-old sneaking past the Forbidden Fortress guards in my wooden barrel, Wind Waker holds so many memories for me that I can’t even begin to cover them in this piece. In short, I love this game.

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3 Responses to “The Top 20 Games of 2001-2005”

  • 21 points
    Dave Magliano says...

    Maybe the toughest list to compile, considering the sheer number of systems it spans. Also reminds me how many great games I never played. And since I must give my opinion, would have liked to see Rogue Squadron II included. Maybe an honorary #21. That game was ridiculously fun and immersive. One of the better translations from the star wars universe.

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    Guys until this list you where doing a fine job, but, METROID F&%#* PRIME!!! for gods sake,how can you missed this game, this was the best game of tne gamecune Generation, and you guys put some games that i didnt know their existence, Boktai, Lost Kingdoms? They are probably good games, but i really dont think they are better or more significant games that meteoid prime. This list is … Weird.

    My top 5

    1) .Metroid Prime
    2).The Wind Waker
    3).Metroid Prime Echoes
    4).Super Smash Bros Melee
    5).Roque Squadron II

    • 1 points
      Kevin Knezevic says...

      Some of the staff have pretty…eclectic tastes. :p

      My personal list would’ve looked more like yours, but to be fair, there were a lot of really great and unique games during this generation, so this was probably the hardest list to narrow down.

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