Stranded: Super Monkey Ball

It’s time for Sega to bring the GameCube classic to modern consoles.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 01/11/2019 07:30 2 Comments     ShareThis

Welcome to the inaugural installment of Stranded, a new feature here at Nintendojo where we’ll shine a spotlight on classic video games that have never gotten ported or upgraded to other Nintendo systems! These games have been, for whatever reason, stranded on that original system, and we argue why these games are deserving of another chance at finding an audience.

I can still remember picking up Super Monkey Ball on the launch day of the Nintendo GameCube. While a number of gaming publications had praised the title, I remained skeptical, and planned to hold off on buying the game. I was 16-years-old, and my love for Nintendo often left me defending the company’s “kiddie” reputation from my friends at school. A game with the title Super Monkey Ball certainly wasn’t going to win over any of the Nintendo detractors I dealt with on an all too regular basis. Besides, I was already buying three other games that day! How could I possibly purchase one more?

As I’m sure you’ve already deduced, I ended up buying the game. I got talked into buying it by one of the employees at my local Toys ‘R’ Us. He told me that he and his coworkers spent the whole launch night playing it. I caved, figuring I could always pick up an extra shift at my fast food job.

The game’s single player mode focused on moving one of four ball-dwelling Monkeys to the end of a number of different tracks. While I quickly found the game to be both enjoyable and challenging, it wouldn’t be until I brought the game over to my grandma’s house on Thanksgiving that I truly understood why it had found such acclaim. You see, Super Monkey Ball truly shines in its diverse multiplayer modes. Multiplayer is divided into Party games and Mini games. Of the three Party games, Monkey Race and Monkey Fight were both enjoyable as minor distractions. Monkey Target, however, was one of the game’s biggest highlights. Players took turns rolling down a ramp to gain momentum before opening the ball and using both halves as a glider to reach platforms floating in the ocean. The farther the platform players reached, the more points they could acquire. Super Monkey Ball 2 sped up the game by having four players race down the ramp simultaneously, but I personally preferred the original version. Its slower pace gave the game more strategy and more tension. My highlight of Thanksgiving 2001 was a roomful of relatives watching and laughing as my cousins and I took turns trying to get the highest score.

Monkey Target wasn’t the only bright spot in the game’s multiplayer modes, however. Monkey Golf, Bowling and Billiards gave the title the sort of easy-to-play offerings that would help sell Wii Sports (and Wii alongside it) to a massive audience just a few short years later. While Wii Sports did get an upgrade on Wii U, there is a hole in the Switch library for that sort of game that Super Monkey Ball would fit into perfectly. Since the title boasted fairly simple controls, multiplayer support with a single pair of Joy-Cons would likely help sell the idea even further.

Brought over to GameCube by an incredibly small team of developers, Super Monkey Ball proved to be a smash success for Sega. Unfortunately, as is often the case in the video game industry, the franchise became so big that Sega ended up diluting it by unleashing a number of inferior follow-ups over the following decade, or so. Entries with gimmicks related to systems like Wii and 3DS certainly didn’t help, as part of the original game’s appeal was in its simplicity. Demand seemed to cool off, as a result. It’s now been five years since the franchise has had an entry, with the last appearing on Android devices. Oddly enough, despite Sega’s milking of the franchise, the publisher released little in the way of merchandise featuring Aiai and company.

Over the years, a number of classic GameCube games have received upgraded ports, including Resident Evil 4, Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Sega’s simian success story certainly deserves a similar treatment. I still have that old copy of Super Monkey Ball from that fateful day at Toys ‘R’ Us; it’s a game I don’t ever plan to replace. But I’m still holding out hope for an upgrade, and a lot of younger gamers deserve to see why Super Monkey Ball became such a hit in the first place.

For whatever reason, there are plenty of GameCube classics that remain unfortunately tethered to the console. That said, there are a plethora of titles from the entire history of gaming that are also in desperate need of revisiting. What games would you like to see covered in future installments of Stranded? Let us know in the comments below and on social media!

2 Responses to “Stranded: Super Monkey Ball

  • 819 points
    Toadlord says...

    First off, I want to say I really like the idea of this feature, and I look forward to reading future installments. Good job, Mr. Deschamps!

    The last time I saw Aiai and crew in a game was as plushies in a Yakuza claw game. I would like to see both Super Monkey Ball GameCube titles get the HD treatment like Katamari did recently. Like everything else nowadays, they would be perfect on Switch.

    The first title that comes to mind for me when I hear the word “stranded” is Cubivore: Survival of the Fittest. I hadn’t learned of this title until it was already selling for over $100, and I just can’t make myself pay that for one game. It looks right up my alley, so I’ll always be super bummed that I haven’t yet played it. Maybe one day I’ll run into someone who will let me borrow their copy.

    • 784 points
      Marc Deschamps says...

      Toadlord, thanks for the kind words!

      Let me tell you: there are a TON of games on GCN that deserve to come to Switch or other systems, and we’re definitely going to cover more of them in this feature (one possibly as early as later this week). I never played Cubivore, but I was fascinated by it when I first started reading up on it, way back when I was simply a regular reader of the site. Definitely the kind of quirky game that shouldn’t be lost to time!

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