Following the awkward failure of the weak, anachronistic Nintendo 64, Nintendo launched its hyper-powered, sleek-looking GameCube in 2001 to do battle with Sony. New-school gamers unfairly shunned the system, but loyalists experienced its riches. The GameCube, which is nearly as powerful as the Xbox, features the fastest load times of any system in its generation and skunks the PS2 in almost every conceivable category, is the gaming world's best kept secret, and a cheap port of entry to the lapsed gamer looking to get back into the mix. GameCube games will play on Nintendo's next system, the Wii, which will be released in late 2006.

What to Cheer

* You can get it for less than $100. * It's the only system of its generation that lets you hang with your old pal, Mario. * The controller, which is lightweight, well-calibrated and good-looking, is one of the strongest out there. * Four controller jacks means there are never any third wheels who just have to sit there and watch.

What to Jeer

* There is scant third-party support, meaning few game publishers other than Nintendo make games for the system. The 'Cube misses out on some important franchises, such as Halo and Grand Theft Auto. * The controller is cool and all, but the cord is way too short. Upgrade to the wireless Wavebird or rot your eyes out. * Won't play DVDs or CDs.

What to Fear

* Bizarre minidisc format makes your GameCube library stand out weirdly when stacked among DVDs. * Lack of hipness factor. No one ever brags that they own a GameCube.

Special Features

* Formidable graphics engine, sweet sound and good looks despite no S-video cable support * Simple to hook up, making it an excellent system for youngsters. * Features connectability to handheld GameBoy Advance.

Pimp Out Your Cube With This Stuff

* Memory card * Controller * Cheat disc * Game enabler * Carrying case * Broadband connector