If you didn’t have a Gamecube back when it was a current console or you’re too young to remember this age of gaming, let me tell you about what Nintendo did with Animal Crossing. It was pretty neat back in 2001, but looking on it from 2016 makes it downright amazing.

Everyone who owned Animal Crossing on the Gamecube had access to at least 10 classic NES games, for free. There were more, too, obtained through special giveaways or e-Reader Cards.

Basically, you’d live your daily Animal Crossing life, digging up fossils, catching fish, talking to neighbors or whatever else when you’d score one of these NES games just buried in the ground or as a prize from Tom Nook’s lottery (he wasn’t all bad, you see).

Remember, this was the age before patches and DLC. These games were all coded into Animal Crossing, readily available from the moment the title hit retail.

When you drop them in your house and interact with them, you could boot them up right away on your TV and play the games exactly as they were on the NES, sort of like an emulator or Virtual Console without all the fancy save state features. Even better, those with a Game Boy Advance and the link cable could actually play these games on their handheld once they found them in their Animal Crossing village.

Here’s how it worked, as featured in a 25 minutes video with all of the NES games available posted by Aaro Arts – Everything Animal Crossing.

Pretty neat, right? Now, at the head of this post, you’ll see a picture of my physical copy of Animal Crossing. Back in the day, the game came with a memory card for the Gamecube. You’ll see on the right side of the case a badge that reads “SPECIAL PRESENT ON CARD!”

These cards came with two random, common NES games. What do I mean by common? Well, there were eight common games. All of these could be found on the cards.

  • Balloon Fight
  • Clu Clu Land
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr. Math
  • Excitebike
  • Golf
  • Pinball
  • Tennis

There were five other titles that could come by way of special Nintendo giveaways, and they may have been on the cards as well; though, I’m not sure about that.

  • Soccer
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Donkey Kong 3
  • Clu Clu Land D
  • Punch Out!!

Animal Crossing on the Gamecube also had an island, much like the other titles in the series. Players could nab Wario’s Woods and Baseball while there.

Then there were the more rare games. First of all, Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda were hidden away. The only way I know of getting The Legend of Zelda is with a cheating tool like Action Replay (that tool worked for all these games, by the way). Super Mario Bros. was a Famitsu giveaway in Japan only.

Finally, the Nintendo e-Reader series let players get their hands on Mario Bros. (that’s the arcade port) and Ice Climber.

Think about all of this. In 2001, full versions of retro games were hidden secrets in a mainline Nintendo title. The company would never do something like this in the modern age thanks to the money maker that the Virtual Console was. These were simply a nice treat, now these old games are a gold mine.

I sort of miss the old days because of things like this. Interestingly, a lot of these games will be sold as part of the Nintendo Classic Mini for $59.99 later this year.