The GameCube has rightfully earned its place in history with its lunch pail style design, relentless durability, and small discs that sometimes required two to complete a game. Nintendo isn’t afraid to take risks, and the GameCube showed that they deserve a spot alongside Sony and Microsoft in the gaming world.
With familiar games like Maria and Zelda to some remakes of old goodies like Resident Evil, the GameCube has some of the best games in the series of platforms.
What if a comic book, panels and all, were a video game? That’s exactly what the Hideki-Kamiya-helmed Capcom project Viewtiful Joe set out to do in 2003 when it launched on GameCube. The side-scrolling beat ’em up put players in the red suit and cape of Joe, a young man who is transported into Movieland to fight villains and save the world.
A comic book art style and the melding of both comics and film made for one of the most visually interesting games of the era. It also helped that the game had solid, tough combat. It’s disappointing that after one sequel and a couple of spin-offs, Viewtiful Joe ceased to exist as a franchise. The original still holds up, though.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Inspired by the Four Swords cooperative mode in the A Link to the Past port for GBA, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was part relic, part innovative twist on the storied series. Designed as cooperative dungeon crawler for up to four players, Four Swords Adventures featured eight worlds with four self-contained levels in each world.
It used a remixed version of Link to the Past’s soundtrack and also had a pretty OK competitive multiplayer mode. While it doesn’t have the depth of the main, best Zelda games, it retains the charm. It’s much better as a cooperative experience, but still a worthwhile experience solo. It’s also far superior to the 3DS spinoff Tri Force Heroes, which played on similar themes but lacked the gripping gameplay.
Resident Evil 4
It’s still shocking that Resident Evil 4, one of the greatest action games of all time, was initially supposed to only appear on GameCube. While it did launch on the system first, it came to a slew of other consoles afterward. The game followed police officer Leon Kennedy on a mission to Spain to rescue the President’s daughter from a cult. Naturally, the cult had turned even more sinister, so players had to spend their time watching their backs and shooting zombies.
Everything about Resident Evil 4 impressed. From the frightening monsters, to the epic boss battles, to the over-the-shoulder shooting mechanics, to the non-linear, spooky environments. Resident Evil 4 remains an influential game today and outside of Nintendo-developed games, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better GameCube game. Resident Evil 4 is now available on the go courtesy of the Nintendo Switch. With Resident Evil 2 and 3 already getting remakes, it’s possible we could see a full remake in the future for this game, as well.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time reinvigorated a fledgling franchise in 2003 with the help of one, amazing mechanic. His dagger, imbued with sand, can turn back the hands of time to retry platforming sequences, take another swipe at enemies, or just get a better angle to assess the situation. He could also freeze enemies in time and slow the world around him temporarily.
The mechanic worked wonders for the action adventure game, giving The Sands of Time a unique and strategic twist that made it a standout experience. Combine the mechanic with excellent puzzles, clever A.I., and a gripping storyline about deceit, and The Sands of Time easily became one of the greatest adventure games of the era.
Skill is king in Ikaruga, the 2003 vertical shoot ’em up that offered a bare-bones experience which managed to bubble up to the top of arcade shooter genre on GameCube. Armed with just regular missiles and a homing laser, you had to maneuver your ship around obstacles and shoot enemies in lightning-quick stages. It’s not a game for everyone, but it harked back to the glory days of feeding quarters into arcade machines on loop, and its unique polarity-switching mechanic allowed you to navigate even the most hectic bullet-hell segments. Today, Ikaruga is available on the Nintendo Switch eShop.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Sam Fisher’s third outing, Chaos Theory, included all of the great stealth gameplay of the first two games but also loosened up the requirements to let players tackle missions in their own way. When moving through areas, it was no longer mandatory to hide bodies.
Additionally, while the first two games almost always made you play stealthily, in Chaos Theory, you could use lethal force much more often without failing missions. Of course, Chaos Theory was designed to play as a stealth game, so thankfully the stealth mechanics and AI also improved in Chaos Theory. It remains one of the best entries in the series today, and one of the greatest stealth games of all time.
Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II
A launch title, Rogue Squadron II offered significant improvements to its already great predecessor. The game took place throughout the original trilogy and saw Luke Skywalker leading a group of X-wing pilots across the galaxy, engaging in fast-paced flight combat throughout.
Each level had different completion requirements to keep the gameplay fresh and exciting. It wasn’t just X-wings, despite the name, so you could pilot six other Star Wars ships, including the iconic Millennium Falcon. Rogue Squadron II is easily our favorite Star Wars game on GameCube and one of the best of all time.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
A remake of the PlayStation classic Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes made the stellar stealth game infinitely more playable by introducing accessibility mechanics seen in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It also reworked the cutscenes, of which there were many, from the ground floor.
Only released on GameCube, Twin Snakes was a weird moment in Nintendo history, but one we are incredibly thankful for. It was also developed with the guidance of both Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima and Zelda/Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. How cool is that?
Poor Luigi, the often pushed-to-the-side brother of Mario. Even when he finally received his own game as a launch title on GameCube, he was sent to explore a haunted mansion. Thankfully, although Luigi was frequently scared, Luigi’s Mansion was more comical than anything else.
Armed with a ghost-vanquishing vacuum, a flashlight, and a modified Game Boy, Luigi’s quest to find Mario was filled with countless surprises and intriguing mysteries. Though the game ended prematurely, its puzzles and delightfully creepy atmosphere engaged enough players to warrant a great 3DS sequel, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, and the even better Luigi’s Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch.
No one could have expected that Metroid’s jump to 3D would prove to be one of the greatest games of all time, especially considering that Retro Studios created Metroid Prime as a first-person shooter. We’re placing it in the action-adventure category of our list, however, as it leans heavily on exploring its intoxicating landscape for new secrets, abilities, and baddies to blast into smithereens.
Remarkably, Prime captured the essence of what made 2D Metroid games so great — an open world that is retraced repeatedly as you gain new powers. Somehow, Retro and Nintendo managed to convert this model to 3D without it ever feeling repetitive. Smart controls, powers that feel like joys to discover and even greater to use, and all of the novel atmosphere that put Metroid on the map, made Prime an absolute triumph. Seriously, play this game if you haven’t already, especially with a fourth game coming to Nintendo Switch.
Star Fox Adventures
Star Fox is mostly known for its ship battles, but Star Fox Adventures leaned heavily into third-person action-adventure, turning Fox McCloud into an intergalactic Link. Over the course of the adventure, Fox unlocks more weapons and items through exploration and completing tasks. The game largely centered on melee combat, of which it also borrowed from The Legend of Zelda.
Although the story, which sees Fox looking into the disturbance of the Dinosaur Planet, isn’t the most memorable, it is one of the more story-focused entries in the series. Adventures also featured the traditional Arwing ship combat, which improved over its predecessors thanks to better controls and visuals.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Prime set the stage, but Echoes delivered the narrative goods. The only knock on the original is that it was light on story. Echoes fixed that with a story steeped in Metroid lore, complete with two different versions of the same world that harked back to what Nintendo has done with The Legend of Zelda franchise on numerous occasions.
Echoes is every bit as good as its predecessor, though the difficulty was ratcheted up a few notches. We’d also like to forget that Echoes introduced multiplayer to the series in the form of tedious split-screen deathmatch. Play Prime first of course, and then follow up Echoes by completing the trilogy with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. And we’re probably not alone in hoping Nintendo re-releases the trilogy on Switch before Metroid Prime 4 arrives.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, remarkably, was originally in development for Nintendo 64. It feels like a miracle that it launched as a GameCube exclusive in 2002. A decidedly M-rated horror game, Eternal Darkness is played through multiple third-person perspectives with branching storylines. The story revolves around The Tome of Eternal Darkness, a mysterious book found in the home of Alexandra Roivas’ murdered grandfather.
Upon opening the book, players travel through history, playing as people from all walks of life trying to stave off an evil entity. The coolest aspect of the game, the Sanity meter, really messed with players. When filled, the game purposely tried to distort your perception of what was going on. It even went as far as to display fake error messages on your TV to make you think something was wrong with your hardware. Unnerving and fascinating, Eternal Darkness also found its way on our list of best horror games. A spiritual successor was announced several years ago as Shadow of the Eternals, and though never officially canceled, it isn’t currently in development.
Beyond Good & Evil
From the creator of Rayman, Beyond Good & Evil completely flopped at launch. It was a brilliant adventure game with fun combat, neat puzzles, and featured an engaging futuristic story with a memorable cast. Yet it didn’t do well at all.
It has become a cult classic over the years, however, and for good reason. Jade’s investigation into an intergalactic conspiracy provided just the right amount of variety of platforming, action, and puzzles. The buzz surrounding it has been substantial enough to finally get a follow-up off the ground, the wildly ambitious Beyond Good & Evil 2, which will launch a ways down the road.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
Super Smash Bros. Melee is arguably the defining game of the early 2000s. That’s not hyperbole considering that 17 years after its 2001 launch, it’s still played as a competitive esport by a significant chunk of the Smash community.
The brawler perfected the formula introduced in the N64 debut, adding more stages, characters, and game modes to choose from. There’s also something about playing Smash with a GameCube controller that’s hard to shake. Even Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Switch has GameCube controller support. We’re doubtful dedicated Melee users will abandon the game anytime soon, despite the game no longer having a place at certain major fight game tournaments.
Arcade first-person shooting action done right, TimeSplitters 2 improved on the original in many ways. Beyond its fast-paced 10-level campaign that put in the shoes of space marines vanquishing aliens, TimeSplitters 2‘s multiplayer mode offered one of the very best first-person shooter experiences on GameCube.
With a plethora of fun weapons, including a flamethrower, and a bunch of whacky playable avatars (monkeys, dinosaurs, and an Elvis impersonator, for instance), TimeSplitters 2 was unafraid to wear the badge as a frivolous shooter. And that’s exactly why we loved it. It also had a map maker to create both single and multiplayer levels.
Probably the weirdest game on GameCube, Suda51’s first game released in North America perfectly displayed what we’ve come to know and expect from the auteur. Which is to say — it’s best not to expect anything, because his games will always surprise you. Killer7 told a convoluted, yet engrossing story about the world’s nuclear weapons being dismantled, terrorist groups, politics, and the relationship between the United States and Japan.
Essentially, it was a spy game that was difficult to parse but worth wading into. Stylistic, cartoon visuals and a very odd, stripped-down control scheme probably turned off some players from this pseudo-on-rails action shooter. There’s no denying that Killer7 is a memorable and important title, not just on GameCube, but in video game history in general.
Donkey Konga series
Donkey Konga and its sequel rocked, and you could actually play We Will Rock You with the DK Bongos in this Donkey Kong-themed rhythm game. They also had music from popular Nintendo franchises like Zelda and Mario.
While not as elaborate as Rock Band or Guitar Hero, playing Donkey Konga just felt right, especially as a party game. Sadly, Donkey Konga 3 never arrived in North America, probably because the series was unappreciated here. That still disappoints us, but our DK Bongos are stored safely somewhere in our parents’ basements waiting for Donkey Kong’s long-awaited reunion tour.
Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine often feels like the forgotten 3D Mario game. It’s not as revolutionary as Super Mario 64, or as flashy as the Galaxy games, or as gloriously open as Super Mario Odyssey, but it’s still a masterclass in design and platforming.
Taking place on the picturesque Delfino Isle, Princess Peach is captured by Shadow Mario, an evil depiction of the lovable plumber. From there, Mario must use a robotic hose that doubles as a jetpack to clean up the muck that Delfino’s residents think was created by him and, eventually save Peach once again.
Collecting shine sprites across a stable of unique and aesthetically pleasing levels is pure joy. The addition of F.L.U.D.D. — Mario’s new contraption — make platforming sequences and boss fights more exciting by giving Mario a new way to move about as well as a weapon. Sunshine excelled just as all 3D Mario games have and endures today as the greatest platformer on GameCube.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
The DK Bongos were the coolest peripheral on GameCube, and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat combined the rhythm of DK’s trusty instrument with his favorite activity: platforming. Jungle Beat was an oddity of a game. It was a platformer, with baddies to topple, platforms to hop on, and ropes to swing from, but it also wanted you to keep a rhythmic flow by banging on the bongos at opportune moments to collect bananas and rack up points. If you think about it, platforming games are all about keeping a rhythm to begin with, so Jungle Beat literally personified that tenet.
Super Monkey Ball 2
Drop a monkey into a hamster ball and what do you get? Well, one of the greatest party games ever. Super Monkey Ball 2, the superb successor to the cutesy debut of monkeys rolling around in balls, delivered on so many levels. First, it had a great single-player mode with an awesome villain called Dr. Bad-boon (ha!). More importantly, it was great as a party game for two to four players. Whether you were racing to the end of a stage or playing Monkey Billiards, Monkey Bowling, or Monkey Golf, Super Monkey Ball 2 was a barrel of (monkey) fun. We wish the series would make a comeback soon, with only a remastered version of the underwhelming Banana Blitz coming to newer systems in 2019.
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
Yes, two exclamation points are the proper style for Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Now that we think about it, we imagine Nintendo styled the third console entry in the cart racer that way because it featured double the racers in one cart. Pretty neat.
What’s neater, though, was Double Dash itself. Picking a successful two-member racing team required strategy and a bit of ingenuity. It also refined sliding, which created the divisive tactic known as snaking.
Double Dash also introduced dropping items when getting hit by shells and slipping on bananas. An excellent track selection and a slew of cool carts big enough for two racers complements the already solid racing gameplay, giving the GameCube a definitive arcade racer.
F-Zero GX was the first entry in the classic high-speed racing series to introduce a true story mode starring Captain Falcon. That alone elevated it past its predecessors. But the added power of the GameCube allowed for a more fluid racing experience featuring more detailed tracks and ships.
At its core, it was still the hectic 30-racer showdown fans had come to know and love, but the quality of life improvements made it the best entry in the series yet. It was notoriously difficult; however, it never felt unfair.
Burnout 2: Point of Impact
Yes, Burnout 3: Takedown was a better game, but the GameCube never received Takedown. Burnout’s support for the mainline entries on Nintendo platforms ended with Burnout 2: Point of Impact. While disappointing, Burnout 2 was still a great racer that was even better when playing on the couch with friends.
Thanks to Crash mode, which allowed players to earn points and boosts from ramming into other vehicles, Burnout 2 eschewed the conventional wisdom of racers. It was better to run into others than playing it safe. For that reason, it easily comes in as our favorite car racer on GameCube.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
While some fans of the iconic series scoffed at The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker‘s cel-shaded visuals, Toon Link charmed us endlessly. Wind Waker once again saw Link seek to wrestle control of the Triforce from Ganon, but this time, much of the action took place on the high sea. Manning a small but trusty boat, players explored the waters for treasure, adventure, and secret islands that always felt like you were the first person in the world to discover them.
Wind Waker captures the quiet moments of sailing especially well, but its action, which leans more heavily on stealth than previous entries, makes for an enthralling and tense experience as well. Wind Waker also happens to have some of the coolest lore in the series. And have we mentioned that the art style is simply superb? If you have a Wii U, you can play the excellent remaster. Here’s to hoping Nintendo revives Wind Waker once again on Nintendo Switch.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Better known as a Wii game, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess coincided with the Wii’s launch in 2006, but a case can be made that one of the most polarizing entries in the series to date was better on GameCube (sans motion controls). Twilight Princess is dark and gritty and sees players spending about half the game in the Twilight Realm in the paws of a Hylian wolf.
The eerie parallel universe is on the verge of completely engulfing Hyrule, unless, of course, Link saves the world once again. With some of the best dungeons and puzzles in the series, along with the memorable personality that is Midna, Link’s mysterious companion, Twilight Princess was the perfect swan song for the GameCube era, and like Wind Waker, it later found its way to Wii U with added Amiibo support.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Continuing off of the principles set in Paper Mario and inspired by Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door was one of the most engrossing and charming RPGs on GameCube. Characters appeared flat like paper, but the environments had 3D depth, resulting in a unique art style that still looks great today.
Despite turn-based combat and a host of brand new locations in the Mushroom Kingdom, The Thousand-Year Door still revolves around saving Princess Peach. This time around, though, you got to play as Peach in certain spots, as well as King Koopa himself.
Great turn-based combat, humorous dialogue, and a cast of wonderful characters made The Thousand-Year Door a surefire success, improving on its predecessor in every way. It remains the best Paper Mario game today.
Tales of Symphonia
Set in the wondrous land of Sylvarant, you play as Lloyd Irving on a quest to save the world they call home. Only there’s a big problem: saving your world could destroy the parallel world. It’s your standard JRPG fare in terms of story, but where Tales of Symphonia excelled, like all games in the series, was its combat.
The game uses the Tales’ series “Multi-line linear motion battle system,” which is basically a fancy way of saying real-time RPG combat. You set your AI characters to perform actions and are free to move about with your character, initiating actions to defeat enemies. It’s a system that rewards strategy and punishes carelessness, and one that remains addicting throughout the lengthy adventure.
Tales games aren’t for everyone, but in the absence of traditional Final Fantasy games or Dragon Quest games on GameCube, Tales of Symphonia stands tall as one of, if not, the best JRPG on the console.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest
A reworked version of one of the greatest games of all time, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest re-skinned every dungeon in the N64 classic to make them more challenging. Master Quest came in a two-disc collection that also included the regular version of Ocarina of Time.
Both iterations of the game benefited from higher resolution. Also, to complete your Zelda collection on GameCube, The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition comes with The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Ocarina of Time, and Majora’s Mask. We gave Master Quest the nod, however, because it introduced new content.
Oh, Tom Nook, how many times have you ripped us off over the years? More than we can count, but we keep coming back to the idyllic world of Animal Crossing nonetheless. The town simulator originally launched on N64 in Japan, but was quickly ported to GameCube for worldwide release.
For some reason, doing simple activities such as picking apples, fishing, and engaging in small talk with the animal neighbors captured the hearts of many, many people. Easily the most relaxing game on GameCube and probably the slyest time sink, Animal Crossing spawned a worldwide phenomenon, and the sequel New Horizons comes to Switch in 2020.
Madden NFL 2004
Madden NFL 2004 will forever be known for featuring the most unfair player in series history, Michael Vick, circa the early 2000s. The cover athlete for Madden 2004 was simply impossible to stop. We remember implementing “no playing as the Falcons” rules when playing couch multiplayer with family.
Madden 2004 should be remembered as one of the best entries in the series, and certainly the best of the GameCube generation of consoles. All aspects of the game — running, passing, defense — felt perfectly tuned at the time. And for a system not known for its traditional sports sims, Madden 2004 was very impressive on GameCube.
NBA Street Vol. 2
EA’s now-defunct NBA Street series was the closest we’ll probably get to NBA Jam-style basketball, and it was glorious. Especially NBA Street Vol. 2. Three-on-three basketball complete with a lengthy story mode that sees you create a streetball player en route to becoming a legend on the blacktop was the standout feature.
With a slew of awesome streetball moves, the full stable of NBA teams at the time, and a wide range of customization options, NBA Street Vol. 2 was both appealing to traditional NBA fans and those who only had a passing interest in the sport.
Mario Power Tennis
The fourth entry in the Mario Tennis series, Mario Power Tennis offered a solid mix of traditional tennis gameplay with zany Mushroom Kingdom twists, including courts with strange hazards, and alternative game modes such as hitting the ball in rings. Out of all of the Mario sports games on GameCube, it’s probably the least impressive. Still, we believe it firmly belongs on this list for being both fun when played in single and multiplayer.
Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
The best Mario Golf title to appear on a home console, Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour absolutely perfected the three-click golf simulator. A bevy of interesting courses and a big cast of characters, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and shot types, made each round as exciting as the last. We still play Toadstool Tour when craving a golf game, because Nintendo hasn’t made a Mario Golf game for a home console since.
Mario Superstar Baseball
At its core, Mario Superstar Baseball is as simple and pure as the other Mario sports titles. It’s an arcade baseball sim with heroes and villains from the Mushroom Kingdom. But it was more than just a fun game to play with friends and family; it also had a great single-player mode that turned baseball on its head with mini-games, high-pressure challenge scenarios, and objective-based variants that tasked you with completing certain tasks like striking out batters in order to advance.
Super Mario Strikers
Why yes, every single Mario sports game on GameCube appears on this list. Super Mario Strikers, the first Mario-themed soccer game, offered frantic five-on-five soccer matches complete with power-ups and items such as shells. Mario Strikers also, amazingly, wound up playing somewhat like NFL Blitz in that you could actually tackle opposing players without receiving penalties. Out of all of the Mario sports games, Super Mario Strikers is probably the most violent, but in a wholesome way.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series was once among gaming’s most iconic sports franchises, and THPS 4 brought the series to new heights. Eliminating the time restriction on each closed-off track, THPS 4 lets players roam larger, open areas and talk to NPCs to receive challenges throughout the map. It also happened to refine the gameplay into a more versatile and ultimately exhilarating experience. The soundtrack, as always, was great, too.
Some may argue that Tony Hawk’s Underground or its sequel deserves to be in this spot but our feeling is that THPS 4 innovated on the formula, so it earned its place here. But we do agree: THUG and THUG 2 are totally rad, too.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
The first home console Fire Emblem to arrive in the states, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance came out before the Fire Emblem craze kicked into full gear here. For that reason, it’s probably the most underplayed gem on this list.
Although it wasn’t the prettiest game by any stretch of the imagination, it featured the building blocks of the dynamic dialogue system and epic story that fans have come to expect from the franchise. It even had voice acting and some neat cutscenes.
Of course, the hallmark of all Fire Emblem games is the turn-based rock-paper-scissors combat, and Path of Radiance delivered and then some. Beware, though – Path of Radiance is brutally challenging, as it came out before Intelligent Systems introduced easier difficulty levels. It’s also extremely expensive these days, so here’s hoping for a Nintendo Switch port.
A spinoff of the wonderful turn-based series Advance Wars (RIP), Battalion Wars combined real-time tactical gameplay with a third-person action game that felt decidedly different from the Advance Wars series. Set in an alternate world, the game takes place during the rekindling of a global military conflict.
The story wasn’t much, to be honest, but the gameplay, the addicting blend of real-time strategy and action, made for a strategy experience that felt both deep and accessible. A quality sequel, Battalion Wars 2, released on Wii two years later. Since then, Battalion Wars and its parent franchise, Advance Wars, has sadly remained dormant.
Captain Olimar, the adorable herder of half-plant, half-animal creatures, might just be one of Shigeru Miyamoto’s most smile-inducing characters. That’s saying a lot considering Miyamoto created Zelda, Mario, and many more. Luckily for Nintendo fans, the Pikmin series is more than just a charmer. It’s a deep and enriching strategic puzzler about making and keeping friends (yes, we see the Pikmin as friends).
Pikmin 2, the follow-up to the surprise GameCube hit, delivered on all cylinders by expanding on the Lemmings-esque gameplay while removing the annoying time limit for completing levels. Viewed from an isometric perspective with colorful visuals, your job was to corral Pikmin across large maps, complete puzzles, unlock new areas, and defeat bad guys. Olimar led the way but he was nothing without his Pikmin friends by his side.
- The best N64 games of all time
- The best Wii games of all time
- The best PS2 games of all time
- The best GBA games of all time
- The best Game Boy Color games of all time