Skip to main content

The Nintendo GameCube has the best exclusive game library, period

Today is the 20th anniversary of the release of the Nintendo GameCube, a system with a complicated legacy. Despite having a lot going for it on paper, it was up against stiff competition in the early 2000s. Sony and Microsoft were both moving the industry forward with the PlayStation 2 and Xbox respectively. Games like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Halo felt more mature next to Nintendo’s typically colorful fare. The sales numbers ultimately tell the story, with the GameCube moving 21.74 million units versus the PS2’s 155 million.

While the cube-shaped console is among Nintendo’s least successful financially, it still holds a fond place in many players’ hearts. And for good reason: The Nintendo GameCube still has the best exclusive game library of any console, period.

Only the hits

Sure, that’s a controversial statement. After all, the GameCube’s stiffest competition in that department is Nintendo itself. Consoles like the Super Nintendo have historically been lauded as touting the all-time-best games library. The Nintendo Switch is also starting to mount a strong run at that title thanks to games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Outside of Nintendo, both the PS2 and PS4 boast an incredible list of exclusives. It’s a tight race all around.

Despite that, the GameCube’s library still shines bright. When it comes to the heavy hitters, some of the best entries in Nintendo’s biggest franchises are on GameCube. Wind Waker was a defining moment for Zelda, Metroid Prime reinvented the first-person shooting genre entirely, and Super Smash Bros. Melee turned the fighting series from a gimmick to a competitive institution.

A Nintendo GameCube sits on a table with Luigi's Mansion.

An era of experimentation

The GameCube era was a space where Nintendo was eager to experiment with game design. While polarizing, Super Mario Sunshine wasn’t afraid to throw the Mario rulebook out the window with delightful results. Mario Kart: Double Dash’s co-op racing is still the series’ most inventive moment. And how can we forget Donkey Konga, a brilliant rhythm game that used a pair of plastic bongos as controllers? For a company known for its creativity, Nintendo was firing on all cylinders in the early 2000s.

That’s especially true when you look at the original franchises that came out of the GameCube. Luigi’s Mansion finally gave Mario’s little brother something to do, creating an unlikely launch title. Pikmin was another strong early GameCube game that found Shigeru Miyamoto at his most weird and wonderful. The GameCube was also the home for Animal Crossing, which had its breakout moment after debuting overseas on the Nintendo 64.

The GameCube was perhaps the last time that Nintendo was truly invested in supporting all of its various franchises. It wasn’t just a console full of mainline Mario titles and Zelda games. F-Zero, StarFox, Paper Mario, Fire Emblem, and more all had strong moments on the system. It was also the last hurrah of sorts for the Mario sports series, with strong entries like Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and Super Mario Strikers. Few Mario sports titles have risen to those heights in the decades following.

The full roster of fighters for Super Smash Bros Melee.

Nintendo at its peak

It’s not just first-party support that elevates the GameCube. Nintendo landed some serious third-party support, a feat that it’s struggled to pull off ever since. Capcom led the charge, offering up five-star classics like Resident Evil 4 and Viewtiful Joe as exclusives initially (though both were later ported elsewhere). That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though. The GameCube is full of truly bold titles like Killer7, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Odama, and Ikaruga, all of which initially launched with an “Only on Nintendo GameCube” stamp. It’s a shockingly rich library of deep cuts that hasn’t really been replicated since.

For those who never grew up with a GameCube, it’s hard to explain just how strong the console’s run was. Every month brought some must-play game that no collection was complete without. While Sony and Microsoft each rolled out a fair share of top-level classics, the innovation present in the GameCube’s lineup is staggering. It’s Nintendo at its peak, both as a game maker and as a prestige company that could entice other companies to give it their biggest games as exclusives.

Now if only Nintendo would give us a way to play those games on Switch.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
Wii and GameCube emulator Dolphin is coming to Steam
Mario Kart Wii running on the Dolphin emulator.

Dolphin, a popular video game emulator for Wii and GameCube games, is currently set to hit Steam Early Access later this year.
The emulation software's Steam store page went live today. Although the page's software description can't directly name Nintendo's consoles, Dolphin Emulator's Steam description boasts about how it can play "classics from the big N's cube-shaped and motion-controlled consoles" in 4K with modern controller support, hacked widescreen and HD texture packs, better frame rates, local multiplayer, save states, slow motion, and turbo button presses.
It also reiterates that Dolphin itself doesn't come with or pirate any Nintendo games, instead positioning itself as a "tool to run legally obtained copies of these games" after someone has converted them into a compatible format. It'll certainly be interesting to see if that framing is good enough to prevent Nintendo from taking Dolphin Emulator off Steam.

When Dolphin Emulator is added to Steam in the second quarter of 2023, it'll be free, but also in early access. Its volunteer developers are aiming to exit early access by the end of 2023 after adding "better Steam integration and a more streamlined UI for Steam Deck users." Valve's Steam Deck handheld has already proven itself to be a haven for video game emulation, and Dolphin Emulator being available on Steam will only make that process even easier. While most GameCube and Wii games aren't available on Switch, the company has long been against emulation of its titles. As such, we'll definitely be keeping an eye on this to see if Dolphin Emulator makes actually launhes on Steam.
Dolphin Emulator will be released on Steam in the second quarter of 2023. 

Read more
Pick up these Nintendo games you can only get on Wii U and 3DS
xenoblade and pokemon picross headline eshop update chronicles x nintendo wii u

The Nintendo Switch has one of the greatest first-party lineups of any Nintendo console. In addition to several outstanding original games, a lot of awesome Wii U games like Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, and Mario Kart 8 finally got all the love they deserved when they were ported to the Switch. Even some 3DS games like Miitopia have made their way to Nintendo Switch. Still, that isn't all-encompassing, so when the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U eShops are discontinued on March 27, we will lose access to some amazing first-party Nintendo games that aren't available elsewhere.
From black sheep in their respective series to new IP that tests out some novel ideas, four Wii U and four 3DS games that are still platform exclusives stuck out the most to us. If you're specifically looking for Nintendo-published games to pick up before the 3DS and Wii U eShops stop allowing the purchase of new games, consider picking up one of these titles.
Xenoblade Chronicles X

Considering the rest of the Xenoblade Chronicles series is on Nintendo Switch, it's very surprising that Xenoblade Chronicles X has not made the jump over yet. This RPG stands as the black sheep of the series, with a more gritty style and tone, mech suits, and a plot about humans who crash land on an alien planet after escaping Earth, which might be why it didn't come over before the trilogy was completed. Xenoblade Chronicles X is a great game in its own right, though, and also makes ample use of the Wii U GamePad for its detailed map and menus. As such, it's a worthwhile Wii U pickup for those who like to play games uniquely tailored to the system and enjoy seeing what the oddball entries in game franchises have to offer. 
Star Fox Zero

Read more
Former PS5 exclusive Ghostwire: Tokyo Comes to Xbox Game Pass in April
Akito with KK and the neon colors of Tokyo and invading spirits.

Former PlayStation 5 exclusive Ghostwire: Tokyo will launch for Xbox Series X/S and Windows PC on April 12. A free update called The Spider's Thread will release on the same day for all platforms, including Xbox Series X/S,  PC and PlayStation 5. The game is being added to Xbox Game Pass.

Ghostwire: Tokyo was first released on PS5 and PC on March 25, 2022. Despite Microsoft owning Bethesda at the time, preexisting agreements were honored and the game remained a timed console exclusive on PS5. The same situation occurred with Bethesda's Deathloop, which initially launched on PS5 and PC in September 2021 and then came to Xbox Series X/S a year later.

Read more