More than two decades ago, back in the distant year of 2001, Nintendo released the GameCube, a small purple console that they believed would take the world by storm. While the GameCube faced the stiff competition of the first Xbox and the titanic PlayStation 2, it still carved out an incredible library of games, with new installments in existing franchises, stellar remakes and ports, and of course some brand new IPs ready to take the gaming world by storm. Whittling down such a mighty catalog to only the upper echelon wasn’t easy, but here are the best GameCube games ever made.
The Best GameCube Games
20. Viewtiful Joe
Developer: Clover Studio Publisher: Capcom
The GameCube’s increased processing power saw many games taking new strides in graphical fidelity and artistic style, and one of the most appealing examples of this era’s visual splendor is Viewtiful Joe.
Viewtiful Joe focuses on a slacker movie buff getting sucked into a cinematic world and blessed with movie-related superpowers (slowing down time, extreme close-ups, etc.). The cel-shaded art style and inventive level design made this 2D action platformer feel vibrant and alive, and the story, cribbing from inspiration like Power Rangers, the Matrix, old monster movies, and more made Viewtiful Joe a stellar GameCube title.
Viewtiful Joe would eventually be ported to the PS2 and see several sequels, a manga, and an anime adaptation. While the Viewtiful Joe machine has been silent for a long time now, the original title, and its sequels, all still hold up as well-crafted, eye-popping delight.
19. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan, Silicon Knights Publisher: Konami
A remake of Metal Gear Solid, originally released on the PlayStation in 1998, The Twin Snakes gives the recent (at the time) classic a serious facelift and some quality-of-life improvements. An easier time getting into first person and improved enemy AI make The Twin Snakes a sharper, some might say easier, endeavor than the original.
The story is still equally thrilling and silly, as secret agent Solid Snake has to battle through a cadre of terrorists and destroy the walking tank Metal Gear. The rock-solid stealth gameplay and immaculate sense of atmosphere comes through even more clearly with the GameCube’s improved hardware. The Twin Snakes is somewhat controversial for how it does alter the original MGS experience, but it remains an incredible title for the GameCube’s library.
Developer: Radical Entertainment Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Before open world games were an all-encompassing part of the video game landscape with your Skyrims, your Cyberpunks, and your various sprawling Assassin’s Creeds, the concept of an ‘open world’ was a more flexible concept, and the term ‘sandbox game’ was more commonly used to describe them. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction makes its sandbox out of New York City, and lets you loose as the big green machine. The results are pure giddy serotonin.
Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction puts you in Bruce Banner’s gamma-irradiated shoes, as you punch, throw, smash, jump, and wreck shop all over the game’s sizable map. What really sets Ultimate Destruction above other superhero games of the time is the depth of its combat. Hulk can turn cars into boxing gloves, swing light poles like bats, and use all kinds of other environmental improvised weapons.
What we get with all of these superb elements is a game that feels like it’s capitalizing on all of its elements: both its comic book inspiration and video game design potential reach their full potential in this title.
2003’s Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings & The Lost Ocean, often shortened to Baten Kaitos, is bursting at the seams with creative ideas.
It’s a turn-based deck building RPG where the cards you use are captured elements of the real world. Sometimes the cards are animals or elemental attacks, and sometimes the cards are just food and water. The world is one where the surface of the planet was long ago destroyed, and now people with wings survive on floating islands.
The blend of high fantasy and sci-fi concepts, the unique battle system, and the vibrant world and characters made Baten Kaitos a true sleeper hit on the GameCube, and a worthy pick for one of the best GameCube games.
It even got a prequel, Baten Kaitos Origins, also on the GameCube in 2006, because Baten Kaitos was too fascinating a world for just one game.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time resurrected the long-dormant side-scrolling platformer franchise, bringing it into the 21st century and the 3rd dimension. What’s more, the developers at Ubisoft Montreal added a new time travel gimmick to let players rewind time and navigate tricky obstacles. The game’s mix of action and clever parkour-inspired traversal made it a hit, and led to a brief resurgence of the Prince of Persia franchise (including that movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal.).
The Sands of Time stands out as an example of third party success on the GameCube. A series that had mostly fallen by the wayside received a new lease on life and a new audience. It received several sequels on the GameCube, and they’re all at least worth playing – but the Sands of Time remains on top.
Beyond Good & Evil, one of the great cult hits of gaming history, was released to critical acclaim in 2003, with critics lauding its story, atmosphere, and world design. Protagonist Jade’s investigation into an interstellar war and the corruption fueling it still holds up as a moving and ambitious story about fascism and the power of focused protest.
Unfortunately, all of this praise did not manifest into financial gain, and Beyond Good & Evil failed to light up the sales charts. Still, it’s a rock-solid game with dazzlingly complex ideas, and well worth your time, with a truly memorable story, world, and cast of characters that have stuck in fans’ minds for so many years. Play it and you’ll definitely join the dedicated crowd singing Beyond Good & Evil’s praises. Just don’t hold your breath on that sequel.
The second of Link’s adventures to land on the purple cube, Twilight Princess saw a more grim, overtly dark turn in Hyrule.
In Twilight Princess, Link must battle across two dimensions and transform into a wolf, as he does battle with a new foe and uncovers the mystery of the Twilight Realm. With influences taken more from the Majora’s Mask side of the Zelda franchise, Twilight Princess felt both like a return to older Zelda titles and its own bold iteration.
Twilight Princess was a major success at the time of its release, exemplifying an era of Nintendo’s internal developers taking massive swings and knocking them out of the park. A Wii release in 2006 and a Wii U remaster in 2016 speak to the staying power of this adventure, and the appeal of Link being a big fluffy boy.
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture, Capcom Production Studio 4 Publisher: Capcom
We mentioned style in reference to Viewtiful Joe earlier, but possibly the most stylish game on the GameCube, if not in all of gaming, is Suda51’s Killer7.
The studio that would eventually give us No More Heroes presents an incredible fever dream of a game in Killer7. You control 7 assassins who happen to share a body, and hunt down members of a terrorist group called Heaven Smile and their zombie-adjacent minions.
While the gameplay is a bit finicky at first – it’s a sort of on-rails third person shooter with some adventure game-style puzzle elements–learning the ropes is well worth your time. Inventive level design, bonkers enemies, and an unrivaled atmosphere of unhinged cool all combine to make killer7 a singular vision and definitely one of the best GameCube games ever made, for those who can tune into its frequency.
Ah, the defunct F-Zero franchise. While we haven’t seen Captain Falcon outside of Super Smash Bros. in quite some time, F-Zero GX remains his final home console title since its release in 2003. Fans keep the hope alive to this day.You may have seen our very own Ash Bates write about the series once or twice.
When a game is as good as F-Zero GX, it makes sense that fans would keep holding so tightly for hope of a revival. The new story mode that made Captain Falcon feel more like a central character, the white-knuckle speed, the sense of danger around every curve, the vicious difficulty that makes victory all the sweeter – F-Zero GX really is the kind of game you’ll think about for nearly 20 years and remember it like you unboxed it yesterday.
The first Pikmin saw Captain Olimar crash landing onto a strange alien world filled with giant artifacts and tiny plant-headed creatures ready to take his orders. He only has 30 in-game days to repair his ship and make his escape, putting an extra deadline on the player.
Pikmin started an entire franchise for Nintendo, and the recent announcement that Pikmin 4 is in development speaks to the longevity of Captain Olimar and his garden of pals.
All of the appeal of the series is on full display in the first game: clever puzzles that involve managing your Pikmin and their elemental affinities, a fascinating and strange alien world to get lost in, and a consistently gratifying gameplay loop that’ll have you restarting Olimar’s journey over and over again.
While Nintendo has often been saddled with the weighty label of “the kiddies’ game company” with fewer mature-minded titles than their competitors, the GameCube hosted one of the highlights of the entire survival horror genre, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.
Released in 2002, developers Silicon Knights had actually been developing this devious doozy of cosmic horror for the N64, before retooling it for the newer console generation. With a story that spans centuries and jumps around with abandon, Eternal Darkness follows a group of disparate souls as they each uncover elements of a dark, ominous mystery. As players’ health and sanity meters deplete, the game will actually distort images, throw jumpscares at the screen, and even fake audio-visual bugs to spook the player as badly as the characters.
Chibi-Robo! puts players in control of a centimeters-high cleaning robot and sets them loose in a house full of dysfunctional denizens, both human and toy.
As players scrub, wipe, and wash away the grime, they’ll fix everyone’s personal problems and uncover a surprisingly deep story about families, both found and biological. It’s also full of beautiful, bright and dynamic environments and characters that are still endearing and hilarious today.
Chibi-Robo! is a fantastic spin on 3D platforming that never runs out of new ideas. While its follow-up titles couldn’t recapture the same lightning in a bottle, the original title still holds up as a clever, engaging and memorable GameCube highlight.
8. Super Mario Sunshine
Developer: Nintendo EAD Publisher: Nintendo
Mario’s 3D follow-up to the era-defining Super Mario 64 saw everyone’s favorite plumber taking a much-deserved vacation. Unfortunately, when danger follows him to the tropical Isle Delfino and he ends up framed for crimes he didn’t commit, Mario has to suit up with his new pal FLUDD, a talking water-spraying backpack to clear his name and save Princess Peach yet again.
Super Mario Sunshine has some devious level designs, asking for nigh-perfect jumps at times, but the challenge doesn’t deter from a game that’s dripping in beautiful environments, inventive level design, and a constant stream of fresh ideas that Mario always does so well.
The title that started it all, Animal Crossing actually first landed on the N64 in Japan, before getting re-released for the rest of the world on the GameCube in 2002.
The cozy small-town life sim has so much of its core DNA figured out right from the jump. The lovable and distinct animal neighbors, the vast furniture collection to customize your house, the lovely low-key aesthetic and music that makes it so easy to lose a full day in-game — it’s all here.
While subsequent titles have definitely made major improvements to streamline the process, the original Animal Crossing was already a juggernaut force when it first dropped. In a post-New Horizons world, going back might seem crazy, but the original Animal Crossing is still a worthwhile destination to visit.
Developer: Intelligent Systems Publisher: Nintendo
The critically-lauded follow up to the N64 Paper Mario drops the 2-D version of Mario into a brand new globe-spanning adventure to gather seven legendary crystal stars and stop an ancient evil from destroying the world. This is the last Paper Mario game to use a tried-and-true turn-based battle system without adding too many odd bells and whistles, and it’s a heck of a mission statement that works so well that it’s truly baffling Nintendo tried to move away from it.
The Thousand-Year-Door is full of lavishly-designed environments and fantastic supporting characters, like the punkish Yoshi kid and professional thief Ms. Mowz. Mario’s more papery qualities also get more attention in this title, as he can turn into a paper airplane or a paper boat to better navigate the environment.
All told, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year-Door is a top tier GameCube game, RPG, and Mario title all in one.
Developer: Capcom Production Studio 4 Publisher: Capcom
Kicking off the top 5 of our best GameCube games ever list is one of the most critically beloved games ever, Resident Evil 4.
When the daughter of the President of the United States is kidnapped, seasoned zombie killer Leon S. Kennedy must journey to a remote Spanish village and battle hordes of murderous cult members to save the day.
Resident Evil 4 made huge strides forward for the genre of third-person shooters, situating players comfortably over Leon’s shoulder and placing a stronger focus on spacial management and action-first gameplay. The result is a nonstop rollercoaster of a game, as Leon rockets from one adrenaline-chugging major set piece to the next.
Resident Evil 4 still casts a long shadow as an apex of its genre and its franchise.
While the Metroid series was absent from the N64, and thus Samus didn’t get the same franchise-defining jump to 3D that Mario and Link did, she more than made up for it with her shift to first-person shooter with 2002’s Metroid Prime.
Metroid Prime effortlessly blended 3D action and spectacle with the usual nuanced exploration of the Metroid series. Its clear new direction for Samus continued in two sequels and several handheld spin-offs.
Metroid Prime 4 has been supposedly in development for quite some time, but the original’s impressive pedigree continues to stand tall above other FPS titles and remain a pillar of Nintendo’s gift for reinvention.
Mario Kart upped the ante for its GameCube installment by letting players pick two characters and swap them at will. This tiny tweak leads to a staggering amount of strategic depth, making Double Dash an extra frenetic whirlwind and one of the tightest, most mechanically sound Mario Karts ever.
It helps that Double Dash also has an incredibly stacked course list: DK Mountain, Peach Beach, and a particularly awe-inspiring Rainbow Road for example all stand tall among the entire Mario Kart canon.
All these years later, Double Dash is still a guaranteed crowd pleaser at your next LAN party.
2. Super Smash Bros. Melee
Developer: HAL Laboratory Publisher: Nintendo
Arguably the high point in the Super Smash Bros. series, and certainly the installment with the greatest competitive longevity, Melee is one heck of a sophomore home run. An expanded roster, new courses and items, and a completely airtight control system make Melee a gold standard against which all platform fighters continue to be compared.
Melee is also the game that brought awareness of a little series called Fire Emblem to the West, with unlockable characters Marth and Roy being the first time most American and European players encountered any representatives of the series. In this way, Melee is a truly historic document.
While its cel-shaded graphics may have scared away some prospective players who wanted a more mature Zelda venture (which they’d eventually get with Twilight Princess), The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is an unmitigated classic.
Link’s adventure on the high seas in this bright, vivid world exemplifies all things that the Zelda series does best: a joyous sense of discovery, inventive and clever dungeons, whip-smart puzzles, and titanic boss battles.
Of all of the best GameCube games on this list, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker manages to still feel as timeless and fresh now as it did in 2003. Time has been especially kind to this title, as rumors continue to swirl about a possible remaster for the Switch.
As Tears of the Kingdom draws closer, the urge for more Zelda will likely drive fans back to Breath of the Wild – but for anyone who hasn’t played it yet, The Wind Waker is a destination you can’t afford to miss.
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