From the common, everyday gamer’s perspective, Nintendo as a brand was always the underdog standing stubborn against market needs, persistent as the distant child, always peeking out of the shadows, and trying to come hit the mainstream like a freight train.
Nintendo was always trying too hard to sell to an older audience, along with a refusal to adapt to what everyone aside from their most die-hard fans wanted.
hey finally did get it right with Switch.
So, what went wrong?
For Nintendo, coming off of the supposed golden age of the 64 was not going to be easy.
The Japanese gaming giant had much to be worried about, with fellow countrymen Sony planning their world takeover and Bill Gates’ bulldozing effort into capturing the hearts and minds of gamers with the PlayStation and Xbox, respectively.
The painful story behind the death of the GameCube is a lesson in adaptability, the cliche-but-true survival of the fittest, and that no brand can truly ever outgrow trends save a few exceptions.
To capture the hearts of the main market, the follow-up to the legendary N64 would have to do something truly out of the box. And Nintendo stick to just the ‘box’ part.
Thus, we had the GameCube and a handsome bouquet of childhood memories. Ironically, the demand for this decades-old console has skyrocketed in the today (Feel old yet?)
Keeping that in mind, let’s go right into the meat of this thinkpiece; the 7 best GameCube games that made this struggling console the cult success that it stands as today.
Best GameCube Games of All Time
23. Star Fox Adventures
Although it could be called more of a Legend of Zelda game spiritually, Star Fox Adventures was actually supposed to be another IP altogether.
An action-adventure journey tweaked by Miyamoto to sate the average Link fanboy, Star Fox Adventures is better known as a cult classic rather than a significant upgrade over the last game in the series prior to this release.
22. SoulCalibur II
The sequel to the massively popular Soul Calibur, the second installment of this franchise was special because of the inclusion of a character that was specifically meant to be only on the GameCube iteration of the game.
With newer mechanics, characters, a deeper plot, and graphical improvements, SoulCalibur II remains one of the most important additions to any GameCube library.
21. F-Zero GX
The mid-90s to mid-00s was a great time for the Wipeout-inspired futuristic antigrav arcade racer genre, and F-Zero GX was probably the very best.
Easily, one of the better racing games on the platform simply because of the gameplay mechanics, the stylish and surprisingly difficult F-Zero makes it to our list at light speed.
20. Viewtiful Joe
Viewtiful Joe was one of the most unique video games to ever exist, and an underloved, underappreciated, and underrated title at every stage of its life.
Created by Hideki Kamiya, the genius behind games such as Devil May Cry and Resident Evil, Viewtiful Joe was a side-scrolling action masterpiece, and undoubtedly one of his gems.
Viewtiful Joe, the main character of the series, later went on to appear in more crossover titles such as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
19. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Paper Mario is not just a must-play, it is one of the most satisfying JRPG experiences to ever exist on the humble GameCube.
Released in 2004, The Thousand-Year Door is known for being arguably the best Paper Mario game, with surprisingly well-developed characters and the quintessential Nintendo charm.
18. Super Monkey Ball 2
Probably the better offering than its predecessor, Super Monkey Ball 2 is more creative with its design, with a varying number of obstacles and new gameplay mechanics such as teleportation.
This chaotic party game is a must-have for anyone looking to live out the glory days of the GameCube.
17. Burnout 2
Lots of sequels here. Burnout 2: Point of Impact was the last Burnout release on the GameCube, and boy, what a release.
A unique game, core mechanics includes winning by racing ‘dirty,’ this crash simulator is by far one of the best experiences to have with friends.
16. Super Mario Sunshine
Although it didn’t even come close to replicating the soaring success of its predecessor on the N64, Super Mario Sunshine is a great game in its own rights.
Released in 2002, Super Mario Sunshine is a classic offering by Miyamoto and co., a fun, lighthearted, swashbuckling 3D experience with our favorite red plumber.
15. The Simpsons Hit and Run
This one’s a no-brainer. The best Simpsons game to be made, this open-world GTA clone was a success no matter what system you played it on.
Chock full of references and with tight core gameplay, Hit and Run was hours’ worth of mindless enjoyment.
14. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
No matter what era we talk about, a Metal Gear game was always going to make the list.
Released at a time when third-party support for Nintendo consoles was at its peak, The Twin Snakes was a remake of the classic hit Metal Gear Solid, and an unforgettable journey to be a part of on the GameCube, with new original cutscenes and major graphical advances, playing out more like a Kojima-esque interactive movie than an actual video game.
13. Pokémon Colosseum
The successor to the original trilogy of Pokémon Stadium games on the N64, Pokémon Colosseum is still a cult classic despite not having any significant multiplayer options.
What sets it apart though, is the fact that this is a fully fleshed-out console RPG experience, with returning features such as ‘snagging’ other Pokémon.
12. Crazy Taxi
A Dreamcast port, Crazy Taxi is a fantastic game that was rejuvenated on the GameCube after the discontinuation of the aforementioned Sega system.
You played as an everyday taxi driver in a race against time to pick up and drop customers at a designated location, which made Crazy Taxi one of the most first-timer friendly options out there.
11. Mario Kart Double Dash
Mario Kart Double Dash was the quintessential Mario Kart experience of the sixth generation.
With a new tag team mechanic, wherein one player drove the kart whilst the other sat and helped with abilities and throwing shells to disrupt other drivers, Double Dash was arguably better than its N64 counterpart.
10. Luigi’s Mansion
Seen as one of the more average launch titles for the GameCube, Luigi’s Mansion was the first standalone with Mario’s bumbling green cousin.
Although often seen as too short when compared to other titles in the Mario universe, Luigi’s Mansion is still one of the most innovative games on offer on Nintendo’s sixth-gen platform.
9. Tales of Symphonia
One of the best JRPGs to ever exist, Tales of Symphonia was available on multiple platforms, but was unique on the GameCube as it was the first time a Symphonia RPG was released for the Western market.
Needless to say, it was really easy to fall for this classic with the amazing combat and fleshed-out plotlines, making it the most popular game in the series.
8. Super Smash Bros Melee
Ah, the one that started it all. Considered to be the best fighting game on the GameCube, and one of the best games on the sixth generation, this 2001 crossover beat ’em-up stands out with a gigantic Metacritic rating of 92.
Along with that, this classic also introduced a newer audience to the competitive fighting game scene and is still supported fervently in retro competitive gaming clubs and arcades.
7. TimeSplitters 2
Today, Free Radical Entertainment is the studio that made the much-maligned Haze and went downhill, never climbing back to their original best.
So, what was it then?
Well, the answer is simple but extremely nuanced at its core. TimeSplitters was a video game series that was as celebrated as it was underrated and forever remains a classic.
The series came into its own with the release of the second offering from Free Radical, a team of former Rare developers.
From the get-go, the influence of designing fan-favorite titles such as GoldenEye 007 was visible, with the same combat system at heart that made the GoldenEye multiplayer such a hit.
However, where TimeSplitters 2 differentiated itself was the fairly simple and easy-to-follow storyline.
Sergeant Cortez is on a mission to stop the TimeSplitters, an alien race using ‘Time Crystals’ to obliterate humanity in another time, the past.
This combined with the excellent pacing, a brilliant multiplayer mode, and a challenging (if sometimes clunky) aiming made the game a sleeper hit, selling over a million copies after its release in 2002.
On top of being a console exclusive, the TimeSplitters era was a defining moment for the FPS genre and video game consoles as a whole.
Also, it doesn’t look like the franchise is going to be in stasis for much longer; developer Rare is planning to bring the GameCube, PlayStation, and Xbox favorite to the next generation soon enough, with another installment, said to be in the works.
One of the GameCube multiplayer games for sure.
6. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
At a time where everybody thought that Nintendo was getting comfortable in their own little niche of confetti and colorful mushrooms, out came to a survival horror magnum opus that blew that presumption out of the water and gave us one of the best Nintendo GameCube games, better still, one of the best horror games ever.
Today, we know that breaking the fourth wall is a fairly common mechanic in video games and all of pop culture in general.
But what about the early 2000s?
What if a mode of entertainment meant to be just a pastime started making you question your sanity?
Well, that’s what this Lovecraft-inspired masterpiece did.
Released by Silicon Knights, a studio known for their prior work on Metal Gear Solid, Eternal Darkness came out of nowhere and blew us all away when we finally saw it on screen, with the changed, deeper-voiced Nintendo intro to the first title card.
For a game that was known for its aforementioned lack of care for the fourth wall, ED was a pretty damn good title by itself.
The story, setting, characters, and polished gameplay along with the industry-changing sanity system made the game’s idiosyncratic messing with the player’s mind just the terrifying but beautiful cherry on top, holding up even post 20 years of release.
5. Resident Evil 4
Out of the bunch of titles, namely 5, that Capcom put out as exclusives on the GameCube to appeal to an older audience growing out of their Mario days, the only one to see mainstream success was Capcom’s survival horror masterpiece, Resident Evil 4.
A game that made itself terrifying (and terrifyingly difficult) on both a spiritual *and* mechanical level, this 2005 release befittingly rejuvenated the hopes and dreams of every Nintendo executive and loyal user alike, for however short a period of time that may be.
An apocalyptic world where the daughter of the President of the United States has been kidnapped by a cult in a village where the residents are mind-controlled zombies.
Both horrifying and bewildering, RE4 forever changed the landscape of survival horror, just like Silent Hill before it.
Adding to the list of things that went right for this title was the fact that it was directed by the god of horror video games himself, Shinji Mikami, who later went on to oversee the massively popular The Evil Within.
His directorial style, with the tension in the atmosphere to the violent kill scenes, led to RE:4 being an absolute record-breaking success, selling 10 million copies worldwide after getting ported to multiple platforms.
RE:4 is one of the top GameCube games in any listing.
For a game that is considered by many to be the greatest game ever to exist, Resident Evil 4 has firmly placed itself on our list as one of the best GameCube games of all time.
4. Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader
When Factor 5, the developers of this classic offering exclusively made for the GameCube showcased their real-time demo to the world at SpaceWorld 2000, people all across were absolutely floored at the technological marvel of it.
And because all other offerings that were supposed to come with it had pre-rendered cutscenes as showcases, this game instantly became a trend because nobody actually believed it could be done.
But it was. And how.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader released for the GameCube after much attention garnered for its stellar graphics even by early Noughties standards, and still remains one of the most famous moments and games in the history of Nintendo’s little box, with the beautiful graphics, presentation, and gameplay.
Not only was Rogue Leader a straight success out of the box, but it also helped alleviate the image that Nintendo was only focused on a younger audience and helped the Japanese giant’s first party and third party developer partners to churn out games at a rate that nobody expected.
Compared to the console exclusive offerings that were on the market for the GameCube or any other console at the time, Rogue Leader stands in a league of its own as a ‘console-seller’ and a shining beacon of technological development on severely limited hardware.
3. Beyond Good & Evil
This one….is a bit difficult to explain. The sixth generation of consoles defined gaming for me.
Companies like Bungie, Valve, and Ubisoft all came with their genre and generation defining franchises.
But what stuck with us, and I presume a lot of gamers was the sheer number of experiences these games used to contain.
And if anything deserved to be called an experience, it’s Beyond Good & Evil.
Considered by many as another masterpiece that slipped under the radar of the mainstream being an action-adventure title with an investigative journalism twist, this complex but a reflective journey through the world of media and journalism and how it manipulates, and forces perspectives, was an eye-opening phenomenon never expected of video games.
BG&E was more than innovative in the storytelling department. Running on an engine crafted solely for developing this game as well as having one of the most iconic female protagonists of all time helped cement this classic 2003 release as one of the best video games of all time, let alone one of the best GameCube games of all time.
Beyond Good & Evil was a milestone for the adventure video games genre, inspiring many more that came after it, and the production of that tight-knit Rayman team working under Michelle Ancel made for an unforgettable experience.
The demand for this game still runs high today, and a sequel has been planned already.
2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Historically, the protagonist of this critically and commercially acclaimed franchise, Link, was an empty vessel that Nintendo intended for their players to shape and fill.
What differentiates the Wind Waker from the rest of the series, however, is just how much personality was put into Link.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker hit stores in 2003, and it was instantly noticeable how much more freedom producer Shigeru Miyamoto and his team gave themselves.
Not only did the main character have a much more vibrant and complex set of emotions, thoughts, and actions, he also projected a lot of it forward, as if it was a way of communicating directly with the player.
Paired with that was one of the greatest soundtracks of that generation from the outstanding team of Kenta Naganata, Hajime Wakai, Toru Kinegishi, and Koji Kondo.
A more cartoonish art style, a fantastic soundtrack, the most memorable that Link has ever been and the same classic Nintendo storytelling made this one of the best console exclusives ever released.
1. Metroid Prime
Well, what else did you expect? Metroid Prime was arguably the magnum opus of the entire lifetime of a video game console, and I firmly believe that it was the best GameCube game to ever exist, even ahead of some of our personal favorites like Super Smash Bros Melee and Viewtiful Joe.
Set between the events of the first Metroid, released back on the NES, and Metroid II on the GameBoy, this installment was the first addition to the long-running series in a while, and fans flocked to it almost immediately.
With returning features such as the save stations, morph ball, and missiles, Metroid Prime was undoubtedly bound to be good, but nobody expected it to reach the heights that it eventually did. With a Metacritic rating of 97, this is probably the best GameCube game of all time.
Although a lack of adaptability made the GameCube a part of a niche and led to an image that Nintendo couldn’t shake off as hard as they tried, the platform gave way to some decade-defining games. On top of that, the console’s mechanical exclusivity led to it being very highly sought after in the retro market where it continues to go for unbelievable figures even today.
Q. Is it worth buying a GameCube in 2021?
The short answer is no. With the people behind the Dolphin emulator doing such wonderful work to port our favorite Nintendo offering into the PC atmosphere, the purchase of a three-generation old console does not make much sense for the average video game consumer. For reasons related to memory and nostalgia, however, the GameCube still holds up today with regards to its sturdy build. Go for it if the massively inflated prices don’t hold you back.
Q. Is it better to buy the Wii or the GameCube?
Both are two and three generations old, respectively, and emulation has come so far forward that experiencing the best games of that era at much better resolutions and framerates is the more enticing and practical option.
Q. Why is the GameCube so expensive?
The GameCube was designed around the proprietary mini-DVD system that Nintendo applied to all of its systems back in the day. That, coupled with a special Panasonic version only released in Japan called The Cube That Could, and the discontinuation of production that comes with age, make the surviving units of this console so sought after in the retrosphere.