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Technically speaking, Nintendo’s GameCube was a more powerful console than the PS2. It had better graphical capabilities, but due to its unusual choice of physical media and its relative lack of major third-party exclusives, the GameCube unfairly lagged behind Sony’s all-conquering black monolith during the sixth console generation. This is unfortunate, because the GameCube had some seriously excellent games on it. In no particular order, here are the top 25 GameCube games of all time.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Link’s first outing on the GameCube suffered somewhat from rushed development, or so it seems. There are places in The Wind Waker where it feels like content is missing, and yet it still manages to be a tour de force. The visuals are expressive, painterly, and beautiful, and the action is characteristic 3D Zelda puzzling interspersed with responsive combat.
2. Super Smash Bros. Melee
There are fighting game fans out there who still swear that Melee is the best Smash Bros game of all time. It’s hard to disagree with them; it expanded the roster, added in fan favourites like Marth and Bowser, and hugely improved the engine, creating an ultra-fast and fluid fighting game that’s still being played in esports tournaments to this very day.
Originally part of the ill-fated Capcom Five, Killer7 was supposed to be a GameCube exclusive. It’s still best enjoyed on Nintendo’s console due to the control layout, but this oddball assassin fantasy, which comes to us from auteur genius Suda51, is a head trip wherever you play it. Describing it is difficult; it’s a rail shooter mixed with FPS and RPG elements, but that doesn’t come close to doing it justice.
4. Resident Evil 4
Much like Killer7, Resident Evil 4 was, at one point, a GameCube exclusive, but a survival horror experience of this calibre was never going to remain loyal to a single console for long. Resi 4 revamped the series’ classic tank controls, introducing a more active gameplay system that emphasised action over resource management. It was still scary as all get-out, though.
5. Mario Kart: Double Dash
Double Dash is often considered the black sheep of the Mario Kart family, but that’s an unearned reputation. It made some unusual changes, with two racers riding in a kart instead of one, but that just made for more frantic and brilliantly accusatory multiplayer action. There are some seriously iconic courses and racers on offer here, too, making for a superb Mario Kart experience.
6. Viewtiful Joe
The third of the Capcom Five originally pledged for GameCube, Viewtiful Joe also made it onto other platforms, but it’s a great game wherever you play it. Hideki Kamiya’s side-scrolling tribute to tokusatsu superhero media is at once brutally difficult and beautifully technical. It combines comic book-style visuals with over-the-top storytelling and Kamiya’s signature combo-based action gameplay.
7. Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Sunshine was a worthy followup to Mario 64. It expanded the central hub world into an entire town, sized up the levels, and gave Mario new traversal powers in the form of the F.LU.D.D. The story was wonky and the voice acting was subpar, but Mario Sunshine represented a direction we wish the series had carried on taking into the Wii generation.
8. Metroid Prime
There was simply no way that a first-person Metroid shooter should have worked, but somehow, Metroid Prime became one of the defining games of its generation. The formula still hasn’t been bettered, or even copied, to this day; it’s too difficult to get the balance between immersive exploration and satisfying combat right. Sequels would follow, but this is Metroid at its best.
9. Luigi’s Mansion
As a launch title for the GameCube, Luigi’s Mansion was a rather daring prospect. It’s essentially a survival horror title for kids; think Resident Evil meets Ghostbusters. As Luigi, you must use your ghost vacuum to suck up ghosts and stop them from causing mayhem throughout the titular mansion. You’ll also need to explore thoroughly to find keys and solve puzzles along the way.
10. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
Reimagining the original Metal Gear Solid was always going to be a tough proposition, but that’s exactly what Konami did. Working alongside Canadian studio Silicon Knights (whose name will reappear on this list later), they created a maximalist re-interpretation of Solid Snake’s adventure, retaining the stealth action gameplay but adding a number of over-the-top twists.
11. Animal Crossing
In early 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off, gamers around the world sought solace in the newly-released Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch. They have this 2001 title to thank for the series taking off as it did. Quirky, unusual, and utterly uncompromising, Animal Crossing is an extremely slow-paced and quiet experience, but it manages to be incredibly absorbing, too.
Shigeru Miyamoto was inspired to create Pikmin after an original prototype in which players played God gave way to this adorable real-time strategy classic. You play as Captain Olimar, a shipwrecked explorer, and you must use the help of the titular Pikmin to help you move around the world. They can lift objects, build bridges, and even fight for you.
13. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
With Path of Radiance, the long-running and much-loved Fire Emblem series made the leap to consoles. Nothing was lost in the transition, though; this is a classic tale of strategy and kingdoms warring. Protagonist Ike is no lord; unlike previous instalments, he’s simply a mercenary, and he rises to become a respected warrior through hard work and heroism alone.
14. Skies of Arcadia Legends
Unfortunately, Sega’s Dreamcast never made the waves it should have done. Many of its games are lost now, but luckily, Skies of Arcadia made its way to the GameCube, meaning this pirate RPG can be experienced by a wider audience (although you’ll still struggle to find it on both platforms today, unfortunately). Settle in and enjoy the lengthy tale of Vyse and his crew.
15. Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
The Mario Golf games shouldn’t work as well as they do, but the combination of sports sim-style golf gameplay and arcade immediacy go together to create something truly special. Camelot’s GameCube offering is great fun, with a whole host of modes to check out and Mario favourites to play as. It might not be the most accurate golf sim around, but when it’s this fun, who cares?
16. Super Monkey Ball
Super Monkey Ball is a great example of a game whose name communicates its entire premise incredibly successfully. They’re monkeys, they’re in balls, and the game is indeed super. At its core, the gameplay is akin to Marble Madness; you must tilt a level in order to guide your balled-up monkey to the goal, avoiding hazards and collecting bananas along the way. It gets fiendishly difficult as it goes on.
17. Star Fox Adventures
Instead of the classic Star Fox rail shooter fans were clamouring for, they got this, a Zelda-style adventure game with cross-genre gameplay. There’s lots to be annoyed about when it comes to Adventures; it’s not quite Star Fox, and the voice acting is weak at best. However, there’s something charmingly magical about this adventure, largely thanks to Rare’s characteristic tight gameplay design.
18. Resident Evil (remake)
The Resident Evil remake is one of the greatest reimaginings of a game that there has ever been. It took the classic tank controls and inventory puzzle gameplay of the original title and expanded the setting and story massively, introducing new and terrifying enemies along the way. You can still play REmake, as it’s often referred to, on modern platforms today.
19. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
We told you we’d be returning to Silicon Knights. Eternal Darkness is often held up as a tentpole of the survival horror genre, but frankly, we’re not sure we’d entirely agree. It’s more of a psychological horror experience; it lacks the frantic, tense inventory management of survival horror, preferring instead to lean on clever and cruel tricks that we won’t spoil here.
20. Beyond Good & Evil
From its cultural melting-pot setting to its Zelda-inspired gameplay, Beyond Good & Evil has more than earned its place as a touchstone of gaming. Jade’s adventure incorporates photography, combat, exploration, and even vehicles, making it a real tour de force that crosses genres and isn’t afraid to experiment. The long-awaited sequel is still stuck in development hell, sadly.
21. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
It’s not quite the masterpiece that Metroid Prime was, but there’s still plenty to love in Metroid Prime 2. It’s another masterstroke from Retro Studios, featuring first-person Metroid exploration and characteristically brilliant combat. The new light and dark mechanics aren’t quite as satisfying as they could be, but they’re still used to great effect throughout the game world.
Alongside Skies of Arcadia, Ikaruga is another game that thankfully made its way across to the GameCube from the Dreamcast. This brutal vertical shoot-’em-up was one of the first games to use changing colour polarity as a mechanic, inspiring future releases like Outland. It’s not all about the innovation, though; this is also simply an expertly-crafted shooter in and of itself.
23. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
After the N64’s Paper Mario proved the concept of a papercraft Mario RPG could work, The Thousand-Year Door perfected the formula. The writing is sharp and witty, and the turn-based combat feels much more participatory than its rivals thanks to the rhythm action-style timed button prompts. Relentlessly imaginative and just plain good fun, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is great from start to finish.
24. Soulcalibur II
For our money, the GameCube version of Soulcalibur II is the game at its best. The fighting is, of course, fluid and technical, with a great single-player mode that modern fighting games should look to for inspiration. Soulcalibur II’s biggest and best GameCube feature, however, was the addition of The Legend of Zelda’s Link, by far the greatest guest character in the series so far.
25. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Released, appropriately enough, during the GameCube’s twilight years, Twilight Princess was more famous as a launch title for the Wii, but its true home is on GameCube. This is a meaty, epic Zelda adventure that takes inspiration more from Ocarina of Time’s art style than Wind Waker’s. The wolf sections might be a chore, but this is Zelda at its head-scratching best.