The best GameCube games feature some of Nintendo’s best work, in addition to a host of fantastic third-party titles
With the GameCube just turning the ripe old age of 20, there’s never been a better time to get nostalgic about the best GameCube games. Nintendo’s quirky and much-beloved fourth home console had some absolutely smashing titles, which have gone down in history as some of Nintendo’s most unique and eclectic games.
We live in hope that Nintendo may bring its classic Gamecube titles to Switch via a new version of Virtual Console – as was rumored back in 2016, with Super Mario Sunshine, Luigi’s Mansion and Super Smash Bros. Melee all reported as being in testing – but for now, we can console ourselves with ability to play Switch games using a GameCube controller.
GameCube may not have had the most games, but it was never lacking in quality, playing host to some of the best entries in the Zelda, Metroid, and Resident Evil franchises while also bringing an array of incredible, wholly original content. It’s time to get weird, as we celebrate the 25 best GameCube games ever made.
10. F-Zero GX
Pure, unrelenting speed. It’s one thing for a racing game to make it seem like you’re driving 150mph, but it’s quite another when the game can fling your hovercraft through a mile-high loop at 2000kph while 29 other racers try to bump you out of the sky… and make you believe it. Even with all the other cars on the screen, blasting at top speed in a fire-spewing cave with a magnetized pole acting as a course, F-Zero GX does not stutter. It’s the fastest game on the system, not to mention one of the prettiest when viewed in widescreen ,and progressive scan support ensures this game will still look presentable years later. The racing intensity is blown into overdrive once you start getting into the harder circuits.
F-Zero GX goes from fairly challenging to rip-your-hair-out impossible, requiring you to race perfectly without making a single mistake. If you slip once, you’ll see about 20 speeding hovercrafts go flying past in less than half a second. It’s this ultimate hardcore appeal that makes F-Zero GX such a standout game, for no other title on the system is so unapologetic about its infuriating difficulty. Then you dive into the story mode, where things somehow get even harder. Overcoming these races is a source of pride that any gamer would be glad to brag about. Throw in a customizable garage mode and you’ve got something to keep gearheads, speed freaks, and hardcore nut jobs entranced for hours.
9. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Cribbing heavily from the works of classic horror scribe H.P. Lovecraft, this terror epic spans thousands of years, putting you in control of a dozen people forced to battle unimaginable horrors from beyond the cosmos. Load this up, and you’ll explore haunted ruins as an escaped Cambodian slave; bash your way to the dark secret at the heart of an old cathedral as a Franciscan friar; and fight out of a horrific dungeon as a Canadian firefighter, among other activities. And the whole time, you’ll be spooked out of your mind.
The beauty of Eternal Darkness is that it doesn’t need to use sudden shocks to scare you senseless. Even the monsters and traps aren’t that terrifying when compared to the delight the game takes in messing with your head. You might enter a room and suddenly be decapitated, only to reappear unharmed in the previous hallway a few seconds later. Your size changes. Rooms turn upside down. Disembodied voices howl madness into your ears. And it all gets worse as your character gets pushed further and further toward the brink of sanity. Are the demons real, or have you just gone crazy? Who says it can’t be both?
8. Animal Crossing
Nothing that spectacular happens in Animal Crossing. Much like in real life, you buy a home, get a job, shop for material possessions, visit friends, celebrate holidays, and get exploited by money-hungry capitalists like Tom Nook. Seriously, that’s about as exciting as it gets. So why bother? Because, unlike reality, Animal Crossing is all about freedom and relaxation.
An average gameplay session usually includes nothing more strenuous than fishing by the river, collecting rare butterflies, and dropping in on an animal neighbor to check out their new coffee table. Your most important mission may be delivering a letter from a friendly cat to an even friendlier dog. It’s an endlessly charming and refreshing break from the stresses of the actual world… not to mention the stresses of other, more violent and frustrating video games. You’ll never throw your controller at this one, so long as that dastardly Nook isn’t asking for more money.
7. Soulcalibur II
The original Soulcalibur for the Dreamcast showed us just how beautiful and addictive a 3D fighter could be. Taking the formula to the next level seemed like a challenge, but Namco made it look effortless with this totally engrossing sequel. With a single-player mode worth the time investment and a bevy of new characters to clash blades with, it oozed polish and playability from every pore.
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Better, though, was Namco’s clever gimmick of including a special character in each console’s version of the game. PS2 got Tekken’s Heihachi; the American console, Xbox, got comic hero Spawn. But neither could hope to compete with Zelda hero Link. The developers did a stellar job of implementing him, as well. This was the most detailed version of the character we’d seen at that point, with beautifully choreographed swordplay and many of the special abilities he had in his adventures (watch out for those bombs!). In short, it elevated the GameCube edition above the other two and briefly brought a serious edge to the GameCube’s lineup.
6. Star Wars Rogue Leader
Blowing up TIE fighters in an X-Wing is cool. Doing so in a superb game on the day you bought your shiny new GameCube is mind-blowing. Rogue Leader was the first GameCube game to really show off what Nintendo’s purple lunchbox was capable of, pumping out beautiful visuals to match its rapid-fire action.
From the epic trench run on the first Death Star, to the final assault at the Battle of Endor, Rogue Leader’s battles pile on the action as you tangle with the best pilots the Empire has to offer. The dogfights are fast and addictive, the multiple mission objectives punch in some decent variety, and the scenery looks amazing as it zooms past. As far as space and aerial combat in the Star Wars universe goes, this is still the definitive console game, and that’s saying a lot.
5. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
When Prince of Persia, an iconic video game franchise, was announced for a reboot, tenured gamers showed some concern. This was a classic after all, and sometimes it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. Ubisoft, however, delivered tenfold with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, transforming the old name into a new classic. Sands of Time focused on agility and acrobatics, feats not normally seen in these types of action games.
This Prince could walk across walls and jump leaps and bounds across the terrain. Best of all, if you fell into a pit, you could use the Sands of Time to reverse your actions and try again, a beautiful addition for many a slow-fingered player. Sands of Time brought the Prince into the present, exposing this timeless franchise to a new generation.
4. Super Smash Bros. Melee
Take all its world-renowned characters, throw them into painstakingly crafted arenas, and have them fight until only one is left standing. Mario versus Link versus Samus versus Bowser, all inside a perfect recreation of Super Mario Bros.’ first level. It’s a death-match made in heaven. The gameplay has that beautiful “easy to learn, hard to master” quality, meaning a five-year-old can jump right in while experienced scrappers can go on to find limitless incentives to keep playing.
A challenging adventure mode takes all the same moves and brilliant animations from the fighting game and puts them into a side-scrolling romp that still plays better than most games made since. With unlockables galore, this is one giant celebration of everything Nintendo. Melee was the best-selling GameCube title and won tons of praise from critics and the public. Despite the Wii sequel Brawl expanding on it in so many ways, many fans still prefer this one.
3. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 keeps the action and the scares coming at a rapid pace, mixing brutal firefights, buckets of gore, and interactive cutscenes with the best visuals the last generation of consoles had to offer. Unlike previous Evils, this one loads you up with enough guns and ammo to stop an army of rhinos, but you’ll need every last bullet to punch your way through the hordes of maniacs standing between you and the President’s daughter.
RE4 is tough, make no mistake, but its moody atmosphere and deep, cinematic action will keep you riveted even after the demoralizing gut-punch of watching hero Leon’s head sheared off by a chainsaw-wielding freak. If you don’t believe us, try playing it for 15 minutes. If you can walk away from the game after the adrenaline-surging sequence in which you barricade yourself into a house as an angry mob swarms outside, then you’ve got more willpower than we ever will.
2. Metroid Prime
Despite the insane odds stacked against Samus and her first 3D adventure, all we needed was five minutes to realize why this was an amazing product. How? First off, Samus’ new planet looked like a real place, with uneven caves and rough patches of vegetation strewn all over the map. And developer Retro Studios revolutionized an ailing franchise in the most startling way possible; by presenting a thought-heavy puzzler in the same manner as a first-person shooter.
The viewpoint didn’t once feel tacked-on or unnecessary, instead drawing you in even more. Rain splatters on the visor and steam effects creep up and obscure your view, creating an ever-increasing sense of claustrophobia that stays with you from one save point to the next. In short, it’s everything a franchise reborn wants to be.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Anyone who complains that the Zelda games don’t take enough chances must have missed Wind Waker (though the Wii U HD remake has hopefully remedied that), as it risked everything by transforming the whole world and turning it inside out. The clean, colourful Disney style will never be dated, it’s vibrant and beautiful forever. Likewise, switching the setting from endless green forest to endless blue ocean, and your means of transportation from horse to boat, proved that the Zelda formula really is immortal.
Finally, and most controversially, Link is recast as a bite-sized tyke. But the brave spirit of the character is intact, and his wide-eyed childlike expressions make him more sympathetic than ever before. If you can get through the scene where he says goodbye to his grandmother without getting a little emotional, then you’re made of tougher stuff than us.