To celebrate its 20th birthday, we’re running down the 25 best GameCube games, as decided by VGC’s panel of experts.
In 2001 Nintendo released a new console. But despite the hype, it never ended up selling in as enormous numbers as the company had hoped.
That console was the outlandish Nintendo Gamecube, a bold, purple box which despite its many excellent games, found itself third in a three-horse race, with Sony leading and Microsoft holding its own in second.
Yet despite these disappointing sales figures, many who owned Nintendo’s console fell in love with it – as is often the case with Nintendo’s few spectacular failures – thanks to its excellent line-up of mostly first-party software.
To celebrate the diversity of this grossly underrated console’s library, here – on its 20th birthday – is our list of the 25 best GameCube games ever.
Best GameCube Games: #25 – 21
DreamMix TV World Fighters
What it is: A Smash Bros clone which has a struggling TV station put on a fighting tournament starring characters from different worlds.
Why it’s Essential: Long before Konami surprised gamers by allowing Solid Snake to feature in Super Smash Bros Brawl, it had included him in this brilliant Smash Bros-like game.
DreamMix TV World Fighters plays just like Smash Bros, but instead of featuring Nintendo characters it instead brings together characters from Konami and Hudson Soft games, as well as toys from Japanese toymaker Takara.
The result is a fighting game starring the likes of Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Solid Snake, Bomberman, Tyson Granger from Beyblade and even Optimus Prime and Megatron from Transformers. Clearly you should be sold on it already.
Tony Hawk’s Series
What it is: Five classic games in Activision’s skateboarding series.
Why it’s Essential: The first Tony Hawk game on GameCube, Pro Skater 3, was the one that absolutely nailed the series’ iconic skating gameplay. The introduction of the revert, allowing players to continue combos after performing vert jumps, completely changed the way the game was played and made insanely long combo runs possible.
The subsequent GameCube entries – Pro Skater 4, Underground, Underground 2 and American Wasteland – all built on this formula, but never went quite so far as to ruin what was a good thing.
They are all, therefore, worth hunting down. But don’t get anything from the appropriately named Downhill Jam onwards.
Viewtiful Joe 1 & 2
Why it was chosen: We rarely use the term “cool as hell” when describing video games but Viewtiful Joe gladly fits into this description as if it were a skin-tight superhero outfit.
Joe is a normal chap whose girlfriend has been kidnapped by the villain in a movie they were watching at the cinema (bloody IMAX). Luckily, he’s armed with the V-watch, a device that lets him transform into a superhero with the words “henshin-a-go-go, baby”.
Cue some magnificent cel-shaded face-punching action, complete with cool as hell (see?) slow motion bits.
WWE Day of Reckoning 1 and 2
What it is: The best wrestling games on GameCube that are actually about wrestling.
Why it was chosen: To be clear, the Def Jam games are still the best wrestling games on GameCube, but obviously not every wrestling fan wants to play as Redman.
For more a more conventional WWE experience, give both Day Of Reckoning games a go. They’re not quite up there with the Smackdown games on PlayStation systems but they handled storylines better than any other WWE game to date, particularly Day Of Reckoning 2.
They don’t touch N64 gem WWF No Mercy, but they’re still quality wrestling titles.
What it is: The ultimate crossover fighting game, pitting Capcom’s (mostly Street Fighter heavy) roster against that of SNK (The King Of Fighters, Fatal Fury).
Why it’s Essential: If there’s one popular gaming the genre in which the GameCube suffered slightly it was 2D fighting games. Well, racing games too, but let’s focus on fighters.
Capcom vs SNK 2 is the one exception to this rule. With a massive character roster – there are 23 Capcom characters and 23 SNK characters to choose from – this one’s deeper than a scuba diving philosopher.
There’s also an optional ‘EO’ system that makes it easy for beginners to perform special moves by just flicking the right stick, a feature that makes an often intimidating genre far more approachable.
Best GameCube Games: #20 – 16
World Soccer Winning Eleven 6 Final Evolution
What it is: The only version of Pro Evolution Soccer released on GameCube.
Why it’s Essential: GameCube fans who loved football, hated FIFA (because it wasn’t great back then) and couldn’t see the glory of Virtua Striker had a big problem: while they were moping around in football-free hell their PS2-owning pals were enjoying the glorious Pro Evolution Soccer series, which remained staunchly Nintendo-free in the west.
One version of PES did actually make it to the GameCube, though. World Soccer Winning Eleven 6 Final Evolution was actually the Japanese version of PES 2, and while that wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of the series it was still PES on Nintendo at a time when that wasn’t supposed to exist.
Def Jam Vendetta and Fight for NY
What it is: The successors to WWF No Mercy, one of the greatest wrestling games ever made.
Why it’s Essential: Although most wrestling game fans adored No Mercy when it was released on the Nintendo 64, publisher THQ and developer AKI sadly went their separate ways after its release.
As a consequence, AKI was quickly employed by EA, who had earned the license to make video games based on rap label Def Jam Records. The result was Def Jam Vendetta, a wrestling game that plays just like No Mercy (albeit a little faster) but features the likes of Method Man, DMX and Ludacris instead of WWE superstars.
Its sequel Fight For NY is even better, adding a load of new rappers to the mix: Ice-T, Snoop Dog, Busta Rhymes, Xzibit… the list goes on.
What it is: The second entry in Criterion Games’ adrenaline fuelled racing series.
Why it’s Essential: Yes, Burnout 3 was a better game, but good luck finding that on the GameCube. The second offering is still a fantastic racer and, like its siblings, brings the whole risk/reward concept to the fore in a way that few other racing games do.
Driving safe and staying out of danger in Burnout 2 will see you trundling over the finish line with your head between your wheels. The only way to build up your boost is by risking your life: driving on the wrong side of the road, just missing head-on traffic by a hair’s width and the like.
It’s a great way to guarantee constant excitement, because success is a direct result of recklessness.
What it is: The only version of Namco’s weapons-based fighter to appear on a Nintendo system.
Why it’s Essential: When it comes to fighting games, Bandai Namco may be best known for its Tekken series but there will always be a following of fans who consider SoulCalibur the best.
What makes SoulCalibur so entertaining is the fact that every character is armed with a weapon with which to strike their opponent: not only that, but the weapons are wildly different, making for a wide variety of different fighting styles.
The GameCube version of SoulCalibur II also features Link as a playable character.
What it is: The ‘first’ version (if you don’t count the Japanese N64 one) of Nintendo’s much-loved life sim in which players move to a new village and befriend its anthropomorphic citizens.
Why it’s Essential: The GameCube version of Animal Crossing doesn’t have many of its successors’ new features: the portability of the DS version shopping centre in the Wii version, the StreetPass excellence of the 3DS version, the crafting mechanics of the Switch game.
But there’s still something about its simplicity that we love. Even though there’s plenty to see and do, it almost seems more manageable than the daunting feeling you get when you play the likes of New Leaf.
Plus, it has one thing the later Animal Crossing games didn’t have: a load of NES games built in, 14 of which are still accessible to this day.
Best GameCube Games: #15 – 11
Pikmin and Pikmin 2
What it is: Proof that you probably aren’t ready to be a parent, in video game form.
Why it’s Essential: The Pikmin games are probably the most heartbreaking things Nintendo has ever created.
At face value they’re brilliant action-strategy games in which Captain Olimar, crash-landed on a mysterious planet, has to instruct an army of tiny creatures to fight enemies and carry objects for him to help him survive and then escape.
But when you play, and one of your little Pikmin dies, and their little ghost floats away into the sky, it will make you question your very being.
What it is: The game that cemented Luigi’s status as Nintendo’s most lovably cowardly character.
Why it’s Essential: The GameCube was the first Nintendo home console that didn’t launch with a Mario game, and as such many felt that Luigi’s Mansion represented something of a poor substitute, as if it was kicking things off with a B-list character.
Ultimately though, Luigi’s Mansion was the best possible launch title for the system, showing off a wide range of impressive lighting and animation effects. It’s also genuinely funny, with Luigi cowering throughout. It’s very short, but it’s worth playing through at least once.
What it is: A clever shoot ’em up by genre masters Treasure.
Why it’s Essential: Ikaruga is your typical Japanese bullet hell game in which the screen fills with bullets and the aim is as much to dodge between the gaps as it is to destroy your enemies.
What makes it interesting is its colour-changing mechanic. Each enemy is either black or white, as are their bullets, and players have the ability to change their ship’s colour atyour ship is the same colour as an enemy’s bullet it can absorb it and build up a special weapon meter.
However, your own shots are also weak against same-coloured enemies, so you need to keep alternating between absorbing their bullets and switching to the opposite colour to take them out more effectively. Ikaruga adds a clever layer of strategy to the shoot ‘em up genre, which makes it a must-play.
What it is: A brilliant remake of Capcom’s seminal survival horror game.
Why it’s Essential: Exclusive to Nintendo (well, until the HD re-release in 2015), this fantastic remake of the first Resident Evil gave the survival horror classic a huge visual overhaul.
Replacing the B-movie visuals and voice acting with more impressive graphics could have removed some of Resi’s charm, but the RE-make (as it’s affectionately known) looked so amazing it’s no surprise it was roundly loved.
Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2
What it is: A pair of arcade ports that showed Pokémon it wasn’t the only game in town when it came to jamming animals into tight spheres.
Why it was chosen: Sega’s ports of its arcade titles were perfectly balanced tests of controller dexterity, and also offered some brilliant mini-games back when players still accepted mini-games.
It was the main mode where it counted, though. Each of its stages defined the ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ mantra in its purest form.
Yes, it’s possible to simply complete the game by reaching each of its goals in the conventional manner, but head to YouTube and before long you’ll see what can truly be done with the game in the hands of a Monkey Ball ninja. It’s truly the game that keeps on giving.
Best GameCube Games: #10 – 6
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
What it is: The authentic version of the Wii’s biggest launch game.
Why it’s Essential: Over the years Twilight Princess hasn’t really been held to as high a regard as the likes of Ocarina, Wind Waker or even Majora’s Mask. As one of the darkest Zelda games though, many still love it.
Perhaps one of the reasons it’s not heralded as much as its cousins is due to its Wii Remote controls in the version that launched alongside the Wii, which felt a little tacked-on. There’s a good reason for that: they were.
Twilight Princess was always supposed to be a GameCube title, and it feels better on the GameCube too. Link holds the sword in his left hand like he’s supposed to (the entire Wii version was mirrored horizontally so right-handed players could swing the Wii Remote like a sword) and the player can freely control the camera: something not possible in the Wii version.
The Cube version was released in limited numbers so it’s tricky to find these days but if you want to play the true version of Twilight Princess – the one where Kakariko Village lies to the east like it’s supposed to – then hunt it down.
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
What it is: The fourth and most opinion-splitting game in the Mario Kart series.
Why it’s Essential: Double Dash is still brilliant, and it laid down the foundation for the Mario Kart game engine that’s still used (albeit in a slightly modified form) to this day.
Its curious tag-team racing format may not have really caught on with fans of the series, but it gives the game a unique flavour these days and to this day it was still the only decent attempt to make Mario Kart a co-op experience.
Plus it was the only ‘proper’ Mario Kart game ever to let you play as Petey Piranha.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
What it is: A GameCube exclusive survival horror that focuses less on scares and more sanity, with ingenious results.
Why it’s Essential: Eternal Darkness is the sort of game that would have been ruined had it been released today. People would be tweeting clips of its bizarre sanity effects and spoiling the surprises for everyone.
For those who played it when it first came out, it was a very clever game. Taking control of twelve different characters from different historical periods – from a Roman Centurion in 26 BC all the way up to a student in Washington in the year 2000 – it kept things interesting not only with its constantly changing settings but the way it messed with the player as their character went slowly insane.
One minute the camera angle would tilt slightly and the sound effects would get a little louder. The next you’ll enter a new room and find yourself on the ceiling. Then you’ll try to save your game and it’ll pretend to be formatting your memory card instead.
What it is: The fourth game in Nintendo’s lightning-fast futuristic racing series.
Why it’s Essential: It’s still impressive that F-Zero GX was effortlessly putting out silky smooth 60fps gameplay almost two decades ago.
Not only that, it was achieving that 60fps rate in an insanely fast racing game with up to 30 racers on the track at the same time.
Very few games are as exhilarating as F-Zero GX, and to this day most Nintendo fans would give their right arm for a remake or sequel.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
What it is: The best of the Paper Mario games, and one of the funniest Nintendo games ever.
Why it’s Essential: The second in the four-part Paper Mario series, The Thousand Year Door has some of the funniest dialogue you’ll read in a Nintendo game, especially whenever Bowser is involved.
If you’re not adverse to a game where you’ll probably be reading more than you’ll be playing, this is a true delight.
Best GameCube Games: #5 – 1
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
What it is: Proof that launch games can remain a must-buy right through the entire life of a system.
Why it’s Essential: Some would argue that Rogue Squadron II is still the definitive Star Wars game, and we’d struggle to disagree with them.
That iconic first stage, in which you fly above the Death Star before descending into the trenches to take out the core, is arguably the greatest stage in any Star Wars game, and amazingly hasn’t really aged much in the 20 years since.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
What it is: The Zelda game that most fans despised before they actually played it.
Why it’s Essential: When Nintendo showed off its new-look Zelda game at Space World 2001, a lot of fans were upset. Dubbing it ‘Celda’ because of its controversial (at the time) cel-shaded graphics, many players were incensed that Nintendo was seemingly living up to the “Nintendo makes kid games” insults that playground bullies loved to use in the early noughties.
Then they actually played it and realised it was fantastic. It may be a little easy and a tad shorter than most Zelda adventures, but The Wind Waker remains an essential experience.
Super Smash Bros Melee
What it is: The second Smash Bros game, and the one many still consider the best.
Why it’s Essential: For those who don’t consider themselves pro Smash Bros players, who pick apart the minutiae of the game’s fighting system, the best Smash Bros is the one with the most stuff in it: therefore the Nintendo Switch version.
But that’s not to say Melee isn’t still a fantastic game, it absolutely is and is still packed with lashings of Nintendo love. If you have a GameCube, you need to have Melee.
Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
What it is: Retro Studio’s amazing reworkings of the Metroid franchise, turning Samus’ side-scrolling adventures into a pair of first-person masterpieces.
Why it’s Essential: Go into Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 expecting a first-person shooter and you’re going to be pretty disappointed. Despite that huge arm cannon Samus is sporting, combat isn’t the main point of these games.
Instead, it’s a first-person adventure. The act of exploring the worlds you find yourself in and the need to scan your surroundings (literally) makes for one of the most immersive game worlds ever. Two beautiful games.
What it is: Arguably the best survival horror game ever made.
Why it’s Essential: For most, the moment that defined Resident Evil 4 came half an hour in.
When you entered the village and the residents suddenly turn evil, most players ran into a nearby house and blocked the door by pushing a bookcase in front of it. Until that point, video game convention meant that all enemies were rendered helpless when faced with an obstacle.
Here though, they broke the window and climbed in. And followed you upstairs. And set up ladders so they could get onto the roof. And knocked over your bookcase. And in just five minutes the entire rules of video games had been changed.
Before it started getting all minimalist with the Bit Generations and ArtStyle games, developer Skip brought us this adorable GameCube game about a helper robot.
Disney Sports Football
Sneer all you want, but this Konami football game is basically International Superstar Soccer 64 with Disney characters.
Donkey Konga series
A trilogy of rhythm action games compatible with Nintendo’s most ridiculous controller ever, the DK Bongos.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Just in case your Donkey Konga bongos hadn’t already been beaten to dust, they could also be used in this quirky platformer.
Fire Emblem: Path Of Radiance
Not the best Fire Emblem game every made but still a brilliant example of why Intelligent Systems’ strategy series is loved by fans the world over.
Look at Neversoft’s softography and right in the middle, after its Tony Hawk games but before its Guitar Hero sequels, lies this underrated open world wild west game.
The first of eccentric developer Suda51’s games to be released in the west, what drives Killer7 is its bizarre story line and its unique art style.
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
The Lego games haven’t strayed too far from their original formula, as is proven when you try out this, the second of what now stretches to sixteen titles.
Midway Arcade Treasures 1, 2 and 3
If you’re craving some retro arcade goodness, these three compilations combined offer 52 of Midway’s classic coin-op titles, from Defender and Gauntlet to Smash TV and Mortal Kombat III.
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
With this, Ubisoft managed to do what had been tried and failed in the past, and made Prince Of Persia relevant again.
Resident Evil 2, 3 and Code: Veronica X
These GameCube versions of classic PlayStation and Dreamcast titles don’t really add anything new, but are still worth tracking down if you’ve never played them.
Resident Evil Zero
Another Nintendo exclusive entry (at the time), Zero is classic old school Resident Evil, tank controls and all.
Developed by now-defunct Liverpool studio Rage Software, this told the tale of all five Rocky movies (at the time) in a fun arcade-style boxing game.
Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut and Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
Remakes of Sonic’s two Dreamcast adventures, and arguably the only truly great 3D Sonic games.
Super Mario Sunshine
Yes, we all know Sunshine was by no means the best 3D Mario game, especially considering it’s forever sandwiched in history between Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy. But it did offer some pleasing moments even if they too were sandwiched, this time between nail-gnawingly frustrating bits.
TimeSplitters 2 and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
Cracking FPS games from Free Radical, a studio partly made up of former GoldenEye and Perfect Dark developers.
Virtua Striker 2002
The definitive home version of Sega’s love-it-or-hate-it arcade football game. It’s got a hidden team full of Sonic characters.
WarioWare Inc: Mega Party Game$
The GameCube port of Intelligent Systems’ first WarioWare title also included a bunch of daft multiplayer takes on WarioWare, which were great fun to play with enough willing participants.