The Nintendo GameCube turned 20 years old this week.
And it’s a weird one. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see it was an influential console that played host to some of Nintendo’s best ever titles. At the time? It was often painful to be a GameCube owner, with sub-standard third-party support and painfully long waits between the release of Nintendo’s always stellar first-party releases.
Still, when you look at the rear view mirror, it’s plain to see the quality. There were a huge number of incredible games released on the platform. To celebrate GameCube’s birthday, we decided to rank them.
1. Metroid Prime
Nothing like Metroid Prime existed before and nothing like it’s been created since. Metroid Prime was and is an anomaly that defies definition. A first person shooter? Sure, you shoot things in a first-person view, but Metroid Prime looked, felt and played nothing like Halo or its FPS peers back in 2002. An exploration game? Yeah, probably. But it was set in a universe as intricately designed as a Zelda dungeon writ-large. Exploration was just the beginning.
Metroid Prime’s strength was its world building. Dripping with details and unique, sticky ways to explore those details, Metroid Prime is peerless in the way it allowed you to discover its intricate spaces. You could scan the environment for lore and details, you could spider-ball your way up previously inaccessible walls and ceilings. There was majesty hidden in every corner. Even today, it hasn’t aged a day. Nothing else comes close.
Metroid Prime is Metroid Prime. It has no imitators because it’s inimitable. Like it was dropped down to Earth by accident from another dimension where video games are different, better. Back in 2002 Metroid Prime felt like it came from the future. Almost 19 years later, everything else is still playing catch-up.
– Mark Serrels
2. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Time has been kind to Wind Waker.
Roundly criticised pre-release for its stylised “cartoon” visuals, Wind Waker reviewed well once people eventually got their hands on it, but unlike other Zelda games like Twilight Princess (and even Ocarina of Time to an extent) Wind Waker has aged spectacularly.
The ocean provides a glorious backdrop to Link’s adventures, both in terms of visuals and how it feels to explore. But it’s the cast of characters that truly makes Wind Waker unforgettable. That and the music… and the dungeon design… and the cute little cartoon clouds explosions make.
Actually a lot of things make Wind Waker unforgettable. It rules.
– Mark Serrels
3. Resident Evil 4
I’d never played a Resident Evil game before Resident Evil 4. Never have I ever visited Racoon City. The reason? I was a huge wuss — and still am. I scare easily and am totally bereft of courage, it’s a problem.
Despite all of this adversity, I played and loved Resident Evil 4. At a time when everyone had pretty much written the GameCube off as past its prime, Resident Evil 4 launched to widespread critical acclaim in 2005. It was released just 11 days into the year, yet was named Game of the Year by many publications 11 months later.
This proved irresistible for me, despite the deep fear I had of anything horror. I was scared and terrified throughout most of Resident Evil 4, and often wanted to quit. But the game was so good I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to see what was around each corner, but I had to do it anyway.
Now that the game has been ported to almost every console known to man, it’s easy to forget that it was originally GameCube-only. It was one of the system’s last exclusives and also one of its best.
– Daniel Van Boom
4. Super Smash Bros. Melee
Super Smash Bros. Melee was the first game many people played on the GameCube. Luigi’s Mansion was the big launch title, but Super Smash Bros. Melee came just months into the GameCube’s lifecycle. It did a lot for the GameCube, but did even more for the Smash Bros. franchise. It took the original’s formula and sharpened it, making it deeper and more balanced.
The original N64 title was a lot of fun, but Melee solidified it into a legitimate fighting franchise, a game still played competitively around the world today. That’s a tribute to its genius. Super Smash Bros. Melee is still insanely fun to play today — if you can find a GameCube controller.
– Daniel Van Boom
5. Animal Crossing
Animal Crossing feels almost ubiquitous after the release of New Horizons in 2020, so it’s easy to forget how quirky the original GameCube version felt. It just dropped players into a lazy little town filled with talking animals and said, “Do what you want.” No platforming, no shooting, just some good old-fashioned small-town life. I was no stranger to hanging out in quaint virtual towns, thanks to all the hours I spent in Harvest Moon 64, but I had never played a game that was as laid-back as Animal Crossing.
Want to go fishing? Plant fruit trees? Make a tiny garden? Turn your basement into a cement nightmare filled with the discordant music of a dozen gyroids? Sure, go for it. The closest thing Animal Crossing had to a main quest was upgrading your home and paying off your loans, but even that was optional, with no interest or due dates attached to the upgrades. It was the kind of game to make you reconsider what makes a good video game and I’m always happy for surprises like that.
– Adam Benjamin
Sometimes I think we forget how perfectly designed Pikmin was.
The original and best, Pikmin makes the most of its delicately simple ruleset. Essentially a small-scale strategy game where you use an army of tiny “Pikmin” to lift objects and solve puzzles, Pikmin stretches its high concept to the absolute limits. It’s a Nintendo game, so movements feel fun and sticky, but the meta-game is the real star. The more you play the more balanced you realise Pikmin actually is. Just a perfect, beautiful little video game.
– Mark Serrels
7. Super Mario Sunshine
Maybe the most controversial major Mario release ever.
Super Mario Sunshine was derided upon release, then loved in hindsight. Recently, as part of the Mario 3D All-Stars package, it feels like the pendulum has swung once more and people are complaining about it again.
It’s flawed no doubt. It never achieves the perfect simplicity of Mario 64 or the inspired kaleidoscopic madness of Super Mario Galaxy, but Super Mario Sunshine has its own delightful aesthetic.
Also, I love FLUDD, the water squirting sidekick that add jetpack style maneuvers to your regular Mario platforming. It’s a wild game. Not perfect, but incredibly fun nonetheless.
– Mark Serrels
8. F-Zero GX
F-Zero GX is one of the most overlooked games in the GameCube library. Wipeout dominated the futuristic racer discourse back then, but F-Zero GX was arguably a better expression of pure, sci-fi speed.
It also looked glorious. F-Zero GX was smooth, slick and just an absolute joy to play. The single player mode was notoriously difficult, but in hindsight that was part of its cult appeal. The fact we haven’t had an F-Zero game since the release of this classic is almost criminal.
– Mark Serrels
9. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Retro Studios defied expectations with the first Metroid Prime, masterfully reinterpreting Nintendo’s atmospheric side-scrolling series as a first-person adventure. Its inevitable follow-up, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, expanded on the formula with more complex environments and even bigger bosses, resulting in another instant GameCube classic.
As with the original, the setting itself was the star attraction. In a nod to the Zelda classic, A Link to the Past, Samus traverses two mirror worlds in Metroid Prime 2: the arid Aether and its dark counterpart, a murky parallel universe created when the planet was struck by a rift-forming meteor. This gave Aether an even more ominous feel than Tallon IV — thanks in large part to the dark world’s suffocating atmosphere — and using the power-ups you gained to navigate the expertly crafted environmental puzzles felt immensely satisfying.
Metroid Prime 2 also ramped up the difficulty, featuring some of the tensest boss encounters in the series’ history. These battles were as much a test of wit as of reflex, as nearly every foe had some sort of pattern or puzzle to figure out. It may not be remembered quite as fondly as the original — very few games are, after all — but Metroid Prime 2 was another riveting adventure that further proved how well the Metroid series worked in first-person.
– Kevin Knezevic
10. Soulcalibur II
Soulcalibur II is one of the few GameCube games on this list that might not necessarily feel like a “GameCube” game. Sure it was multiplatform, but given the addition of Link as a playable character on the roster, Soulcalibur II always felt very Nintendo to me.
Also: It ruled. It was almost certainly the peak of the 3D fighting genre back then and it rarely got better than this. In the next generation we went back to Street Fighter IV and fighting games changed on us — possibly for the better? But for this generation of consoles, Soulcalibur II was king.
– Mark Serrels
11. Viewtiful Joe
The first game from Clover Studio, the short lived team responsible for a slew of critically acclaimed video games like Okami, Viewtiful Joe, in many, was the prototype for the Clover style. A slick, fluid 2D beat ’em up, elevated by a unique art style, Viewtiful Joe was a polished homage to video games from a bygone era.
– Mark Serrels
12. Eternal Darkness
There are few games that make players frantically look around and wonder “what the hell is going on” like Eternal Darkness. At its core, the game isn’t much different from Resident Evil, but the big difference were sanity effects. These little events were designed to directly mess with the player’s head. From the controller being unresponsive to a screen saying your saved game was deleted, players never knew what was going to happen, which was part of the fun.
Eternal Darkness was also heavily-inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. It required those who finished the game and received all the endings to look at the author’s stories to piece together the deeper themes of the game.
For me, Eternal Darkness presented me something fresh even though how the game actually played was par for the course.
– Oscar Gonzalez
13. Resident Evil
Seeing the first screenshots of the Resident Evil remake convinced me to buy a GameCube at launch. Nearly two decades later, this 2002 game still looks astoundingly good and remains utterly terrifying.
Capcom didn’t settle for a mere visual upgrade; this remake added so many new mechanics, areas and puzzles that it felt like a completely different game to the 1996 original. It remains the ultimate expression of the classic Resident Evil formula and it was exclusive to Nintendo systems for years (an excellent HD remaster is available…