In a fit of impatience, I sat down one night and banged out a comprehensive list of the best games ever to grace the GameCube. This was in November.
Nine months later, I’ve gotten around to actually posting it. Because, obviously, I wanted the world to see it. And by the world, I mean the dozen or so readers who frequent the site. To liven things up, I invited a collection of Nintendorks to post their comments and mock my list. Oh yes, there will be mocking. What games made my list? What will be number one? Are monkeys involved (Yes to that last question). Hit the jump to find out.
The Top 20 Best Ever GameCube Games Ever
If the night is always darkest just before the dawn, then perhaps it’s true that Nintendo’s bleakest moments spanned the entire life of the Nintendo GameCube.
Maybe that is a little harsh for a system that provided no end of highly enjoyable games, but hear me out. By the conclusion of the Cube’s life, Nintendo had lost its mojo, its joie de vivre. It ignored the winds of change by opting for a proprietary format that was again technically inferior to its competition. It scuttled the very genres (platformers, RPGs) that it built its fan base on in its earlier years. It forsook its legacy of innovation besides a few minor strokes of genius (the Wavebird). It produced less-than-orgasmic updates to its most cherished franchises (Mario, Zelda). And it was content to work in anonymity, with no ambition of winning either the sales or buzz wars.
Revisionist history? Slightly. But it’s enlightening to glance back at the Cube’s abbreviated life (a mere four years of relevancy) through the present, the prism of the Wii era. Who could have predicted two years ago that, right now, Nintendo’s cute system would be outselling Sony and Microsoft’s combined?
It’s no mystery why. Nintendo crafted a system gimmick so compelling that it’s impossible not to play – and impossible not to enjoy playing it. It out-innovated its competition, and it cared about mattering again by embracing everyone (both gamers and non-gamers) instead of just paying lip service to the idea. And while I find it frightening that the Wii hasn’t catered fully to hardcore gamers, one thing is clear: Nintendo is back.
Basically, if the company were a rock star, the Cube years would be that period of drugged-out, deluded self-importance before reinventing itself as the feel-good comeback story everyone always wanted to like.
With all that said, it is now time to appreciate the Cube for what it is: a system packed with enjoyable games, a couple of them all-timers. A system that, in the end, I certainly don’t regret investing my money, time and life into. Because, let’s face it, even the worst Nintendo system is better than the best day of being violated. And to honor it (the system, not lost innocence), I’ve whittled down my vast collection to a simple list of the top 20 titles for the GameCube.
Plus, to make it even more fun, the Nintendorks staff chimed in with their thoughts. Limey bastards, that group.
20. SSX Tricky
EA Sports made several valued contributions to the system with its EA Big slate of trick-based arcade games (NBA Street is another favorite), but none are better than the SSX series. Tricky took the PS2 original and amped it up with more tricks to make easily one of the best racers for the Cube. And yes, that Run-DMC song will be forever seared in my brain.
Brandon: Remember when Justin gave SSX3 10/10 and caught shit for it? I agreed with Justin, and still do, and think SSX3 was better than Tricky. BUT, Tricky started it, so I guess it should get a bit more credit.
Ryan: I tried to hate the entire SSX series just because Justin loved it so much. That fact that I think this is a great game is a testament to how great it truly is. It overcomes blind hatred.
Kevin: I once worked a weekend home and garden convention selling board/video games for my employer, which makes less sense when I write it out. Since nobody comes to a home and garden show to buy goddamn board games, I was bored out of my skull, but I at least got to play this game on a demo Gamecube unit. Thank god for you, SSX Tricky, and your mountains full of fireworks and deep voiced African-American men.
Travis: I was playing this game when my launch Cube had a disc read error and refused to play any game ever. I’ve always had a certain amount of contempt for Tricky as a result, which only goes to show how good of a game it is because I still bought it after that initial rental period destroyed my gaming habits for a month.
19. TimeSplitters 2
The spirit of GoldenEye flows through this shooter – no surprise since developer Free Radical Design housed much of the original 007 team. TimeSplitters 2’s smooth, fast-twitch action was easily its biggest asset, supplemented by a theme-jumping single player story mode that made up for its lack of true depth with sheer cheekiness and a multiplayer mode that was very underrated. Great shooters rarely come so comprehensively put together.
Chris: The customizable multiplayer levels were a blast, and lighting people on fire and then shooting them with shotguns reminded me of my time in Alabama, but I’m not sure I would put this in the Top 20. Then again, I didn’t do a Top 20.
Brandon: I remember liking the hell out of this game, and would probably put it a bit higher on the list.
Travis: Probably the best game Free Radical ever designed. The Quantum Leap style time travel is tremendously underused, however. Whomever you leap into in the past always ends up being inconsequential to the mission at hand. Leap into a russian soldier in a russian base/dam/place? They still know to shoot you for some reason.
Adam: For a game with such great multiplayer, I played a lot of this by myself. The bots, especially on the higher difficulty levels, were such a great group of fuckers. They really made you play your best to have any shot. Plus, I never got the hang of the GameCube controller vis a vis FPS controls.
Ryan: While I feel this game was everything Perfect Dark tried to be, for me the Goldeneye magic was already long gone. I liked this game, but it was following in the wake of gaming perfection … and naturally fell short.
18. Star Wars: Rogue Leader
Out of context, Rogue Leader is a graceful update to the original Rogue Squadron and a smart addition to the Star Wars canon. Of course, its greatest achievement is as the premiere launch game for the Cube, a technical masterpiece that outshined games created years later. Developer Factor 5 showed from the start the promise that Nintendo’s new system had within its boxy walls, and that accomplishment must be recognized.
Kevin: This game needs to be higher on the list. The first level was taking out the Death Star! The only problem I see with the game is the bizarro Star Wars voice actors. Worst culprit: Fake Billy Dee Williams. Maybe you’ve got to buy Han more time, but I am not buying ANYTHING from you.
Ryan: For me, all of these Star Wars flying games run together. It doesn’t matter, though…they were all great.
Travis: Still looks nicer than most Wii games. Don’t give me that “well modeling space doesn’t take that much graphical power” crap. It still looks good.
Cory: Well, modeling space ships that were made out of cannibalized battleship model parts doesn’t take that much graphical power. However, this game is still super fucking fun to this day. Where have the spaceship shooter games gone?
Brandon: This as a launch title made the GameCube extremely sexy.
17. Madden 2003/NFL2K3
For years, Nintendo has gotten the short shrift on sports. Always have, maybe always will. But for one glorious year, true fans could feel like they weren’t getting discarded leftovers. The fall of 2002 saw two great football games released at the same time. Maybe the Cube saw better versions of Madden. Maybe Visual Concepts’ 2K series was one and done for Nintendo’s system. At that moment, there was truly nothing finer.
Ryan: My favorite part of the game was the highly detailed player creator. You could even fill out your character’s own rap sheet!
Adam: Is it any surprise that NFL2K3 is still being played by fans of the sports genre? I find most “traditional” sports games to be redundant – I’d rather have molten diarrhea poured down my throat than play yet another Madden. But NFL2K3 wasn’t just a great football game, it was a great game period.
Travis: This sounds like a mini editorial in the midst of this list rather than a selection for game number 17, but I’m okay with this. I wouldn’t put it anywhere on my top 20, though.
16. Soul Calibur II
Take what I said for sports and substitute fighters. The Cube didn’t see many great ones, but Soul Calibur II was a winner for any system. Namco’s fighter was immensely appealing, immediately accessible and yet richly rewarding for any who mastered it – a balance that some fighters never truly strike. More importantly, you got to play as Link.
Chris: The sequel was pretty fun, maybe even more so than the original. There was a solid selection of characters, too, like Cervantes the pirate, Link the Ren Fair nerd, and Raphael the Ninja Turtle.
Brandon: I would also put this a bit higher on the list, because seeing “Soul Calibur II” made me realize I have Soul Calibur III, but don’t play it nearly as much as I did the GameCube game.
Ryan: What system is Soul Calibur III on? This is another series of games that runs together for me … and I liked them all. I remember really liking the one with Link, though …so yay!
Travis: And the soul still burns.
15. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
Love stealth? You’ll love this game as much as I did. The idea of a super agent who uses darkness and noise as his ally was masterful, and the game really stood by its core tenants; there was a zero percent chance you could blast your way through it. The try-and-die mechanics weren’t for everybody, and it was just a port of an Xbox game (brilliantly translated by Ubi Soft, however). But those caveats do a disservice to a game that set the high water mark for the stealth action subgenre.
Adam: No game was so controller-smashingly frustrating for me than this piece of lovable garbage. That’s not a slight on the series or the game, however. Splinter Cell actually required you to think about your actions and take things slow; as someone who’d rather jam a carbine up someone’s ass, this took a little getting used to.
Travis: I love stealth and found this game to be pretty mundane. It served as nothing more than a proof of concept. So here is a shout out to the remake of Resident Evil (also know as REmake) which I wish was on this list.
Cory: This was easily the most high-concept puzzle game ever made.
14. Beyond Good & Evil
Talk about overlooked. Creator Michael Ancel and Ubisoft hatched a game world that was startlingly unique (read: French) and then filled it out with the best elements of Zelda, Thief and Pokémon Snap. What other title has a dystopian society, a talking pig and the most beautiful home music theme ever crafted (it’s called Home Sweet Home, now go find it)? A game that deserved much more recognition than it ever got.
Adam: The only reason this game isn’t higher up the list is because it wasn’t exclusive. Great in so many different ways.
Chris: This game featured some of the best boat-centric transportation I have ever experienced.
Travis: Probably has the best pacing of any game I’ve ever played.
Ryan: This is a good game. I still have to go back and finish it.
Brandon: This really was a good game, and I am pleased to see it on the list.
Kevin: This game was so good you can get it with string cheese in Canada!
13. Eternal Darkness
In a perfect world, Silicon Knights could have been the new Rare. Instead, its contribution was limited to just one game (Too Human escaped developmental hell elsewhere to middling results). And this wasn’t just any game. Eternal Darkness was a lifetime of stories on one disc, played out two levels above traditional survival horror in a gothic world unlike any thing the system would ever see. Legitimately great.
Travis: Makes me angrier than it should. Eternal Darkness was so much fun that it causes me to be perpetually upset with Silicon Knights for not bringing us more quality products.
Brandon: I would totally put this above Metroid Prime 2. The whole light/dark world really ticked me off in MP 2, and even though Eternal Darkness kind of did the same thing (revisiting the same areas but different), it had the story behind it – something I thought MP 2 lacked.
Ryan: I only got to play this for 45 minutes at a Dorkfest once. Then everyone got pissed that I was hogging the TV for a single player game. Then I killed them all.
Kevin: This is the only “horror” game I’ve ever played, and it is fantastic. It is way better than 13th on the list, especially since I see a Tony Hawk game further down. What. Also: BATHTUB SCENE Oh shit I got you
12. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
History will look back at Echoes as the ugly middle child of the revolutionary Prime series. It didn’t boast the innovation of the original. It didn’t pack the gameplay or visual advances of the third. It relied on a tried-and-true sequel gimmick (two worlds, light and dork). And with all that said, what it did do is undeniable. Retro Studios outfitted the second next-gen Metroid game with an accelerated learning curve that tested Prime veterans from the start. And by matching the stunning precedent set by its predecessor, Echoes made sure that few games come as complete as this one did.
Travis: An excellent installment in an excellent series. Echoes is the fine wine of the Prime trilogy. It only gets better with age because of its overall simplicity. When other games get more complicated and other Metroids go crazy with story or simply mimicking the Super Metroid formula, Echoes stands alone as a simple and unique Metroid title. The two worlds may not be unique in the industry in general, but it’s a refreshing take on Metroid accompanied by a difficulty which really makes that dark world bleak and, well, dark.
11. Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Galaxy puts Sunshine to shame. There’s no way around it. Many wanted Sunshine to be Super Mario 64 2, but that task proved impossible to match. Nintendo’s second-best effort, however, can still be first-rate everything. Tight control, crystalline visuals and design that squeeze every last drop of playability are what gamers had to “settle” for. Pity us.
Kevin: Why do people hate this game so much? It was so much fun, and it bridged the gap between Mario 64 and Galaxy perfectly. I want to get in a time machine and ask Future People what they think of it because I guarantee you they’ll regard it as a classic. Becuase that is what it is.
Travis: Sunshine is certainly disappointing in some ways (Bowser Jr) but some of the intricately designed levels rival those in both 64 and Galaxy.
Brandon: Creating your own slip n slide never got old. I smiled just thinking about it.
Ryan: I was the first one to say this game wasn’t very good…for a Mario game. That still means it’s a pretty damn good game.
10. F-Zero GX
Sometimes it’s not what you do, but how you do it. F-Zero GX merely added window dressing to Nintendo’s prime racing series. Where it gets mileage, however, is dragging every inch of performance power out of the Cube to create a racer that never stuttered and controlled tighter than … well, you know. That Nintendo trusted an outside development team like Amusement Vision – and that the gambit worked – was all the more stunning.
Cory: This game is so gorgeous. I wish it wasn’t so mean to me. I just want to race fast space cars.
Kevin: This game needs to be pushed up to at least six on the list, if only because of the fact that if you turn the game on, and go to the racer profiles, and then over to Leopard Print Black Man, he does what is the most beautiful video game dance of all time. To a jungle beat. F-Zero, you racist bastard.
Travis: Probably the only successful release to come out of Nintendo throwing their franchises at third parties during the Cube era. Not only that, but F-Zero GX proves to be the best in the entire series.
Brandon: It’s games like this that make me glad the Wii can play GameCube games.
Ryan: THE WII CAN PLAY GAMECUBE GAMES?!?
Adam: I was wrong earlier. My relationship with F-Zero is a lot like Sid and Nancy; I’m just waiting to get stabbed to shit over here. Hard to the point of being ridiculous, the game plays so great that you just kind of have to suck it up and ride that taxi into the sky.
Original properties from Nintendo’s headquarters were few and far between, but Shigeru was right on the money with this one. Negative nellies could deride it as RTS-lite. For the rest of us who enjoy a good time, Pikmin married flawless control and satisfying puzzles – and couched it in a surprisingly emotional tale of isolation and longing. Makes you wish Nintendo would be creative a little more often.
Adam: Maybe I’m not the delicate, unique flower some of you guys are, but Pikmin bored me to tears. Having a bunch of colorful little shits run around, pick up batteries, fight bugs, and die way too easily sounds like something supremely not fun to me: parenthood.
Brandon: Adam is high, and I would put this a bit higher on the list – maybe where Prince of Persia is.
Travis: Fun, creative, and soothing. Probably one of the last games we’ll ever see where Miyamoto took a more active role than just looking over people’s shoulders and saying, “Hmm, that looks okay.”
Cory: It’s amazing that it’s taken so long for other console games to start using all the great design choices of Pikmin. It set a standard for avatar-centric strategy game design, and we are finally seeing others build on it with Overlord, Little King’s Story, and Brutal Legend.
Chris: It was nice to see Nintendo actually come up with a creative new franchise and then actually release it in the United States and Canada.
Ryan: I tried my damndest to finish this game but never could because I was a perfectionist and would restart the day if I accidentally lost one pikmin. Damn my kind-hearted nature!
8. Super Monkey Ball
It’s a monkey. In a ball. Need we say more? Of course. Amusement Vision succeeded with its single player mode, which played like a Marble Madness for the 21st century. But Super Monkey Ball transcended expectations through a stable of mini-games that were addictive as anything the system ever produced. (My hours in Monkey Target range in the hundreds. Hundreds.) In the end, the game was more fun than it had any right to be.
Kevin: I love Monkey Ball, but not 8th-best-game-on-the-Gamecube love it. It was frustrating, and Monkey Target was fantastic, but so much of the other mini games were embarrassing, especially since there were things like Mario Golf and Mario Kart – holy crap you don’t have Double Dash on this list? What the fuck is wrong with you?
Chris: This was essentially my Goldeneye for the Cube, in that I spent more time on multiplayer than any other game. Monkey target? Hell yes.
Travis: Super Monkey Balls triumph is only equaled by its monumental failure in spawning a successful and long lasting franchise. SMB2 was good, but Amusement Vision really seems to have forgotten how to make monkeys roll around in a fun way, which sounds very strange.
Brandon: Even in the GameCube’s dying days this game got more play in my house than most others … which also reminds me that Burnout 2 is severely lacking from this list
7. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
The original started it. The sequel refined it. The third perfected it. The third iteration of Neversoft’s revolutionary extreme sports series added the revert to the manual and created the game’s pinnacle control system. Subsequent games in the series may have fleshed out open-world design and customability, but they grew stagnant where it counted. Tony Hawk 3 was the height of enjoyment in a series for the ages.
Kevin: This is where you would put Mario Kart: Double Dash, thank you.
Brandon: Is this the one where you could grind all around a cruise ship? That shit was totally radical to the max.
Adam: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater makes Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 look like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3–no, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4! After grinding around entire neighborhoods multiple times, what really is left for them to do? This was the first game in the series that just felt ridiculous to me, and lo, how the series degenerated. Hindsight is 20/20, or in this case, beer goggles. Plus, the GCN controller made playing all the Tony Hawk games a fucking nightmare.
Travis: The best thing about this game was Darth Maul on a skateboard.
Ryan: This was the one with airport, right? Ok…I liked this one.
6. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
“Poetry in motion.” It’s the term I used over and over again for Prince of Persia. And you know, it never, ever got old. PoP was all wonderment and agile beauty, a stunning reinvention of a classic series that had flaws (repetitive combat, wonky camera) but also had highs as dizzyingly tremendous as the ledges upon which the Prince traversed. Among all its contributions to the Cube, this was Ubi Soft’s best.
Travis: If we had a review system that gave out coveted perfect scores, this is one of only two cube titles ( the other is Metroid Prime) I would give such a score to. After all the time that has passed I still find myself entranced by Prince’s muscles adventure.
Kevin: This game only deserves this spot on the list because of the acrobatics. If Ubisoft could figure out combat (I can’t understand why they don’t just ripoff Zelda? Everyone else does), then the whole package would be perfect.
Cory: Every other game on this list wishes it had dialogue as well-written as Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Rewinding should be a standard feature for many games. It sure would’ve made Mirror’s Edge a lot more fun.
Chris: The gameplay on this was so very enjoyable, but I refuse to support this game until my feet are bathed with the blood of the Ayatollah Khamenei.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
The bridge between Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess lacked the sheer length of either title, and in the end Wind Waker was the weakest entry since Zelda II in this most majestic of series. And it’s still in the Cube’s top 5, in part because the game design was still great. But by far WW’s biggest asset was its cel-shaded presentation, a living and breathing animated look that gave it more character than any Zelda game ever will. It wasn’t a mature adventure, and it certainly wasn’t Twilight Princess (which is considered a Wii game around these quarters), but it was surely a great game – just like all the others.
Chris: This is probably my favorite game in the series, and probably on the console, too. I loved the art style, the basic game play, the fun feel to it. It’s my type of game. I think I would slip it my dick if I could somehow turn it human.
Brandon: I will never forget the underwater castle coming to life.
Adam: It’s an unpopular opinion, but Wind Waker – the most lackadaisical entry in the Zelda series – is by far my favorite. The charming art style, coupled with the “love-it-or-hate-it” boat segments, really made me feel like I was adventuring in a new world.
Travis: The single most beautiful game I have ever played. Sorry, Barbie’s Fashion Adventure.
Cory: This game’s art holds up way better than Twilight Princess. Hopefully, that Zelda painting from E3 is indicative of a return to the classy, ageless animated look, but with character design that doesn’t make you think of Hello Kitty.
Ryan: It looks like CJ is all alone on this one. Wind Waker is one of my favorite Zeldas, too. I could sail on that boat all damn day. I don’t think any other Zelda game has ever been as immersive.
4. Viewtiful Joe
Viewtiful Joe was always a sideshow – lightly regarded in Capcom’s “Group of 5” announcement, overshadowed in the same year by Wind Waker, a 2D sidescroller in a 3D world. But Clover Studios showed them all. This cel-shaded wonder was old school in the best way, fun occupying every inch of this superhero caper. Funny that the story of an average Joe turning into a superpowered wonder turns out to be very tale of Viewtiful Joe’s success.
Chris: This is one of those console-defining 3rd party titles, the same way the Megaman franchise french kissed the NES.
Adam: Viewtiful Joe is great for the first few levels, but then I reached this one level where you had to duck or something to dodge this big fucking bullet or whatever, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it, and I didn’t have the manual… Listen, I won’t bore you with the story, but it was awful. And why couldn’t I use the sweet movie-related shit to get past this part? Ducking is SO mundane.
Kevin: I am with Adam. This game was merely ok until it got fiendishly difficult, and instead of growing some balls and making my way through it, I took the game out of my system and put something else in.
Travis: Harder than Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man 2, and Castlevania 2 combined. What a stupid and yet wonderful game.
Brandon: It’s games like this that make me glad the Wii can play GameCube games.
Ryan: THE WII CAN PLAY GAMECUBE GAMES?!?
3. Super Smash Bros. Melee
Success for Smash Bros. is easy: throw in countless cherished Nintendo characters and watch fans buy it up by the millions. But HAL and Nintendo did way more than take the easy way out. Melee was the logical evolution of the Smash Bros. series, pumped up bigger and badder and more addicting than you could have ever hoped for. The greatest multiplayer game on the system and one of the best of all-time earns it rightful place near the top.
Kevin: Hey guys, you want to help write a FAQ?
Travis: Roy’s our boy!
2. Resident Evil 4
Survival horror had run its course. So Capcom did the best thing possible: blow up the formula. Resident Evil 4 was less survival horror on steroids and more one of the greatest action-adventure games you will ever play. It was beautiful beyond belief, gripping to the very end, impeccably designed and still very, very scary. Games rarely come along this perfect.
Chris: This game is offensive to my Christian beliefs.
Travis: A fun action game, but I didn’t find it altogether scary at all. I was spoiled by my ability to enjoy the older RE titles.
Cory: I hate older RE titles. I really don’t like Resident Evil 5. This was a game that came out with the right setting and the right mechanics at the exact right time. Lightning in a bottle.
Adam: While nothing can ever top the cheesy goodness of Resident Evil 2 (the best version of which appeared on the Nintendo 64), RE4 stands head and shoulders above subsequent entries in the series. And while I may miss zombies, shooting a group of Las Plagas will always be entertaining. As an aside, did you ever notice that people of Spanish decent are always bad guys in Capcom games? Dead Rising, RE 4 and 5…
Ryan: I’m starting to realize there was a lot of Gamecube games I liked but never actually finished for some reason.
Kevin: I can see that this game could be good, and I can see that a lot of people would like it, but I could never get into this game, even after trying multiple times. What I needed was a friend to play it while I watched and made catty comments.
Brandon: I think I would put this at #1. I liked the game so much I bought it twice.
1. Metroid Prime
Some games are beyond innovative. Some are perfectly designed. Only a select few are both. For years, Nintendo let the Metroid series waste away without a next-generation update – and then decided to put its golden goose into the hands of an untested developer. All Retro Studios did was take the best Metroid game you ever played and filter it through a first-person perspective so immersive that you shed tears over its greatness. Without a single negative to parse over, the verdict is set: Metroid Prime will always be one of the greatest games ever produced and clearly the best that the Cube had ever seen.
Kevin: Brandon, no, this game is number one. Just thinking about the Phazon Mines level makes me feel all pumped and excited. What a great game.
Ryan: This game is not perfect. There was too much damn stuff to inspect with the visor and I felt a compulsion to read it all and I got tired of it and gave up. A great game for people without mental disabilities, though.
Travis: This game brings people back to life.