The Gamecube was a pretty important console in the landscape of video game development, spawning some of the most interesting and fun games in several franchises. Games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Resident Evil 4 were both games that revitalized their franchises and added a ton of new stuff that wasn’t really seen or expected before then.
Not only that, but the controller for the Gamecube was also pretty freakin’ awesome, with a lot of games specifically designed to work with its interesting design.
Now, while this is by no means an exhaustive list of the best Gamecube games (honestly, there’s probably around 30-40 Gamecube games that were important or just plain great), it does try and hit some of the must-play games of the console. Either way, I hope you enjoy the list, especially if you’ve played these games before and it’s a stroll down memory lane.
#1 Metroid Prime
It’s difficult to overstate how seminal the Metroid franchise has been to gaming. In fact, Super Metroid is easily one of my favorite SNES games, and certainly helped cement my love platforming and progression systems. Not only that, but it helped spawn the genre of Metroidvania and a bunch of awesome Metroidvania games.
Of course, there have been some Metroid games that had a bit of a controversial aspect to them and Metroid Prime is one of them.
You see, while the majority of previous Metroid games were 2D, Metroid Prime is 3D and first-person at that. As you can imagine, it riled up a bunch of people at the time, especially since it was being developed by Retro Studios, rather than one of the traditional internal studios. So, in a way, there are quite a lot of worrying flags leading up to the game’s development.
Thankfully, Retro Studios really hit this nail on the head in terms of mechanics and gameplay. The new first-person viewpoint is actually pretty interesting and even helps immerse you more into the really cool environment they created. Not only that but going first-person gives you the internal HUD view, as well as a glimpse into the world that Samus sees.
Speaking of Samus, you run into a distress signal and follow it to the frigate Orphean, which, if you know the franchise by now, has been completely taken over by pirates. At some point, everything goes pear-shaped and you escape to the planet nearby, with Riley following your tail quite closely. Once on the planet, you discover a bunch of Chozo ruins, and learn about a meteor that came crashing down, and go on an epic fetch quest to collect a bunch of artifacts.
Given both the new perspective and the new location, Metroid Prime focuses much more on environmental gameplay, with an emphasis on exploration. Much like previous installments, there are barriers that stop you from moving forward if you haven’t acquired the right gear. There’s even a bunch of cool puzzles for you to solve and some even lead you to secret areas.
Of course, given that the franchise traditionally has platforming, you’d think that they removed or that it’s terrible, mostly due to the fact first-person platforming is a hard nut to crack. Thankfully they did a great job of it, and it’s actually pretty fluid and fun to play. You also do actually go 3rd person mode when you get into the morph ball, so at least that iconic part of the franchise is still there.
Honestly, Metroid Prime is one of the better games in the franchise, and if you get the chance to play it, you absolutely should. That’s especially true because Metroid Prime 4 is slated to come out sometime soon on the Switch, so it’s a great chance to catch up!
#2 Resident Evil 4
Another amazing franchise, the RE series actually had a bit of a tough time after Resident Evil 3. With a slew of mediocre games, most of which were rail shooters (or just plain boring), there wasn’t much going for the series, except maybe Code Veronica. It wasn’t until RE4 that the franchise really got revitalized, and boy did it do it well.
Eschewing the more traditional slow-paced horror that we’d come to expect from the RE franchise, RE4 instead threw in some really tight action gameplay. Gone were the days of weapon and item scarcity and instead replaced with some really great action sequences and set-pieces. They also included the infamous merchant with his iconic ‘What are ya’ buyin’?’ and ‘What are ya’ sellin’?’ lines, both of which I personally love.
While there’s no cover system (which I wish the game did have), it still has a well-built environment that offers just enough peril to make it interesting, while not being too overly difficult. The boss battles are also pretty great and challenging, and you certainly feel the new combat system comes to life when you’re fighting these big, hulking monsters. Oh, and you do get a bit of a souls-like dodging system, so that’s also fun if you’re into Dark Souls.
Of course, given the more action-packed direction of RE4, the horror took a bit of a back seat to everything else.
The story puts you in Spain as Leon Kennedy, with the mission to save Ashley, the US president’s daughter. After going to a random, back-water village, you find Ashley but get attacked by weird zombie-like villagers (hmmm, I wonder if they’re actually zombies). Anyway, you do get captured and then go on a typical conspiratorial journey through the story of RE4.
I don’t want to get too much into it since I don’t want to spoil it, but the story does delve a bit more into the originals of the zombie virus’ and the umbrella corporation.
All that being said, there are still some nice moments of horror and sheer fear that will get you, especially when you’re in enclosed and tight environments. Truth is, the horror in RE4 is much more subdued, so don’t expect the same scares you got from RE2 and RE3. In fact, the franchise doesn’t really return to its horror roots until RE7.
Overall though, RE4 is a solid entry for the franchise, and a must-play if you’re getting into the Resident Evil games.
#3 The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
When I was first writing up this list, it was a complete toss-up between The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. While arguably Twilight Princess was more favorably received and sold better (almost twice as many units) I feel like Wind Waker didn’t get the praise that it really should have.
You see, while Wind Waker was originally planned to be released with a more realistic graphical style like previous games, the team making the game felt a bit burnt out by the style. At some point, they saw some concept art for a cartoony looking Link, and Wind Waker was born in a cel-shaded style, which some detractors called ‘Celda’.
Regardless, the new graphical style allowed the devs to move away from the traditional, land-based gameplay, and move into a whole ocean that players can roam across.
This new setting, a bunch of islands in an ocean, added a bunch of cool new mechanics into the franchise. For example, while traveling around on your boat, The King of Red Lions, you have to rely on wind and in which direction it’s blowing. Sail into the headwind and you go slower, have some wind coming up from behind you and you go faster. At some point, you get a baton which allows you to change the direction of the wind by playing a tune, similar to the ocarina.
While aboard your boat and roaming in the open seas, you can do a variety of different things such as use a grappling hook to find sunken treasure, as well as overcome all the enemies and obstacles you’d find from traversing on land.
You also get yourself a nice sea chart which you can fill out as you explore the 49 sections of the map. It’s honestly a lot of fun to just go around and lazily explore, without even necessarily having to do anything.
As for the story . . . well, while I usually try not to approach the Zelda timeline . . . like, at all, I’ll try and give it. Set after Ocarina of Time, this is one of the timelines where link travels back in time to his childhood, although he doesn’t appear whereas Ganon does. As you can imagine, that causes quite a bit of hullabaloo, and basically, a few hundred years later, everybody is living on an ocean with the story of Link preserved in legend.
Yeah, there’s a bit of a gap there, but I assure you there’s a link (no pun intended) explained in the game. . . sort of.
Anyway, you end up playing a young boy who’s also named link, and also wears green because that’s just the tradition in those lands. As is typical for a Zelda game, you then go on an epic journey to get the master sword, collect the triforce, and kill a bunch of baddies. Even a re-incarnated Zelda makes an appearance to remind you that the Triforce is indeed in another castle (wait for a second, I think I have my Nintendo franchises mixed up).
At the end of the day, Wind Waker is a really awesome game with an excellent graphic style that really deserves more love. If you get the opportunity to play this, either on a Gamecube or the remaster, then you absolutely should.
#4 Super Smash Bros. Melee
If you haven’t been living under a rock your whole gaming life, then you almost certainly have heard of the Super Smash Bros. franchise. Even if you aren’t particularly a fighting-game enthusiast yourself, you’ve probably seen it referenced in memes and video game media (and maybe even non-video game media).
If you haven’t heard of Super Smash Bros. on the other hand, then I’m about to blow your mind.
Super Smash Bros. Melee is arguably one of the best if not the best entry into the franchise. It really took what made the N64 version great and expanded on it greatly, with new fighters, new environments, and new mechanics. Even the balancing is really well done, probably better than other Smash games, so I really can’t stress enough how much of a masterpiece this game.
The game itself is broken up into two parts; the single-player mode (which you probably didn’t realize existed) and the multiplayer mode that it’s become famous for. The single-player mode isn’t so much fighting or arena focused as it is a bunch of side-scrolling games put together, such as one that makes you launch a sandbag as far as you can with a bat.
The multiplayer on the other hand is where all the awesomeness is at, with a 4-player brawler that can have either bots or real human players.
Fighters are drawn from Nintendo franchises as a whole, with everybody from Samus to Pikachu showing up. In total, Melee has 25 playable characters, although only 14 are available from the start and you have to unlock the other 11. Similarly, not all the stages are selectable when you first start, and you’ll have to unlock these as well (which honestly is easy and fun).
The best part, at least for me personally, is that instead of having generic moves available to all the characters, each one has their unique attacks that relate to their character in some way. There’s also a variety of different items drawn from Nintendo games that show up and have an effect on the world, such as either refiling your ‘health’ or shooting somebody miles in the opposite direction.
Speaking of health, where Super Smash Bros. differs from most fighting games is that instead of a traditional health bar, you instead have a percentage at the bottom that goes up as you get hit. This percentage indicates how likely you are to be knocked off-stage and lose a life or die. It’s a pretty interesting system and always gives you that sliver of hope that you’re going to get back into the fight.
It’s no surprise then, that Super Smash Bros. as a franchise has spawned professional careers and tournaments. While it’s true that Melee might not be played as much as it used to be in these places, you’ll still always find a core group of players who get together and play it just for funsies. Even 19 years later, it remains one of the most balanced and enjoyable entries of the franchise.
#5 F-Zero GX
While we haven’t heard much from the F-Zero franchise in over a decade and a half, F-Zero GX remains one of the fastest-paced racing games out there. It’s not easy developing a game that really makes you feel as if you’re going over a thousand kilometers an hour, but the collab between Sega and Nintendo managed just that.
All of that speed is compounded when you add the 29 other racers you play against, the insane twists, turns, tight tubes, and roller coaster tracks the levels are made out of. Not only that but trying to avoid all the other racers, who will come after you, make the stakes even higher. Thankfully, you can hit them back with your own spin attacks, although avoidance remains the better strategy since hits tend to eat up your bar, which acts as both your health and your boost.
F-Zero GX has a variety of different modes to play from, such as four different types of Gran Prix you can play, each 5 tracks long and increasing in difficulty. There’s also a bunch of multiplayer modes that allow you to fight it out with up to 3 other players. A pretty cool Time Attack mode is also included, where ghost cars from other racers get transposed onto your track so you can try and get on the leaderboard.
Of course, the game is 16 years old, so it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find anybody, that’s even if the servers are still up.
One interesting addition to this entry in the franchise is the inclusion of a story mode. It’s nothing particularly outstanding or awesome, but it’s a nice little way of explaining the universe, the characters, and their motivations. Given today’s standard, the story is very disjointed, but it runs the gamut of rivalries, training missions, and a big whopping final race at the end.
At the end of the day though, most of all that is sidelined by the core gameplay; high-speed racing with 29 other drivers who are as equally bent on winning as you are. It’s thrilling and can make your heart race, even if you’re just watching. If you can get your hands on F-Zero GX, then you 100% should play it (heck, it even has widescreen and progressive scan support!)
#6 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
While the original Prince of Persia game was pretty awesome and received critical acclaim, the third entry, Prince of Persia 3D was a pretty massive flop, and forcefully shoved the franchise into the shadows. So, as you can imagine, when Ubisoft bought up the franchise and announced a new game was coming out, a lot of people were worried. I mean, we’ve all seen AAA publishers take a beloved franchise that should just lie dead and make it even worse, so you can’t really blame people.
Thankfully, The Sands of Time was a truly excellent entry and revitalized the whole franchise, and it was in no small part due to the original creator, Jordan Mechner, who was brought in to help with the game. While originally just being a consultant, he ended up playing a bigger part, writing the story and doing a bunch of extra design along with the rest of the development team.
Interestingly, there were lots of different iterations of the game before the team settled on the retail version we have now, and there was one main mechanic that really made the game what it is: the ability to alter time.
The time mechanic really set the franchise apart from its predecessors and was pretty well integrated into the storyline, one of the few instances game developers cared about ludonarrative dissonance.
This ability to alter time comes in particularly handy with the platforming sections, allowing you to rewind time by up to 10 seconds so you can give yourself another shot. Similarly, during combat, you could freeze individual enemies, or even time itself, to give you a little extra leg up.
Tying that mechanic and the story together is the Dagger of Time, which is tied to the Sands of Time inside an hourglass. As the unnamed Prince, you, your dad, and his army are taking a nice little stroll to visit the Sultan of Azad in India.
On the way, a sneaky little vizier tricks you into attacking his boss’ Palace, where you find the Dagger of Time and The Sands, which have some mystical time-traveling shenanigans. This vizier then tricks you into releasing The Sands, which turns everybody into monsters except yourself, the vizier, and Farah, the daughter of the Sultan of Azad.
Being the goody-two-shoes that you are, you go about trying to reverse the monumentally stupid mistake you made and that’s what most of the game revolves around.
Overall, the game does an excellent job of being both a puzzle-platformer and an action-adventure game. Environmental puzzles are huge, so you really get a sense of grandeur while playing and moving about the place. Similarly, combat is smooth and tons of fun, with the abilities afforded to you by the Dagger of Time adding another layer of combat (and trying to keep yourself alive.
While the recent 2008 reboot of the franchise was pretty good, The Sands of Time remains one of the best Prince of Persia games in the franchise, so if you’re a fan, you definitely need to play this one.
#7 Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
Ever since Disney took over the Star Wars franchise (which I’m not going to get into), they’ve taken the Star Wars franchise on a different path than it was building up to. Putting aside some of the new controversial movies, the original trilogy still remains an absolute classic and stands the test of time, assuming you watch the pre-recut versions.
Either way, if you’ve ever wanted to experience the first trilogy in the form of a flight combat game, then this is literally the perfect game for you.
Interestingly enough, Rogue Squadron II was a launch title for the Gamecube, and as such, was really made to push the technical boundaries of previous games from Nintendo. Factor 5 managed to do an excellent job in that regard, and while the graphics won’t wow anybody in 2020, it’s still an excellent nostalgic trip into the pre-Disney Star Wars.
Granted, the whole thing is done through flight combat, so if you were expecting on-foot combat or gameplay, well, you aren’t going to get it.
The story starts you off (oh and I should warn spoilers ahead) with the first rebel alliance attack on the Death Star in A New Hope. After some intense space battle where you destroy tie fighters and deflection towers, you get to live every kid’s fantasy and use the force to destroy the Death Star with one single torpedo.
Following that, you go to Hoth and reenact large portions of The Empire Strikes back, including the whole AT-AS attacks, which is a ton of fun. After that, you get into Return of the Jedi territory, going on Endor and destroying the second Death Star.
So basically, you relive all the major plot points of the original trilogy, either as Luke Skywalker or Wedge Antilles, your squadron mate from the attack on the first Death Star. You also get to play with a bunch of different aircraft from the film, such as the X-Wing, Y-Wing, Snowspeeder, and a couple of more, which is super cool.
As for the missions themselves, they’re pretty typical of what you’d expect of a game from that era and usually includes either destroying or protecting things.
While again, the game wouldn’t be anything special compared to modern flight combat games, it’s still a load of fun, especially if you’re a super-big Star Wars fan.
If you can get a chance to play this, you absolutely should.
And hey, if you’re itching for some Star Wars but can’t play Rogue Squadron, then you should check out SWTOR, one of the surprisingly best MMOs (although I still think they should have just made KOTOR 3 instead).
#8 Animal Crossing
One game that’s making big waves in 2020 is Animal Crossing, and it all started with this Gamecube version. Actually, the original Animal Crossing was released in Japan for the N64 and was called Animal Forest. It wasn’t until a couple of years later where the game was updated and released on the Gamecube for the rest of the world to enjoy.
Now, at face value, you might wonder what’s the darn point in a game like Animal Crossing. For the most part, it just looks like boring, day-to-day tasks and activities that pretty much mirror real life. Heck, even the genre is considered a life simulator, and let’s be honest, life can already be a pain, so why play a virtual simulation of it?
Well, simply put, it’s really relaxing.
While there certainly is a level of materialism and capitalistic ‘work-forever’ sort of stuff going on, for the most part, it’s pretty chill. More importantly, it gives you a lot of freedom to do whatever, whether it’s going fishing, looking for artifacts, or just chatting with the other virtual villagers. The only real guiding goal in Animal Crossing is to upgrade your house, which you do through Nook (although he does force upgrades and their associated mortgages on you).
Another thing that was pretty innovative at the time, was the inclusion of a real-time cycle, so you’d experience days and nights the same way you would in real life. Not only that, but there were also special events for all the major holidays like Easter and Christmas (although it was called Toy Day in the game). So it really is like real life, except you don’t necessarily have to deal with family and social obligations!
What was also pretty cool for the time, was being able to visit your friend’s villages as well, assuming you had a bunch of memory cards. You could interact with each other’s villagers, some shops, and you could even entice villagers to move to your own village, and they’d even remember the previous player after they left. It might all seem pretty simple given today’s cloud saving and complex systems, but back then, it was pretty mind-blowing.
Of course, if you’re going to be playing an Animal Crossing game, it’s better to go for the 2020 New Horizons version, since you’ll get the best stuff. Nonetheless, this first Animal Crossing was a big thing and even spawned a bunch of similar games like Stardew Valley.
#9 Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Of all of Nintendo’s IPs and games, Mario probably remains the most popular in their catalog, so it’s not surprising that they tend to experiment with that franchise a lot.
For example, if you played the first Paper Mario game, then you’re probably familiar with the unique 2d-on-3d art style that’s become eponymous with this series of games. In fact, the original Paper Mario was pretty widely acclaimed, partly due to this graphical art style and partly due to the fun and engaging narrative.
Well, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door takes all the great stuff from the first game, adds a little mix of Super Mario RPG, and ends up with a sequel that’s even better than the original. Not only do you get the awesome paper graphics, but you also get turn-based combat, as well as a simple progression system, which involves Heart Points (HP), Flower Points (FP), and Badge Points (BP).
You can probably guess what HP does, and FP is sort of like your magic points which you need to do special moves. BPs are sort of like equipable items that give you permanent buffs or maybe new moves for you to do.
Of course, all of this is built up around the Mario franchise, and so the story certainly follows the tradition of Peach being kidnapped and needing rescue. This time though, the story is set in Rogueport, which is apparently built next to an ancient seaside town that was sunk by some form of mysterious cataclysm.
Peach, being the adventuring type she is, buys a treasure map that marks out the location of Crystal Stars, seven of them in total, which are needed to open the eponymous Thousand-Year Door, which reportedly has massive amounts of riches behind it.
Unfortunately for you, the dastardly Bowser, your eternal enemy (except in a bunch of co-op Mario games, like Mario Party 10 on the Wii U), is also searching for the stars, although he’s usual bumbling incompetence is mostly just fun to watch.
Regardless, Peach is kidnapped and you, as Mario, find the map and have to go around collecting the crystals, in the hope that you can find the princess’ trail. I won’t go too much further into the story, because it’s actually a fun little journey, which is metered out in chapters like a story.
Also, you do actually take a companion with you along in your journey, and you have a pick of seven different characters, from Goombella to Vivian the shadow siren. Each companion gives some interesting buff or stat, and they can be involved in the turn-based battles, although if they die they’re knocked out until they revive, even for later battles.
Of course, if you die, well then the world ends through completely your own fault. . . nah just kidding. You just reset from the last save point.
All in all, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is so much fun, and easily one of the best games on the Gamecube if not one of the best Mario franchise games (and that’s saying a lot!).
#10 Pikmin 2
The adorable and sometimes incredibly annoying Pikmin of the original game was a lot of fun, and the RTS gameplay really propelled the game into critical acclaim. Following on the heels of that success, Pikmin 2 did a great job of expanding on the great mechanics and style of the original.
You might also be happy to know that both Pikmin and Pikmin 2 were both later re-released for the Wii U (as was Pikmin 3), so if you still have one of those laying around, you could always play the remakes rather than the original.
Now, the first thing I probably want to point out, at least if you’ve played the first game, is that Pikmin 2 finally removed the 30-day limit for completing the game, so you aren’t constantly stressed about it. Instead, this time-limit has somewhat been transferred to each individual day itself and usually lasts between 13-20 minutes. This gives you a much more leisurely and enjoyable pace to the game, whether that’s for better or worse is up to you.
Regardless, the original three Pikmin colors, red, blue, and yellow, are joined in with two new colors, white and purple. If you haven’t played a Pikmin game before, the red Pikmin is the first Pikmin you usually encounter and are resistant to fire and are more powerful than blue and yellow. Yellow Pikmin can carry explosives and be thrown higher, while blue Pikmin can survive in water, and are sort of bleh.
In addition to those three, the purple Pikmin is super strong, stronger than red by up to 10 times, while white Pikmin is faster, resistant to poison, and also causes poison if eaten.
Given that it’s mostly an RTS game, you have to use all those different colors of Pikmin, with their advantages and disadvantages, to maximize your efficiency when you’re on the planet for the allotted time that you have. Much like the previous game, you are required to collect a bunch of stuff, which in this game is treasures (a total of 201).
In your way stand a variety of different obstacles, such as gaps that need to be bridges, walls that need to be torn down, and living bugs that are more than happy to chomp on your Pikmin, which sucks because they don’t respawn or come back; you lose them forever.
While I won’t go too much into the story, the need for returning to this ‘unnamed planet’ after escaping it in the first place, is because the company you work for has gone into deep, deep, deep, financial troubles, and you need to pull them out of it.
Of course, only you will do, since you’re arguably the only competent one, but that doesn’t stop your boss from sending a subordinate who clearly hasn’t been reading his emails. That being said, having two captains is actually a really interesting strategic addition, since you can control them individually, and have each with their own group of Pikmin doing different things. So you can actually get much more stuff done, even though there’s slightly more micro-management this time around.
Overall, the Pikmin franchise is great, and Pikmin 2 is a solid entry into the franchise. So if you have a Gamecube or Wii U laying around, you should definitely check it out!
Well, there you have it folks, some of the truly must-play games of the Gamecube era. Now, while it’s not necessarily easy to get your hands on a working Gamecube (it will probably cost you quite a bit), there are other ways to play the games, such as emulation. We’re not condoning or advising you to do that though, but we are saying that some people might use that as an option.
Either way, good luck with your gaming and try not to pace yourself.