The GameCube occupies a special place in Nintendo history. Released in 2001, the square box — complete with a lunch pail style handle — cemented Nintendo as a hardware manufacturer unafraid of taking risks in the face of stiff competition from Sony and Microsoft. Its quirky controller made the N64’s boomerang pad seem bland, and, surprisingly, it has endured to this day thanks to Super Smash Bros. It used miniature discs that loaded under its pop-up cover, meaning it was solely a game machine. Most importantly, though, the GameCube was home to a large body of great games. From the usual suspects like Mario and Zelda, to the reinvention of Metroid, to one of the greatest survival horror games of all time, the compact box that came in a multitude of colors delivered experiences that we still think about today.
Our list of the best GameCube games of all-time is broken down by genre. It wasn’t easy narrowing down the GameCube’s vast library. Surely we missed an unsung gem or two, but these are the GameCube games that have stayed with us.
What if a comic book, panels and all, was a video game? That’s exactly what the Hideki Kamiya-helmed Capcom project Viewtiful Joe set out to do in 2003 when it launched on GameCube. The side-scrolling beat ’em up put players in the red suit and cape of Joe, a young man who is transported into Movieland to fight villains and save the world. A comic book art style and the melding of both comics and film made for one of the most visually interesting games of the era. It also helped that the game had solid, tough combat. It’s disappointing that after one sequel and a couple of spin-offs, Viewtiful Joe ceased to exist as a franchise. We recently played the original on GameCube, though, and it still holds up some 15 years later.
‘The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures’
Inspired by the Four Swords cooperative mode in the A Link to the Past port for GBA, The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures was part relic, part innovative twist on the storied series. Designed as cooperative dungeon crawler for up to four players, Four Swords Adventures featured eight worlds with four self-contained levels in each world. It used a remixed version of Link to the Past’s soundtrack and also had a pretty OK competitive multiplayer mode. While it doesn’t have the depth of the main Zelda games, it retains the charm. It’s much better as a cooperative experience, but still a worthwhile experience solo.
‘Resident Evil 4’
It’s still shocking that Resident Evil 4, one of the greatest action games of all time, was initially supposed to only appear on GameCube. While it did launch on the ‘Cube first, it came to a slew of other consoles afterwards. The game followed police officer Leon Kennedy on a mission to Spain to rescue the President’s daughter from the a cult. Naturally, the cult had turned even more sinister, so players had to spend their time watching their backs and shooting zombies. Everything about Resident Evil 4 impressed. From the frightening monsters, to the epic boss battles, to the over-the-shoulder shooting mechanics, to the non-linear, spooky environments. Resident Evil 4 remains an influential game today and outside of Nintendo-developed games, you’d be hard pressed to find a better GameCube game.
‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time reinvigorated a fledgling franchise in 2003 with the help of one, amazing mechanic. His dagger, imbued with sand, can turn back the hands of time to retry platforming sequences, take another swipe at enemies, or just get a better angle to assess the situation. He could also freeze enemies in time and slow the world around him temporarily. The mechanic worked wonders for the action adventure game, giving The Sands of Time a unique and strategic twist that made it a standout experience. Combine the mechanic with excellent puzzles, clever AI, and a gripping storyline about deceit, and The Sands of Time easily became one of the greatest adventure games of the era.
Skill is king in Ikaruga, the 2003 vertical shoot ’em up that offered a bare bones experience that managed to bubble up to the top of arcade shooter genre on GameCube. Armed with just regular missiles and a homing laser, you had to maneuver your ship around obstacles and shoot enemies in lightning quick stages. It’s not a game for everyone, but it harked back to the glory days of feeding quarters into arcade machines on loop. Today,Ikaruga is available on the Nintendo Switch eShop.
‘Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory’
Sam Fisher’s third outing, Chaos Theory, included all of the great stealth gameplay of the first two games, but also loosened up the requirements to let players tackle missions in their own way. When moving through areas, it was no longer mandatory to hide bodies. Additionally, while the first two games almost always made you play stealthy, in Chaos Theory, you could use lethal force much more often without failing missions. Of course, Chaos Theory was designed to play as a stealth game, so thankfully the stealth mechanics and AI also improved in Chaos Theory. It remains one of the best entries in the series today, and one of the greatest stealth games of all time.
‘Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II’
A launch title, Rogue Squadron II offered significant improvements to its already great predecessor. The game took place throughout the original trilogy and saw Luke Skywalker leading a group of X-wing pilots across the galaxy, engaging in fast-paced flight combat throughout. Each level had different completion requirements to keep the gameplay fresh and exciting. It wasn’t just X-wings, despite the name, so you could pilot six other Star Wars ships, including the iconic Millennium Falcon. Rogue Squadron II is easily our favorite Star Wars game on GameCube and one of the best of all time.
‘Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes’
A remake of the PlayStation classic Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes made the stellar stealth game infinitely more playable by introducing accessibility mechanics seen in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. It also reworked the cutscenes, of which there were many, from the ground floor. Only released on GameCube, Twin Snakes was a weird moment in Nintendo history, but one we are incredibly thankful for. It also was developed with the guidance of both Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima and Zelda/Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. How cool is that?