The Nintendo Switch is just a few weeks from release. In honor of Nintendo and all that it’s brought to the gaming world, The Life of Gaming has decided to count down the top 10 games from each of Nintendo’s home consoles. Be sure to check back each week and see if your favorite game makes our list!
Today, we move on to the Nintendo Gamecube
The Nintendo GameCube was, in fact, a cube that played games. It played mini DVDs and included a handle so you could carry it. From day one, the GameCube matched to the beat of it’s own drum, but let’s be honest, that is when Nintendo really shines. Releasing in 2001 and selling over 22 million units the GameCube was Nintendo’s 4th home console release. Here is our list of the top 10 games in that library.
10) Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Released: October 2004 Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Intelligent Systems
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is the direct sequel to the 2001 original Paper Mario for Nintendo 64. The Thousand Year Door shares the same paper craft art style and active RPG combat of the original, while adding a brand new story and gameplay mechanics. The biggest addition to the game was Mario’s ability to transform to transverse the game map. For example, Mario could fold into a paper airplane to reach farther distance or he could turn sideways and be paper thin and able to fit into new areas.
The Paper Mario series has also become known for it’s amazing supporting cast and The Thousand Year Door is no different. From Goombrella to Koops to Admiral Bobbery, each character had it’s own story beats and was beaming with personality. By the time you were finally able to unlock the Thousand Year Door, Mario had interacted with up to 7 playable party members.
The game looked crisp on GameCube. It was super fun to play with the action based RPG system. All while having a fun and heartwarming story. To this day, The Thousand Year Door remains the highlight of the Paper Mario series.
09) Viewtiful Joe
Released: October 2003 Publisher: Capcom Developer: Capcom
GameCube in a lot of ways was all about style and no more is that evident than in Viewtiful Joe. Viewtiful Joe, at it’s core, is a 2D Side-Scrolling Beat’em Up. You play as Joe on a mission to save your kidnapped girlfriend. As cliche or pedestrian as that sounds, Viewtiful Joe looked and played like few games before…and few games since.
Viewtiful Joe was under the direction of Hideki Kamiya (Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Bayonetta) and it shows. The combat in Viewtiful Joe was flawless. Mixing a detailed combo system with the ability to slow down or speed up time allowed for deep and engaging gameplay. Like most combat focused games, half of the fun is going back in and trying to perfect your skills and master each level.
The other standout here was the visual design. Joe was a chibi-esque human character who is pulled into the world of his favorite superhero and given the ability to become a super powered, neon suit wearing, time altering, warrior. The came had a striking 3D cel shaded design. The blacks were harsh and dramatic while the bright neon colors accented everything. The game popped off the screen like a living comic book. Nintendo is mostly known for it’s own IP’s, which dominate this list, but Viewtiful Joe was one of those rare cases where a 3rd party game shines even some of the best Nintendo games.
08) Mario Kart Double Dash
Released: November 2003 Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo
Just about every Nintendo hardware since SNES has had a Mario Kart Game (Sorry Virtual Boy!) and every release seems to be a highlight of the system. For the GameCube, Nintendo took a bit of a detour with Mario Kart when it made Double Dash a 2 player, Co-Op experience. To be fair, you could play the game solo and switch between the characters on the fly, but the game was build with the idea of one person driving and one person hurling power ups at rivals.
Double Dash is probably the most controversial Kart game in the series. It felt much slower than previous titles and was more limited in scope. It seems you either loved Double Dash or you didn’t. Many reviewers liked the Co-Op aspect of the game. The game was also praised for it’s, in 2003, flawless graphics. The criticisms were aimed more toward lack of meaningful progression over previous entries in the series and it’s uninspired track design.
The thing about Mario Kart Double Dash that really captured audiences was multiplayer. The game played so well, and having 2 players to a Kart meant even more fun. The addition of the GameCube LAN adapter meant that you could play up to 16 player LAN parties. Mario Kart Double Dash was the best racing game released on GameCube and one of the best Multiplayer games of it’s time.
07) Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
Released: November 2001 Publisher: LucasArts Developer: Factor 5
As a Star Wars fan you dream of flying an X-Wing through the Death Star trench or wrapping up an AT AT with your rebel Snowspeeder. Well, that is Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader in a nutshell. Rogue Leader is the sequel to the original Rogue Squadron game for Nintendo 64. In Rogue Leader, you pilot one of several available ships through 10 action packed missions.
Rogue Leader opens on the end of A New Hope as the Rebels attempt to destroy the Death Star. For the time, the game was absolutely breathtaking. Not only did the game look great, but it also sounded amazing taking full advantage of the surround sound capabilities of the GameCube.
There have been dozens of console launches and most launch with a handful of standout titles. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader stands out as one of the best 3rd party launch games of all time. Having this game to bring home with your new console set the tone for the amazing future of the GameCube.
06) Super Mario Sunshine
Released: August 2002 Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo
Super Mario Sunshine was the direct follow up to Super Mario 64, on the Nintendo 64. Sunshine shakes the series up a little bit by sending Mario on vacation to Isle Delfino. When Mario and Peach arrive, they realize that there is someone terrorizing the tropical island and spraying graffiti everywhere. It’s up to Mario, with the help of FLUDD, to clean things up.
At it’s core Sunshine is very much a more polished version of 64. The camera follows behind the player as they run and jump through various platforms and enemies. The game also features a hub world, similar to 64, only this time your hub world is the Island of Delfino. The big change in gameplay came from FLUDD, which was a backpack that Mario wore that would suck up water. Once it was full, you could use it to clean graffiti or switch the nozzle and use it to jetpack to new areas.
Most Nintendo hardware is made with software in mind. Think shoulder buttons for Mario World or Joystick for 64. On the GameCube, it was the analog shoulder buttons on the GamePad. The shoulder buttons gave resistance to you pulling them down causing the applied pressure to be exercised on the screen. This was met with a satisfying *click* once you depress completely. This mechanic was used to full effect with FLUDD, allowing Mario to gently spray or shoot a jet stream out of the backpack. Super Mario Sunshine is often left out when discussing Mario games, but Sunshine is a worth successor to 64 and is one of the best games on the GameCube.
05) Animal Crossing
Released: September 2002 Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo
Animal Crossing is the perfect example of something that is slightly weird, slightly confusing, and just doesn’t work on paper. However, the genius at Nintendo thrive with recipes like that and Animal Crossing was no different.
The conceit is simple, you are a humanoid who moves into a village filled with animals. Once settled in, you wander around meeting town folks, catching fish, and shaking trees. Animal Crossing is unique in that it was all about the long game. Building relationships, writing letters to your neighbors, paying off your mortgage so you can upgrade your house, and filling the museum with all of the things you find in the world. Animal Crossing is simply a way of life.
I can’t finish without mentioning the highlight of the first game. While playing, you were able to find Nintendo Entertainment Systems which would allow you to play old NES games. Games like Super Mario Bros. and Excite Bike and Ice Climbers. It’s important to note that this was well before the introduction of a Virtual Console so this was the only want that some gamers had to experience this classic titles.
Animal Crossing came out of left field and started what has now become a staple in the Nintendo family.
04) Resident Evil 4
Released: January 2005 Publisher: Capcom Developer: Capcom
Resident Evil 4 did what very few games are ever able to do. Take an established IP, turn it on it’s side, and actually raise awareness and popularity. The original RE games were slower paced adventure/puzzle/horror games where a player would navigate using tank controls trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. However, RE4 shook up the status quo by moving to an over the shoulder 3rd person view. Instantly the game became more intense and cinematic than ever before.
When you talk with people about “Masterpieces”, Resident Evil 4 is normally mentioned. At the time of release there were few games that looked or played as well. The pacing was well done, the story was engaging, and the gameplay was addictive. RE4 is truly one of the best games of all time and well deserving of it’s place at number 4….pun INTENDED!
03) Super Smash Bros. Melee
Released: December 2001 Publisher: Nintendo Developer: HAL Laboratory
In a lot of ways, Super Smash Bros. was the fulfillment of all our childhood memories. Sitting on the floor having Leonardo and Snake Eyes fight Skeletor and The Joker. For years we had enjoyed all of the Nintendo IPs, but they were all locked to the world which they belong. You wouldn’t see Mario riding shotgun on a mission with Samus or Link having a Pokemon Battle with Ash. Then, there was Super Smash Bros. which made all our dreams come true by allowing all of our favorite Nintendo characters to fight it out, battle royal style.
The original Super Smash Bros. game featured 8 Characters. 6 years later Nintendo launched Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GameCube and bumped the roster from 8 to 25 characters. Mario, Link, and Pikachu were all back and this time they were joined by the likes of Marth, Ice Climbers, and Bowser.
Characters aside, the has alway been the fast paced, addictive combat of Smash that keeps fans coming back. While the game can be deep for the serious players, it is a much more accessible experience in relation to most fighting games. You really just play the game with 2 or 3 buttons and the joystick and this is important because the appeal of Melee was handing someone a controller and saying let’s play and for that person not only to feel like they knew what was going on, but then for them to actually have a blast doing it.
Super Smash Bros. Melee is just pure joy. There are few games that come along in a generation that are just as fun the 500 time you’ve played as it was the 1st, but Melee is definitely that game.
02) Metroid Prime
Released: November 2002 Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Retro Studios
Nintendo did this amazing thing when transitioning it’s games to 3D. It was able to keep the essence of those games. Take Mario for example. It’s know for twitch based platforming and collecting and Super Mario 64 nailed that essence in a 3D space. Zelda was similar in that it’s all about exploration and puzzle solving and Ocarina of time nailed that. Metroid skipped the 64 era, however it’s 3D debut on the GameCube exceeded every expectation set.
Retro Studios took the Metroid series, which was known for it’s isolating environments, it’s distinct alien design, alluring lead character, and weapon gated linearity and delivered an amazing 3D treatment. Samus looked and felt just like you’d always imagined, only in 3D AND first person. The environments were a mix of size and design but all were very empty of life and isolating. Most important, the core to any Metroidvania game, is weapon gating your progression, which Metroid Prime did perfectly.
The game was called a First Person Adventure, which is a perfect description to the game. The Metroid Prime series has become an instant staple in the Nintendo franchise and moved Samus up to a top tier character. This is one of the very best Nintendo games ever made.
01) The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Released: March 2003 Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo
How can the best game on GameCube not be The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. In 2000, when Nintendo unveiled the GameCube at Space World, there was also a Zelda demo shown of Link battling Ganon. The demo was done in the art design of Ocarina of time and looked amazing. Fans couldn’t be more excited. A year later, at Space World 2001, Nintendo gave a very different demo of Link who now looked like a Pixar character. Fan lost their mind thinking that Nintendo is going to ruin one of it’s best franchises.
2 years later the game was released and once again fans were blown away. Not because Zelda was ruined, but because Wind Waker was brilliant! The anime inspired cel shaded graphics allowed for more expression in Link than almost any game before it. It was subtle but pronounced. In fact, while playing the game, if you watch Link he will look at things of interest when you pass it. That level of detail in the character and AI was unlike anything else.
It can’t be all design of course, because gameplay is still king. Thankfully, Wind Waker also brought the series ahead there too. Adding a counter button for the first time add more depth to waiting and planning your attacks at the right time. Zelda is also known for it’s unique weapons and items and Wind Waker had some great examples of this in the Deku Leaf and Grappling Hook. Of course, music takes center stage again with the actually Wind Waker which allows Link to control the wind to sail from island to island.
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most beloved series in video games and Wind Waker it a highlight of that series. From the gorgeous open oceans to the intricate story to the fantastic dungeons, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is the pinnacle of GameCube software.
So, what’s your favorite game on the Nintendo GameCube? Which game did we leave off the list? Let us know in the comments down below!