The Nintendo GameCube launched in Japan in September 2001 and a couple of months later in North America. Unlucky Europeans wouldn’t get their hands on it until the following year, but the wait was worth it for one of the best-looking video game consoles of all time. The NGC (sorry, GCN) is a beautiful, compact piece of kit. Eschewing the jack-of-all-trades direction of its contemporaries, the console concentrated on doing just one thing well: playing games. Its striking indigo colour, big chunky ‘A’ button, cute little discs and infamous carry handle ultimately worked against it in an era of sleek, all-in-one multimedia machines, but it was a powerful little box of tricks that played host to a fabulous library of games. This was the last time Nintendo put itself in direct competition with Sony and Microsoft in pure spec terms before changing tack with the Wii.
We asked Nintendo Life readers to rate their favourite GameCube games, and the result is the list of 50 games you see below. The ranking is formed entirely from each game’s user rating in the Nintendo Life Games database. However, unlike other static lists, this one constantly evolve to reflect ratings from Nintendo Life users, so you can still participate.
We’ve done this for a growing number of Nintendo consoles, so if you’re interested be sure to check out the best Nintendo DS games, the best 3DS games, the best Game Boy gamecube iso and even the best Switch games – each and every one a fluid list that can change over time. Try rating the games in them, too!
Super Mario Strikers
Mario and his amazing friends have dominated sports like tennis, golf, basketball, and baseball for years, always in the spirit of friendly competition. That all changed when the Mushroom Kingdom players entered the soccer pitch, as they competed with more intensity and aggression than we’d ever seen. It’s strange enough to see Mario grit his teeth, let alone brutishly shove Peach into an electrified wall. That tough exterior made Strikers stand out from the rest of Mario’s sports discography, though the enjoyable gameplay fit nicely with the series’ tradition of inclusive gaming. If you wanted soccer mixed in with random violence, this was your best choice on the Cube.
Skies of Arcadia Legends
Skies of Arcadia reigns as one of the premier Dreamcast RPGs. You’ll quickly fall in love with Vyse and his Blue Rogues as they fight the evil Valuan Empire. Sega, after the Dreamcast unfortunately floundered, decided to port this excellent first-party RPG to the GameCube, re-dubbing it as Skies of Arcadia Legends. The epic dungeon battles are intact, the discovery system still works (now with more discovering!), and the battle system made the cut, virtually untouched. Legends is the same game Dreamcast owners loved, just with some minor new elements and a fresh coat of paint. Any RPG lover who missed Skies of Arcadia the first time round no longer has any excuse to pass this port up.
It all boils down to a flurry of black and white pellets flying across the screen in a seemingly inescapable frenzy of action. When it’s all in motion, your eyes will glaze over and raw instinct takes over. For those watching from afar, Ikaruga looks like a piece of flowing art. It really is that amazing. Sadly, the game barely made a splash when it was released, but its legacy lives on as a downloadable. Despite low sales and even lower awareness, those in the know will defend the title and its more obscure Sega Saturn sister, Radiant Silvergun, as the pinnacles of twitchy shooter insanity.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
The Fire Emblem series is probably the most niche long-running Nintendo franchise out there, with the turn-based RPG having been around since the Japanese version of the NES, the Famicom. It seemed like it would never come to America, but thanks to the popularity of Fire Emblem characters that appeared in Smash Bros., it was given a chance internationally. And it gave western gamers exactly what Japanese fans had loved for years, even if many US GameCube owners weren’t as excited. The turn-based, stat-heavy action didn’t look too impressive even at the time, with the grid map and small characters. Fortunately it didn’t need to, as the traditional strategy gameplay was as addictive then as it always has been. And it was nice to see a Nintendo game that didn’t take it easy on the player, with high difficulty and permanent team member death. For those who bothered to find it, they’ll never forget it.
Mario Kart: Double Dash
Double Dash didn’t revolutionize the Mario Kart franchise like many hoped it would, but the improvements here go beyond surface deep. The character and vehicle selection is huge, the new weapons are appropriately insane complements to returning classics, and the tracks themselves have never been this diverse. Wario Colosseum is such an exhaustively twisty daredevil affair that it’s only two laps long, while Baby Park is so simple in its round-and-round madness that it requires seven.
Of course, the multiplayer is what counts, and that’s where Double Dash gets creative. Two players can control a single kart during races, with one handling all the driving and the other dishing out all the power-up punishment. It may be the greatest team-bonding exercise in video game history. Besides, what other tense, emotion-fueled multiplayer could inspire exclamations like „Use the golden mushroom, damn you, use it now!“ or „Holy crap, watch out for that banana peel!“? After seeing the series’ regress ever since, this is still the secret favourite for many Kart fans.
Super Monkey Ball
Some ideas are so obviously good that, in retrospect, it feels like they’ve always been with us. One of the best launch titles for the GameCube was Super Monkey Ball, and it was so much fun that it made instant fans out of almost everyone. The setup is basic: You’ve got a ball, with a monkey in it. The levels are mazes made out of platforms; if you fall off, you die. If you make it to the end of the maze, you win. Instead of controlling the monkey, you tilt the world. The reason Super Monkey Ball rocks is down to the maze design being excellent and the control and physics being more or less perfect. It’s proof positive that you don’t need an idea that makes a hell of a lot of sense if you can put it together just right. Also, cute monkeys make anything better.