Top 10 Favorite GameCube Games
The Nintendo GameCube is a console I held very dear to my heart throughout my childhood. I don’t remember when my family got one. It probably wasn’t at launch, but we did have the silver model which I think was only available early on in the GameCube’s life in North America. It also came bundled with the Game Boy Player, which I don’t think I ever used all that much really.
Lately, I’ve been pretty into Top 10 lists. There’s something satisfying to me about seeing a list someone has compiled of the Top 10 Somethings, it’s hard to describe better than that. But my personal attraction to Top 10 Lists lately is the why this article exists!
Before I begin the actual Top 10 countdown, I want to address a few games that didn’t make my personal Top 10 favorites. Consider these “Honorable Mentions” of sorts.
Games That Didn’t Make It / Honorable Mentions
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princes
I never owned this game on GameCube. I played a friend’s copy for a while and we had a blast messing around with Action Replay codes on it several times, but other than that the Wii version was how I played the game. For that reason, it doesn’t make the Top 10. But from what I’ve played of the GameCube version since, I actually think it’s better than the Wii version. I like that Link is left-handed, as silly a reason as that may be, and it doesn’t have the motion controls. The game doesn’t need those, in my opinion.
- Metroid Prime
- This one would be on the list but I got stuck and took a long time to beat it, so I don’t remember it quite as fondly as the others. I will never forget the feeling of hearing the main menu music for the first time though, completely mind blowing! The work Retro Studios did to bring Metroid into the realm of 3D is truly commendable. I’d like to replay this one someday!
- Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
- Amazing Island
- Really cool concept, I loved unlocking monster parts! The mini-games got repetitive of course, but as a kid I guess I didn’t mind that. Going back recently and trying to play this game, I could not get past the water skipping mini-game at all, which is super early in the game. So maybe this one doesn’t hold up quite as much as I wish it did. Maybe I’ve just become bad at video games?
- Spider-Man 2
- Oh man I loved this game. Nowadays it looks pretty bad, the graphics definitely didn’t age well. But in its heyday, I thought it looked pretty good. I haven’t replayed it, but this was the game to play if you wanted to swing around NYC as Spider-Man. At least, until the 2018 PS4 Spider-Man game. Or maybe Ultimate Spider-Man, I never played that much though.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
- My family and I played this so much. Loved the co-op! By the time we were done with it, we’d maxed all the characters’ levels!
With those out of the way, it’s time for the main event…
Top 10 Favorite GameCube Games
10. Super Mario Sunshine
It might seem odd I’m putting Super Mario Sunshine at the bottom of my list, but I didn’t actually have a copy of Sunshine until later on in my GameCube-playing days. Plus, I’m one of those weirdos who owned an N64, but didn’t have Super Mario 64. Looking back, I think I didn’t really get into 3D Mario platformers until I eventually got Sunshine? Although I think I owned and played Billy Hatcher before this… Anyway, I feel like that might influence the nostalgia I feel for Sunshine somewhat, as I didn’t have as much time with it as I did with the other games on this list.
That said, this game still blew me away when I played it. To me as a kid, the water in the game looked 100% photo-realistic, and I just couldn’t believe it! Then, Mario was able to fly around with a water jet-pack!! Mario’s movement all around was just so fluid and refined, he could jump so high, he could do like a cool triple jump thing, long jumps, wall jumps, it was all incredible! Plus, collecting Shine Sprites provided a satisfying feeling of progress, which of course was not a mechanic Sunshine pioneered (Mario 64 might claim that honor), but it is an enjoyable mechanic nonetheless.
9. Pokémon Colosseum
All I knew when I got this game was that I loved Pokémon, and this was a Pokémon game, so I was bound to love it, right? Right!
I enjoyed this game so much, I thought the “Shadow Pokémon” and the Purification process were the coolest thing ever as a kid. The plot was “edgy” and “cool” and I felt cool because of it. Plus, even though I didn’t pre-order it, my copy came with the special bonus disk that let me add Jirachi to my copy of Pokémon Ruby! How cool is that? To the young bsinky, it was about the coolest thing that could ever happen.
I mean come on, what other Pokémon games let you steal other Trainers’ Pokémon? None! Okay, Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness might, I don’t remember. But to me, the Pokémon Snatching mechanic in Colosseum was brilliant, and made the player character into one seriously cool dude.
I haven’t replayed this game recently so I don’t know if it holds up. My memories may be pure nostalgia, but I’m okay if that’s the case, I still had a ton of fun playing Colosseum as a kid.
8. Luigi’s Mansion
I played through this game several times as a kid. My later playthroughs consisted of me obsessing over trying to collect all the money in the mansion I possibly could, to get the best rating at the end. I’m not sure if I ever did, but I always thought that was so cool, sucking up dollar bills with your vacuum.
Luigi’s Mansion took up far more of my childhood than Super Mario Sunshine did, and for that reason it secures its spot on this list. Both are great games, but in totally different genres, and I’ve always thought that was pretty cool. The fact that Luigi’s Mansion isn’t a Mario platformer drives home the point that Luigi is very different from his brother!
7. Future Tactics: The Uprising
Here’s a game that I loved, loved, as a kid! I remember renting this from the local video store (remember those?!?) after the box art caught my eye. I had no idea what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found! Eventually I got my own copy, which I think I bought used from a video store also, I kind of remember the disc having a transparent sticker over it.
The combat system in this game mesmerized me. Aiming is unsteady and requires some skill, which was fun to try and master. Headshots on enemies (and your characters!) did more damage, but hitting the heads of some enemies was quite difficult. Besides skill, strategy was also necessary. If you left your character open to attack, the enemy would swiftly punish you. Your shots also can damage the terrain, you can blast huge holes in the ground with some characters. That also plays into strategy, because maybe you can get yourself some makeshift cover if you blow a hole in the ground and hide another character down in it.
I always thought the story was pretty good too, you and a small band of humans are on a journey to defeat the alien invaders. It impressed me as a kid, at least! There are some twists and turns, heart-wrenching moments…I liked it a lot.
No idea if this game holds up today, or if I just have rose-tinted glasses for it. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone. A good friend of mine hated this game when I lent it to him as a kid. The reviews for it aren’t great either, it’s sitting at a 63 on Metacritic as of this writing. None of that changes the fact that I really enjoyed it though!
Fun fact, while researching for this article, I learned that the PAL region got a PC release of this game! I’d had no idea this game was on PC as well!
6. Pikmin 2
Pikmin is a series I love. At least, I love the ones I’ve played. I’ve heard Hey! Pikmin isn’t so great, but it’s a spin-off so that doesn’t necessarily reflect on a decline of the franchise. I’ve honestly never read up on Pikmin 3 at all, so I know very little about it! That’s one I haven’t played either. But we’re here today to talk about my favorite GameCube Pikmin game, Pikmin 2.
In my humble opinion, Pikmin 2 refined every single aspect from the original game. It removed the 30 day time limit, and let you play for as long as you want, a huge improvement, even though I do sometimes get nostalgic for finding parts and repairing Captain Olimar’s trusty ship, the Dolphin. Yellow Pikmin were changed to resist electricity…a change I think makes far more sense given the theme of Red Pikmin resisting fire and Blue Pikmin resisting water. We got 2 new species too, Purple and White Pikmin, both of which integrate perfectly into the formula!
Of course, perhaps the biggest change was the addition of a 2nd captain, giving you the ability to alternate between commanding 2 Pikmin squads! I haven’t replayed Pikmin 2 in years, but if I remember correctly this was necessary too often, but if you used it well and carefully, you could get more done in a single day, or at least clear a dungeon floor a little faster. Oh yeah, that brings us to another huge addition to the Pikmin formula, the dungeons/caves/holes in the ground!
Looking back now, I can’t imagine how the original Pikmin didn’t have caves. They’re so much fun! I love how the captains also get upgrades from certain cave, giving them additional abilities. I don’t think many of these were game-changing upgrades, but they were fun to collect anyway.
I last thing here, I know for a fact my copy of Pikmin 2 (which I don’t think I have anymore) came used from a video store, because the disc had a transparent sticker over it. That always annoyed me, but I never tried removing it because I was afraid I’d either break the disc or never be able to clean off the adhesive residue completely and damage my GameCube.
5. Custom Robo
Custom Robo is a beloved game that I never even owned, I could play it only when a friend lent it to me. But man did I play the heck out of this game during that time. I still never managed to unlock all the parts, but I got really close.
This is actually the 4th Custom Robo game, but the first to see a release outside of Japan. My understanding is that the plot of this game is standalone from the others though.
The premise is, you battle by controlling a tiny robot that you customize before the match, fighting to defeat other tiny robots. These are the Robos, and they’re stored in cubes outside of battles which I always thought was neat. When customizing your Robo before battle, ideally you’ll analyze your opponent’s loadout, and pick parts that will give you an advantage against them. Like, if they’re using a short-range weapon, maybe you’d choose a body and legs that will let you keep your distance from them, and pair those with a long-range gun.
The main game’s story also had me hooked as a kid. It’s pretty simple, yet there are still some neat twists with the way certain aspects of the world are revealed to the player. Once you beat the main story, you unlock the “Grand Battle” post-game mode.
Grand Battle was also so much fun for me. The only “story” of the post-game is that they’re holding a tournament to test your skills, from what I remember. Man, they’re not lying about testing your skills. As I recall, some of the battles are very tough! To make things more difficult, you get a score based on your performance, and unlocking all the robo parts would require you to get top scores in every battle, if I’m remember correctly. Regardless, this game enchanted me. I loved the setting and story, even though they’re fairly minimal and there’s not a ton of backstory. For me, the amount of backstory was just enough to keep the plot fun, while leaving plenty of room for the main attraction, the battles!
4. Tales of Symphonia
This was probably my first JRPG, ever. I mean, I’d played most of Super Mario RPG earlier. But as a kid I always just thought of that as a regular old Mario game, but with level-ups and turn-based battles. It didn’t register to me that it was a “JRPG” at the time, I don’t think I even knew what that was. Sometimes I’m still not sure! Being a Nintendo gamer up until midway through the Xbox 360’s life, I hadn’t really owned consoles that had a bunch of JRPGs, except for the SNES but I was too young to get interested in its wealth of future classic JRPGs, so I didn’t know what I was missing. I heard about Symphonia in Nintendo Power, and they made it sound amazing! I just had to get it! When I finally did, ooh boy…I was blown away.
This game was so much more than I had ever seen before. There was a huge focus on the story and the characters, battles felt awesome, and there was tons of voice acting! That blew me away so much, voice acting was something I had basically never heard this much of before in a game. Plus, it was 2 discs! This game must be huge, I thought! Well, I wasn’t wrong about that. Symphonia is massive, and if you’re attempting to complete all the side objectives, it’s a several hundred hour affair across multiple playthroughs. Going for 100% completion isn’t something I ever tried for with Symphonia, but I did New Game+ complete it at least once, and by the end had a number of costumes unlocked for every character.
3. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is such a great experience, not just a great video game. It oozes charm and fun with its papery aesthetic. I remember my copy had the “Best Seller” emblem on the front, the only GameCube game I ever saw that had that. I’m not really sure why Nintendo saw the need to put that badge on the box art, but oh well. I think this is one I got at Christmas, or maybe a birthday? I was so pumped, having played and enjoyed Paper Mario on the N64 some time earlier. My expectations were met, and exceeded by Thousand Year Door!
This is a game I know for sure still holds up, as I replayed it sometime in 2017 I believe, and enjoyed it every bit as much as I remembered!
2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
My first Fire Emblem title, ever. This game was revolutionary for me. Until then, I hadn’t really experienced a fantasy setting like this is a game before. Swords, magic, wyverns, shape-shifters…this was all new to me at the time, at least in a video game setting. So the setting and story alone caused my jaw to drop, but I was even more amazed when I experienced the strategic, RPG-infused gameplay. Leveling up is something I’d experienced before, in games like Super Mario RPG, and I already thought it was cool based on that. But now there was a grid, and units had movement ranges on it, and the weapons triangle, and ohhhhh man it was all so cool!
Unfortunately, by some cruel twist of fate or childish frivolity, I lost my copy and have never found it or another since. Granted I haven’t really been looking for a copy. I have always assumed I lent mine to a friend, and they either forgot, lost, or (heaven forbid) sold it.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Gosh, Wind Waker holds so many great memories for me. I wanted this game for what felt like forever as a kid. I was always scheming to see if I could get a friend to lend or give me their GameCube, just so I could play this game. Those schemes never panned out, but eventually the time came.
I don’t remember when my family got a GameCube, but I think when we finally did Wind Waker was one of the first games we had, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction into the next generation of video games. What a game it was, and still is. It still looks pretty great today thanks to its art style. Emulating Wind Waker at a few times native resolution, combined with an HD texture pack, is a beautiful thing to behold.
I’m not sure of the last time I played The Wind Waker in its entirety. I have revisited it since my days playing on a GameCube, and as I said, the graphical enhancements available via emulation are exceptional for The Wind Waker. Even though I haven’t replayed the entire thing in recent years, I have replayed about the first half. The gameplay is every bit as enjoyable as I remember. Tedious at times, yes, sometimes sailing the Great Sea can be monotonous. But the feeling Wind Waker inspires, seeing the vast ocean before you, and sailing onward to remote islands…it’s a feeling I haven’t found in another game before or since.