Best GameCube games: the most essential GameCube releases

Best GameCube games: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
(Image credit: Nintendo)

What are the best GameCube games out there? The boxy gaming machine marked the last time Nintendo made a traditional home console, and featured so many of our favorite Nintendo titles over the years – even if not everyone ended up playing them.

Despite competitive pricing and a great suite of GameCube games, the console inevitably suffered at the hands of the PS2 (which had been out for a year already) and the first-ever Xbox (which launched around the same time).

That's because the console just didn't have the colossal third-party support of its competitors – the generation's breakout hit, GTA, skipped the GameCube entirely. The only Metal Gear game on Nintendo's machine was a remake. Mainline Final Fantasy entries avoided the console, just like they did during the N64 era. But that doesn't mean the console lacked a great library – Nintendo always turns out classics for its own hardware, and the GameCube has a ton of fantastic games. 

Below, we've rounded up 20 of the best GameCube games, from Smash Bros to The Simpsons: Hit and Run, the latter of which one member of the TechRadar team insisted on adding to the list (sorry, Ikaruga!). If you're thinking of starting a GameCube collection – get hold of an official component cable and games look pretty good on a HD TV at 480p – all these titles offer a nice place to start. 

If hunting down a GameCube and all its relevant cables seems like a bit too much hassle, you'll be pleased to know that a few of these excellent GameCube games are available on the Nintendo Switch - making it easier than ever to partake in a good ol' nostalgia fest. So, read on for our roundup of the best GameCube games to ever grace Nintendo's classic console.

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Time has been kind to Wind Waker. Though its cel-shaded animation style drew some side-eye at launch, it's aged a lot better than other games from the era, and gave a generation of Nintendo gamers a wide, open sea to travel in that felt boundless (even if the GameCube's limitations meant that certainly wasn't the case).

Set in a version of Hyrule where most of the kingdom is underwater, and your companions are pirates rather than ethereal fairies, Wind Waker has a spirit of rousing adventure unlike its more land-locked predecessors. It also features a series-best take on Princess Zelda.

Playing symphonies on your conductor's baton – literally conducting the winds into music – was a beautiful reimagining of Zelda 64's ocarina, too, even if the GameCube controller's C-stick was a bit fiddly to work with. 

Surely the Wii U's HD remake will come to Switch eventually? If not, we'd love to revisit the original.

The Simpsons: Hit and Run

Hit and Run may not be the most graphically accomplished GameCube title, but it was super popular – overall, the game sold 3 million copies across all formats. 

It's easily the best Simpsons game of all time (which isn't that hard), blending a manic mix of satirical Grand Theft Auto 3-style open-world gameplay with the side-splitting humor you’d expect to find in your favorite Simpsons episodes. 

It's riddled with glitches and dodgy physics, but it's undeniably fun to play a sanitized version of GTA as your favorite Simpsons characters, and trying to uncover a sinister mystery involving black Sedans and robot wasps in the process. We couldn't get enough of it in 2003, and we're still obsessed to this day.

Viewtiful Joe

The infamous 'Capcom Five' initiative saw the Street Fighter publisher commit to bringing five games to the system. They were Dead Phoenix (which never came out), offbeat shooter PN03, Resident Evil 4, Killer7 and this game, a side-scrolling beat-'em-up from the director of Devil May Cry. 

This fantastic-looking game is like exploring a living comic book, and your everyman-turned-superhero character Joe has the ability to speed up or slow down time as he punches his way through enemies. Screens become overloaded with enemies, and Joe can dodge rockets in slow-mo before punching them back at his opponents. 

It gets extremely tough in later chapters, but Viewtiful Joe is one of the most visually distinctive games released on the system, even if the series never got the big sales it deserved before vanishing into obscurity.

Resident Evil 4

This one is already on Nintendo Switch and it's still a treat to play today.

The entire lineage of modern third-person shooters goes back to Resident Evil 4. That over-the-shoulder aiming was taken directly from the game, and found its way into Gears of War, GTA 4 and everything that would follow. Even though it's not that scary compared to past Resi games – though it certainly has its moments, if you've ever tried shooting the lake near the start of this game – it's a masterclass in set piece design. 

You play as agent Leon S Kennedy, who's sent to a mountain range in Spain to retrieve the president's daughter from a bunch of fanatics, including a short demon man who dresses like Napoleon. 

What's fascinating about this game is how it surprises you at every turn: first you're surviving a zombie onslaught while you're barricaded in a house with nowhere to run. Then you're fighting an enemy that only responds to sound, making gunshots potentially deadly for you. And then the game throws a new enemy type called regenerators at Leon, and they can only be killed by using a thermal imaging scope to seek out their organs and sniping them. 

New locations throw in extra threats, well-constructed boss battles and the only button-mashing quick-time events in history that aren't a total waste of time. Now you can play it on pretty much every console going.

Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man kicking a bad guy

(Image credit: Activision)

While it lacked a GTA, the GameCube did get a bunch of the games inspired by GTA, like the rough True Crime: Streets of LA and the aforementioned Simpsons game. But it also got the tie-in to Spider-Man 2, largely considered one of the best-licensed games of all time.

While the PS4 Spider-Man game surpasses it in pretty much every way, the open-world web-swinging in this game was just perfect, and we wouldn't mind revisiting it for old times' sake. The other thing everyone remembers, of course, is Bruce Campbell's entertaining narration of all the tutorials hidden around New York. 

F-Zero GX

F-Zero GX ship on a track

(Image credit: Nintendo/Sega)

The death of the Dreamcast was a good thing for Nintendo, which got exclusive games like Sonic Adventure 2, Skies of Arcadia and Super Monkey Ball out of the deal. But it also opened the door for collaborations with Sega, including this new version of the fast-paced racing series.

And guess what? It was rock hard, but it looked amazing. While F-Zero GX isn't on Switch, the Nintendo 64's F-Zero X is available on Nintendo Switch Online

Metroid Prime

Part first-person shooter and part puzzle adventure in the vein of classic Metroids, Prime was one of Nintendo's boldest reinventions ever. In the hands of Texas-based Retro Studios, Samus Aran was brought into 3D without sacrificing anything that made Super Metroid on the SNES so great. This densely packed game is like one long puzzle, as you figure out how to use Samus' tools to reach new parts of its giant map. 

Prime is to Metroid what Ocarina of Time or Super Mario 64 were to their respective series. It's not a shooter first and foremost, really, instead focusing on exploration, puzzle solving and multi-layered environmental design. With a moody atmosphere and great sound design, Metroid Prime really makes it feel like you're exploring an unknowable alien world - no wonder we're eagerly anticipating Metroid Prime 4.

Super Monkey Ball

The GameCube launched in Japan with just three games, and this one was Sega's first effort on a Nintendo console. You roll a monkey, in a ball, around mazes filled with bananas, without letting your monkey fall off of the edge. The thing is, though, you don't control the monkey – you control the level, tilting your simian friend around.

This is extremely addictive, but Monkey Ball's real magic is arguably in its minigames, which offer some of the best local multiplayer experiences on the console. Monkey Target lets you roll your monkeys off a ramp and glide across an ocean, as you attempt to land them on specific targets to score points. And Monkey Bowling is exactly what it sounds like: a monkey in a ball being fired at some pins, with the aim being to get a strike. One of the best Sega games ever, and the recent Monkey Ball games haven't had quite have the same effect.

Mario Kart: Double Dash

The GameCube Mario Kart isn't really regarded as the best – you'll want Mario Kart 8 on the Switch for that – but its idea of two players sharing one kart was interesting at a time when local co-op was becoming a big deal. One would drive in the game's co-op mode, and the other would use items. Characters had special weapons that were unique to them to keep it interesting, and players could coordinate their boosts at the starting line for an extra-fast kick-off. 

A lot of the tracks here would become series mainstays, too, including Yoshi Circuit and the divisive Baby Park, which is just a goddamn oval.  

TimeSplitters 2

It's a crying shame that we haven't seen an official TimeSplitters remake or reboot yet (though we do know a new TimeSplitters is in the works). The TimeSplitters series mashed together madcap British humor (the good kind) with an obscene amount of pop culture references – and TimeSplitters 2 is the best entry of the three. 

Not only is the history-jumping campaign great to play both solo and cooperatively, but it sees you meeting a roster of weird and brilliantly clichéd characters that you can then have even more fun with in multiplayer. Want to play as a sexy, secret agent? Or a bear in a waistcoat? TimeSplitters 2 can accommodate and that’s what makes it stand the test of time. Get it?

Super Smash Bros Melee

Smash Bros on N64 was almost a prototype for what a Nintendo fighting game could be – and Melee realized the potential into a fast-paced, fan service-packed masterpiece. This is the template for what modern Smash games, like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, would become, and to a sizable subsection of fans, it's still the series' finest hour (even though Ultimate on Switch is the one to play these days, just for the sheer overload of characters, worlds and references).

With a vastly expanded roster and memorable stages – Big Blue, a moving F-Zero-themed level, has you jumping between hover cars during a race – this early GameCube game turned Smash Bros into a phenomenon. It's the console's best-selling game, from a time when the fighting game genre was in decline. 

Luigi's Mansion

The GameCube launched without a Mario game, which in hindsight was a weakness – and Luigi's Mansion, a puzzle/exploration game that emerged in the wake of the survival horror explosion of the late '90s, took its place. This short but extremely pretty game has Luigi exploring a mansion full of ghosts in order to find a lost Mario.

Luigi acquires a Poltergust 3000, which essentially transforms him into a ghostbuster, and over time, more of the mansion opens up for you to check out. It's such a different offering from Nintendo, but it was a sleeper hit – over a decade later, Luigi's Mansion 2 significantly expanded on the idea, while 2019's Luigi's Mansion 3 was a smash hit. 

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

The lineage of Mario RPGs is still oddly underappreciated – indeed, AlphaDream, developers of the portable Mario and Luigi games, went out of business in 2019. The turn-based 2D Paper Mario games, meanwhile, have been on hiatus since 2016, with developer Intelligent Systems instead focusing its attention on Fire Emblem since then. 

The Thousand Year Door was the series' best entry, a gorgeous and funny twist on typical RPGs that let you perform timing-based moves to enhance your attacks (which the South Park games would later sensibly rip off). While The Thousand Year Door isn't on Switch, Paper Mario: The Origami King is a solid alternative.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

Eternal Darkness suffers from the fact that most people know its best secrets by now. This survival horror game features 'sanity effects' which are designed to screw with the player, like making them think their TV has turned itself off, or that you've been hit with a hardware error in the middle of the game. 

That made the history-spanning Eternal Darkness into a cult hit, even if it was never a massive system seller. Unsurprisingly, the meta elements of the game caught the attention of Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima, who got developer Silicon Knights to co-create the MGS1 remake for GameCube. You can even see some of Eternal Darkness's influence on the legendary PS4 horror game PT.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3

It's hard to pick one Tony Hawk's game for GameCube – Tony Hawk's Underground is another favorite of the TechRadar team – but this is an all-time favorite that represents the series at its peak in popularity and acclaim. The formula is pretty consistent with the PlayStation entries that kicked the series off. It's easy to pick up and play a Tony Hawk's game, but the skill ceiling just keeps going as players try and beat their own scores.

The series has made a comeback in recent years, with the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 remaster, so we're hoping Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is next on the cards.

Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes

While it missed out on Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, the GameCube got this slightly strange remake of the first stealth action classic instead. The Twin Snakes is a nice-looking reinterpretation of the PSone original that has some of MGS2's gameplay retrofitted into it, like first-person aiming and the ability to hide enemy bodies. 

It's not perfect – the change in music and voice-acting takes some getting used to – but it's a curio Metal Gear fans need to check out. This is still the most-up-to-date version of what's considered the best in the MGS series by many fans.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Though a darker take on the series, Twilight Princess brought an incredibly cinematic quality to mainline Zelda games. This is a Hyrule shrouded in shadow, with dark Twili creatures that drop out of portals in the sky – and a companion that rides you around the map while you're turned into a wolf, subverting Link's usual mastery of nature in a neat (and bestial) twist.

We got some great new items, such as the Spinner, or the Double Clawshot that let you shoot at dizzying speed from wall to wall – and even if running around as a wolf wasn't quite as engaging as Link’s usual sword and bow-based combat, it certainly shook things up.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader

Rogue Squadron on N64 was a great arcade shooter that put you in the cockpit of an X-Wing, A-Wing and more, taking you to a variety of locations set in the Star Wars universe. In Rogue Leader, developer Factor 5 set its sights higher and tried to match the cinematic look and sound of the movies exactly, from the way X-Wing engines are lit to the sound of laser towers on the Death Star's surface. 

Considering this is an 18-year-old game, it's still so close to the movies you know inside and out. Its opening level, the attack on the Death Star, mimics the feel of that set-piece so well. Later efforts like the Battles of Hoth and Endor are also pleasingly close to the real thing. Rogue Leader is still a top-drawer Star Wars game, even if it kept its predecessor's bizarre difficulty spikes.

The third entry, Rebel Strike, has its moments as well, but flawed on-foot sections make it the lesser game.

Super Mario Sunshine

The Mario games are already pretty madcap, but Super Mario Sunshine still feels very much like its own beast. Sunshine's core mechanic – a water jet strapped to your back, which you can use to spray, hover, or rocket-blast into the sky – offers an amazingly fun way to interact with enemies, irritate townspeople, and navigate the large-scale platforming of this ambitious 3D game. Sure, you're essentially cleaning up graffiti most of the time, but isn't it nice to make a beautiful island clean again?

As the game that introduced Bowser Jr – as a misunderstood artist, no less – gave us thrilling boss fights on a speeding roller coaster, jellyfish races, and the dramatic stakes of a plumber just trying to enjoy his gosh-darn vacation, this is certainly a Mario game you should revisit on Switch.

Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing was released on the N64 in Japan, before being upgraded and repackaged for the GameCube a little later. This sedate life sim became an unexpected hit, with players moving into a village filled with nice animal creatures to interact with. They spruce up their house with furniture and even playable NES games. 

It's not the version we'd recommend playing today – the Switch version, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, is the one to get in 2022 – but this game was enormously significant for Nintendo. It landed right around the time games were broadening away from existing genres, and it's no surprise players are extremely invested in Animal Crossing all these years later. 

Samuel Roberts

Samuel is a PR Manager at game developer Frontier. Formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor, he's an expert in Marvel, Star Wars, Netflix shows and general streaming stuff. Before his stint at TechRadar, he spent six years at PC Gamer. Samuel is also the co-host of the popular Back Page podcast, in which he details the trials and tribulations of being a games magazine editor – and attempts to justify his impulsive eBay games buying binges.

With contributions from