The 25 best GameCube games of all time

15. Super Mario Sunshine

At its core, this game doesn't change the rules set up by Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 in any meaningful ways. What it does is use the power of the GameCube to make the levels look much better. Mario's headed for a vacation when he gets caught up in a Bowser-based conspiracy that he gets blamed for, and that tropical theme lends a pervasive joy to the adventure. 

More importantly, the addition of a water-shooting backpack that allows Mario to hover and target distant objects throws an entertaining wrench into the formula. Using the water pack to hose off slime, sail above the levels, and attack enemies keeps the formula fresh and compelling. The game also stretches back to the series' classic roots by offering up simple, linear bonus levels that strip away the backpack and set you on paths that recall the original side-scrollers. It's genius. 

14. Viewtiful Joe

When it hit the GameCube, Viewtiful Joe made a beautiful splash by introducing 2D action games to a new generation. It was nothing more than a left-to-right button masher, but its over-the-top sense of style and grace rocketed superhero Joe into instant popularity. So much, in fact, that Capcom ended up turning the game into an entire franchise in record time, spawning four titles and an animated series within two years. 

It wasn't just the slick look, either; the fighting was involved and totally different from any other brawler out at the time. Joe's time-screwing VFX abilities let you dodge enemy attacks and counterattack with a flurry of Matrix-style acrobatics that made you think, if even for a brief moment, that the GameCube was the coolest thing on the planet. 

13. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes

Take the single greatest game of the PS generation, inject a fresh graphical update and all the cool new gameplay features from its PS2 sequel, and you've got an instant classic. Remade by Canadian developer Silicon Knights and filled with new cutscenes by Japanese film director Ryhei Kitamura (Versus, Godzilla: Final Wars), Twin Snakes packed in enough cool new stuff to wow newcomers and keep the series' faithful riveted. 

But underneath all the new stuff is the same enduring story of war, death, love, and betrayal that made Metal Gear Solid an international phenomenon. Solid Snake is just as likable, Meryl is just as tragic, and the bosses are still human enough that you'll actually feel kinda bad after you kill them, even if you desperately wanted to while fighting them. Some of the Matrix-inspired cutscenes come off as more laughable than exciting now, but Twin Snakes' sneaky-shooty gameplay is some of the best you'll find on the Cube or any other system. 

12. Pikmin 2

The first Pikmin shrouded complexity under a cutesy blanket of lovable Pikmin while slapping an in-game 30 day time limit on our enjoyment. Pikmin 2 removes those needless shackles, allowing us to enjoy even more complex Pikmin adventures for as long as we desire. Pikmin 2 adds the bulbous Purple Pikmin, whose stout frame allows for extra-strong attacks, and the rail-thin White Pikmin capable of poisoning enemies. 

Not only that, but now we have two captains, Olimar and Louie, who can guide the Pikmin separately. These small additions create an infinity of new possibilities, demonstrating sheer genius in game design. Pikmin 2 is a Nintendo classic. 

11. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

If we were ranking the most charming games of the system, this would be at the top of the list. On the surface it almost seems like the simplistic visuals are left over from the N64, but after a few hours of play you'll notice all kinds of little effects that keep things lively and exciting. The minimalist approach let the developers create some truly bizarre environments and give Mario strange ways of navigating them. He can turn into a paper airplane to soar across gaps or turn sideways and slip in between tight spaces, for example. 

Most of the game looks 3D but still takes place in traditional, 2D Mario space. You can mess with this cutesy world by flipping switches that cause certain areas to "grow" stairs or open new paths as if flipping to a new page in a book. It's a one-of-a-kind look that no other series really gets right, yet makes perfect sense when set inside the Mushroom Kingdom. The easy-to-grasp combat had a secret depth to it, with an interesting audience mechanic in all the battles, and if you were good enough with the timing you'd barely take any damage at all. It kept things active in a genre known for boring battles. Plus, it had a brilliantly funny localization that added new dimensions to the iconic characters starring in the title. 

10. F-Zero GX

Pure, unrelenting speed. It's one thing for a racing game to make it seem like you're driving 150mph, but it's quite another when the game can fling your hovercraft through a mile-high loop at 2000kph while 29 other racers try to bump you out of the sky... and make you believe it. Even with all the other cars on the screen, blasting at top speed in a fire-spewing cave with a magnetized pole acting as a course, F-Zero GX does not stutter. It's the fastest game on the system, not to mention one of the prettiest when viewed in widescreen ,and progressive scan support ensures this game will still look presentable years later. The racing intensity is blown into overdrive once you start getting into the harder circuits. 

F-Zero GX goes from fairly challenging to rip-your-hair-out impossible, requiring you to race perfectly without making a single mistake. If you slip once, you'll see about 20 speeding hovercrafts go flying past in less than half a second. It's this ultimate hardcore appeal that makes F-Zero GX such a standout game, for no other title on the system is so unapologetic about its infuriating difficulty. Then you dive into the story mode, where things somehow get even harder. Overcoming these races is a source of pride that any gamer would be glad to brag about. Throw in a customizable garage mode and you've got something to keep gearheads, speed freaks, and hardcore nut jobs entranced for hours. 

9. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

Cribbing heavily from the works of classic horror scribe H.P. Lovecraft, this terror epic spans thousands of years, putting you in control of a dozen people forced to battle unimaginable horrors from beyond the cosmos. Load this up, and you'll explore haunted ruins as an escaped Cambodian slave; bash your way to the dark secret at the heart of an old cathedral as a Franciscan friar; and fight out of a horrific dungeon as a Canadian firefighter, among other activities. And the whole time, you'll be spooked out of your mind. 

The beauty of Eternal Darkness is that it doesn't need to use sudden shocks to scare you senseless. Even the monsters and traps aren't that terrifying when compared to the delight the game takes in messing with your head. You might enter a room and suddenly be decapitated, only to reappear unharmed in the previous hallway a few seconds later. Your size changes. Rooms turn upside down. Disembodied voices howl madness into your ears. And it all gets worse as your character gets pushed further and further toward the brink of sanity. Are the demons real, or have you just gone crazy? Who says it can't be both? 

8. Animal Crossing

Nothing that spectacular happens in Animal Crossing. Much like in real life, you buy a home, get a job, shop for material possessions, visit friends, celebrate holidays, and get exploited by money-hungry capitalists like Tom Nook. Seriously, that's about as exciting as it gets. So why bother? Because, unlike reality, Animal Crossing is all about freedom and relaxation. 

An average gameplay session usually includes nothing more strenuous than fishing by the river, collecting rare butterflies, and dropping in on an animal neighbor to check out their new coffee table. Your most important mission may be delivering a letter from a friendly cat to an even friendlier dog. It's an endlessly charming and refreshing break from the stresses of the actual world... not to mention the stresses of other, more violent and frustrating video games. You'll never throw your controller at this one, so long as that dastardly Nook isn't asking for more money. 

7. Soulcalibur II

The original Soulcalibur for the Dreamcast showed us just how beautiful and addictive a 3D fighter could be. Taking the formula to the next level seemed like a challenge, but Namco made it look effortless with this totally engrossing sequel. With a single-player mode worth the time investment and a bevy of new characters to clash blades with, it oozed polish and playability from every pore. 

Better, though, was Namco's clever gimmick of including a special character in each console's version of the game. PS2 got Tekken's Heihachi; the American console, Xbox, got comic hero Spawn. But neither could hope to compete with Zelda hero Link. The developers did a stellar job of implementing him, as well. This was the most detailed version of the character we'd seen at that point, with beautifully choreographed swordplay and many of the special abilities he had in his adventures (watch out for those bombs!). In short, it elevated the GameCube edition above the other two and briefly brought a serious edge to the GameCube's lineup. 

6. Star Wars Rogue Leader

Blowing up TIE fighters in an X-Wing is cool. Doing so in a superb game on the day you bought your shiny new GameCube is mind-blowing. Rogue Leader was the first GameCube game to really show off what Nintendo's purple lunchbox was capable of, pumping out beautiful visuals to match its rapid-fire action. 

From the epic trench run on the first Death Star, to the final assault at the Battle of Endor, Rogue Leader's battles pile on the action as you tangle with the best pilots the Empire has to offer. The dogfights are fast and addictive, the multiple mission objectives punch in some decent variety, and the scenery looks amazing as it zooms past. As far as space and aerial combat in the Star Wars universe goes, this is still the definitive console game, and that's saying a lot.