Games That Defined the Nintendo Gamecube

The Best Gamecube Games That Defined Its History
Presented by: Omerta, Prfsnl_Gmr, Flake, and Racketboy

Also, check out the rest of our Defining Games series and the Hidden Gems of the Nintendo Gamecube

The Nintendo Gamecube was not Nintendo’s most popular console. Nonetheless, it has a devoted following, and it birthed – or refined – many popular franchises from both Nintendo and various third-party developers. Despite its relatively limited library, the Gamecube, with its unique controller and multiple, experimental gameplay experiences, is home to some of the best games of its generation, several of which defined the console and still rank among the very best games of all time.

Luigi’s Mansion

luigis-mansionPoor Luigi. He finally stepped out of the giant shadow cast by his brother and managed to land a role starring in not only in his own game but the flagship launch title on Nintendo’s newest console. With Wave Race: Blue Storm providing the only other form of first-party competition, he was set to lead the company into the next generation with Luigi’s Mansion. Instead, he fell out of Mario’s shadow and into the shadow another of a competing franchise launched a mere three days earlier: Halo: Combat Evolved.

While some might attribute Luigi’s Mansion’s relative obscurity to the fact it is bad or merely mediocre, they are sorely mistaken: Luigi’s Mansion is a great game. Set in a mansion that Luigi won in a contest he never entered, Luigi’s mansion is charming, fun, and quirky little adventure. Planning to meet his brother, he arrives at the mansion to find it infested with Boos. Moreover, his brother, Mario, has been kidnapped and it is the perpetually terrified Luigi’s job to rescue him.

In keeping with the change in protagonist, Luigi’s Mansion replaces the traditional platforming and flagpole climbing associated with the Mario series with a flashlight and a vacuum cleaner for ghost hunting. Utilizing an incredibly fun control scheme customized for the Gamecube’s unique controller, Luigi stuns ghosts with his flashlight uses Professor’s E. Gadd’ trusty Poultergust 3000 to suck them up. A good portion of the game is spent finding keys, battling boss ghosts, and acquiring upgrades to progress further, and the result is short, but exquisitely crafted, tale that is light on story and heavy on puzzles and action.

Luigi’s Mansion essentially became the story of the Gamecube in a nutshell. At the time of its release, it was passed over by many looking for prettier and beefier toys that flexed the muscles of more powerful hardware. After the dust settled on the Gamecube’s console generation, however, people realized that Luigi’s mansion was a beautiful little gem right in front of their eyes the whole time. History vindicated Luigi’s Mansion (and the Gamecube, for that matter), and increased interest in the game has granted it both a cult following and a recent, well-received 3DS sequel.

Pikmin series

pikminNot to be confused with Nintendo’s phonetically-similar, smash-hit Pokemon series, the Pikmin series is a unique and refreshing franchise that debuted on Nintendo’s Gamecube.

In the Pikmin games, players take on the role of Captain Olimar, who crash landed on a strange planet that appears to be a microcosm of Earth. Olimar must recover parts of his ship to return home, and he accomplishes this task by enlisting small, helpful creatures called Pikmin to help him defeat hostile insect-like creatures and carry the parts to his ship. Accomplishing these tasks is similar to solving a real-time strategy puzzle, and each of the three types of Pikmin has its own unique strengths and weaknesses that Captain Olimar must exploit if he is going to accomplish his goals. Finally, the second game in the series, which was also released on the Gamecube, removed the first game’s frustrating time limits, added cooperative mode, and added new types of Pikmin to help Captain Olimar overcome the game’s obstacles.

It has been reported that Shigeru Miyamoto had taken an interest in gardening during the creation of the Pikmin games, and both his involvement and his reported interests in gardening is apparent in the final product. The result is a real-time strategy game in a nature setting that is light on the story and heavy on the charm. Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo really knocked it out of the park with these games, and as a result, the Gamecube birthed another classic series that has the Nintendo fans begging for more.

Metroid Prime series

metroid-primeIt has never been easy to be a fan of the Metroid series. Only the Kid Icarus series could claim to be more unfairly neglected than Nintendo’s bounty hunting heroine, Samus Aran. As the age of the Nintendo 64 faded and the time of the Gamecube dawned, disenchanted Metroid fans nevertheless found hope in a tech demo showing a 3D version of Samus Aran running through an exploding space ship. The demo renewed their hope, but doubts remained as Nintendo revealed more details about the project. Was it going to be a first-person shooter? Why was it being developed by an unknown company in Austin, Texas?

These doubts were laid to rest when Metroid Prime arrived, however. Retro Studios’ inspired design choices resulted in a game that conveyed the same claustrophobic, desperate setting while making the player feel as though they were the woman behind the mask. The player was free to interact with the game in any way. Impatient players could race from room to room blasting away while curious bounty hunters could examine their surroundings closely, discovering the details of a story that a less confident game developer would have forced upon the player through cut scenes and hand-holding.

Later in the Gamecube’s life cycle, Retro Studios produced a sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Although not as commercially or critically successful as the original, Echoes was proof that the Metroid series remained in good hands, and it laid the ground work for a deeper story that paid off in one of the greatest Nintendo Wii games – and the conclusion to one of gaming’s greatest trilogies – Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

smash-bros-meleeSome things in life are guaranteed: death, taxes, and bigger, better installments in the Super Smash Bros. series. The Gamecube made this fact apparent with Super Smash Bros. Melee.

This fantastic game topped the Nintendo 64 original by featuring much better graphics, an adventure mode, and tons of new items, characters, and trophies. It garnered critical acclaim at the time of its release, and there is enough content in this superb, party-fighter to make it a worthy purchase for fans of its predecessor and successors.

Super Mario Sunshine

super-mario-sunshineNestled between the groundbreaking Super Mario 64 and the incomparable Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Sunshine is the least revered of Mario’s 3D platforming games. The least revered game in the greatest platforming series of all time is still a great game, however, and players who spend time with Super Mario Sunshine will find a unique, finely-tuned, and beautifully constructed platforming experience.

Super Mario Sunshine follows Mario and Princess Peach out of the Mushroom Kingdom to the tropical Isle Delfino. Mystery is afoot as soon as they arrive, however, and Mario is wrongfully accused of polluting the island with toxic paint. Princess Peach disappears shortly thereafter, and Mario – with the help of Professor’s E. Gadd’s Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device (a/k/a FLUDD) – sets out to clean up the island, locate the 120 missing shine sprite, and once again rescue the Princess.

As in its predecessor, Super Mario Sunshine transports Mario to a variety of beautifully constructed settings, and as always, Mario runs, jumps, flips, and handles flawlessly. Moreover, utilizing FLUDD with the second analog stick and triggers to topple enemies and clean the polluted island adds an interesting dimension to this game and sets it apart from Mario’s other 3D platforming adventures. Accordingly – and although it is neither as groundbreaking as Super Mario 64 or as finely polished a Super Mario Galaxy – Super Mario Sunshine remains an excellent entry in the greatest platforming series of all time and arguably the best 3D platforming game on the Nintendo Gamecube.

Animal Crossing

animal-crossingIn Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, the player, a human in a village populated with anthropomorphic animals, simply explores and completes a variety of tasks to customize and upgrade his or her abode. This incredibly simple – and decidedly unexciting – premise masks one of the most delightfully addictive gameplay experiences, however, and anyone who has played Animal Crossing (or its numerous sequels) understands how easy it is to sink dozens of hours into the game.

Moreover, the game makes creative use of Gamecube’s internal clock and calendar so that events in the game transpire in real time. Plants take days to grow; the weather in the game reflects the seasons; and certain events are only available on certain dates. Tying the game to real time provides players with an incentive to revisit the game, and contributes to its incredibly high replayability.

Finally, Animal Crossing, like many of the games on the Nintendo Gamecube, is stuffed full of charm. The residents of the village are memorable, and everything about the game is designed to keep the player in its peaceful, beautifully-imagined world. Finally – and although it has spawned three sequels – Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Gamecube remains a beloved classic that even players well-acquainted with series revisit from time to time.


The Legend of Zelda series

zelda-wind-wakerNintendo’s marquee franchise, The Legend of Zelda, had a surprisingly intense relationship with the Gamecube. Players looking to save Hyrule with magic triangles were spoiled for choice with Nintendo Entertainment System and Nintendo 64 compilation discs, Four Swords Adventure, Twilight Princess, and, of course, The Wind Waker.

The game that stands out on this list, however, is the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. While this title refined the classic Zelda formula in numerous ways, it also challenged player’s expectations regarding Zelda games, including the nature of the quest, the series’ location, the significance of the series’ eponymous princess, and even what it means to be “The Hero” aka Link.

Upon release, The Wind Waker suffered some negative reception from fans that were expecting something grittier and more photo-realistic. The Wind Waker has come to be known as one of the finest games in the venerable series, however, and it was recently honored with a well-received HD remake on Nintendo’s WiiU.


Resident Evil series

resident-evil-gcCapcom is one of a handful of third-party developers that was not timid about releasing software on struggling platforms like the Dreamcast and Gamecube, and the Resident Evil series for the latter is a prime example of Capcom’s efforts.

A complete top-to-bottom overhaul of the original game – lovingly referred to as the “REmake” among fans – kicked off an onslaught of games for the legendary survival-horror series. This beautifully crafted adventure spanned two discs, and to this day, it is still regarded as one of the most terrifying games of all time. Shortly thereafter, Capcom released Resident Evil Zero. This prequel was an all-new adventure set before the first game’s events and using the same graphical engine as the REmake. In it, players take control of two new characters, Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen, and guide them through their investigation of murders in rural Raccoon City. Despite using the same engine as the REmake, this game departed from the Resident Evil formula by introducing a “partner zapping” system under which players switched between both characters throughout the story to solve the game’s various puzzles.

Capcom then released ports of Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, and Resident Evil: Code Veronica before giving the Gamecube a “farewell” exclusive that turned the survival-horror genre upside down. Resident Evil 4 scrapped the fixed camera angles, “tank” controls, and limited resources that had previously defined the series in favor of an over-the-shoulder view and a generous ammunition system that resulted in an action-oriented adventure that has defined the Resident Evil series – and third-person shooters – ever since its release. This groundbreaking, critically-acclaimed, blockbuster remains one of the greatest games on any system, and it capped a series of titles that are must-haves for any Gamecube collection.


Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

mario-kart-double-dashLike many of the other game in Nintendo’ most popular series, Mario Kart: Double Dash!! improves upon its Nintendo 64 predecessor and remains one of the very best kart racers. As expected, the graphics in the Gamecube’s Mario Kart are much smoother; the tracks are more detailed; the power slide mechanics are improved; and there are a whole host of small changes that make it a better game than previous iterations.

This game – as indicated by the “Double Dash” moniker – does contain one feature that separates it from even later games in the Mario Kart series. In Mario Kart: Double Dash!! players choose two characters, one for driving and one for using attack items, and swap between them during races. This simple mechanic adds layers of depth, and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! remains one of the most interesting – and fun – games in the Mario Kart series and a nice addition to any Gamecube collection.

F-Zero GX

f-zerogxWhen two innovative game-makers get together, good things happen. Even though F-Zero is a Nintendo franchise, Mario and Co. let Sega do most of the development work for this racer. Sega’s arcade experience paid off as F-Zero GX is a incredibly fast, challenging, addicting, and visually stunning piece of racing goodness.

The F-Zero series was a cult classic on both the SNES and the N64 and the Gamecube version didn’t disappoint fans.  It brought adrenaline-filled twitch racing to the Gamecube in the most polished graphical glory the series has seen.   It does not have the mainstream appeal of a Mario Kart, which explains why it did not do nearly as well commercially and why we haven’t seen a new installment on a Nintendo console since.


Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

Rogue Leader IILeading up to the console’s launch, Rogue Leader showed off what the Gamecube was capable of with thrilling space battles filled with X-Wings, Tie-Fighters and lasers galore.  I can’t help but think back to the Gamecube’s launch and recall all the comments about this game and how the developers had to be careful to make the game look too much better than the actual movie it was based on.

Rogue Leader II focuses on one of the more popular Star Wars gameplay mechanics, space combat.   By letting you play as Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles over the course of the original three Star Wars films, it fulfills one of Star Wars fans’ biggest fantasies: blowing up the Death Star.


Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

paper-mario-thousand-year-doorPaper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is the sequel to the best RPG on the Nintendo 64 and arguably the best RPG on the Nintendo Gamecube. Like its predecessor, the game finds Mario, his companions, and his enemies reduced to 2D in a wonderfully-rendered 3D world. Also like its predecessor, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door takes Mario to the Mushroom Kingdom’s outer limits, in this case to the dangerous port town of Rogueport. As in Super Mario Sunshine, mystery greets Mario upon his arrival in this strange land, and Princess Peach is once again kidnapped by mysterious villains.

As Mario pursues the villains responsible for Princess Peach’s disappearance and solves Rogueport’s mysteries, he meets a variety of companions including a Goomba archeologist, a Bob-omb sailor, and a thrill-seeking mouse burglar. Each of Mario’s companions has a unique ability that Mario must utilize repeatedly to solve the games many clever puzzles and battle the game’s relentless enemies.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, like its predecessor, also contains a thrilling, unique, turn-based battle system that is highly dependent upon split-second timing and the proper use of Mario’s abilities and companions. Mindlessly pressing the “attack” button will result in defeat at the hands of even the lowliest enemies, and the game’s dynamic battle system keeps the game exciting throughout its 30+ hours.

Finally (and most importantly), the game is overflowing with charm. It is, at times, side-splittingly funny; all of the characters are endearing; the story is touching; and the settings – from tropical islands to towns locked in perpetual twilight – are rendered beautifully. Due to its unique art direction and excellent script, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is as fresh today as it was more than a decade ago, and it stands among the very best games on Nintendo’s Gamecube.


Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

fire-emblemWhen Super Smash Bros. Melee turned into a mega-hit, it introduced a legion of Nintendo fans to Fire Emblem characters for the first time. Marth and Roy became popular enough that Nintendo took a chance and began to localize Fire Emblem games for Australia, Europe, and North America for the first time.

The Gamecube entry, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, offered players their first chance to experience the game in 3D with character models much more detailed and personable than ever before. Nonetheless, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is not for the faint of heart, and despite being the first game localized for western audiences, it retained all of the series’ trademark difficulty. Players who do not think ahead are punished by enemies who enjoy all the same critical hits, weapons, and “vs” unit types. Moreover, this punishment results in “permanent death” to the player’s units or, as is more likely the case, repeated hammering of the “reset” button. Players must also resist the urge to overuse power characters like Ike or Titania since the game’ artificial intelligence is smart enough to flank around the heavy hitters to attack weaker characters.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance’s difficulty does not make it unfair, since the artificial intelligence plays by the same rules as the player. A clever general will see victory in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, and there is an unparalleled degree of satisfaction achieved by winning in this wonderful Gamecube exclusive that is sorely lacking in most other tactical titles.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

ff-crystal-chroniclesFinal Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is as much a social experiment as it is a game, but it is nonetheless a great game. The copies you see in bargain bins or offered through inexpensive “buy-it-now” listings on eBay are opportunities in disguise.

In the single-player game, the player chooses a character race/class and sets out to collect a magical substance that will push back a poisonous miasma that covers the world and threatens the player’s village. RPG staples, such as spells and levels, are interpreted through the lens of an arcade dungeon crawler, and white-winged cat carries a chalice of magic goo to keep the miasma away from your character. It is a lot of fun.

The multi-player game, however, is an experience that tests the bonds of friendship itself. Suddenly, one of the players is charged with carrying the chalice of magic goo, and friendships and marriages were likely ruined as players argued over who would battle and who would be responsible for keeping away the deadly fog. Taking the chalice holder for granted ensured that your “partner” would run in the opposite direction, leaving greedy players to choke to death while their partner grabbed some loot.

Even now, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles still has a lot going for it. The gameplay remains unique, and its graphics are still pleasing. Moreover, getting four friends together to quest and carry buckets is a blast, especially when you start bribing the current bucket holder with beers and pizza slices to keep up his or her chores. The only thing that impedes this fantastic gaming experience is the fact that, to truly enjoy it requires four Gameboy Advance systems and four Gameboy Advance connection cables.

The Gameboy Advance requirements were just as silly a decade ago as they are today, and they certainly prohibit many players from truly enjoying one of the Gamecube’s most promising adventures. Nonetheless, curious players can rest assured that they will have no regrets if they pick this game up the next time they pass by a Gamecube bargain bin.

Soul Calibur II

soul-calibur-ii-linkDespite stiff competition from an unparalleled lineup of traditional 2D fighters, Namco’s Soul Calibur was arguably the best fighting game on the Sega Dreamcast. When Namco released the sequel on the Gamecube, Playstation 2, and Xbox in 2002, players expected nothing less than the greatest 3D fighting game of all time. Namco did not disappoint them. Soul Calibur II delivered all of its predecessor’s depth and speed with an expanded roster and breathtaking graphics. The game received critical acclaim on all three platforms, and there is a strong argument that no other game in the series has yet matched Soul Calibur II’s level of excellence.

The Gamecube version, however, had one unique feature that separated it from its Playstation 2 and Xbox counterparts. While those versions featured Heihachi Mishima and Spawn as exclusive characters, the Nintendo Gamecube version featured Link from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series. Wielding the Master Sword, boomerangs, bombs, and a variety of fighting techniques inspired by his previous adventures, including the down thrust from Zelda II and the spin attack from A Link to the Past, Link was more than capable of holding his own against the rest of the game’s armed fighters. Moreover – and despite a recent high-definition re-release – Link remains exclusive to the Nintendo Gamecube version of this superb fighting game, and the Gamecube version of Soul Calibur II is essential to any fighting game fan’s collection.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

eternal-darknessWith so many distinctive and good things to say about Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, it is difficult to begin describing it. Simply saying that it is one of the scariest and most unique survival-horror games does not do it justice. Likewise, stating the fact that it was the first M-rated title published by Nintendo does not describe it fully, nor does saying that it tampers with players’ expectations – and nerved – in an unprecedented manner.

Originally intended as a Nintendo 64 title, this Gamecube-exclusive gem was built by Canadian developer Silicon Knights. The game starts with a woman coming to terms with her grandfather’s brutal murder (and horribly mutilated remains). She finds some of her grandfather’s occult objects, including the Tome of Eternal Darkness, which causes her to experience the encounters of over ten characters with an ancient evil. She travels throughout history, from the Roman Empire to present day, and as she delves deeper into the mystery, she discovers her own connection to these people and the ever-present evil.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem features an intuitive magic and battle system that allows players to attack different parts of the game’s terrifying enemies. The game’s most unique feature, however, is the “sanity” meter. Various factors, such as encountering and defeating enemies, cause this gauge to go up or down, and when it drops low enough, the REAL fun begins. The game starts playing tricks on, not only the player’s character, but the player as well. It will state that it is erasing the player’s memory card; it will do a mock reboot of the game; the character’s head will suddenly explode; the player will hear the haunting cries of children and the whispers of chattering ghosts. These and countless other unique effects, combined with a great story, a good magic/combat system, and a terrifying atmosphere, makes this Gamecube-exclusive experience essential to horror fans.

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

baten-kaitosFor a system with only a few JRPGs, it is surprising how many of them define the Gamecube’s library, and Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is one of those games. In any discussion regarding the Gamecube’s graphical capabilities, Baten Kaitos is the game to argue Nintendo’s case since every aspect of it is rendered in incredible detail. Moreover, the game is incredibly well done. In it, players take on the role of a spirit that guides Kalas, an unlikely (and unlikable) hero, in his quest to fix a calamity that he is, to a certain extent, he is responsible for causing. Moreover – and although it might seem a little anachronistic today – Baten Kaitos’ card-based battle system was a welcome change of pace for JRPG enthusiasts at a time when simply scrolling through menus had grown stale. The variety of cards and the multiple ways to utilize them kept battles fresh, and this beautiful game remains an essential part of any Gamecube RPG library.


Mario Party series

mario-party-gcWhile three Mario Party games were released on the Nintendo 64, the Gamecube one-upped its predecessor (pun intended) by delivering four titles. The aptly-named Mario Party 4, 5, 6, and 7 maintained the core experience of the N64 releases, but they featured some improvements as well: bigger game boards, new abilities, new mini-games, and microphone functionality, among others.

Moreover, they were developed by legendary developer Hudson Soft in an era of light Nintendo support that basically amounted to Bomberman and Mario Party games. Accordingly, these Gamecube gems should appeal to both fans of Nintendo’s Mario series and fans of Hudson Soft’s work.


Tales of Symphonia

tales-of-symphoniaIf only the Secret of Mana series had turned out like this. Tales of Symphonia is the Gamecube’s most grand epic. It is a huge game where players may very well quest for over 45 hours without reaching the second disc. The story is, at the beginning at least, typical JRPG fare: An unlikely hero guides an unlikely heroine on her quest to save the world. Fortunately, the game wastes little time straying from those tropes, and it quickly becomes apparent that, although the band of heroes is bravely adventuring forth, they are not sure at all what they are adventuring towards.

Moreover, the game itself is anything but conventional. Battles are fast-paced, frantic affairs that will have players scrambling across a 3D battlefield, launching combos, and putting out fires, as their computer-controlled companions try to keep pace Outside of battle, players are given opportunities to interact with their partners and shape the story through small choices sprinkled throughout the game. Tales of Symphonia plays like a hybrid of Star Ocean: The Second Story, Secret of Mana, and The Legend of Zelda. It borrows the best aspects from the game, wastes nothing, and is essential to any Gamecube RPG collection.


Donkey Konga series

donkey-konga-2Developed by the team behind Namco’s Drum Master series, Nintendo’s Donkey Konga and its sequels are the Gamecube’s premier music and rhythm games. Starring Nintendo’s Donkey Kong and featuring (in addition to some classic Nintendo themes) tracks by artists such as Queen, the Troggs, the B-52s, and the Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, the games in the Donkey Konga series provides a challenge for even the most experienced players.

Most interestingly, however, the Donkey Konga games require the use of Nintendo’s unique DK Bongos controller. This controller, which resembles a small pair of plastic bongos, allows the player to play each of the games’ songs, and a small microphone in the controller detects when the player claps certain beats. When played with the DK Bongos, each game in the Donkey Konga series is a delightful experience, and no Gamecube owner should be without them (or at least one set of DK Bongos).


Super Monkey Ball series

super-monkey-ballOriginally released in Japanese arcades but perfected on Nintendo’s Gamecube, Super Monkey Ball is one of – if not the – best new Sega series of its generation. In the Super Monkey Ball games, players guide monkeys AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, and GonGon through obstacle courses by tilting the analog stick. Instead of moving the monkey – which is suspended in a transparent ball – the player tilts the playing field to roll the ball to its goal.

Players earn points (and extra lives) by collecting bananas, and playing through each game unlocks a series of incredibly fun mini-games. Finally, and although the Super Monkey Ball games were later collected and repackaged for the Playstation 2 and Xbox, the Gamecube’s perfectly-tuned analog stick still provides the best playing experience, and the Gamecube versions of Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2 remain the best games in the series.

Phantasy Star Online series

psoWhen the Sega Dreamcast failed, Sega re-branded itself as a third party developer. Search engine queries from the early 2000s still result in forum posts and game magazine editorials declaring that the sky was falling because Sega, of all companies, would be developing games for a Nintendo console.

The cooling of the companies’ rivalry turned out well and the first games Sega released for Nintendo’s Gamecube were several of the most popular Dreamcast games, most of which received new content. Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I and II stood out from the others and still represent the gold standard for multi-console ports. In this release, Sega’s flagship online RPG saw the addition of a local, four-player multiplayer mode, updated graphics, new missions, an entirely new story line, and mini-games that could accessed by participating in online-only adventures, many of which were exclusive to the Gamecube. (Sadly, much of this game is now locked behind servers that have been shuttered for years, and while Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II can be played on a fan-operated server, getting it running can be a bit tricky.)

Sega also released a third game in the Phantasy Star Online series exclusively for Nintendo’s Gamecube. Phantasy Star Online Episode III: Card Revolution never quite captured fans like Episodes I and II, mostly due to the games abrupt departure from dungeon-crawling hack-and-slash gameplay to a card-based, tactical battle system. The game is notable, however, for its fantastic graphics, surprisingly ambitious story mode, and for being much more affordable than its predecessor.


Sonic Mega Collection & Sonic Gems Collection

sonic-collectionOriginally a Gamecube exclusive, Sonic Mega Collection gathered together many of Sonic the Hedgehog’s greatest 16-bit adventures into one convenient package. The game featured Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic Spinball, and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, and it also featured both of Sonic & Knuckles’ variations of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Moreover, the game featured a few additional Sega games, such as Flicky and Ristar, and at the time of its release, it represented one of the best values in gaming.

Sega followed this incredible compilation with Sonic Gems Collection. That game collected Sonic CD, Sonic: The Fighters, Sonic R, and six of Sonic the Hedgehog’s Game Gear adventures. The game also featured both Vectorman and Vectorman 2, but – alas – the North American version, unlike its Japanese counterpart, did not feature either Bonanza Bros. or the Streets of Rage series. The game did, however, remain a Gamecube exclusive in North America, and it remains one of the easiest ways to play some of the more obscure Sonic the Hedgehog games. Moreover, Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Gems Collection remain an incredible gaming value to this day, and no Gamecube library is complete without them. 

Honorable Mentions

The Gamecube had a lot of solid titles that were rather high profile — here’s a few extra mainstream favorites that made the Gamecube special

  • Star Fox Adventures
  • Star Fox Assault
  • Pokemon Colosseum
  • Super Mario Strikers
  • Wario World
  • Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour
  • Viewtiful Joe (was a Gamecube exclusive for a while)
  • See also The Gamecube Hidden Gems

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tylerbgood says:

I always look forward to a new Defining Games or Hidden Gems article because I inevitably discover new games I might have otherwise overlooked. Definitely my favorite section of racketboy, although I love the whole site!

The only game that I felt really deserved at least an honorable mention was Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. It still remains the most graphically advanced version of the first MGS available. Also, perhaps Skies of Arcadia: Legends bears a mention, although I would say it probably defined the Dreamcast to a greater extent.

I’ve been looking forward to new articles on the Wii, DS, PSP, PS3, and 360 now that they are no longer current gen. I know for a fact that the DS is chock-full of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered!

Thanks racket and crew for a great article!

Yul Brynner says:

Can you really say RE4 ditched tank controls? You’re still press up to go forward, and left and right to rotate. All that changed there, aside from actually being able to aim, was the camera angle.

The Twin Snakes may look better than the original MGS and Integral, but it still looks pretty cheap, not to mention how much easier it is due to the added abilities from MGS2. That and the voice acting overall is weaker than the original, with only Gray Fox really sounding like an improvement over the original. Not to mention the toothless soundtrack.

Yul Brynner says:

pressing up*

BoneSnapDeez says:

Very nice article dudes!

jason says:

Is there a “games that defined PS2” in the works?

GSZX1337 says:

No mention of the two Sonic Adventure titles?

Alex says:

So glad I got the majority of these before the price spike.

Xdirtbike says:

Loved Resident Eviil gamecute version

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