Revisiting the Greatest GameCube Action Classics

The Nintendo GameCube remains one of gaming‘s most cherished and influential consoles over 20 years later. Released in 2001 as a powerful, compact system with signature handle for portability, the GameCube featured several innovations for its time including the first optical disc drive from Nintendo allowing for bigger games with richer details. This processing muscle combined with the intuitive button and trigger layout of its waveform controllers helped the GameCube become a definitive platform for white-knuckle action epics across numerous genres from 2001-2007.

To celebrate the GameCube‘s impressive action portfolio, we wanted to highlight the absolute 10 best action titles that still impress today. Our criteria included games that:

  • Pushed gameplay innovation with inventive mechanics, moves, or weapons
  • Delivered heart-pounding gameplay that holds up decades later
  • Featured landmark production values and technical feats
  • Garnered critical and fan acclaim as genre leaders
  • Offered exciting solo campaigns and/or frantic multiplayer mayhem

Now let‘s dive deeper into each adrenaline-soaked entry guaranteed to bring back fond GameCube memories!

TitleGenreRelease YearMetacritic Score
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingHack N‘ Slash200386
Metal Arms: Glitch In The SystemShooter/Brawler200382
Freedom FightersShooter200382
James Bond 007: Everything Or NothingShooter/Driving200480
TimeSplitters 2First-Person Shooter200290
Super Mario SunshinePlatformer200292
Super Smash Bros. MeleeFighting200192
Viewtiful JoeBeat ‘em Up200393
SoulCalibur IIFighting200392
Metroid PrimeFirst-Person Adventure200297

10. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Storm Minas Tirith and clash with the hordes of Sauron shoulder-to-shoulder with Aragorn, Legolas, Gandalf and the rest of the Fellowship across 12 thrilling levels as EA Redwood Shores‘ 2003 game retells Peter Jackson‘s iconic fantasy adaptation in authentic detail.

TheReturn of the King satifies with crunchy hack, slash, shoot action letting players tap combo strings unleashing savage kicks and sword thrusts to vanquish squads of nazgul, orcs, and mountain trolls. New to GameCube, cooperative 2-player local play amplifies the large-scale battles tenfold whether planting catapult shots into a rampaging mumakil or defending Helm‘s Deep from relentless Uruk-hai. Hero characters like Gimli and his buzzsaw axe attacks feel directly inspired by their big screen counterparts. And completing bonus objectives unlocks additional warriors and modes for expanded replay. From the Paths of the Dead to Pelennor Fields, Return of the King is a stirring motion picture adaptation and essential multiplayer romp.

"I can wholeheartedly recommend The Return of the King as great slashing fun." - GameSpy (4/5)

Where to Buy: Amazon

9. Metal Arms: Glitch In The System

For action fans thirsty for an explosive new IP, Metal Arms: Glitch in the System unleashed frantic run n‘ gun shooting and melee smashing melded with Panzer Dragoon-esque on-rails vehicular sequences across its robot uprising storyline. As the brave bot Glitch, players fend off the authoritarian General Corrosive and his loyal Milbots army spread across the scrap metal planet Iron Star. Backed by a comedic cast of resistance fighters like the pencil-headed Klank, Glitch pilots mechs, tanks, turrets and more through over 40 diverse regions freeing each area from Corrosive’s grip.

From the lush jungle Outpost Getaway to volcano-lined Iron Star Interior, each chapter loads players with an inventive roster of upgradeable firearms like the multi-targeting Torcher or remote-controlled arachnid bot Turret Spider. Missions reward creative weapon combos and swift dismantling of obstacles as endless Milbot patrols bear down on Glitch’s squad. Nimble targeting, crisp robotic visuals and rewarding progression systems allow this 2003 original IP to standout as an underrated sixth-generation gem well worth co-op replays.

”It‘s almost like playing an action cartoon, with plenty of humor...and stuff that blows up real nice.” - IGN (9.0/10)

Where to Buy: Amazon

8. Freedom Fighters

In this alternate history shooter, everyday New York City plumber Christopher Stone finds himself leading the resistance against a surprise USSR invasion and hostile takeover of America. Spread across 12 missions in recognizable locations like Broadway, players wield firearms with one hand using their other to direct rebel squadmates in IO Interactive‘s gritty 2003 urban warfare opus.

Directing your platoon to provide cover fire or flank pinned down troops proves vital as players sabotage key installations across the occupation. Levels dynamically shift control allowing for smarter strategies. Soviet troops better fortify positions once you relinquish areas so time infiltrating required intel before circling back becomes critical. With charisma governing the size of your squad, stealthily misdirecting foes inches you closer toward driving Russia fully out of America for good. Freedom Fighter’s inventive squad tactics fused into its gritty guerrilla campaign make this a top-tier action experience.

“Freedom Fighters takes a lot of cinematic cues from the film Red Dawn to excellent effect.” – GameSpot (8.3/10)

Where to Buy: Amazon

7. James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing

Suit up as MI6‘s finest across third-person shooting, gadget and driving missions packed with cinematic flair starring Pierce Brosnan as the legendary 007. From raiding industrial facilities in Egypt to avoiding flamenco dancers‘ bullets in the streets of Seville, Everything or Nothing bleeds the spectacle and varied globetrotting thrills |that define Bond‘s long lineage.

EA Redwood Shores‘ 2004 release continues to impress with dozens of integrated vehicles from sportscars to tanks keeping the action diversified across regions. Levels regularly introduce more explosive scenarios a tank flips Bond onto a moving train filled with heavies testing marksmanship. Guiding Q-copters between tight cave spaces demonstrates tight handling. And linear set-pieces like parachuting onto Nikolai‘s missile silo ratchet up the memorable screen drama not easily forgotten. Everything or Nothing shines as one of Bond’s most diverse espionage showcases.

"Everything or Nothing is one of the only games based on the James Bond license worth playing" - Game Informer (8.8/10)  

Where to Buy: Amazon

6. TimeSplitters 2

Grab some friends and bullet-spray through this frantic 2002 FPS blasting bots across every imaginable time period. From the Wild West frontier to neon-soaked futurescape NeoTokyo, Free Radical Design‘s hit shooter provides blistering run n‘ gun action for 1-4 players.

With over 90 quirky characters available, TimeSplitter‘s diverse lineup ensures anyone finds their favorite whether you prefer blasting monkey gangsters with tommy guns or commanding robo-tanks as Captain Ash. Alongside madcap firefights, the game‘s integrated Mapmaker Mode empowers friends to build and share custom created arenas like Egyptian temples or Aztec water villages for endless battlefield possibilities. Fast, frenetic gunplay fused with creative tools tailor-made for inducing multiplayer chaos cement TimeSplitters 2 status as a social classic on GameCube.

"TS2 is still one of my favorite multiplayer experiences of all time due to all the flexibility and options at play" - Culture of Gaming

Where to Buy: Amazon

5. Super Mario Sunshine

Nintendo’s beloved mascot embarks on a fresh adventure across the sun-drenched tropical paradise of Isle Delfino only to quickly find himself framed for poisoning its picturesque beaches. Armed with a smart backpack called F.L.U.D.D. that enables boosted platforming jumps and water pressure fire to clean toxic gunk, players sprint, backflip and hover across landscapes dense with secrets.

From sandy beaches and amusement parks to dizzying windmill villages hovering over waterfalls, players ground pound, wall kick and rocket nozzle through obstacles galore on their quest for 120 elusive Shine Sprites critical to clearing Mario’s good name. Boss battles place clever use of the innovative nozzle executions like dousing flaming chomp plants, creating a wonderful synergy between star gameplay mechanics and level objectives. Peppered with bright vibrance, inventive 3D platforming level designs and that signature Nintendo polish, Super Mario Sunshine brought dynamic mascot action in spades.

“The diversity of each level separates Super Mario Sunshine from just about every 3D platformer before it.” – Edge Magazine (8/10)

Where to Buy: Amazon

4. Super Smash Bros. Melee

When it comes to delivering innovative local multiplayer magic, the 2001 Nintendo mascot fighter Super Smash Bros. Melee remains the gold standard. Expanding its Nintendo 64 debut roster from 12 to 25 playable all-stars, the fast and frenetic head-to-head throw downs overflow with four player party pandemonium. Director Masahiro Sakurai and team struck 2D fighting game gold teleporting pugilist Mario, swordsman Link, psychic powerhouse Ness, interstellar bounty hunter Samus and other iconic heroes into a battlefield arena doling out blistering melee madness.

With its percentage-based knockouts seeing fighters fly scream at high velocities off-stage, no lead is safe as opponents unleash epic turnarounds via legendary moves like Kirby’s brick hammer. Polished mechanics like air dodging, grabs, shield parrying alongside surefire audiovisual presentation crammed with Nintendo love make each button press impactful. Make no mistake, as both a premier technical fighting game and party round fodder, Super Smash Bros. Melee earns its acclaim as the apex GameCube must-own.

“SSBM takes just about everything that was great about the original and expands it tremendously.” – Planet GameCube (9.8/10)

Where to Buy: Amazon

3. Viewtiful Joe

Rescue your kidnapped girlfriend by transforming into Captain Blue‘s biggest fan turned freshly minted henshin hero Viewtiful Joe in this wildly creative 2003 cel-shaded beat ‘em up. After entering Movieland, average Joe stylishly takes down jive-talking gangsters and thorny rose monsters alike with flurries of slow-mo punches and blinding fast mach speed kicks across detail-drenched environments.

Creator Hideki Kamiya ingeniously weaponizes movie buff Joe‘s command of time bending abilities for tactical advantages letting players dodge attacks via VFX-powered transformations. Chaining viewtiful combos feels immensely rewarding splashing the vividly colorful screen with expressive pows, booms and sparks soaked in nostalgia for action‘s Golden Age. Packed with ideas and lovingly crafted worlds true to its theatrical roots centered by a passionate hero, Viewtiful Joe earns top marks in action finesse and heart.

"This is the best piece of software Capcom has produced in years." – Edge Magazine (9/10)

Where to Buy: Amazon

2. SoulCalibur II

Forged as the premiere weapons-based fighter, the 2003 sequel SoulCalibur II saw veterans like Mitsurugi reprise their lethal quest for the all-powerful Soul Edge blade against explosive newcomers like the spine-chilling Voldo. With a combat roster spanning ninjas, knights, and pirates, Bandai Namco’s dynamic one-on-one battles emphasized moxie risk-taking with ring out falls and limb targeted combos offering high stakes and rewards.

Exclusive to GameCube, iconic hero Link donning his green cap and Master Sword also guest starred bringing Zelda items like bombs and arrows to the stage lending uniquely exciting skirmishes. Combined with blistering 60FPS animation, stage variations, and sophisticated eight-way movement, gripping fights full of clanging steel and warrior cries made SC2 the reigning technical showcase. Two decades later, Link and Heihachi‘s expertly tuned scuffles represent 3D fighting excellence.

“SoulCalibur II remains a unique fighter with tons of extras and MULTIPLE Tales of Souls to experience.” – Nintendo World Report (10/10)  

Where to Buy: Amazon

1. Metroid Prime

As the highest rated GameCube title ever, the 2002 sci-fi adventure Metroid Prime reset expectations of what an atmospheric and explorative first-person action experience could look and feel like. Set after 1991’s Super Metroid, signature heroine Samus Aran touched down on an eerie alien world rendered in immersive 3D pursuing Space Pirates for possession of deadly bio-weapons. The grand sense of isolation searching derelict ruins and technorganic caverns felt palpable with room details and ambient tunes triggering goosebumps. Utilizing abilities like Morph Ball and the Scan Visor to decode vivid enemy anatomy and Chozo lore added fulfilling context to the on-foot shooting and platforming obstacles masterfully blended by director Mark Pacini.

Later encounters against ever-evolving bosses like a shrieking hive mecha Meta Ridley tested long-forged combat techniques rewardingYears invested learning how Samus strategically contends with overwhelming extraterrestrial threats. For devoted fans, Metroid Prime represented a profound evolution leaping into variable first-person experiences while retaining the dna of backtracking, clue deciphering and meaningful ability upgrades previously established. Both an elite action game and GameCube‘s defining adventure, saving Tallon IV from the Cipher instilled faith in the franchise’s future.

“It‘s the gold standard for first-person adventure games, delivering an experience unmatched on any console or portable system.” – Modojo (10/10)

Where to Buy: Amazon

Reliving The Memories

With their gripping single player quests to wild-eyed multiplayer madness, these 10 remarkable titles capture the quality and diversity found among GameCube action classics sure to thrill gamers even today. Nintendo‘s diminutive purple box delivered steel-smashing martial arts, galaxy-saving shooting escapades, time-twisting superheroics plus so much more forever etched into dice-chucking party lore. Multiple games even innovated inside their longstanding franchises whether Mario‘s water backpack rocket hovering, Samus’s radical return to moody first-person action or Link’s guest fencing appearance. Pick up a GameCube controller and relive the greatest hits yourself!

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