Being Nintendo’s contribution to the sixth generation of video game consoles, the GameCube was released in 2001. This was a year after Sony’s PlayStation 2 (PS2) arrived and, along with Microsoft’s Xbox, was the GameCube’s main competition.
The GameCube was developed as a successor to the Nintendo 64, and by the same team. Many games intended for Nintendo 64 release were actually postponed to become games for the GameCube, and several of the best GameCube RPGs were continuations of a franchise.
The console also brought the use of optical discs for the first time with Nintendo consoles, as opposed to ROM cartridges, as well as functionality with the Game Boy Advance (GBA); certain games allowed players to connect a GBA via a cable and use the handheld as a secondary controller and screen.
Although the design of the GameCube was criticized, along with its lack of multimedia features (something the PS2 was known for), the console was renowned for many reasons, particularly amongst Nintendo fans.
The controller was widely praised, even seeing a second release with later installments of the Super Smash. Bros. series, as the controller was very popular for use with these games, even with the Wii renditions. Its expansive library of games provided many excellent and timeless entries, especially for the action-adventure genre, but also for the RPG genre. It looks like focusing specifically on gaming was both the strength and weakness of this console.
With that said, the GameCube’s game collection remains memorable to this day, and we’re going to dive into the best GameCube RPGs that were ever released. Let’s jump in!
- Explore wilderness, caverns, incredible dungeons and more -- gorgeous, realistic graphics in three-quarter perspective
- Use magic and special attacks in exciting real-time battles -- and use teamwork to overcome the deadliest creatures on the planet
- Exciting four-player team action, as you hack and slash through a world of monsters
- Up to three friends can join in, using their Game Boy Advance systems as controllers
- Players can use the GBA screen to access menus, organize their spell spheres, and perform upgrades -- without slowing down the onscreen action
Taking full advantage of the GameCube’s GBA compatibility, emFinal Fantasy Crystal Chronicles/em‘ multiplayer mode allowed up to four players to play the game through the use of linking with a GBA console.
While the game initially came out in 2004, a remastered version was released for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (PS4), iOS, and Android platforms in 2020.
The plot follows a caravan led by the player as they venture out to collect myrrh, a magical substance required to ward off the poisonous Miasma. This Miasma was created when a meteorite containing the Meteor Parasite (an extraterrestrial lifeform) impacted the Great Crystal, shattering it. Fragments of the crystal protect surviving villages from the Miasma but must be renewed through the collection of the myrrh.
Single and multiplayer gameplay is largely the same, but it takes a detour from traditional Final Fantasy gameplay; the Active Time Battle (ATB) system was replaced with an action-based system, and experience points and levels were removed. A chalice, which protects the party from the damaging Miasma, must be carried throughout the stage, adding a tactical element. Players can choose from one of four races, each coming with its own strengths and weaknesses during combat.
Character development is managed through the use of weapons and armor created by obtaining blueprints and materials, as well as the collection of attribute-increasing items awarded at the completion of a dungeon. Players can combine their attacks and magic spells to increase their potency in battle, while in single-player mode attacks can be combined with an automated Moogle character (common to Final Fantasy games).
emFinal Fantasy Crystal Chronicles/em was highly praised for its departure from the traditional RPG as well as its aesthetics, while being criticized for its rather high entry requirements for multiplayer gameplay. Nevertheless, the game is considered a standout and easily one of the best GameCube RPGs, shown in its 80 Metascore.
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- Choose a team of 4 powerful X-Men for each mission, switching between them in real-time controls
- After solving problems and facing enemies, players will get to upgrade character attributes -- unlock new moves and skills while you play, to build a better team
- Epic storyline with plot twists, intrigue and cliffhangers
- Explore a 3D game world with fully-destructible environments and fully-rendered cinematic sequences
- Intense multiplayer modes for up to 4 others -- plus dynamic joining lets gaming partners jump in at any time
A departure from the traditional gameplay of X-Men games, emX-Men Legends/em is an action RPG that was released in 2004.
The story begins with the rescue of Alison Crestmere, a teenage girl with recently discovered mutant powers. The X-Men then set out to prevent the Brotherhood from rescuing Magneto, a long-running villain of the franchise, and foil his plan to cover the world in darkness.
Initially planned to involve a turn-based battle system, a real-time action-based system was instead opted for, where the player controls a team of four X-Men from an available cast of 15.
Three of the X-Men can be controlled by either the computer or other players, depending on whether you’re playing by yourself or with friends. Characters are made stronger by gaining levels and upgrading their mutant powers, as well as equipping items found during the game. Special combos can also be utilized during battle, where X-Men combine their powers to attack a singular enemy.
The game was well-received by critics, which led to the development of a sequel and set a precedent for the future series of Marvel Ultimate Alliance video games. The combat, multiplayer mode, and customization elements were highly rated, alongside the use of cel-shaded graphics (to enhance the comic book feel). emX-Men Legends/em is a fresh take on the video game series, earning its 81 Metascore and deserving a place on a list of the best GameCube RPGs.
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- Choose up to 4 players from the X-Men or Brotherhood teams and send them on missions
- Each of the 16 playable characters has 10 superpowers you can use for awesome fighting, melee or ranged attacks - all upgradeable as you earn expereince & complete missions
- Online and offline multiplayer modes feature dynamic joining that lets your friends jump into the action at any time
- Flexible, open-ended storyline lets you determine the outcome of the battle -- theatrical-quality FMV move the story along
- 6 multiplayer skirmish modes offer head-to-head versus action, side-by-side battles against enemies and more
As a follow-up to X-Men Legends, emX-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse/em was released a year later in 2005.
The rise of Apocalypse was teased at the end of X-Men Legends, and the sequel focuses on the X-Men and the Brotherhood teaming up in order to halt the plans of Apocalypse, which involve abducting mutants for an experiment to drastically increase his power.
The gameplay is largely similar to the prequel, with a team of four mutants being used, as more characters become available during the course of the game. An upgrade to the gameplay came in the form of online multiplayer, as well as a new game plus mode, where the story can be replayed while preserving stats obtained during the first playthrough.
Ultimately, emX-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse/em didn’t innovate too much over the first game but sold enough copies to be included in the collection known as the PlayStation 2’s Greatest Hits.
The dynamic gameplay, destructible environments, and graphical upgrades were critiqued positively, as well as the extensive cast of playable characters, where you’re sure to find one of your favorites. Both these X-Men games are worth a play, particularly if you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise and/or looking for one of the best GameCube RPGs.
It’s no surprise that emX-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse/em earned its 82 Metascore.
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emSkies of Arcadia: Legends/em was actually first released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, making its way to the GameCube via a port in 2003.
The player controls Vyse who is a member of the Blue Rogues, an air pirate organization that resists the tyrannical rule of the Valuan Empire. Their leader, Empress Teodora, threatens to take over the world by using the Moon Crystals to awaken the Silver Gigas, an ancient weapon of destruction created thousands of years prior.
Turn-based battles and experience points are used for the gameplay, rather traditional elements, but the game also focuses heavily on exploration; an airship is used to discover hidden locations, dungeons, towns, and even characters who can be added to the airship, unlocking additional benefits.
Each character has unique abilities, as well as sharing the use of magic of various elements via the Moon Stone system. These can be customized and learned as the player prefers, or arguably ignored completely a lot of the time if you decide to focus on physical attacks and character abilities.
emSkies of Arcadia: Legends/em was acclaimed critically as one of the best GameCube RPGs, even though commercially it underperformed. Game Informer considered the original to be among the top 10 Dreamcast games, and overall the graphics were praised for being very advanced for their time.
While the GameCube port didn’t bring a lot of improvements apart from some extra side missions, the game is particularly impressive for its graphics, exploration, and memorable story, earning it an 84 Metascore.
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The Phantasy Star series has been around since 1987, focusing mainly on single-player turn-based RPG mechanics. This all changed with the release of emPhantasy Star Online: Episodes I and II/em for the Dreamcast in 2000, making its way to the GameCube in 2002.
As an action RPG, the game features an unrelated story, centering around the exploration of planet Ragol by refugees aboard the spaceship, Pioneer 2. Since the colonists present on Pioneer 1 have gone missing, a massive explosion impacts the planet and is subsequently investigated by the player.
Characters of different races and classes can be chosen, each with their own strengths and weaknesses in combat, progressing via experience levels and the production and collection of equipment. Magic techniques can emPhantasy Star Online: Episodes I and II/em can be played alone, but the gameplay really shines when playing cooperatively online. Players can interact in a lobby, where teams can be organized for exploration. Maps are rather complex and winding, and larger rewards are available through boss battles and the completion of quests.
While the offline single-player mode was heavily criticized for being repetitive, emPhantasy Star Online: Episodes I and II/em was the first online RPG released for a home console, and even won the Japan Game Award for “Game of the Year.”
The fun of multiplayer along with the immense equipment library and combat customization made for a surprisingly fresh gaming experience that is still remembered to this day, and got it its 85 Metascore. If you can manage to get a copy and join a private online server, you can get the most out of one of the best GameCube RPGs.
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#2: emTales of Symphonia/em (86)
- Fierce, action-packed battle system with hundreds of special attacks, spells, and combos
- Fully customizable character growth system -- change your fighting style and alter the storyline according to the characters' relationships
- Multiplayer fighting action - Up to 4 players can control one party member each during combat
- Unprecedented number of great minigames and side quests
Being the fifth main entry to the Tales series, emTales of Symphonia/em focuses on Lloyd Irving and his friends, especially Colette Brunel, whose mission is to replenish the world with an energy called mana by unsealing five shrines.
Restoring the planet isn’t quite as simple as it seems, however, and many challenges and plot twists ensue.
The game features overworld, dungeon, and town maps, much like its predecessors, and the Linear Motion Battle System. Unlike a turn-based system, players act simultaneously along with the enemies, with non-player-controlled characters acting according to AI and/or preselected instructions. Attacks fill a gauge, which can be used to unleash a “Unison Attack” upon enemies. The skill mechanic revolves around the use of “EX Gems” with differing abilities, which determine the skill path characters take and which abilities they learn.
emTales of Symphonia/em‘s cel-shaded graphics were well-received, as well as its battle system and character configuration. As the best-selling title of the Tales series, it’s not one to be missed when fleshing out your GameCube RPG collection. Its 86 Metascore was well-deserved, for sure.
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- Timing Action Commands help you dodge or inflict damage and impress the crowd, giving you power for super attacks
- Use your paper body to your advantage - Fold into a paper airplane and take to the air, turn sideways to slip through narrow passages, and roll into a tube to bounce to safety
- Collect all-new weapons and items like hammers, thunderbolts and much more
- Numerous partners are here to aid Mario, from the previous games - from Claudia to Yoshi
- Enter the Worry Room, where townspeople will post their problems for you to fix -- giving you dozens of great, silly side quests
Rather than being set on the premise of Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser, emPaper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door/em focuses on the abduction of Peach by the evil X-Nauts, led by Grodus.
Mario sets out to rescue the Princess as well as obtain the legendary seven Crystal Stars, which are required to open the ancient Thousand-Year Door containing fabled treasure.
Retaining many of the gameplay features of the original Paper Mario, emThe Thousand-Year Door/em‘s battles initiate when coming into contact with enemies found on the map. Combat effects are enhanced through timed actions, very similar to the first Mario RPG, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
Flower Points are shared among Mario and his companions, who are obtained during the story, and used to execute more powerful attacks. Abilities and increased stats are granted through the equipping of Badges, while exploration is aided by Mario‘s ability to turn into a boat, airplane, or even sideways to fall through cracks in the floor. Traditional side-scrolling also makes an appearance, when Bowser can be controlled at various points in the story.
With its added utilization of the 2D paper aspect and fully realized cast and storyline, emPaper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door/em builds upon the success of its prequel while reserving all the elements that made the original so popular.
The game won “Role Playing Game of the Year” at the 2005 Interactive Achievement Awards and is considered to be the best in the Paper Mario series as well as the best GameCube RPG by many, and it’s evidenced in its 87 Metascore. Don’t sleep on this title when considering the next game to add to your GameCube collection.
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