Although the GameCube was not as powerful as the Xbox or PlayStation 2, it had some of the best sandbox games of all time. In addition, it proved that a console didn’t need to be a powerhouse to have great games.
This is a premise that Nintendo has stuck pretty close to ever since. What sets Nintendo consoles apart are their first-party titles.
Game franchises such as Zelda and Mario usually dominate sales and become the best-known games on the consoles. But sandbox games are one of the best genres since they give players complete freedom to play the game.
Nintendo had many first-part open-world sandbox games on GameCube, but there were also titles from other publishers as well. Here’s a look at our favorites.
1. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
- Set in an era after the events in The Ocarina Of Time
- Link's sister Aryll has been taken by a monstrous bird
- As you face monsters and try to think your way around obstacles, you'll earn the Wind Waker -- a special conductor's baton that controls the winds
- Incredible new combat engine
- Addictive mini-games and side quests
The GameCube had some great Zelda titles on it, but The Wind Waker was certainly one of the best. It launched early in the GameCube’s lifecycle and brought great changes to the Zelda series. The graphics were a great improvement over the Zelda games on the Nintendo 64. However, they were a bit “cartoony.”
The Wind Waker received mixed reactions when it came out as Link is much younger, and the game had a completely different feel from previous titles. The most notable complaint was the use of a cel-shaded art style. As time went on, however, many people gave The Wind Waker a second chance and now love the game.
The world is massive, but you are limited in the beginning until you meet The King of Red Lions, which is a boat that lets you fully explore the map. The Wind Waker is still a ton of fun. And, most importantly, it doesn’t look or feel dated.
The combat is still great, and the missions and story keep you wanting more. Although it is a bit different than other Zelda games, it remains one of the best.
2. Animal Crossing
- This game has a 24-hour clock where something new happens in real-world time -- as day turns to night in the real world, it also happens in Animal Crossing
- Watch or join in as you watch the animal-people of Animal Crossing carry out their daily routines
- Build relationships with villagers, celebrate special days, collect furnishings for their homes and just live life in an innovative new gaming experience!
- Works with Link Cable to connect your Game Boy Advance to your GameCube!
Animal Crossing on the GameCube was the first game in the franchise (in North America), and it definitely got the series off to the right start. The game revolves around building a life in the virtual world. In many ways, it is a simulation game like The Sims, but done in a way that only Nintendo could.
Instead of using people like a normal simulation game, Animal Crossing used, well, animals. But what made the game unique was that the player could do so much. There is also a story to help guide you through the game. However, it is relatively open-ended.
There is so much in the game that a save file can use almost an entire memory card, so Nintendo bundled one in with the game. Animal Crossing got many gamers enthused about the series that is still popular today.
It also gave many young gamers their first taste of a life simulator. The game’s world is massive and larger than any other on this list. However, it is packed full of things to explore, which really makes this the ultimate sandbox game on the GameCube.
2. Spider-Man 2
- Explore a more open-ended New York City as you face off against criminals like Dr. Octopus, Electro and The Vulture
- Use your spider-sense to detect danger - stop the random street crimes Spider-Man will run across, for enhanced reputation and bonuses
- New web-swinging mechanics -- Move in all sorts of crazy directions and angles, then yank yourself along super-fast
- All-new combat system with more amazing combos -- spectacular, over-the-top moves for the ultimate fighting experience
Before the 2018 masterpiece Marvel Spider-Man, there was a game that many remember from the Gamecube era. Spider-Man 2 was a sequel to an already popular open-world title that also received plenty of praise. Both of the games from the early 2000s were great, but Spider-Man 2 was perfect for its time.
Although the graphics look a little dated today, the story and gameplay still hold up well. Unlike the modern adaptation, Spider-Man 2 was based on the movie of the same name.
At the same time, the game looks more like a comic book adaptation, although it is likely due to the limitations of its time. The world is massive as it recreates parts of New York, which is important for any sandbox game.
While the world is nowhere near as filled as the PlayStation 4 game, it still has plenty to offer. Similarly, there are tons of collectibles throughout the city for you to find. The controls also work really well, which is important because a large part of the game requires web swinging.
3. The Simpsons: Hit & Run
- Disappearances, hidden cameras, crop circles -- Springfield has taken a turn for the weird lately. Homer decides to follow a mysterious black van and unravel the mystery!
- Fun mission-based driving levels take you on an interactive tour of Springfield
- Pick up hidden power-ups that will give you a chance to relive 14 seasons' worth of funny Simpson-style action
- Events will set off hidden animated gags just like you'd see in actual Simpsons episodes
- Fun and funny multiplayer driving modes for up to 4 players
Video games based on movies and TV shows have a notoriously bad reputation for being of poor quality. But The Simpsons: Hit & Run is the rare exception of honoring the source material and making a great game.
Creating a game based on a different medium is challenging since players have their own concept of what the game should be. However, most fans of The Simpsons agree that Hit & Run is a faithful incarnation of the series in video game format.
You play as Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Apu through a recreation of Springfield. The town is divided into three map areas, each part of a level. Each character is tied to a particular area in the game.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run involves doing various missions around Springfield with an overarching story about strange things happening around town. The game shares many similarities to The Grand Theft Auto games of the era, although without graphic scenes and vulgarity. It is the best The Simpsons game and also does quite a bit of fan service with plenty of Easter eggs.
4. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction
- Explore a completely wide-open game world -- from a huge city to vast deserts, all with challenges to face
- Non-stop rampaging and mayhem as you fight and smash in fully interactive and destructible environments
- Use anything in the environment as a weapon, while fighting the Hulk's deadliest enemies - The Abomination, Mercy, The Hulkbusters and many more
- Over 30 story missions, 40 side challenges, and 150 attack moves and combos
- Crazy minigames, from winning a foot race to kicking a car as far as you can
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction isn’t the first game to see players take control of the popular green comic book character. The game is a sequel to Hulk. However, Ultimate Destruction is much better and remains the best Hulk game to date.
The gameplay and animation of Ultimate Destruction are completely different than in the original, which is a good thing. The game is like an open-world Rampage game where Hulk goes around destroying parts of the city.
Fortunately, Ultimate Destruction is much more in-depth and is equally good. Although it would be easy for a game like this to get repetitive, its missions manage to stay unique as you progress. You play as the Hulk for the entirety of the game, and there are even side missions to complete.
Arguably the most important part of The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is its open world. The game does a good job of making you feel like you really are the Hulk.
The sandbox nature is a lot of fun, even for gamers that aren’t big fans of the Hulk or superheroes. But there is also plenty for Hulk fans to see and do, including hidden comic books and great story elements.
5. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
- Addictive outer space adventure as you help Samus fight enemies, solve puzzles and explore incredible new places
- More advanced graphics and game control -- see Samus Aran in brighter colors and deeper details than ever before
- Grapple across ceilings and turn into a Morph Ball to escape, in thrilling action that will test your brains & reflexes
- For the first time in a Metroid game, four players can battle each other while grappling ceilings, search for weapons and escape as Morph Balls
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was a great GameCube exclusive, but it is not as well remembered as the first Metroid Prime on Gamecube. While Metroid Prime was great and could easily hold a spot on this list, its successor received some major improvements. From graphics to controls, Metroid Prime 2 was one of the best games on the Gamecube.
In this 3D Metroid, you again play as Samus in a very story-driven game. The bulk of the game revolves around solving puzzles and is best described as a 3D platformer. A difference from the first Metroid Prime is an inversed world known as Dark Aether which can be traveled to via portals throughout the game.
Samus must navigate between the Light and Dark Aether to complete puzzles of increasing difficulty. This adds an intriguing dimension to the open-world concept and helps keep the game interesting.
Your main goal is to fight for the existence of the Luminar as you battle various bosses. Each battle is its own puzzle that you must solve in order to defeat the foe.
- The living room can be a dangerous place when you're a robot less than a foot tall; team up with the native toys to overcome obstacles, rack up points and keep the family happy
- Find special costumes throughout the game to enable Chibi to take on a new personality
- Explore different areas of the home and encounter several interesting characters on Chibi's journey
- Use Chibi's several tools and accessories creatively to help him reach his goals
- Don't forget to charge Chibi's battery -- plug into power outlets with his built-in cord when he runs low on juice
Chibi-Robo is definitely the most underrated title to make the list. However, it earns a place as one of the best sandbox games on GameCube for its unique open world. In the game, you play as Chibi-Robo, a multipurpose robot designed to complete a variety of tasks. Accompanying him is a TV-shaped robot appropriately named Telly Vision.
Telly translates and explains to Chibi-Robo what he needs to do. You must work through various tasks in the game to help the homeowners and other characters. These other living characters in the game help give the house life; they will also assign your side missions.
The story is also very different as it focuses on parents struggling financially and on the verge of divorce. Instead of the typical expansive world to explore, Chibi-Robo takes place entirely in a home that is set in the 1960s.
Although it sounds unimpressive, the house is actually full of details to explore. Part of the charm is that Chibi-Robo is tiny, so exploring the house may as well be like traversing a city. Chibi-Robo is a unique game that explores many problems that normally are not shown in a video game.
The GameCube often went overlooked by hardcore gamers, but those who had the console usually remember it fondly. While there are plenty of sandbox games on the GameCube, we can’t cover all of them.
If you are a fan of sandbox games, you can check out some of these other popular Gamecube titles you will definitely want to play:
- Starfox Adventures,
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess,
- Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Paul Stringer/Shutterstock.com.