The GameCube was, despite its smaller market position, a great system for multiplayer games, largely due to its Nintendo legacy and its four-player default support. Part of the Last Great Offline Generation, it’ll likely be the local multiplayer resting place for many genres that switched gears to online-focused development. Mostly, though, this was a Nintendo with its back to the wall, forced to innovate to stay afloat. The company’s very good at that when it needs to be.
A good multiplayer game has to have at least one of these four aspects, and the more it has, the better:
Party-friendly: This one’s easy to pick up for newcomers and enjoy the first time even against stiff competition. It’s also good for spectators.
Deep: Multiplayer games tend to be rather evanescent. These games have more meat on their bones, and stand up to multiple sessions or lots of consecutive hours of play on content variety alone.
Competitive: These are the games you play against your friends, build up skills and keep on challenging each other as you go. They’re addictive because of the rivalries they create.
Cooperative: There’s something about working together with friends that can really make an experience special. These do it, and they do it well.
Games can have smaller bits of these elements, and for those, I’m giving them these minibadges. I didn’t forget about these parts of these games, but they may not define the core experience.
Anyway, onto the list:
Mario Kart: Double Dash!!
While there are many Mario Kart installments that offer tighter controls and a larger track selection, two features remain exclusive to Double Dash!! that are worth checking out. The first? The cooperative play, which lets veteran teams pull off some tricky maneuvers. The second? All Cup Tour, a mode that makes a fun evening out of blasting through the game’s courses. Put the two together with some balanced teams of two, and it’s magical.
If you prefer your racing to be so fast it’s crazy, F-Zero GX is the pinnacle of its series and a gorgeous game even by today’s standards. Amusement Vision pushed the hardware to its limit, but didn’t forget to make the courses thrilling and the controls super-accurate.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
I couldn’t leave this off the list even if I wanted to (which I did). Even though Brawl stepped up the game in most ways (despite a few less-universally-loved innovations), if you’re playing multiplayer games on a GameCube, this basically has to be involved. Hey, for old time’s sake, just use Dr. Mario, Mewtwo, Pichu and Roy!
Super Monkey Ball
The launch game became a party hit that spawned an entire series, and though the sequels can be largely ignored, the original is still great, simple fun. Monkey Target in particular is a fun showpiece, and Monkey Race and Monkey Fight are worth playing too.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
Okay, so you’re going to need a lot of equipment for this, as the game requires link cables and GBAs for each player. Still… worth it. Nintendo is at its best when it’s exploring new technology and ideas, and the expansion of the Four Swords gameplay worked very well.
Even in a post-Rock Band world, there’s something special about just pounding on two little drums with some friends. The songs are bad, but that’s almost better.
TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
The GameCube was home to a few solid shooters, but Future Perfect is the most full-featured and silly of them all. The silliness is especially nice now, given that there’s little reason for the “serious shooter” fan to play anything released before the last few years.
WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$!
The frantic WarioWare gameplay is best shared with friends, and where the Wii’s Smooth Moves had a lot of success with absurd motion games, the GameCube’s installment remains the best presentation of the traditional style.
Kirby Air Ride
Those who think this game was a disappointment clearly haven’t spent solid evenings with friends in City Trial mode. It offers interesting strategies, as you have to scavenge for a better star to ride and boost it with upgrades, all the while not knowing what you’re preparing to do. Oh, and Top Race is a nice distraction too, calling back to the days of the top-down arcade racer of the ’80s.