1. F-Zero GX - My own personal list starts with an obvious choice. I'll just go ahead and say it: I think FZGX is the greatest racing game ever made. Period. The game is so lightning-fast, your brain quite literally has trouble processing the visual information during your first race. But, as you adjust the mind-numbing speed, you begin to realize the depth of strategy hidden within: the balance between boosting and life energy, the importance of attacking any of thirty competitors in an attempt to regain health, and the key differences between craft to appropriately tackle a specific track. Throw in an unimaginably difficult storyline, tons of modes, ridiculously designed gravity-defying courses, graphics that still trump essentially any Wii launch title, music that currently occupies thirteen slots in my iTunes library, and you've got yourself one hell of a game.
2. Tales of Symphonia - On a system notoriously devoid of RPG content, Tales of Symphonia is as good as it gets. The Tales series has always been renowned for its action-based "linear motion" battle system, and ToS successfully brought the system into 3-D with a multi-plane system. The story begins a little too candy-coated and clichéd, but thanks to some slick twists and more-than-decent voice acting (Tara Strong!), the story rises up to meet the gameplay in stride.
3. Super Monkey Ball 2 - The SMB franchise quickly became very popular thanks to its two first installments. Since then, various entries (Touch and Roll, SMB Adventure, and even Banana Blitz) haven't had quite the impact as the superlative second installment. The main game features 150 superbly designed levels and insane amounts of challenge (see my amazingly in-depth FAQ!), guaranteed to keep you
frustrated amused for dozens of hours. But, some say, the real meat comes in the twelve minigames, which are far more developed than those found in the recent Banana Blitz. Monkey Target and Monkey Golf are fan-favorites around here, and though the Wii is billed as the ultimate party machine, this game can hold its own with even the most raucous Wii Sports fests.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures - We know. The cost and complexity of setting up this game might be the highest in the history of video games, requiring (for the full experience), a Gamecube, a copy of the game, four Game Boy Advances, and four GC-to-GBA connection cables. This game was the final result of Nintendo's "connectivity" platform, and though the concept sputtered and died, this shining title emerged from the dreck. It's difficult to explain how a multiplayer game can at once be both competitive and cooperative, but Four Swords Adventures manages to pull it off. Sporting some truly inspired puzzle design (a la Zelda: A Link to the Past), players need to work together to defeat each area, and yet clamor and squabble for the resulting Force Gems scattered around each level. If you can manage the hardware (and really, three or four players is the way to go), this is an absolute must-buy.
5. Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat - Another oddity in required hardware, this platformer actually utilizes the bongos used in the rhythm game Donkey Konga as standard control. But what seems absolutely ridiculous becomes supremely awesome, as brilliant level design after brilliant level design forces players to use the limited control of the bongos in increasingly complex manners. And of course, me being a sucker for games with high difficulty, DK:JB never fails to disappoint. The requirements for unlocking the final worlds are absolutely brutal, but the sense of accomplishment is unmatched. Once again, if you can find a way to set it up, don't hesitate to purchase this oft-overlooked wonder.
1. Eternal Darkness - Silicon Knights' previous game before working on a title that was nothing but mediocre at E3 (coughTooHumancough), this game is legitimately scary and fun, taking you through a bloodline in time and its ties to evil gods. Only for the mature, don't believe the game when it says your memory card is erased.
2. Beyond Good & Evil - One of the greatest adventure games ever made, which sadly did not sell nearly as much as it should have, needs to be played by any self-respecting gamer. We recommend the GameCube version, as the PS2 port is so buggy as to be unplayable and the Xbox port is so unavailable as to be frustrating. The GC port is a natural choice.
3 . Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes - While many argue the inclusion of first-person aiming makes this title so easy as to border on ridiculous, no one can argue that the story and characters in this game are among the best the industry has ever seen. Collecting dog tags and other extras give this game more lasting flavor than its original PSX version, offering even more goodness to the gamer.
4. Viewtiful Joe - Far better than its sequel, Joe's first outing in Movieland is a touch of 2D genius. With brilliant cel-shaded graphics and the ability to manipulate time, Viewtiful Joe features excellent boss battles and environments inspired from movies such as Indiana Jones. It's a fantastically fun game.
5. Soul Calibur II - Sure, later versions of Soul Calibur feature gameplay changes that take the franchise in a new direction than its second installment, but none of the more recent games allow you to play as Link. And, to us, that's the only thing that matters ...
1. Resident Evil 4 - I'm pretty sure my fellas above done lost their minds, because this is the GC title. If you only play one, ever, this should be that one. If you only have a few weeks to live, spend them playing this game, and your life shall not have been in vain. My penchant for drama aside, RE4 seemed to me to be the ultimate in the RE series, and it doesn't even have the franchise-affirming zombies! Also, it can, at times, make large, beefy men squeal like girls. From the graphics to the challenging gameplay to moments of pure, undistilled awesome, this was the game that made me feel justified for hanging on to my poor GameCube while everyone ragged on me through the years.
2. Eternal Darkness - I'm repeating Dave's pick here because it simply has to be repeated. I would eat babies for a sequel to this (if it was just as good or better). While the graphics might, at first glance, leave a little something to be desired (it was originally to be for the N64), it didn't matter, because absolutely everything else was fantastic. And if you were lucky, all those graphics would warp out anyway, in new and terrifying ways. Stop reading this list and go play Eternal Darkness. Now. Go.
3. Animal Crossing - A world within a world that blossomed on screen per your actions, Animal Crossing offered the player a chance to take a town and do whatever they wanted. While the concept wasn't new, the use of the internal clock, synching game actions to real world time, offered a new and different level of interactivity ... and sometimes frustration, if you happen to be a night owl. Animal Crossing can give you a reason to get up in the morning!
4. Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour - If you'd told me five years ago that I'd be picking any golf game, ever, for anything, I would have laughed in your face. But this game, to me, is everything that multiplayer games should be. It's easy to pick up and hides a lot of depth beneath the cartoonish look, and it's genuinely fun to crowd onto the couch with your friends and play for hours. Golf in Wii Sports is interesting and all, but it's nothing next to this one.
5. Killer 7 - Grasshopper's games are an acquired taste, to be sure, but this is a singular game worth playing for the sheer weirdness of the experience. Suda 51's second title to make our staff recommendations, Killer 7 is hard to categorize. On on-rails shooter, a puzzle game, and a story that defies simple explanation combine to make a game that is like no other. Love it or hate it, Killer 7 is more than a game -- it's an experience worth having.