The 8 Ball: Top 8 Launch Games
Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. With the Nintendo Switch out in a few weeks, I thought it best to look over some past system launches and the best games that have come out for them. The only criteria really is that it had to have been a launch game for the system, as in, coming out on launch day. Sonic the Hedgehog wouldn’t make the cut, for instance, since it came out almost 2 years after the Genesis was out, despite being synonymous with it. I’m also really only talking about American launches of consoles. My two honorary picks for this list would be Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Lumines, but that’s just me. Let’s begin:
#8: Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt
Imagine you bought a NES new as a kid and it came with this combo pack. You have one game, Super Mario Bros, which pretty much started Mario as a franchise (yes, I know Mario Bros, and Donkey Kong had Mario/Jump Man before, but they don’t count). It introduced such concepts as Koopa, Princess Toadstool, the fire flower, mushrooms, and arguably the most famous intro level ever. With Duck Hunt, you got a very solid little light gun game that felt magical at the time using the Zapper. The only reason this combo cart is low on this list is because there are some more impressive titles further down.
#7: Halo: Combat Evolved
While Goldeneye was the first real attempt at a console first person shooter, it didn’t resonate much with PC FPS gamers. Halo did though, and was inarguably the first example of a “modern” FPS game. It pretty much standardized concepts like the control scheme, the dual weapon system, regenerating shields and a very robust multiplayer system, even if it didn’t include online play. Aside from that, it just had a great campaign, and really felt solid playing. While the graphics of the first Halo game might not entirely hold up today, the gameplay is still really enjoyable.
Soulcalibur was the first game that made the transition from arcades to console and was drastically improved. If you’ve ever played the Soulcalibur in an arcade, it looks pretty gnarly. The Dreamcast port looks worlds better, with a higher framerate and better backgrounds. The Dreamcast version also adds in a mission mode, team battle, and training mode, which is par for the course, but the mission mode was more robust than in most other games. Sonic Adventure might have been the initial graphical showpiece of the Dreamcast, but Soulcalibur blows it out of the water.
#5: Tetris (Gameboy)
Now, Tetris had been around for 5 years before it came out to the Gameboy, but it was with the Gameboy that the game became popular. Having it be a pack-in title did help, it was just a great “pick up and play” game. You could spend hours on Tetris, or just five minutes in a car ride. The two player mode was also a neat feature, letting you link up two Gameboys to play the game against someone else. And since it was a pack-in title, everyone had the game initially, so it was easy to find other people to play against.
#4: Wii Sports
Typically when you have a launch game, you want it to be a good display of the new console’s power or unique hooks. Wii Sports was pretty much the only game that did this for the Wii launch, although Raving Rabbids and Trauma Center did have their moments. Wii Sports made the idea of motion controls natural, since almost anyone understands how to hit a ball with a bat, or how to roll a virtual ball down a bowling lane. Plus, Wii Sports could be enjoyed by anyone, particularly non-gamers, like your parents, or even grandparents, could be understood and enjoyed. Wii Sports was one of the biggest reasons the Wii was Nintendo’s highest selling home console to date.
#3: Amped 3
I estimate this will cause a lot of strife in the comments, and my response will be “Well, go make your own list.” Amped 3 was the best launch game on the 360, with the only other real contenders being Geometry Wars, PGR3, and Perfect Dark Zero (PDZ isn’t a perfect game, but I enjoyed it). Amped 3’s gameplay was mostly standard, a mix of Tony Hawk-era moves and stuff from SSX, but it was the style and story that was impressive. The storyline and way it is told is nuts, full of pig heads on wheels, dioramas, anime sequences, and some of the best white-guy rapping, this side of John Cena. For the insanity the Amped 3 contains, and the creativity that was on screen, it deserves a high place on this list.
#2: Super Mario 64
There were some attempts at 3D gaming before Super Mario 64 but none of them were entirely successful. Probably the biggest relative comparison might be Crash Bandicoot, but the 3D in that game was extremely limited and not open. Super Mario 64 plunked you into a huge (at the time) 3D world and you’re told to go nuts. Each world had stars to collect, some were easy to find and others were devilishly hard. There was a lot of variety in the levels also, from snowy mountains to deserts, to Tiny-Huge Island, and a world inside of a mammoth clock. Mario controlled incredibly well, which is something most 3D games now can’t pull off, which tells you how forward thinking this game was. The camera was also a godsend, since it is usually the bane of 3D games, just ask Sonic.
#1: Super Mario World
Super Mario World is still one of the best games Nintendo has made. Everything about it is tight, from a design perspective, control perspective, even the music and graphics are still good. Like with a few other games on this list, SMW was a pack-in title for the SNES, and it’s probably the greatest pack-in title for a console ever, at least until they made that Super Mario All Stars/Super Mario World combo cart. You can beat Super Mario World in 20 minutes if you really want, but the joy of the game is finding all the various secrets and hidden exits to find even new paths to explore.
For comments, list which launch games you enjoy and why.
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