The funny thing about getting a launch day system is not about the fancy hardware, its about finding the right game to show off that fancy hardware. In hindsight, many launch games are fairly awful and even the once vaunted great titles look pale when compared to titles that come at the end of a console’s lifespan. The Xbox 360 in particular had a fairly weak launch which only produced one consensus hit, Call of Duty 2. There were other hits in the launch window but even Elder Scrolls IV has not aged well, and nobody is jumping at the chance to play Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero again.
Its no surprise that Nintendo is often the king of the launch classic as they seem to have mastered the art of crafting a game to showcase their hardware.
10. Lumines – Sony PlayStation Portable
An under-rated title on an under-rated system, the UMD for Lumines lived in my PSP for much of the launch year (often swapping places with the PSP’s Ridge Racer). Q? Entertainment’s Lumines was a euphoric puzzle game that played with color combinations and used music to dictate the speed of the levels. Some levels would be fast, some would be slow, some would have a jarring off-tempo beat that would be make getting into a groove all the more difficult. It was a game that used the PSP’s big, bright screen to its fullest potential and a formula that has never quite been replicated for the franchise since.
9. Wii Sports – Nintendo Wii
A must include on this list, Wii Sports is a perfect example of hardware being showcased properly. While the Wii was nothing more than a Gamecube with motion tracking technology, Wii Sports was a packed-in title that was instantly accessible and put the Wii in millions of families’ homes. While boxing, baseball and golf were fun games to play, it was tennis and bowling that truly shone with the Wiimote’s gyroscopic motion sensors, a technology which is included in every modern mobile phone today.
8. Soulcalibur – Sega Dreamcast
When the Sega Dreamcast debuted, no disc based system played at the clarity and speed that the Dreamcast was capable of. What game better to show this strength off than the ultra fast, highly technical Soulcalibur. A classic in its own right, Soulcalibur became right at home on the Dreamcast, pitting swords and souls against each other with the wonderful Dreamcast color palette and the iconic Soulcalibur soundtrack.
7. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved – Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade
Geometry Wars pioneered the twin-stick shooter with simple visuals and absolute intense battles of geometric shapes. One of the most accessible games of all time, Geometry Wars is also one of the best selling titles available on Xbox Live Arcade. I can recall sessions of the addictive shape-shooter where I tears would stream down my face from refusing to blink. It was great.
6. Tetris – Nintendo Game Boy
I consider Tetris to be the single most important game of all time and much of its success can be attributed to its debut with the Game Boy system. The familiar music, the greyscale 4-bit graphics and the always memorable sound effects are all part of Tetris’ charm and the Game Boy allowed for this amazing game to be played on the go and was the original multiplayer competitive game when two Game Boys would connect via system link.
5. Super Mario World – Super Nintendo Entertainment System
The SNES was a vibrant leap into 16-bit gaming for Nintendo and Super Mario World showcased the game at an amazing clip. Colors popped off the screen as caped Mario would run and fly about the levels, the audio improvements were also noted as sound effects truly came into their own as distinct enemies had their own effects. The game even brought us Yoshi, a Nintendo staple ever since.
4. Super Mario Bros. – Nintendo Entertainment System
As classic as they come, the original Super Mario Bros. resonates with an entire gaming generation. From the genre defining 2D platforming gameplay to the legendary score and sound effects, Super Mario Bros is directly linked to the success of the NES. Throw in the light gun shooter Duck Hunt and this two-for-one is hands down one of the greatest launch games of all time.
3. Halo: Combat Evolved – Microsoft Xbox
How does Microsoft attract the PC gamer who has spent the last few years playing spectacular FPS games like Half-Life and Quake? You make Halo. While not necessarily genre defining, it created the template for what FPS games could be on a home console with its now-standard two-weapon system, adaptive AI and a legendary world with a generation’s hero.
2. Dead or Alive 3 – Microsoft Xbox
While most got their giant black Xboxes for Halo, I bought mine solely for Dead or Alive 3. Potentially the most graphically impressive title at launch, DOA 3 brought all the core elements of DOA 2 and refined them for the improved power of the Microsoft Xbox. Besides, she kicks high.
1. Super Mario 64 – Nintendo 64
When the Nintendo 64 came out, demo kiosks were sent toe every major electronics store in the country. A friend of mine spent his entire timed demo of the system stretching Mario’s face in the pre-menu. Nevermind that Super Mario 64 would be the bar for all 3D platformers to strive for and be the framework by which all modern Mario games would be patterned after. Super Mario 64 showed the amount of sheer freedom the Nintendo 64 provided, just in that first level. That and you could stretch his face out.