Launch titles are typically pretty underwhelming. Developers haven’t learned the ins and outs of the hardware, everything is rushed, and really the best a team can hope for is a good game that may not feel next gen but is fun to play. Well I am here to count down the top ten games that did more than the average launch title and showed what next gen is all about.
10. Kameo: Elements of Power – I am going to say this is a personal pick. Kameo was the first game I played by myself on my Xbox 360 and I fell in love with it. The scale was massive with those huge open field battles. It had a colorful dream-like art style, and that classic Rare adventure game gameplay that I had loved on the N64. Kameo showed off what the 360 could do graphically and still holds up as a great action adventure game.
9. Wii Sports – Wii Sports was the game that sold the Wii and was the perfect way to demonstrate what the Wii was all about. Wii Sports showed off how motion controls could be used as a tool to make a great game that draws in the whole family that everyone can play. If there is a launch title that defined what a system would become, it was Wii Sports on the Wii.
8. Lumines – It is somewhat ironic that the best game for the PSP and best launch title for the PSP are one and the same. It’s even more ironic that the title in question is a rhythm-based puzzle game, especially considering the PSP was hyped as a portable PS2. The thing is, Lumines was just that good and that addictive; some would even call it the Tetris of the 2000s.
7. Soul Caliber – If there is one thing systems of the 1990s tried to show off with a launch title, it was graphics. For the Dreamcast, Soul Caliber was its showcase. The thing that made it so special was not only did Soul Caliber look leagues better then what was coming out on other home consoles at the time, it was actually a great fighting game with tons of content. Soul Caliber not only showed off what the Dreamcast could do, it is one of the best fighting games ever made.
6. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2 – One phrase that still drives games today is “we want it to look like a movie”, or “it is going to be a cinematic experience”. The thing about Rogue Squadron 2 on the GameCube was that it was one of the first games that succeeded in doing this. That first level where you attack the Death Star looked and felt like the movie. Rogue Squadron 2 is still the best Star Wars flight game ever made and was a great way to jumpstart the GameCube’s life.
5. Super Mario Bros. – Super Mario Bros., the game that saved gaming in North America. Without it, gaming today wouldn’t be the same or nearly as big. Not only that but everyone and their kids who are teens today have played this game. Also everyone knows the music from Super Mario Bros.
4. Tetris – When the Game Boy was about to launch, an executive at Nintendo said this: “If you want to sell the Game Boy to kids, pack in Mario. If you want to sell it to everyone, pack in Tetris”. Well that is exactly what they did and it was a brilliant idea. Tetris was the killer app and anchor for the most popular line of handhelds, and only one game on the Game Boy sold more than Tetris.
3. Super Mario World – In 1991, Nintendo was working on its new system, the Super Nintendo, and they needed a game to showcase the ways it was better than the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive for all my fans from other parts of the world). A way to show how much better the graphics, audio, and controls were on Super Nintendo, they decided that it would be a new Mario game that came with the console. Made over the course of 15 months, and taking so much work Shigeru Miyamoto started smoking as a form of stress relief, Super Mario World showed off everything the SNES could do and Genesis could not. It was incredibly colorful, showing off the 32,000 colors it could produce against the 256 in Sega’s system. It had eight channel 16 bit sound good enough to be used as a synthesizer. Many people consider it to be the best 2D Mario, and one of the best games of all time.
2. Halo: Combat Evolved – If you followed the development of the first Halo game you knew the chances of it turning into a mega hit were very slim. Halo started as a real-time strategy game for the Mac. Then it was turned into a third-person shooter for the PC, before finally turning into a first-person shooter for the Xbox. Microsoft needed great games for its new platform. Bungie and Microsoft thought Halo could be the next big thing. They were right, Halo showed that shooters could work on a console and became the game that sold the Xbox.
1. Super Mario 64 – Super Mario 64 was one of two games that were at the Nintendo 64 launch, but it was so good it could have been the only game at launch. It was the first game to show off how 3D games should be done with its perfect controls and charming levels to explore. It was a long game with tons of secrets to keep you busy until the next batch of games came around. It showcased the new tech like 3D, the analog stick, a hub world, and camera movement. Every launch game should aspire to be what Super Mario 64 was: technically impressive, fun to play, and an all-time classic that you can enjoy almost twenty years later.