Thursday, October 17, 2013

Top Ten Launch Titles of All Time

The PlayStation 4 is officially less than one month away from its North American release, and in a handful days we'll be one month away from the Xbox One's North American launch. It seems like a good opportunity before the real craziness of the eighth generation begins to take a step back and ponder the great launch titles of gaming history. Our crack team of three staffers put our heads together (which hurt, by the way) to devise this list of what we deem the best games to launch with their respective systems. We've selected these games by industry impact and entertainment factor. Many games, systems and generations will be represented, so after we've finished listing and explaining ourselves, chime in with your picks!

Note: The majority of these games are based off of North American system launches.

10) Sonic Adventure (DC)

Kicking off the sixth generation of home video game consoles in style (and this list of ours), Sonic Adventure sped onto SEGA's ill-fated Dreamcast in style. The sheer velocity of the action amazed, as did the then-impressive visuals. Being able to jet around in the fully 3D environments, get chased by a whale in Emerald Coast, and go through a loop-de-loop for the first in 3D were all things that we won't soon forget in our storied gaming careers. A lot of what we have fondness for is due to nostalgia, as playing Sonic Adventure in the present is mostly an effort in frustration, where glaring flaws stare the player right in the face. However, there's no denying how positively way past cool Sonic's first Dreamcast outing was when it originally debuted.

9) Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II (GCN)

At first glance, the Nintendo GameCube wasn't an imposing piece of hardware. It actually looked quite innocent. However, it was, in fact, a more powerful console than the PlayStation 2, with power that rivaled the Xbox. A launch title that showcased the muscle of the purple lunchbox was Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II, a sequel to the popular Nintendo 64 flight-based combat game. Factor 5 (may they rest in peace) really got a sensational amount of power out of the GameCube right from the get-go. Rogue Squadron II was also a very fun game, allowing players to relive many movie moments from the original trilogy, as well as visit a wide array of Star Wars universe locals. Luigi might have had a mansion at the GameCube's launch, but we were too busy shooting TIE Fighters out of the air to notice.

8) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)

Sure, one could eventually find this next game on the GameCube if they waited the extra month, but having a new entry from The Legend of Zelda series right at the launch of a new Nintendo console? It had never happened before, and it was too tempting of an offer to pass up for many. Of course, Twilight Princess wasn't the only launch game to stir opening sales of the Wii (that other game will be on the list later on), but it certainly wasn't a detriment. Being able to swing the sword with the Wii Remote, control items like the Gale Boomerang and the Clawshot by pointing at the screen, and taking in the new version of Hyrule were all activities that were fresh and exciting at the time of the Wii's launch.

7) Soulcalibur (DC)

Alongside Sonic Adventure, another Dreamcast launch title that impressed was Soulcalibur from Namco's Project Soul. It was one of the small sampling of console games that outdid its arcade original in the graphics department. It didn't hurt that the game was an excellent eight-way fighter and introduced weapon-based combat. Soulcalibur amazed when it launched with the Dreamcast way back on 9-9-99, and it still amazes and has a fervent fan base to this day. It may not be an original game (it was an arcade port, as stated), but Soulcalibur bolstered the exciting launch lineup of the SEGA Dreamcast.

6) Halo (XBX)

We don't know what the fate of the Xbox would have been had it not been for a little first-person shooter known as Halo. Nintendo had the FPS market on home consoles mostly to themselves with the Nintendo 64, but they eschewed that with the GameCube. Thankfully for FPS fans with home consoles, Microsoft, more notably Bungie, jumped in to provide one of the best first-person shooters on home consoles. It was truly a killer app for the Xbox, and it's probably safe for us to say that without it, Microsoft's first console attempt wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful as it was thanks to Halo.

5) Tetris (GB)

An agreement allowed Nintendo to bundle Tetris with every Game Boy shipped to retailers. That decision would be an exceptionally smart one, as Tetris was the quintessential pick-up-and-play game. Players could sit down for small sessions to lengthy endurance marathons. It didn't require colorful graphics, of which the original Game Boy obviously had none. No, Tetris was a puzzle concept that took to many gamers. Nowadays, we take Tetris for granted, as it is on every imaginable device known to man. However, Tetris is is without question a major reason for why the Game Boy sold so well and began the handheld dynasty of Nintendo.

4) Wii Sports (Wii)

Alluded to in the Twilight Princess blurb, there have been few games on the market that have gotten attention from both the non-gamer and the gamer. Wii Sports bridged the gap, allowing people who had never played a video game before to get up and enjoy themselves. These weren't some low quality, low effort series of sports either. Each one offered a reasonable amount of depth-- enough to satisfy gamers while not being inaccessible to non-gamers. Wii Sports sold Wiis so well due to its simplicity to market. Nintendo really didn't have to explain anything. They simply had to show people playing, and then others got it. Without Wii Sports, the Wii might not have been the great success that it no doubt was.

3) Super Mario World (SNES)

While Wii Sports was a game that is on this list due to impact, both in the industry and culturally, Super Mario World leaps onto this list for the reason of its pure brilliance. It is simply put, an excellently crafted platforming experience that ushered in a new era of Mario. The 16-bit processor of the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom allowed for a wider palette of colors, offering more detail than had been seen previously. Levels were longer than past games in the series, delivering new challenges, surprises, and obstacles with each stage entered. Super Mario World blew our minds growing up, and it was one of the original games we played that sparked our imaginations.

2) Super Mario Bros. (NES)

Wii Sports delivered industry and cultural impacts. Super Mario World delivered an outstanding game. Super Mario Bros. delivered both, pretty much bringing the gaming industry in North America back from the abyss by itself. It was more complicated than many of the other games seen on any platforms. Super Mario Bros. was a side-scrolling juggernaut with secrets permeating from every orifice, a difficulty that was just right, and design that is still paralleled to this day. One might argue that the magic of Mario has disappeared in modern days, but as long as memories of such titles like this remain (and Nintendo keeps putting out titles like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D Land), that kind of argument is pure folly.

1) Super Mario 64 (N64)

Super Mario Bros. was to itself a revolution, but Super Mario 64 crafted one of the biggest revolutions in gaming history. It successfully brought Mario and Nintendo as a company into the 3D arms race. Many games had tried and failed in producing a working 3D game, but Super Mario 64's developers made it look effortless. There is no game today that doesn't owe some (even if it's .0001%) of its design and/or success to Super Mario 64. It inspired a whole generation of gamers, much like many of the Mario games that preceded it. It brought about many copycats and imitators, and it created the foundation and bar that many games would be judged by to this day. It's because the game was of the utmost quality through and through. It is for these reasons that we choose Super Mario 64 as the best launch game ever made.

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