Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Tuesday 10s - Launch Titles

With the Xbox Series of consoles releasing today and the PlayStation 5 launching on Thursday, it's a big week for gaming. To commemorate the occasion, SuperPhillip Central takes a look at arguably the best launch titles to ever release with gaming systems. From the NES and Wii, to the Dreamcast and Xbox, this list has some truly fantastic titles. After you've checked out the picks--listed purely in alphabetical order--let the community know which titles from past console launches are your favorites.

Halo: Combat Evolved (XBX)

The game that solidified Microsoft as a contender in the console race, Halo: Combat Evolved is the FPS that had it not been a part of the original Xbox launch lineup, the Xbox brand most likely wouldn't have anywhere near the success as it does. Further, it might not even be around to this day. The original Halo introduced the world to Master Chief and his battle against the Covenant. With a single player campaign that's worth the price of admission all to itself, and a robust multiplayer component that would be built upon for future sequels (including much needed online play), Halo: Combat Evolved delivered in every meaning of the word.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (NSW)

After many delays and much hype, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild finally released alongside the Nintendo Switch (also launching on the Wii U the same day). The game eschewed the traditions of The Legend of Zelda format, bringing with it one of the most creative and well executed open worlds in gaming--one that developers today are greatly inspired by. The amount of freedom presented to players in Breath of the Wild was immense, allowing them to attempt to take on the final boss whenever they desired, but through completing the game's four main dungeons, the task would be much easier to accomplish. The freedom available in Breath of the Wild wasn't just limited to the open world, which would be impressive all to itself, but also in how a player could solve puzzles. Many had more than one solution to them, allowing for some amazing amounts of creativity. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild created a bold new direction for the franchise, and it worked, quite abundantly.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)

We're not quite finished with Nintendo's iconic Legend of Zelda franchise yet. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess released initially as a Nintendo Wii launch title, with the Nintendo GameCube version being delayed to make the Wii version more appealing. The Wii version featured motion controls, having players swing the Wii Remote around to initiate sword strikes among other pronounced gestures. While this could be seen as a negative, it says a lot about Twilight Princess that the game remained enjoyable despite this motion-controlled caveat. Twilight Princess features some of the best dungeons in series history, offers an interesting story, and possesses one of Link's greatest companions in the impish Midna. All of this adds up to one unforgettable adventure that may be superior on other platforms like the GameCube and Wii U (especially the latter due to the quality of life changes made), but is still remarkable on Wii.

SoulCalibur (DC)

Based off of the arcade game Soul Edge, SoulCalibur isn't just the Sega Dreamcast's greatest launch title, but it's one of the greatest launch titles ever. It inspired an entire generation of fighting games with its many innovations and brilliant execution. SoulCalibur separated itself from the rest of the fighting game pack with its eight-direction movement, as well as focus on weaponry like sword and spears. The fighting itself in SoulCalibur was fast and fluid, offering an insanely satisfying game to play. The series has only grown since its origins in arcades and on the Dreamcast, currently on its sixth mainline installment as of this past generation. 

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

Rogue leader, standing by. One of the most technically impressive games on this list by virtue of looking drop-dead gorgeous even to this day, Star Wars: Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II was one of the big launch titles for the Nintendo GameCube. Without a Mario game to headline the launch lineup--something that was unheard of at the time for a Nintendo system--it was left to a handful of other interesting games to pick up the slack, including Luigi's Mansion, Wave Race: Blue Storm, Super Monkey Ball, and yes, Star Wars: Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II. The game featured an abundance of missions picked directly from the original trilogy, as well as several missions that weren't in the films at all. From the raid on the cloud city of Bespin to the almost overwhelming battle of Endor with all of those TIE Fighters flying in your face that you must weave through, Star Wars: Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II brought GameCube owners one of the best Star Wars video game experiences to date.

Super Mario 64 (N64)

Get ready for a triple dose of Mario! It's no surprise that Mario would be a mainstay on a list like this of the greatest launch titles of all time, and one of his most revolutionary games is the incredible Super Mario 64. This 3D platformer showed the gaming world how it was done with enjoyable, expansive sandbox-style environments, open-ended design, and a multitude of tricks in Mario's platforming repertoire. Mario entered a brave new world with Super Mario 64, and he mostly nailed it. It truly says a lot about how well this launch title from 1996 for the Nintendo 64 manages to remain relevant after more than two decades, as evident by my recent play-through in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection on the Switch. Super Mario 64 is one of the most important video games of all time in conveying how to properly bring a gaming superstar into the third dimension and do it well.

Super Mario Bros. (NES)

I mentioned that Super Mario 64 was one of the most revolutionary games of all time, but even with Mario's leap into 3D, it still takes a back seat to Mario's major 2D outing on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario Bros. is the pinnacle of creativity and a superb game to this day. The controls remain rock solid and tight, the challenge is enjoyable and seldom unfair. Super Mario Bros. is consistently called one of the most important video games ever created, and judging by the game's impact in the industry and what followed, its legacy is rightfully earned. 

Super Mario World (SNES)

While Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario 64 brought Mario into the 2D side-scrolling platformer and 3D respectively to fantastic results, Super Mario World was more of an evolution than a revolution for the portly plumber. Mario's first foray into the 16-bit era of gaming saw him exploring Dinosaur Land, partnering up with Yoshi, entering secret-filled, creatively designed levels on a non-linear world map, battling Bowser in one of the most impressive and exciting 2D battles in Mario series history, and donning power-ups like the brand-new Cape to soar through the air with glee. Super Mario Bros. was a revolutionary title, no doubt, but it's Super Mario World that took the foundations laid by the NES classic and made for a much better, much more impressive, greater evolution of a game in the series, making it one of my favorite launch titles of all time.

Tetris (GB)

Like Halo: Combat Evolved, it would probably be a different story for Nintendo's Game Boy portable system had the import from Russia, Alexey Pajitnov's Tetris, not been available at launch--or at all--for the little handheld that could. Now a mainstay in gaming and the top puzzle game of all time, launching on dozens upon dozens of video game systems in numerous forms, Tetris saw players moving falling Tetromino blocks of various shapes to the board below. The goal was simple, to make straight horizontal lines full of blocks to remove them from the board and rack up a high score in the process. Once the board fills up with Tetrominoes, the game ends. While several releases of Tetris have been made available, in particular the Game Boy version is one of the best selling games ever. It's not hard to see why when portables are generally the perfect and most comfortable place to play puzzle games, at least in this writer's opinion.

Wii Sports (Wii)

The game that was a worldwide phenomenon inside and outside of the typical gaming sphere, Wii Sports singlehandedly sent Wii consoles flying off store shelves, having gamers and non-gamers alike up and enjoying the five sports featured in the game. From golf, to the ultra-popular tennis and bowling, to baseball and boxing, Wii Sports defined the Wii's lifespan, for better or worse. The game's popularity meant that third parties went to chase after the same audience despite other more gamer-oriented launch titles also saw great success like the aforementioned Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Despite this, Wii Sports remains one of the greatest launch titles that paved the way for the early domination of the Wii in the console market. 

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