When we were coming up with this list of the 10 Best Video Game Launch Titles Ever, we had to ask ourselves: what makes a good launch title? Is it the killer app that sells a console? Or maybe it is a bundled game that introduced a console to a new market? Maybe it's a game that we overlooked at the time, but that changed the way we develop games as a whole? Examples of all these and more are included in our list of the 10 Best Video Game Launch Titles Ever.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess gets in at number 10 on our list of 10 Best Video Game Launch Titles Ever, only because it was a multi-console release. It came out for both the Wii and the Gamecube, and the Gamecube version sold pretty well. Still, the idea of being able to play as Link while actually swinging his sword around was enough to qualify as “killer app” for many prospective Wii owners.
The SNES’s technological claim to fame was Mode 7 graphics, so of course it needed a launch title to show them off. No title did this better than Pilotwings, which was basically a scaling and stretching texture fest. While it may look primitive now, skydiving at a ground that progressively got bigger as you approached it was mind-blowing for the 16-bit days.
Nintendo is always pretty careful about producing launch titles that show off their new technology. Wii Sports, for example, showed off what was so cool about motion control. In fact, many casual gamers purchased a Wii and never purchased any other games because Wii Sports tennis was cool enough for them.
Now we go back to the Mode 7 days for F-Zero. Back in the 16-bit wars between the SNES and the Sega Genesis, speed was a huge selling point for games. F-Zero was the game that showed the SNES was able to keep in-step with the Genesis’s “blast processing.” It used the SNES’s mode seven capabilities to make you feel like you were in a wacky hover-car zero-g environment, and it did it well.
The Dreamcast was one of the best consoles for fighting games. It had Power Stone, Marvel vs Capcom 2, and at launch it had Soul Calibur, a revolutionary new take on what gamers knew as Soul Blade. This was one of the first big fighting games, or games in general, that Dreamcast owners purchased, and it made several people literally make Dreamcast fighting sticks from scratch on day one of the Dreamcast’s release.
It looks primitive now, but Super Mario 64 was a huge showcase of new technology at its time of release. Fully polygonal 3D worlds? An analog stick that alters your movement based on the distance you push it? Movable textures and scaling objects? Holy crap, its black magic! Super Mario 64 was so hype, Nintendo Power actually sent out VHS preview videos to subscribers, just to get them excited for the N64. That’s why Super Mario 64 is on our list of the 10 Best Launch Titles Ever.
A lot of these great video game launch titles belong to Nintendo, and for good reason. They really knows how to push a new piece of technology. In fact, it was the bundling of Tetris with the Game Boy that made it an almost universal success. Everyone wanted a Game Boy, whether you were a five year-old kid or a 40 year-old working Mom. Tetris wasn’t even a Nintendo created game! It was just a really skillful property acquisition.
When Microsoft entered the console war, they needed a killer app to succeed. Many third party companies tried to break into the console business and failed, simply because consoles are too expensive to really have people take a chance on them, especially when already existing consoles have huge libraries of games for gamers to choose from. Luckily, the first person shooter market on consoles was thin, and with few alternatives to choose from, Halo was the console exclusive that made the Xbox a success.
When you ask gamers which 2D Mario game is the best, they will either say Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. SMW was the first game to introduce Yoshi, Ghost Houses, the Star World, Bowser’s Clown Car, and had one of the most awesome Mario power-ups of all time, the Cape Feather. It was also one of the first 2D Mario games to have post game content! Super Mario World arguably perfected the 2D platformer formula, with multiple worlds, mid-boss levels, secret areas, and more. It’s truly timeless and you can still see gamers competing for SMW speed runs on Youtube today.
While Super Mario World perfected the plaformer genre, Super Mario Bros. practically invented it. It took platformers away from arcadey outings like Donkey Kong and instead made them multi-stage, multi-level afairs that had a beginning and end. Mario sold the NES, and for that matter sold an entire new generation of gamers on the idea of video games themselves. In a way, Super Mario Bros. isn’t just a launch title for the NES, it’s a launch title for the video game fandom in general. That’s why it’s #1 on our list of the 10 Best Video Game Launch Titles ever.
next: 25 best snes games