The 8 Ball 11.12.13: Top 8 Launch Titles
Posted by Marc Morrison on 11.12.2013
From Mario 64 and Halo to Tetris, Wii Sports, and more, 411's Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Video Game Launch Titles!
Welcome again to another edition of The 8 Ball. With new consoles just around the corner, Liana and I decided to do a run-down of some of the best games that have launched on systems in the past. I took a slightly more modern approach and she took it old-school style with some Atari games. Generally speaking, launches usually aren't great. Most consoles are lucky to even have 2 good games at launch, with a majority of consoles having 1, or even none (Sega Saturn for one). Still, we've come up with lists that try and weed through some of the dreck to find the best launch games for systems. Enjoy:
8. Halo: Combat Evolved -- Xbox
I literally forgot this game until I was reminded of it by a friend. While Goldeneye was arguably the first mainstream first person shooter, Halo was the first "modern" first person shooter to have been released. It was more impressive that it was a launch title on a system that most people kind of disregarded when announced/debuted. But Halo put to rest a lot of people's initial concerns about the system by having a beautiful looking FPS with some god production values and a multiplayer system that college kids latched onto hard. I lost many an hours to the Battle Creek map alone. Ironically, when I first got my Xbox (near launch), the first game I bought was Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2X. Smooth move on my part, I can assure you.
7. Super Mario Bros -- NES
This is probably the controversial choice on my list but hear me out. The original SMB is a great game but it has some really odd difficulty spikes in spots. Getting around any of the water levels without a fire flower or Bowser's maze castles can be tedious nightmares to accomplish. But encountering a warp zone or using the infinite 1up trick can make this game a complete breeze, if you know how. It still defined the modern platformer with SMB 2 and SMB 3 (especially) building upon its legacy, but I don't have quite as many fond memories of it than other people.
6. Soul Calibur -- Dreamcast
The Dreamcast had a pretty shaky launch, at least around where I lived. A friend and I got a system of our own, with copies of Sonic Adventure and Hydro Thunder. We had to go back to the store two different times to swap out our copies of Sonic Adventure that would actually boot in our systems. And my copy of Hydro Thunder was never able to actually load a saved game. The marquee title of the system was Soul Calibur though. My friend and I rented that and got immediately hooked. I was a big Taki fan, and he was a Nightmare/Lizardman user. Soul Calibur perfectly exemplified that the Dreamcast was an arcade system in a box that could dramatically enhance the source material. Rest in peace Dreamcast.
5. Wii Sports --Wii
I'm not sure whether it is sad or impressive that the pack-in title for the Wii was not only a great game but also the best example of the technology (by a fairly large margin). Wii Sports was the catalysct for getting the Wii into people's homes and having families/friends gathered around it. Boxing, tennis, bowling, golfing and baseball showed people the basic idea of how to use the Wii-mote and what could actually be done with the system. Sorry Red Steel fans, but that game sucked hard! Wii Sports was the standard for Wii games on the systems, something other companies failed to live up to in lame mini-game collections that couldn't cut the mustard.
4. Amped 3 -- Xbox 360
My love for Amped 3 really knows no bounds. But I think if I put it any higher on my list, some of you people would be calling for my head more than you usually do, hence the number 4 spot. Amped 3 was the game to get when the 360 launched, only no one knew it at the time. The 360 launch was pretty weak at launch, a few exclusives here and there mixed with a lot of ported over crap from the previous generation (hey, kind of like this new launch!). Still, Amped 3 separated itself from the pack by being completely over the top in the most endearing way possible. The basic gameplay is competent enough but it's everything that surrounds it, it what drives this game home. It's still a shame that Indie Built was closed down quickly after making this gem.
3. Tetris -- Gameboy
Tetris existed before the Gameboy sure, but it hit critical mass as the pack-in game when the Gameboy launched. Suddenly, you had thousands (and soon millions) of kids playing it and figuring it out. My earliest gaming memory is with Tetris, it was a school field trip and the kid next to me had it on his Gameboy which I played for a little while. It is still one of the most fondly remembered games for the Gameboy and as the purest version of Tetris. None of that "infinite spin" crap was in this game, thank god.
2. Super Mario 64 -- Nintendo 64
Super Mario 64 was the game to really push 3D worlds/gaming into the pop culture. There were other 3D games out sure, but most of them were kind of clunky (Tomb Raider) or else had fixed camera perspectives (Crash Bandicoot) but Mario 64 gave both you and Mario the freedom to do what you want. Having a camera that you could control (and control well) gave you a lot of freedom in figuring out how to tackle a problem. Plus, Mario got a lot of new moves in this game from the double (and triple) jump, the wall jump, the slide, the wall jump, and the most important move of them all: the butt stomp. Really, Mario 64 remained the best platformer on the Nintendo 64 until the system went away. And was still better than Mario Sunshine.
1. Super Mario World -- Super Nintendo
While Mario 64 might be the great platformer on the N64, Mario World might just be the greatest platformer of all time, or at least tied with Mario 3. Mario World really stepped up platforming by having easy/fun levels to challenging/hard ones. Some of the "SPECIAL" levels are especially savage. While Mario World pared down some of the suits/powers from Mario 3, it went further in making the ones you use awesome, and meaningful. The cape alone might be the best power up in any Mario game. The over-world was nicely detailed as well, offering alternate paths to get to areas and a metric ton of secrets for you to discover. Plus, for good or for bad, it introduced Yoshi, and more importantly introduced Blue Yoshi. Blue Yoshi was the best of the lot.
The Better Half with Liana K
Well, it's that time again: I new generation of game consoles! I tend to approach console launches with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I want to get excited. But I also want to insulate myself against the crushing disappointment that comes from the machines not living up to their promise. Based on twitter chatter, I'm not alone, so the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 have their work cut out for them overcoming the adage that only an idiot buys a console in its first six months. But there have been times in the past where a breakout hit arrived as a launch title, so in the spirit of optimism, I give you these eight bright spots I've enjoyed.
8: Resistance: Fall of Man (Playstation 3)
While not the greatest shooter ever, Resistance: Fall of Man was an early forerunner of Playstation's mandate to create gritty, emotionally-charged stories for grown-ups... and the auger was a really fun weapon. Furthermore, if you look at Sony's track record on launch titles, it's amazing there was anything worth playing when the Playstation 3 released, never mind a game that was praised by critics.
7: Rayman Raving Rabbids (Wii)
Wow, the original Raving Rabbids trailer was weird, even by Ubisoft standards. Then the Rabbids turned out to be nearly the only third-party games worth playing on the Wii. Branching off into a Nickelodeon cartoon is probably part of their plan for world domination, but as long as bunnies love to dance, that's okay with me.
6: Space Invaders (Atari 5200)
Space Invaders was the first "killer app" on the Atari 2600. For those late to the party, the Atari 5200 provided a suped up version of the game at launch, with an amazing innovation: Multiple alien colors. Hey, that was big stuff back in 1982. My parents still had a black and white TV.
5: Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
This is the game that got me into video games. It's hard for modern gamers to understand the siren call emitted by Namco's coin-op arcade machines, but knowing you could have glorious, glorious Pac-Man right on your own TV was a life-changing thing for kids in the 1980s. Don't take my word for it: watch the video for a dozen different incarnations of the game.
4: Safari Hunt (Sega Master System)
Duck Hunt got all the glory, but Safari Hunt was a superior game. Not only was there just way more to do, the light phaser worked better and shooting off the bear's fur was just strangely satisfying, never mind shooting the armadillo into a bouncing ball, or turning ducks into rotisserie chickens. It was animated violence that would make Bugs Bunny proud! (Skip to about 1:15 in the video to see the bear)
3: Wii Sports (Wii)
Roll your eyes if you want: this is the game that got my mother into games. Well, okay, she played solitaire but she didn't seek out anything that didn't come pre-installed on windows. Then came Wii Sports, a gateway drug to Hidden Express and Candy Crush Saga. As much as we heap scorn on casual gamers, there're a lot more of them than there are of us hardcores, and a balance sheet doesn't care how hardcore a person's money is.
2: Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)
Halo: Combat Evolved really was an evolution in games. It took first person shooters out of the hands of bourgeois PC gamers and gave it to the console proletariat. It also created the video game world's version of Star Wars: a franchise that is a license to print money regardless of the uneven quality of subsequent titles. The original Halo was that unpredictable phenomenon that is the stuff of an accounting department's wet dream, and unlike so many of their other franchises, Xbox has actually gone to great lengths to promote and protect the IP... maybe because they own it, unlike their other exclusives.
1: Super Mario Bros (Nintendo Entertainment System)
In terms of cultural phenomenon, there's really nothing that compares to Super Mario Bros. The soundtrack is immediately identifiable. Many people have the first level committed to memory. "Sorry... your princess is in another castle" is a meme with a life of its own. And the game even spawned numerous conspiracy theories about why Princess Peach keeps getting kidnapped. If Halo is video games' Star Wars, then Mario is its Mickey Mouse, and he's the primary reason that Nintendo triumphed over Sega back in the day. You know a game is beloved when even its glitches are celebrated. (Check out the video.)
Launch game lineups are almost a universally a terrible breed. Outside of Resistance for PS3, Sony has yet to have any quality games for any of the Playstation launches. Fantavision is a good joke, but hardly a good game. Hell, the PSP and Vita have had better launches than the PS1, PS2, or PS3. There are a few other good Dreamcast launch titles, but not strong enough to make this list. My "unofficial" 9th game on this list might be Perfect Dark Zero. It actually was my 8th originally, but I had forgot about Halo, and switched it out, since I knew if I kept Halo off mass rioting would occur.
The General Roundup
The big omission from last week's list was probably Bully, which someone did mention in the comments. You don't actually kill anyone in that game, the worst you can do is knock them out for a while. I like to think that anyone who was rolled up into a Katamari was squished by the gravitational forces contained within. Sonic the Hedgehog is also an interesting choice that I didn't think of. Except in very rare cases does he fight against a living creature/person. And even when he does, they always survive at the end. So good pick on that one.