The Top Ten Most Important Launch Titles Of All Time

A launch title can make or break a system. When people first saw an arcade perfect version of Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision, their first reaction was probably to feel all over their faces just to make sure that their heads hadn’t exploded. The inverse applies, too, though. When people first saw Cybermorph for the Atari Jaguar, their first reaction was probably to tiger uppercut themselves right in the kidneys (*thinks about how that would actually work*) for actually believing the TV when it said that the Jaguar was 64 bits when in reality, it was only 12.

So, why this story now then when there isn’t a new system coming out for years? Well, after just forking over $150 to my friend for his PS3 just so I can play God of War 3 when it comes out in March, I thought back to all the systems I picked up on day one just so I could get my filthy paws on all those delectable first day releases. But be warned with this list. The title of it is, “The Top Ten Most IMPORTANT Launch Titles Of All Time,” not “The Top Ten BEST Launch Titles Of All Time,” so don’t get mad when you see that the best game on this list is only at number 6. My qualifications were that these titles had to be SO important that they pretty much guided players to buy these consoles and stick with them for quite awhile, all because of the novelty (Because let’s face it, that’s what most launch titles are for—to show off what a system is made of) debut title. Also, I put the games much higher on this list if they reached a point where people instantly connect the system to that game whenever they think of it. So, without further ado, the top ten most important launch titles of all time.

10. Geometry Wars (X-Box Live Arcade)

While not technically a launch title for a system, this overly simplistic (But genuinely genius) game kick-started the whole X-Box Live phenomenon and seriously brought the “arcade” back to the gamers. With an objective as simple as racking up high scores, Geometry Wars was important for Microsoft online because it showed that great games could also be affordable, too. Oh, and did I mention it was addictive as all hell? Getting killed by a puny triangle early on would mean trying to get yourself killed for the rest of your tries just so you could start all over again and do a better job the next time. Most importantly though was that this game truly turned people on to the possibilities of what a single-player online game could do. And it did this by giving them the opportunity to actually post their high scores on-line for the whole WORLD to see. Online console gaming would never be the same.

9. Tetris (Gameboy)

Okay, show of hands for how many people truly fell in love with Tetris when it first came out for the Gameboy in 1989. While a Mario game DID come out on the same day in the states (The sumptuous Super Mario Land, of course), it was Tetris that was the REAL gem when the Gameboy first came out. Really, even though the Wii appears to be the gender-bending, multi-age group reaching console of the millennium, it was the Gameboy that was the TRUE trendsetter for this concept, as everybody loves Tetris, young and old, estrogen fueled and testosterone pumping. If you ask me, it was THIS game that single-handedly made Nintendo the go-to company when it came to handheld systems.

8. Call of Duty 2 (X-Box 360)

Oh, snap, Microsoft releases a brand new system after the success of their predecessor, and there’s no Halo to come out on launch day? What’s Microsoft to do? No worries here, people, as COD2 is here to take command. It was this game that officially proved that the idea of a first-person shooter on the X-Box didn’t necessarily have to be relegated to starring a green armor clad, Master Chief. This beautiful game, which had a plethora of awesome campaigns, truly showcased how pretty the graphics could be on the 360 and dared anybody to question if Microsoft still didn’t have what it took to be competitive in the next-gen console wars. Looking back at it today, it still impresses me, (Though, it’s completely overshadowed by Modern Warfare 2, but, really, how could it not be?).

7. Soulcalibur (Dreamcast)

Okay, so the Dreamcast was officially the end of Sega’s run in the hardware business. That still doesn’t stop Soulcalibur from being an overall impressive masterpiece on a highly underrated system. Many to this day cite that the Dreamcast’s biggest flaw was not the games themselves, but the fact that it was so easy to pirate games for it, and Soulcalbur is proof of the Dreamcast’s potential, as many people, after playing this game, were ready to claim Sega as the victor again as no console had been able to make a game this beautiful before. The gameplay was nothing to sneeze MRSA at, either. Sporting combat to die for and an updated 8 way run feature that allowed warriors to walk all around the screen in true 3D glory (None of that Battle Arena Toshinden rolling all over the place crap—more on THAT game in a minute), Sega proved that they finally made a powerful enough console to actually combat Sony’s newfound dominance on the market. Now, if only the system wasn’t so easy to burn games for…

6. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)

Besides pretty much being the trendsetter for all games on the system to have a dumb “64” after its title, Super Mario 64 shocked and awed pretty much everybody when it was unveiled to be the first TRULY realized 3D world in a platformer. In many ways, the argument could be made that, as far as how much it revolutionized games forever, that THIS is the most important launch title of all time. But the fact that the system as a whole was pretty much a failure (In Nintendo terms, anyway) kind of hurts this game’s spot on the list. Still, for anybody who played this game on launch day, THEY knew that the future of games was all wrapped up in this cartridge.

5. Super Mario World (Super Nintendo)

It seems that Sega, when they were in the hardware business anyway, really liked to jump the gun when it came to releasing consoles. The Genesis came out before the NES, the Saturn came out before the Playstation, and the Dreamcast came out before the X-Box. But let’s talk early 90’s now, shall we, when Sega was still a force to be reckoned with. The NES was still going strong in the late 80s, early 90s, with Super Mario Bros. 3 being the pinnacle of greatness for a console that had a slew of great (and also awful) titles. But what does Sega decide to do? Well, they decide to drop the H-bomb on Nintendo and release the Sega Mega Drive (That’s Genesis to you, buddy) ahead of time, and along with their release, they’d shortly unveil their new mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, and all of a sudden, Sega does what Nintendon’t. Aw, shit! Who the hell wants a Nintendo anymore when they can have BLAST PROCESSING?! (whatever the hell that is). So, when Nintendo was planning their feet-first leap into the 16-bit era, they had to come out strong with a REALLY superb first day title to make Sega look really dumb. And that game was Super Mario World, a game so awesome that Mario not only had to own the land on the Gameboy, but also the entire WORLD on the SNES. Awww, maaaan. That’s badass. Seriously, though, while SMW really wasn’t that big of a leap over the magnificent Super Mario Bros. 3, SMW WAS a good enough sign from Nintendo that they were going to keep it simple but also keep it classy, too by delivering the best games possible with their licensed characters. And with that simple gesture, they went on to prove that no matter what Sega threw at them, they’d still have superior titles, blast processing or not.

4. Battle Arena Toshinden (PS ONE)

Kids who look at Battle Arena Toshinden today will likely say, “You old farts are a bunch of idiots! What the hell were you THINKING?! This game blows a snow leopard’s ass!” But back when it first came out, the future of fighting games, which were all the rage back then, was in Sony’s hands, and thy name was Battle Arena Toshinden. Taking a very unique approach by releasing a game that wasn’t already an arcade staple and making it their lead-in title, Sony had the guts to take a risk, and man did it pay off. If you weren’t there to see it, then you wouldn’t BELIEVE how big this game was and how revolutionary it made Sony look for taking the CD route. While Sega had long been dabbling in this format (Sewer Shark anyone? No?), it was Sony that truly showed what CD’s were capable of. Today, the game looks like squashed cheese and sneezed polygons. But back then, there wasn’t anything in the WORLD stopping Battle Arena Toshinden. Nothing at all.

3. Super Mario Bros. (NES)

Mario IS Nintendo. If you ask any idiot off the street what game they remember most with the NES, it will probably be Super Mario Bros, no doubt about it (Unless they’re that weird guy on the subway who pushes up their glasses when they say Kid Icarus was the best instead). Well, while The Legend of Zelda may have been a more epic, better game, (Yeah, I said it) no game emphasized the Nintendo Entertainment System better than the original Super Mario Bros.. It’s footprint on the map of video games is undeniable, and the system, as good as people remember it to be, wouldn’t be diddly squat if not for this one title, which many people remember coming packaged with Duck Hunt or Track and Field. Put simply, Nintendo wouldn’t be where it is today if they hadn’t come out with this title, and I think that’s reason enough to place it so high on this list. It’s arguably the most important title on here.

2. Halo: Combat Evolved (X-Box)

Halo, as much as some people would like to believe, is NOT better or more important than Super Mario Bros.. No matter, Halo, as generic as it is (This is my bias speaking, of course. I know y’all love it) officially made the X-Box a household name over night. The sheer success of this title has led many gamers, who have been playing video games all their lives, to bow at the alter of Microsoft and proclaim the X-Box and 360 as two of the greatest consoles of all time, even though they’re both from an American company that doesn’t have the name brand recognition (As far as video games are concerned) of say, a Sony or a Nintendo. And that’s pretty potent stuff. At its essence though, Halo is a game that took the fun-loving thrill of a game like Counter-Strike and Quake and jumbled them up together to give gamers some of the most fast-paced and accessible action in an FPS ever. It’s a game that both the hardcore AND the casual could play, which I guess is the reason that so many people adored it. Quite simply, when people think X-Box, they think Halo, and if that doesn’t sum up what a killer-app is, then I don’t know what does.

1.Wii Sports (Nintendo Wii)

Oh, I just shot myself in the foot by putting this one at number 1, didn’t I? Well, not so fast, cowboy, as all those sold out Wii’s when the system first came out had to be because of SOMETHING, didn’t they? And it certainly wasn’t Red Steel. Really, it was all because of Wii Sports, which, as simplistic as it was, still managed to get people excited for Nintendo again and put the long battered company (with a string of weak entries with the Virtual Boy, Nintendo 64 and the Gamecube) back on top of the console heap. The secret to the success of the best selling game of all time (Though, to call it as such is a bit of a cheat as it came with the system), is that it truly showed how different the Wii was and also, how accessible it was, too. Images kept popping up online of grandmas who can’t even wipe their own asses properly, swinging that Wii-mote around, making the score 30-Love in the tennis portion of Wii Sports. So what if the hardcore gamers out there—such as the ones who would actually read through the entirety of this article—might have only played it for about a minute before they decided to boot up Twilight Princess, the rest of the masses out there fell head over heels for this game, making the Wii the dominant system of choice for the brief amount of time that it’s been around. Honestly,Wii Sports and the Nintendo Wii go hand-in-hand. Just make sure that you put a strap around said hand when actually playing this game, or that remote might go flying right through the window…

Oh, and as an added bonus, here are some launch games that totally sucked…

Clu Clu Land (NES) Fighting Street (NEC Turbo CD), Marky Mark: Make My Video (Sega CD), Street Fighter: The Movie (PSOne), Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy (Atari Jaguar), Luigi’s Mansion (Nintendo Gamecube), Fuzion Frenzy (Microsoft Xbox), Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360), Red Steel (Nintendo Wii), and Every launch title for the NGage.

What was YOUR favorite launch title game?

Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.