GameCentral readers name the best and worst console launch games, from the classic Zelda: Breath Of The Wild to the PS2’s The Bouncer.
The question for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Traxxus and wasn’t necessarily about the launch game that you like the most but the one that left the biggest impression, either good or bad.
There were lots of Super Mario games mentioned, as you’d imagine, and also lots of Halo, but also a lot of amused mentions of Knack, proving that it’s not always the good games that you remember the most.
The complete package
It’s Halo: Combat Evolved for me, on the original Xbox. It was one of those rare times that you knew you were seeing something grounbreaking, something that hadn’t been done before and that would change everything in the future. That’s exactly what it did and in the end it was probably the only thing worth a damn on the whole console, beyond Halo 2.
Of course Halo 2 revolutionised everything even further by being online but I never felt it’s single-player was as good, so it wasn’t the complete package for me.
I wasn’t at the right edge to get a Super Mario 64 and an N64 but that’s the only game I’ve heard talked about in the same way as Halo. Although considering how many 3D platformers there are in the world, and how many shooters, I’d argue that it’s Halo that has had the most lasting influence.
Looking the part
The first game that came to mind this, probably because you mentioned it not mattering whether it was a good or bad first impression is Square Enix’s The Bouncer on PlayStation 2. For me it’s the best example of a game that looked great, and really showed off the capabilities of the console, but was an utter dog to play.
I looked up some videos on YouTube before writing this and the game still looks surprisingly decent, better than most PlayStation 2 but it was just so bad to play. And the endless cut scenes! I’m sure there was more of those than there was actual game!
Inevitably, I think launch games do get judged by a different standard, because at the end of the day you’ve got to buy something with your new console or there’s no point getting it. Unfortunately this often leads to you ending up with something that is impressive for the first day and then is quickly revealed to be a clunker. Although they never got any clunkier than The Bouncer.
I mean, the obvious one here is Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, even if some will claim that’s cheating because it was really a Wii U game, which meant Nintendo had more time to make it than most other launch games. Whatever.
Breath Of The Wild, as far as I’m concerned, is the best game ever. I except it to be good, because it’s a Zelda, but I never expected it to be this good, or for the Switch to be so amazing. That has been the best gaming experience I’ve had probably since I was a kid and I can never imagine it being bettered.
Of course it stands out even more because most launch games are so bad, even Nintendo ones recently (well, maybe not bad but certainly not Super Mario 64 standards). Imagine if 1-2-Switch had been the launch game for the Switch and how that would’ve turned out!
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Sometimes I’m not sure if people are joking when they say that Knack is a good game. I’m pretty sure they are because, as far as I’m concerned, it’s absolutely terrible but the fact that it’s by the game that also invented the console itself I think some people get very defensive about it.
It’s a hilariously bad game, that seems like the exact opposite of what a launch game should be: terrible graphics (the whole being made out of little bits of metal is clearly meant to be impressive but it isn’t and the rest of the game acts like something out of the PlayStation 2 era), slow and boring gameplay, and the fact that everything seems really old-fashioned and lame.
I’d say I don’t know how the game ever got a sequel but of course I do: the same reason it got greenlit in the first place. A part of me really wants to see Knack 3 get announced for the PlayStation 5 too, and it’d be even better if it was a launch game as then we’d know that Marc Cerny must be purposefully putting this into his contract or something.
One of my earliest memories of playing a video game is getting Super Mario World on the SNES for my Christmas. Needless to say the fact that that game turned out so great is the reason I’m writing this and still into games. Imagine if I had got a copy of Super Soccer instead!
I imagine this Hot Topic is going to be dominated by Nintendo games as they’ve always seemed to understand the importance of a good launch game. Which in turn is linked to their understanding of how to combine software and hardware in the best way possible, changing both to suit the game if needs be.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the consoles with the weakest launch titles, the GameCube and Wii U, are also the least successful ones. Hopefully that’s a lesson they’ve learned now. Although I do feel that they got kind of lucky with Zelda: Breath Of The Wild as if they hadn’t already been working on that I’m not sure they would’ve had anything ready for the Switch.
It is your destiny
In terms of steering my future path in gaming I would say it was the SNES port of Final Fight. It has several flaws but as soon as I saw pictures of it in Mean Machines I knew I needed this exotic looking Super Famicom machine when I upgraded from my Master System.
After about two years of waiting and saving up my paper round money I bought a PAL SNES at launch and have been an unashamed Nintendo fanboy ever since.
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Once in a lifetime
I’ve seen every console launch for about 30 years, and for me during that time there could only be one possible contender for the most memorable launch title: Super Mario 64. Still have vivid memories to this day of seeing it for the first time on Bad Influence when Violet Berlin covered all the ‘Ultra 64’ games. Mario 64 was mindblowing from the first look at a playable prototype.
And, of course, when it came out it was an incredible game and a very sure-footed first step into 3D for Mario. It’s almost unfair to other games, as I don’t think the impact could ever be matched because the leap from consoles with hardware designed to make 2D games to ones designed to make 3D games only happens once. And visually (which is going to leave the biggest impact) the improvement has felt smaller with every successive generation. Maybe if we ever get true holographic TVs!
I don’t hold launch games to a different standard. If there’s nothing I want I just wouldn’t buy the console – I waited a couple of years before getting a PSP after being underwhelmed at first, for instance.
Other than Mario 64, some of my fave launch games were Super Mario World, Star Wars: Rogue Leader, Virtua Fighter 3tb, Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, and Panzer Dragoon (kind of, Panzer Dragoon was a US launch title and we got it the next month), as they were all super fun games too.
I think the only launch game that I enjoyed back then but now seems pretty limited is F-Zero. F-Zero GX surpassed it to a staggering degree and going back to the original now just isn’t much fun to me.
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