With each new console comes a promise of gorgeous new worlds, brilliant new level design and, best of all, genres and concepts we never could have predicted. The first time you sit down with your new machine is a treasured day of pure discovery, for in that brief moment everything is fresh again. Provided, that is, you chose the correct game from the launch lineup.
Not all launch games are equal. Oftentimes the games that help kick off a console are gussied-up versions of the same stuff we’ve been playing, or cash-grabbing releases meant to capitalize on the launch day fervor. But somewhere in the pile is the gem, the one game that encapsulates everything that’s great about your expensive new piece of hardware. And here we’ve narrowed down the best of the best.
Groan as much as you want. That won’t change the fact Wii Sports jump-started Nintendo’s sagging business and made the Wii console a worldwide, cross-audience hit in a way that Twilight Princess simply could not. Wii Sports was the ideal companion piece for the motion-controlled console, providing a perfect jumping-on point for people who hadn’t played a game in years, as well as a damn fun party game regardless of your “hardcore” status.
Above: Plus you can thank it for all the lifestyle images that are so fun to deface
Today, it’s hard to look at Wii Sports as one of the best launch games, mainly because of the glut of poorly thought out copycats that flooded the system months later, plus the lackluster delivery of future motion-heavy games. Wii Sports led us to believe there would be inventive new ways of controlling games on the way, but all we got were minigame compilations and, years later, Wii MotionPlus to make the Wii Remote behave as it was originally pitched to us. But none of these subsequent truths make our inaugural months with Wii Sports any less desirable, so as far as making us feel like our day-one purchase was worth it, Wii Sports totally delivered.
Accurately described as “Tetris in a disco shirt,” Lumines took the dead-simple gameplay of a block-breaking puzzle game and slathered it in enough neon lights to make it visible from space. Granted, the guts were more or less like any other puzzler (clear blocks before they pile up), but the flashy presentation and genius use of reactive dance music made it feel far cooler than any Tetris clone we’d played before. As the video illustrates, the music wasn’t just there to bore its way into your brain. Each time you clear a chunk of blocks there’s an added layer of aural pleasure, with various dings and beeps signifying your continued success.
Above: Pure bliss
This combination of club-quality music, dazzling visuals and habit-forming gameplay was impossible on any prior handheld, making this the ideal launch title for a new portable system, more so than any other PSP game on the shelf that day (Wipeout and Twisted Metal were great, but they were still shrunken-down console games). Lumines was a clever, beautiful stab at the puzzle genre, one that was every bit as addictive as Tetris, so it’s sad that the brand was diminished by three sequels in just one year.