The Top 7... Best launch games of all time

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.

7 – Wii Sports (Wii, 2006)

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.

6 – Lumines (PSP, 2005)

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.


Top 7

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  • thefreakysurgeon - August 26, 2010 9:37 p.m.

    Super Mario 64 was the BEST! Not my favorite game on the N64, though (Paper Mario is my favorite N64 game)
  • frogfromchronotriggerisactuallyjesus - August 24, 2010 1:20 a.m.

  • Bhup666 - August 20, 2010 10:26 a.m.

    For the first time in my life, I totally agree on a list on the internet! With everything! I loved Tetris on Gameboy back in 1990 when I first got that handhold console. Just loved it!! It's still my favorite game on DS.
  • Camoxide - August 18, 2010 9:13 p.m.

    wtf you had Wii sports over Twilight princess?
  • elpurplemonkey - August 18, 2010 6:25 a.m.

    Definitely one of the better Top 7's in the last few weeks. My personal number one would be Super Mario World, but I recognize that the list is more about impact on the system and the video game landscape than personal taste. Also, echoing another poster above me- way too many people don't know what the word 'launch' means.
  • bhamjustin - August 18, 2010 2:36 a.m.

    What a great & nastalgic (SP?) Top 7! I was sure that Mario was going to take the #1 spot with the NES, but when I saw you'd really thought this through and saw Tetris held that spot, I knew you were right. The fact that Tetris is now playable on all stages/platforms/anything, you are truly correct. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
  • CoktorBloktopus - August 17, 2010 11:26 p.m.

    i love all of theses game. I have been laid because of WII .
  • fanboyhunter - August 17, 2010 10:08 p.m.

    Great article Brett! My pick would be Halo for #1 and Mario64 as #2 but I see your reasoning and agree.
  • Ravenbom - August 17, 2010 9:13 p.m.

    Thank you for taking the risk of saying "Wii Sports". As a hardcore gamer myself I can't deny the impact that it's had. There are people that think the Wii only plays one (5) games: Wii Sports. It's impossible to ignore. Though, if you want to get super hardcore, Pong is where it all started and it was HUGE in the land before I was hanging around in my father's ballsack. I would have changed out SoulCalibur for Pong, personally. Still, I personally can't argue with the entries at all, love it!
  • GameManiac - August 17, 2010 7:04 p.m.

    One of the best Top 7 articles in a while, especially since I've played all of the games on the list, except for Soul Caliber and Lumines.
  • SHAPATTAK - August 17, 2010 4:06 p.m.

    I had Tetris dreams for days after playing it for the first time on Gameboy (for hours straight).
  • Bitchslapthehomeless - August 17, 2010 2:55 p.m.

    This some ho-ass-shit to not include Kameo. Nah, just kidding.
  • joshin69 - August 17, 2010 1:49 p.m.

    For me ridge racer could and should have been on there for the PS
  • skyline19 - August 17, 2010 12:02 p.m.

    glad halo was in there, the memories :)
  • philipshaw - August 17, 2010 11:04 a.m.

    I agree with the number 1 but saying I wasn't born when it came out, Mario 64 is still my favorite lauch game
  • AuthorityFigure - August 17, 2010 9:05 a.m.

    So many sales, so few memories...
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - August 17, 2010 7:20 a.m.

    TECHNICALLY the N64 puttered through a final year and died in 2002, but there were no games released in the US in 2003, and 2001 was so utterly devoid of content that the system was effectively dead a month before the GameCube launched in November '01. 2001 had Paper Mario, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Madden 2002 and the Power Puff Girls game as the only notable releases. Very sad. Then THPS3 in 2002 as an afterthought.
  • QWERTYCommander - August 17, 2010 6:56 a.m.

    Hey Brett, the N64's funeral wasn't in 2001, it was in 2003, with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3.
  • PanzerDSS - August 17, 2010 6:48 a.m.

    No Panzer Dragoon? :(
  • jmcgrotty - August 17, 2010 6:21 a.m.

    I always found it humorous that at the time of the PS2s release, FantaVision was getting rave reviews.