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

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2 – Super Mario Bros (NES, 1985)

As revolutionary as Mario 64 was, even it owes a debt a gratitude to the original Bros tile that helped launch the NES. The first SMB is so well-known it’s barely worth explaining, but for the sake of completion, let’s start with the fact it’s almost entirely responsible for establishing Nintendo as a hardware leader and making the Mario franchise a worldwide craze, as well as saving what was left of the games industry after the console crash of 1983.

So it was a big deal. Sold 40 million copies in its life. But what made it so irresistible? For us, it was mostly the sense of exploration, that there was more going on in this side-scrolling world than what you could immediately see. Hidden warp zones meant you had to think outside the boundaries of the level, while invisible blocks and secret pipe areas rewarded you for constant experimentation. This wasn’t a game about score or even really seeing and ending – it was about fun, about having a virtual playground. The NES was an outstanding machine with plenty going for it (better controllers, gimmicky peripherals and the template for today’s third-party licensing deals), but it was Super Mario Bros that rocketed it to the top as the world’s most-sold videogame – until Wii Sports took that crown in 2009.


1 - Tetris (Game Boy, 1989)

Earlier in the Top 7 we gave a shout-out to Lumines as the best possible launch title for a portable system. That’s still true, but the reason it’s true is because of what happened with Tetris, the worldwide phenomenon that put Game Boy in more homes than any videogame device up to that point. With gameplay this pure, you didn’t need colors or even more than a d-pad and a button – literally anyone could play Tetris, either in bite-sizes sessions while in transit or hours-long brain dumps after another 10-hour work day.


Above: The immortal tune, Music A


Above: And then a live rendition from The OneUps at PAX 2007 (I’m somewhere in there…)

The story of how Tetris came to be a Game Boy pack-in is actually quite interesting, perhaps most notably told in the go-to Nintendo tome, Game Over. There are condensed versions all over the net, but to really appreciate the multiple layers of conflict (including Nintendo, Tengen, creator Alexey Pajitnov, a gaggle of suits and even the USSR) you should read the original work. Such amazing effort for a seemingly simple product, which was rewarded with millions of sales and a 16-page feature in Nintendo Power. Sixteen pages for Tetris, people.


Above: As this Australian ad shows, Tetris wasn’t just marketed to the usual “gamer” crowd. It hit big with almost every demographic

It’s easy to dismiss Tetris in 2010, but there’s no doubt in our minds that it’s the most appropriate and infinitely replayable launch game in history. Publisher Henk Rogers said it best while convincing Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa to use Tetris as the pack-in game:


"If you want to sell Game Boy to little boys, then pack in Mario. If you want sell Game Boy to everyone, pack in Tetris."

“Little boys” may seem like a slam, but at the time that was the primary target for just about all of videogames. The foresight to attach Tetris to the Game Boy put Nintendo on the map in way even the NES couldn’t, and planted the seeds of Wii’s eventual outreach to the widest possible audience for a Nintendo console. This list may change a bit over the next 10 years, but we can’t imagine a game will ever come along that’s a better fit than Tetris was for the Game Boy.

Aug 16, 2010

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83 comments

  • 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.

    WHAT ABOUT ARC RISE FANTASIA
  • 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.

Showing 1-20 of 83 comments

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