Launch Party: Nintendo Through The Years

The Nintendo Switch is finally here. If you were one of the lucky ones who were able to get your hands on the new console, you’re probably off playing the new Legend of Zelda game. How does this group of launch titles stack up to previous Nintendo generations?

Nintendo Entertainment System – October 18, 1985


Launch titles: 10-Yard Fight, Baseball, Clu Clu Land, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Hogan’s Alley, Ice Climber, Kung-Fu, Pinball, Stack-Up, Super Mario Bros., Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew. 
You’ve got a good amount of sports games on the new system in 1985, along with NES stalwarts like Excitebike and Ice Climbers. But the real gems, obviously, are Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt, which were eventually packaged together with the system. Mario ended up defining the company over the last 30-plus years, but I will never forget trying everything in my power to shoot that damned dog in Duck Hunt!

Super Nintendo Entertainment System – August 19, 1991


Launch titles: F-Zero, Gradius III, Pilotwings, Sim City, Super Mario World

Yeesh, that’s a steep drop off in the number of launch titles from the NES to the SNES. But the games are bigger and more expansive. The top title is clearly Super Mario World, which expanded on the map concept introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3 and also debuted Mario’s dinosaur sidekick, Yoshi. It’s still one of the best Mario games ever made.

snes_f-zero_boxartMario wasn’t the only reason to play this new console on launch, though. One of my favorite games of this console generation was F-Zero, which I consider to be the premiere Nintendo racing title of the pre-Mario Kart era (yeah, Mario Kart was coming soon, I know). The game featured a physics engine unlike anything that had been previously released and the challenging gameplay made you want to come back for more, NOT throw your controller against the wall like many other tough Nintendo games would. It’s a shame that Nintendo turned its racing game attentions towards regular Mario Kart releases, because I would bet a modern generation F-Zero game would be pretty sweet.

Nintendo 64 – September 29, 1996


Launch Titles: Pilotwings 64, Super Mario 64 

Wow, what a terrible selection for launch day for what was a revolutionary system for Nintendo. Hands down, the best launch title here was Super Mario 64, a one-player Mario game that brought the plumber into the 3D gaming world. Mario was jumping and flipping all around the castle as he searched for stars to collect while trying to rescue the Princess. The game redefined what a Mario game could be and did a great job of showing the potential of the Nintendo 64.

Nintendo GameCube – November 18, 2001


Launch Titles: All-Star Baseball 2002, Batman: Vengeance, Crazy Taxi, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 2, Disney’s Tarzan Untamed, Luigi’s Mansion, Madden NFL 2002, NHL Hits 20-02, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, Super Monkey Ball, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, Wave Race: Blue Storm

250px-lmboxNintendo turned things around a bit when it released its little lunch box console in 2001, with a considerable increase in launch titles over what they did for the Nintendo 64. For the first time, the company’s jumping plumber didn’t have a game of his own at launch. Instead, Nintendo gave the spotlight to his brother. In Luigi’s Mansion, he plays the role of a Ghostbuster, going through a mansion he just won and clearing it of the Boos and other baddies with his specialized vacuum cleaner.

Otherwise, the GameCube had a lot of licensed titles to kick off the new gaming generation, many of which could be played on the other systems that were available at the time. While the system had a lot more launch titles than the Nintendo 64, the console was a bit of a disappointment overall, and ended up feeling like a stopgap before Nintendo released what it felt was its video game console game changer the next generation.

Nintendo Wii – November 19, 2006


Launch Titles: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Call of Duty 3, Cars, Dragon Ball: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, Excite Truck, The Grim Adventures of Bill & Mandy, GT Pro Series, Happy Feet, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Madden NFL 07, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Monster 4×4: World Circuit, Need For Speed: Carbon, Rampage: Total Destruction, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Red Steel, SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature From the Krusty Krab, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Tony Hawk Downhill Jam, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, Wii Sports 

Who needs Mario? For the second straight generation, there’s no Mario game at launch. Instead, Wii early adopters were treated to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, one of the best looking Zelda games ever made (well, until today, I suppose…).

Honestly, I didn’t remember the Wii having that many launch titles, probably because everyone was too busy learning the ropes of the Wii’s new motion controls by playing Wii Sports, which was packaged with the system. Featuring four mini-games (Bowling, Baseball, Tennis and Boxing), Wii Sports was a popular feature at parties and guaranteed that people would be buying multiple controllers so everyone could take part in the fun.

One of the games I had the most fun with, surprisingly, was Trauma Center: Second Opinion, a game that used the Wii-mote’s motion controls to simulate surgery. I was hoping to get my dad, a surgeon, to play some games with me to see how he’d do. Alas, it never happened.

Nintendo Wii U – November 18, 2012


Launch Titles: Assassin’s Creed III, Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition, Ben 10: Omniverse, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Chasing Aurora, Darksiders II, Epic Mickey 2: the Power of Two, ESPN Sports Connection, FIFA Soccer 13, Funky Barn, Game Party Champions, Just Dance 4, Little Inferno, Madden NFL 13, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition, Nano Assault Neo, NBA 2K13, New Super Mario Bros. U, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Nintendo Land, Rabbids Land, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Sing Party, Skylanders: Giants, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition, Transformers: Prime – The Game, Trine 2: Director’s Cut, Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, Wipeout 3, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013, ZombiU

The Wii U had the most launch titles of any of the previous console generations, as Nintendo was trying to establish its new system among the powerhouses that Sony and Microsoft developed with the PlayStations and X-Boxes. Nintendo even debuted its new system a full year before the rest of the 8th generation of systems. Nintendo even pulled out all the stops with a new Mario game – New Super Mario Bros. U – available at launch, the first time that’s happened since the Nintendo 64.

Nothing on the list of launch titles above was really a standout, though, and despite introducing a game pad to enhance the gaming experience, there was nothing really innovative about the Wii U. It was another Nintendo system that lagged behind the other consoles on the market in terms of power. And without a powerhouse party game like Wii Sports this time around, the Wii U never really managed to break out from the pack.

Nintendo Switch – March 3, 2017


Launch Titles: 1-2-Switch, Fast RMX, Human Resource Machine, I Am Setsuna, Just Dance 2017, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Little Inferno, New Frontier Days, Shovel Knght: Specter of Torment, Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, Skylanders: Imaginators, Snipperclips, Super Bomberman R, Vroom in the Night Sky, World of Goo

Once again, instead of a Mario game at launch for what is supposed to be an innovative new system, Nintendo offers players The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which looks to be an amazing new adventure following Link around Hyrule. I’m sure most people who picked up the Switch will be playing that this weekend, or learning the ropes of the system with 1-2-Switch.

An interesting choice to have on launch day is a game called Human Resource Machine, which is described as a “programming-based puzzle game” on its Wikipedia page. I really want this to be the shocking surprise hit of the generation, but somehow I doubt it. We’ll have to see if Nintendo get gather better third-party support for the Nintendo Switch, or if the concept of going between a handheld to a console and back is a gimmick that will catch on the way motion controls did for the Wii.


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