You don’t buy consoles just to have a shiny electronic paperweight on your home entertainment stand. You, of course, buy consoles to play videogames. We here at Pixelitis are firm believers that consoles are only worth their weight in games, and new consoles are only worth their weight in launch titles.
The Wii U made its debut a mere three days ago, and outside of the immediate casual appeal and dire-hard Nintendo fan, many gamers this Christmas season are going to buy the new console based upon its launch software. As of right now, Super Mario Bros. Wii U, Nintendo Land and ZombiU (reviews forthcoming) are at the head of the launch window pack.
While it remains to be seen if these games make the Wii U a must have, below are a few launch titles we think best defined the early impressions of our favorite systems. It’s no surprise that Mario made the list twice.
Best Launch Title: Super Mario 64
I can still remember the first time I laid eyes on Super Mario 64 at a Toys ‘R Us one September/October day in 1996. I was seven years old and delightfully making Mario interact with the pretty and polygonal front lawn of Peach’s Castle at one of the demo stations of the store. It was also the day my father purchased Illusion of Gaia for SNES for me. What an awesome dad.
It wasn’t until my friend got the system, however, when I realized just how special this launch title was. For whatever reason, my time with the demo (and making Mario climb trees in a colorful 3D environment) felt like a blur and while I knew that it was nice, it didn’t really hit me as to how revolutionary Super Mario 64 was until I had that ridiculous three-pronged controller in my hands at my friend’s place.
It’s Mario. In freaking 3D! At the time, I had very limited time with polygon-based games aside from Star Fox, so this really was out of this world for me. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how I managed to survive waiting until May of 1997 to finally get one.
While Super Mario 64 is still a nice romp to go back to every now and then, it’s hard to love it as much as I did as a second grader. One thing’s for sure though: no game console that renders 3D visuals featured a more revolutionary launch title.
- Patrick Kulikowski
Best Launch Title: Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
Many a day in my youth was pretending to be a Jedi and battling the evil Empire, the Empire being my elementary school. I would win any lightsaber duel (old sticks on the playground) and out maneuver any X-Wing (sitting in the back of my Dad’s car). Imagine my excitement when I got a Nintendo Gamecube and my Dad got Rogue Leader to go with it. Pure midichlorian-free bliss.
This game made me really believe that I was in the Star Wars movies, flying down the Death Star trench and blasting womp rats in my T-16 Skyhopper. But what made it even better was that it managed to exist outside of the canonical movie scenes, and still create a plot that was believable and that didn’t feel like a cheap spin-off.
Each craft was recreated with loving detail, from ion cannons on the Y-Wing to the rotating turrets on the Millennium Falcon. It was a game that really showed off what the Gamecube could do, and it made it look so easy too. For a launch title, the controls seemed especially polished and intuitive and the premise was easy to grasp and puled you in easily. I imagine that would be hard to do when considering all the new possibilities of next-gen gaming, but Rogue Leader showed no signs of hesitation.
To this day, I’ve not played a Star Wars game that felt as genuinely authentic as this one.
- Tom Farndon
Best Launch Title: Super Mario Land
When I turned six, my parents gave me a Game Boy as a birthday present, along with Super Mario Land and Pokémon Red, two games that have forever changed my life. Even though I could go on a long tangent about all the fond memories I have with both of these games, I have to stick with the given topic and talk about Super Mario Land.
As a kid that was brought up on Nintendo consoles and who rarely got the TV to myself until I was given my own, I often found myself playing with my Game Boy until the batteries died, and then play some more once new batteries came in.
Super Mario Land had me playing for hours on end as I tried and tried again, memorizing and mastering each level while progressively getting farther and farther every time until I managed to defeat the final boss.
Super Mario Land does not follow the traditional Mario formula, yet it does everything nearly the same. The enemies are different (including exploding turtles), the levels aren’t made in the same style and the music is nothing like the songs that we’re used to hearing, but are still oh-so addicting. There are even some levels where you get to drive a submarine and a plane, which is something I don’t recall seeing in any other Mario game. In fact, if you would give this game to someone without telling them what it is, I bet his or her first reaction to it would be “Cheap Mario Knock-Off.”
But for me, it is those minor differences that make me remember the game for what it is – my first foray into gaming on the go.
- Allain Richard
Best Launch Title: Halo: Combat Evolved
In the pantheon of great launch titles, some of the titles my fellow staffers have chosen will definitely stand the test of time. My pick, however, both defined a console and arguably put first-person shooters on the console gamer’s map.
When Microsoft announced they were throwing their hat into the videogame console ring back in 2001, the announcement was met with skepticism from gamers at the time. In an industry where Sony was dominating with its PlayStation 2, Nintendo was doing well with its Nintendo 64 and Sega had all but collapsed under its own weight , the idea of a new challenger approaching the fray seemed just a little ridiculous.
I was one of those skeptics. That is, until I played Halo.
As a high school freshman, I remember hearing stories of the ridiculous multiplayer matches in Bungie’s first-person shooter. The vehicles, the guns, the crazy sessions of Capture the Flag and Team Slayer. As a fan of Sony’s PlayStation 2, I couldn’t help but be a little jealous. Nothing I saw on Sony’s hardware could compare to what I was hearing.
So when my best buddy Matt finally got an Xbox of his own later that year, I’ll never forget the first time we booted up Halo: Combat Evolved. Right from the title screen, I knew I was in for something big. With the signature orchestral score augmented by the dulcet tones of a choir filling our ears, we dove right into the co-op campaign, running train on the Covenant hordes.
Since those days of co-op and 16-player LAN parties (remember those?!), there have been eight games in the Halo series, making it one of the biggest franchises in over a decade. It’s also widely attributed for propelling the Xbox and its successor, the Xbox 360, to “household name” status.
If that doesn’t make Halo: Combat Evolved one of the greatest launch titles in videogame history, then I don’t know what does.