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Halo, Super Mario World, and The Best Launch Games Ever

best launch games

10. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (Xbox 360)

First off, Geometry Wars was, is, and forever will be a great game. We’re in full “come at us” territory if you disagree with that statement.

Yet, the game’s placement on this list has much to do with its historical significance. Not only was Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved a great game, but it was a great game available via a console’s online store at a time when console online stores were a relatively foreign concept.

Geometry Wars encouraged everyone to give Xbox Live Arcade a shot. That means it not only helped kick off the era of digital distribution and DLC but the indie game movement as well.

9. SSX (PlayStation 2)

The PlayStation 2’s best launch feature was its DVD player, but its best launch game will always be SSX.

At a time when Tony Hawk was still king of the world, SSX offered a different kind of extreme sports experience. It was fast, colorful, and unbelievably fun to play. We don’t know if it was better than Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, but it’s in that conversation.

SSX was the only game every PlayStation 2 owner needed to buy when they went out to get their new console.

8. Soulcalibur (Sega Dreamcast)

We all know the sad story of the Sega Dreamcast. The little console that could ran into a series of problems which ultimately killed it, but the technical innovations of the console and its incredible library of games remain untarnished.

That incredible library kicked off with the launch of Soulcalibur. At a time when the phrase arcade-perfect was still the benchmark for video game technology, Soulcalibur offered an arcade-like experience at home as no other video game had before.

Soulcalibur forever changed the way we judged video game graphics and 3D fighting titles.

7. Super Mario World (Super Nintendo)

Spoilers: This isn’t the first Super Mario game you’ll see on this list. There are several good reasons Mario quickly became synonymous with the Nintendo brand.

Super Mario World may not have been as “revolutionary” as other Super Mario launch games, but it’s still arguably one of the best games ever made. Essentially an evolution of the brilliant Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World boasts some of the best level and overworld design in franchise history.

And to think that Super Mario World was included with every Super Nintendo. What a time.

6. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

This is a bit of a controversial pick considering that Breath of the Wild was also released as one of the Wii U’s last major games. Nevertheless, we think it counts.

Besides, most people think of Breath of the Wild as a Switch game. In fact, the beauty, scope, and brilliant open-world gameplay of Breath of the Wild is a big part of the reason why so many people own a Switch.

This could go down as the best Zelda game ever made, so you know it has to make this list.

5. Wii Sports (Nintendo Wii)

It’s impossible to imagine that the Nintendo Wii would have become one of the best-selling consoles of all-time if it wasn’t for the success of Wii Sports.

Wii Sports perfectly conveyed the purpose and potential of the Wii’s motion control system and proved to be one of the most enjoyable party games ever made. There’s a good chance people only associate the Wii with Wii Sports, and we honestly can’t blame them.

If this was a list of the most important launch games ever, you could expect Wii Sports to be even higher than it is.

4. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)

Super Mario 64‘s status as one of the best Mario games of all-time and arguably one of the best games of all-time is certainly enough to enter it into this conversation.

Yet, the game’s most impressive legacy is arguably how it was designed to sell the Nintendo 64. Mario 64 not only took advantage of the N64’s technology like no other launch game, but it showcased how the console’s controller would make 3D navigation easier than ever.

Super Mario 64 is just a complete example of game design as art and technological evolution.

3. Tetris (Game Boy)

Do you know what the most impressive thing about Tetris is? It’s never really aged. You can still play the original version today and enjoy it as much as ever.

So imagine taking a chance on buying a Game Boy and losing hours of your life to this simple puzzle game. Tetris wasn’t necessarily a technological marvel in and of itself, but its addictive nature stands as one of the best justifications for buying an entirely new device just to play it.

Plus, just think of the value you’ve gotten from a copy of Tetris over the years.

2. Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)

Let’s just get this out of the way now: Halo: CE is a straight-up incredible piece of game design that rightfully blew the minds of console gamers everywhere in 2001.

What really elevates it for the purposes of this list, though, was its multiplayer. Not only was Halo multiplayer a generational experience, but if you wanted to experience it in its 16-player LAN glory, you needed four Xboxes and four copies of the game to do so.

What we’re saying is that the brilliance of Halo practically demanded you owned an Xbox or at least some Xbox controllers. Its popularity almost single-handedly established the entire Xbox brand.

1. Super Mario Brothers (NES)

At a time when Nintendo was a relative unknown and the very concept of owning a video game console had fallen out of style, Super Mario Brothers changed everything.

Super Mario Brothers alerted millions to the fact that gaming as they knew it had changed dramatically. Its wonderful music, artistic design, involved gameplay, and incredible visuals were leaps ahead of what most people at the time associated with video games.

It’s hard to imagine the world where any of the other games on this list exist without Super Mario Brothers.

Matthew Byrd

Matthew Byrd covers the gaming industry including indies, consoles, PCs, iOS and Android apps, as well as topics related to entertainment and technology.