There’s nothing more exciting in the gaming world than a console launch. Whether it signifies the beginning of a new generation or just our favourite manufacturer’s entry into the current one, there’s always such an incredible buzz around the new features, capabilities and possibilities that come with a new console. More important than the console’s features, however, is the software released alongside them; the games that have the daunting task of making their console or generation desirable and relevant from the beginning. The spotlight put on these games means that they’re often major new IPs or entries from the platform holders’ most reliable franchises, which is a bloody good thing for those who gather at their local game store to get their hands on the console on day one.
The Nintendo Switch is launching later this week, and despite its well-documented lack of content at this early stage (more on that in a future article), it got us thinking about the launch titles that we’ve enjoyed the most throughout the years. Of course, in true Doublejump style, we wrote about them too; read on to find out which launch titles have stuck with us even to this day.
Abir: Resistance: Fall of Man (PlayStation 3)
Resistance: Fall of Man is a great game, and while it wasn’t my first experience with a launch title — that distinction goes to Jackie Chan Adventures on the Game Boy Advance — it was my most memorable one. The reason why it is so memorable is somewhat personal. I remember playing a round of multiplayer in a custom game with one-shot kills. I was trying to come to grips with the game’s sniper rifle when my dad, in one of the rare moments where he paid attention to a game that I was playing, offered me some advice: if you’re playing as a sniper, you should find a handful of vantage points, use them to pick off your targets, and move between them once you get overrun. Needless to say, I heeded his advice and dominated that game despite everyone else on the server making a beeline for my position.
Separate from this, I truly believe that Resistance: Fall of Man deserves to be remembered as more than just developer Insomniac Games brashly leaving its action-platforming roots to take on Bungie’s juggernaut Halo shooter series. Insomniac capitalised on the positive buzz that it garnered while showcasing the game at Sony’s E3 2006 press conference by creating an engrossing alternate-history monster invasion premise that is both eerie and well-suited to the inclusion of highly-advanced weaponry. The humbly-titled Auger rifle was basically a middle finger to conventional physics, the Hedgehog grenade was a literal pain-in-the-ass, while the menacing LAARK rocket launcher and the ability to redirect its projectiles mid-air turned multiplayer games into fantastic frag-fests. Speaking of multiplayer, Insomniac should be lauded for launching with support for 40-player matches at a time where console shooters maxed out at 16 players! This was especially remarkable given the fact that the system had to render each weapon’s unique abilities and each map’s varied scale and high level of detail.
Given its unique weapons, 40-player matches, and engrossing alternate-history setting; Resistance: Fall of Man deserves a place in the pantheon of multiplayer console first-person shooters between Halo 2’s excellent matchmaking and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s iconic perk system.
Alex: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Everyone remembers the short few video game titles that first introduced them to gaming, whether that experience happened to take place on a brand-new system or something a little more classic. For me, things kicked off in the late nineties with the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation consoles, both of which brought me dozens of games that kept me occupied for more hours than I dare try to remember. While so many stand out for different reasons, I give a lot of credit to Super Mario 64 for launching both my favourite console and my love for platformers.
Every room held a new secret to discover, and every portrait held a new world to explore. From top to bottom, Super Mario 64 has a rich variety of places to see, puzzles to complete and characters to interact with. As a child, progressing through the entirety of Peach’s Castle was a gruelling task, and even pushed me to the brink of quitting at times with that horrific haunted house, Big Boo’s Haunt. Nowadays, it serves as a fantastic means of polishing just about every skill that comes with playing a moderate-to-difficult platformer, and even makes for an interesting speedrun now and then.
What makes Super Mario 64 most significant, perhaps, is the fact that it was so heavily scrutinised at launch. Up until that point, no entry in the Mario video game franchise had ever before breached the boundaries set by 2D technologies, and it only further escalated Nintendo’s status as the supreme video game company at the time. Not only did the game serve as the pinnacle of the platforming genre at the time, but it set the stage for so many prominent titles for the future, including the dozens that continued Mario’s own legacy.
Ayden: Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)
The launch game that still brings a tear to my eye when I think about all the good times we had together — the one game that shines bright like a diamond or, more appropriately (since diamonds don’t shine), an incandescent bulb — is Halo: Combat Evolved. I was dumbstruck, awe-struck and struck with alien-pistol-whipping fever (alien-kickatitus as it’s formally known) as I trekked across a god-damned alien ring as a towering green man of death and badassery. This game not only made me fall in love with the original Xbox, but it helped me realise my dream of becoming a stoic hero type with a deep, gravelly voice.
This video game title was so popular; it has spawned a still-running game series, several movies, two audio dramas, lots of books, comics, and the adorable bobble head I keep on my desk. Success is achieved when your IP has numerous bobble heads created in the glory of your iconic characters. Halo was a milestone game release and it really helped in putting the Xbox on a pretty high pedestal at the time. Over ten years later, I still play Halo CE with friends from time to time, just because it is THAT much fun to play (THAT is quantifiably quite a lot).
Additionally, that theme song has everything a theme song needs. A wonderful symphony orchestra, an enchanting choir, and a guitar solo that is so incredible I deem it solely responsible for my grandfather’s cardiac arrest.
Cav: Tetris (Game Boy)
There’s a certain magic behind a good bit of code, an almost ethereal ‘rightness’ that can make the difference between a glitchy mess, and something with which is pure joy to interact. When people talk about games as art, they usually focus on narrative, but sometimes the artist’s touch runs right down to the zeroes and ones.
Tetris for the original Game Boy is such a work of art. You wouldn’t think that such a deceptively simple game could be so sensitive to small details, but everything about this version feels just perfect, from the responsiveness of the controls, to the elegance of the drop function. That it’s not as crammed with features as more modern versions works to its benefit, unimpeded by the plethora of needless gimmicks forced upon the game’s design by The Tetris Company in recent years (I’m no difficulty elitist in games, but there’s no way you can convince me that using ghost pieces doesn’t make you a bad, bad human being).
Coming from a time before the ‘Blitz’ fad turned all puzzle games into twitchy, rushed exercises in min-maxing, Game Boy Tetris’s slow but methodical pacing made it an almost hypnotic experience. It felt no need to rush, gradually warming the player up for the point where the brakes would come off, the drizzle of pieces would become a downpour and the battle for the biggest score would truly kick in, the zen state it engenders still making it one of the greatest podcast games out there.
Not only is it one of the highest-selling pack-in games in history, it surely has to be the most-played considering how thoroughly it seized the mainstream consciousness. Even my dad, who would normally have never been seen dead playing a videogame, got addicted to it, and it plays just as well today. Revisiting it for the There Will Be Geek podcast’s recent Tetris episode, I was genuinely blown away by just how vital and compelling the game remains today, and how effective its simplicity is in giving the player all the tools they need to sink or swim based on their own performance.
It’s hard to imagine any more perfect a console/pack-in pairing than the Game Boy and Tetris. They were made for each other, and made each other, and since then every other version of Alexey Pajitnov’s groundbreaking block game has simply been embellishing something already perfected.
Cesar: Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (Xbox 360)
The Xbox was good, but the Xbox 360 was better. What the acclaimed Tony Hawk’s series had in store for the Xbox 360 was a clash of open world freedom and a return to the grit and roughness that made it an absolute classic in the first place. In 2004, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was released and made headlines (for all sorts of Hot Coffee reasons) while throwing open world gaming into our lounge rooms. Suddenly, open world was the ‘in thing’.
While the Underground series was great in its own right, American Wasteland was a Tower-of-Babel reach for the genre of skateboarding, headlined by Sir Tony Hawk himself. Let me tell you, it didn’t collapse like anything in Babel. American Wasteland would represent everything the Tony Hawk’s games are known for… and more. You could even choose a haircut… at a barber… just like a certain aforementioned title. Nevertheless, it kept true to the heart of what skateboarding was really about in the 90s and early 2000s: The hustle and sheer anarchy of the sport.
The soundtracks, of course, need no introduction. From My Chemical Romance covering The Misfits’ Astro Zombies to Rise Against’s take on Black Flag’s iconic Fix Me, the soundtrack could never disappoint. The storyline was your usual punk-to-pro and the tricks were similar to Underground and Underground 2, but that’s what made it such an interesting title: It kept the series’ soul intact and, whether out of desperation or brilliance, shot for the stars as one last swan song for couch-and-finger skaters.
The early 2000s were a confusing time for console gamers. When more people were leaving their lounge room couches for the virtual comforts of a Steam account alongside office chairs and computer screens, some games kept us hanging on to pure single-player console gaming. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland was one of them. Unfortunately, we didn’t know it would become the last great hurrah for the skateboarding genre.
Emily: Luigi’s Mansion (GameCube)
When I first looked at the GameCube, of course I was excited to eventually get my hands on Super Mario Sunshine and the long-awaited The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, but the title that struck me the most, my chosen launch title for the console, was Luigi’s Mansion. I mean, come on… It’s Luigi, fighting ghosts! Who doesn’t want to play that?
Before the GameCube, Nintendo had never launched a console in the West without a Super Mario title being available on day one, so I was impressed by the company’s moxie in departing from that “tradition” and launching with a title based around the less-appreciated twin, Luigi. Although it was similar in gameplay to the main Super Mario titles, the different setting, mechanics and lead character made it feel like an original concept, appealing to everyone who wanted to see Luigi in his own game. Adding to the fun factor was the fact that Luigi got to go full Ghostbuster and vacuum a bunch of ghosts.
Luigi’sMansion sees Luigi sent into a spooky, ghoul-infested mansion armed with a specially designed vacuum and tasked with overcoming his fears to rescue his brother, Mario. Luigi also uses the Game Boy Horror (a take on Nintendo’s Game Boy Colour) as a map of the mansion to locate the ghosts and keep track of all the many jewels the player can collect. The setting is quite dark, with a flashlight the only source of light when exploring the mansion. Ghosts can appear right in front of you at any time to scare you, with some even invisible, making the experience frightening at first. However, players can easily overcome this fear and start vacuuming those ghosts, laughing an evil laugh while doing so.
Even though it had the aforementioned Super Mario Sunshine and Wind Waker to contend with, Luigi’s Mansion took the cake as my favourite title on the GameCube; one that I still go back to whenever I can’t find a more modern game to play.
Jake: Resogun (PlayStation 4)
I was lucky enough to be working at an EB Games store when the PlayStation 4 was released, so I took advantage of my staff discount to pick up a fair number of the titles that were available that day hoping that I’d be able to save my earnings for a while without getting bored. I cycled through all of the titles I’d purchased over the next 24 hours and found myself more than a little underwhelmed; sure, I had titles that I knew I’d get 100+ hours out of, and that’s awesome, but I was bored… Until I got that little pop-up saying that Resogun had finished downloading.
A voxel-rendered side-scrolling space shooter that tasks the player with destroying alien creatures and weapons, rescuing helpless little humans and eventually surviving all manner of bullet hell, Resogun looked and felt like Galaga on steroids, but it certainly didn’t look like a title that could keep me entertained for months while I waited for some major releases that would keep my attention. To my surprise, though, it did precisely that… And then some. Resogun’s mix of nostalgia and genuine fun had me playing it for at least an hour a night, telling my friends to get their hands on it and telling everyone I spoke to at work that it was the best thing they could get on their PS4. The best part? It was the PlayStation Plus game for November, so it was free!
Of course, there have been much bigger and much more important launch titles in my nearly-25 year existence, but none other than Resogun can say that it kept me from returning the console it launched with.
Rhys: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo Wii)
Growing up, I never really got my hands on consoles immediately after launch, meaning I missed out on a lot of amazing launch titles. However, one that has stuck by me in more ways than one has to be The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. A Zelda game with graphics that, at the time, looked gritty and realistic? Sign me up! Once I had gotten my Nintendo Wii at my dad’s place, I immediately went out and bought the latest Zelda adventure. Being quite enamoured with the Zelda franchise since playing the wonderful Majora’s Mask when I was about 9 or 10 years of age, I felt I needed to get my hands on Twilight Princess as fast as I could… And I was not disappointed.
Boasting what is arguably one of the more darker stories in the Zelda franchise, Twilight Princess instantly caught my attention thanks to its slow start; which helped portray this iteration of Link as an ordinary person instead of just thrusting him straight into the heroic adventure. However, once he put on the signature green tunic, the game opened up and became a truly fantastic adventure.
The Wii’s motion controls actually complement this title well (since Nintendo wasn’t aiming for realistic sword swings like it did in Skyward Sword); and the dungeons are arguably some of the most well designed in the entire series, setting a standard that even modern day Zelda games can’t seem to match. Even after completing the game a few times, I’ve spent years replaying Twilight Princess from scratch just to try something different or look for new secrets throughout Hyrule. To this day, Twilight Princess is still in my top 5 all time favourite games; if Breath of the Wild is even half as successful as a launch title, the Nintendo Switch must just be alright.
It’s been a hell of a lengthy article, but if you’ve made it this far, we would love to know what some of your favourite launch titles have been over the generations! You can let us know by commenting on this post, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or by joining our Discord server if you’re feeling a little more chatty!