Since the early days of video gaming, launch games have had a massive impact on video game consoles. I mean, where the hell would GAMING be had it not been for the early launch titles? It has been proven and proven again that launch games have the complete potential to determine a console's fate, thus it is quite a difficult decision when it comes to releasing all of the launch games? Does a studio release a single great game, or a bunch of average ones? Do they go all out, and release eight classics on the same day, only to leave the next six months empty? The decisions have always been varied. Now, we look at the ten best launch games in the longest-running video game studio, Nintendo.

Yes, yes, this is the Mario's Tennis for Virtual Boy. Put down your torches and pitchforks. Mario's Tennis managed to bring what every Mario Tennis game has had in it: a sense of simplicity and a sense of good fun. The variety of characters in Mario's Tennis allowed for different skills and abilities to be implemented - for example, Luigi was known for his speed, while DK Jr. was slow, but incredibly powerful with a racket. Due to the poor Virtual Boy sales, the game has never been considered a "killer game," but the game has gained a cult following as a great start to the Mario Tennis series.

Excitebike was one of the original NES games that was launched with the system, and one of the very first racing games ever. The game featured ten different tracks, full of jumps, boosts, and different types of terrain. Gamers had to maneuver in and out of four different rows, depending on what lay ahead of them. While that was all handy-dandy, the real power of the game was in its Design Mode, an option that let players design their own tracks and race on them. The tracks could be any length, and at any difficulty; different types of terrain and hills were available. The addictive sense of gameplay, as well as the create-a-track mode, was loved by fans. The game even spawned a 3-D sequel years later on the Nintendo 64, Excitebike 64.

A long awaited remake (technically a sequel) to one of the most fun, if not terribly creative, racing games of the Nintendo 64. Wave Race: Blue Storm keeps all of the things that made the 64 version great, but improves on almost every level. The graphics in this game are fantastic, and look great almost five years later. And the physics - the physics is what makes this game amazing. Waves rise and fall depending on wind and weather, and your character is thrown around depending on the situation around them. The game features a great challenge, as well as a terrific multiplayer experience for four players. If you're into racing games, this is a definite must-buy.

Offering pretty much nothing new to the series of Castlevania, one might ask how it possibly managed to make this list. Circle of the Moon is simply another brilliant installment in the Castlevania series, featuring the same gameplay as its predecessor, Symphony of the Night. The huge, non-linear world featured dozens of combinations of magical attacks, massive bosses, and tons of secrets. The game also has terrific replay value, because a total of six different variations of the game can be played as you unlock it more and more. And the fact that this game drove people to WANT to complete it six times is an accomplishment in its own right.

Released as one of the many titles for the Nintendo Gamecube, Super Monkey Ball was in no way a killer launch game. It sold well, and many considered it to be one of the biggest sleeper hits of the year. But it did not match anywhere near the sales figures of its fellow launch titles like Luigi's Mansion, Tony Hawk 3, and Star Wars: Rogue Sqadron II. Super Monkey Ball is here for its incredibly addictive, yet simple premise: get to the other side of the stage. With over a hundred creative levels, well-developed party games, and a point system for unlockables, Super Monkey Ball was a game that could be enjoyed by as many as four people for hours on end. Highly recommended.

While many racing games had been released before F-Zero, the game was the first of the racing genre to introduce a complete 3-D environment. That is, using rotating and tilting within the SNES to give all environments the 3-D look, instead of the flat, non-textured feel of all racing games preceding it. Since then, every racing game has taken on that look. In addition to the massive graphical upgrade, F-Zero was, at it's core, a hardcore racing game. Featuring traps to hurt the player, the game required your complete attention - not just to complete the races, but to complete them in one piece. Like it's fellow launch title Super Mario World, the game feature unlockable secrets once certain goals were reach, a new step in games.

Retaining the same classic feel that the previous Mario games had given, Super Mario World for the SNES is regarded as one of the best video games of all time. The game introduced many things that are now common in video gamers all over, such as revisiting past stages and unlockable secrets for completing certain objectives. The game took advantage of the Super Nintendo's graphical capability to creature a sharper, cleaner 2-D world with much more detail in the level designs. The game managed to stick to the core platform gaming, and created an incredibly addictive experience for all.

Nintendo was obviously counting on this game when it decided to only release two launch titles for the Nintendo 64. While the number has still been questioned as a wise move, it doesn't change the fact that Super Mario 64 was a terrific game. Many gaming companies have stated that things such as non-linear gameplay, the free-roaming camera, and the use of the analog stick for increased interaction have been inspired by Super Mario 64. The game, with its massive environments, 100+ missions, and old school platforming feel gave gamers a sense of joy around the world.

Based on Alexey Pajitnov's Tetris game created in 1985, Tetris was recreated for the first time for the Game Boy, and was bundled with the Game Boy as a promotion when the system was released, a fantastic move by Nintendo. The killer game was a simple, addictive puzzle strategy game, in which players tried to fill in blank spaces using differently shaped blocks. Tetris spread (it is now found in some variation on pretty much every video game console) and many, many spin-offs spawned. It is considered by many to be the greatest puzzle game of all time, and rightfully so.

When Nintendo announced that they were going into the home console market, the reaction was along the lines of something like... "What?" I mean, hadn't the failure of the Atari taught a lesson to everyone? However, Nintendo's secret weapon, Super Mario Bros., was the killer launch title that sent Nintendo through the roof. The game took the platforming experience of the Donkey Kong arcade and recreated it on a much larger scale, throwing obstacles at the player, adding power-ups and bosses, and even managed to throw in two different types of gameplay: running and swimming. Rasing the bar by a mile for all video games to come, Super Mario Bros. is a fantastic accomplishment.

Nintendo is great when it comes to launch titles, and when it comes to releasing them, the company is ready to target fans of every genre. And with the upcoming release of the Wii, and the announce of many launch titles with huge hype around them, this list may just have to be updated soon.

List by me frog (07/26/2006)

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