The Committee: Best console launch lineups, #10-1

December 10, 2012

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Once we got past the bottom half of the list, it became a lot harder to organize. It’s safe to say that all ten of these consoles deserve a place in history for one reason or another, but there can only be one #1. These are the ten best console launch lineups of all time, according to our panelists.

Air Combat, Battle Arena Toshinden, ESPN Extreme Games, Kileak – The DNA Imperative, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, Power Serve 3D Tennis, Rayman, Ridge Racer, Street Fighter: The Movie, The Raiden Project, Total Eclipse Turbo

IN SUPPORT: The PlayStation really began the modern era of gaming. With the switch to optical media, the relative standardization of controller layouts and enough power to build a game in three dimensions, games took on additional depth and could be built to a grander scale. Rayman launched with the system, and turned a solid title into a lasting franchise. NBA Jam was at its peak, and Sony’s place as one of the leaders of the game industry was secure. – Jeff deSolla

IN OPPOSITION: I honestly don’t believe Sony put its best foot forward when it came to this release. While it did have some success with some new and original games that would transcend this launch and eventually spawn sequels elsewhere, I feel like it really screwed up trying to capitalize on Street Fighter, of all things. Instead of giving us a definitive port of the popular Street Fighter II that was spreading through the arcades like wildfire, it gave us the movie version, which was a joke all around. – Eric Albuen

Amped 3, Call of Duty 2, Condemned: Criminal Origins, FIFA 06: Road to FIFA World Cup, GUN, Kameo: Elements of Power, Madden NFL 06, NBA 2K6, NBA Live 06, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, NHL 2K6, Perfect Dark Zero, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, Project Gotham Racing 3, Quake 4, Ridge Racer 6, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

IN SUPPORT: I particularly enjoyed the launch of this console, since it gave gamers a wide variety of what was to come in the seven years following the launch. From various sports games that would appeal to every sports fan out there, racing games released by forces reckoned with today, first-person shooters that would evolve to something greater and even a platformer that left us wanting more to this day. Microsoft knew who it wanted to appeal to releasing the console early, and it definitely hit all the right marks in the process. – Eric Albuen

IN OPPOSITION: There’s a lot in the 360’s list, but none of it holds up as particularly good even just one cycle later. Seriously, we’re highlighting Kameo? It’s not the worst thing, but it’s no Super Mario World. It’s no Halo or Soul Calibur. I know I’m placing a premium on a lasting experience, but I’m okay with that. – Graham Russell

Armored Core 2, DOA2: Hardcore, Dynasty Warriors 2, ESPN International Track & Field, ESPN Winter X Games Snowboarding, Eternal Ring, Evergrace, FantaVision, Gungriffon Blaze, Kessen, Madden NFL 2001, Midnight Club: Street Racing, NHL 2001, Orphen: Scion of Sorcery, Q-Ball: Billiards Master, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2, Ridge Racer V, Silent Scope, Smuggler’s Run, SSX, Street Fighter EX3, Summoner, Surfing H3O, Swing Away Golf, Tekken Tag Tournament, TimeSplitters, Unreal Tournament, Wild Wild Racing, X-Squad

IN SUPPORT: The PS2 had a wide lineup, and what it didn’t have in breakout hits it made up for in scope and innovation. It had the benefit of enabling new game types that just weren’t technologically possible the previous generation, and while there’s a lot of rough stuff in this list, games like SSX and TimeSplitters were fun in ways games really weren’t before. – Graham Russell

IN OPPOSITION: I love the PS2 to death. Series like Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper and Jak & Daxter defined the time period for me. RPGs were everywhere, and the ability to play PS1 games out of the box was amazing. What wasn’t amazing was the launch line-up. When I bought a PS2 because I felt that I needed to move beyond my SNES, I didn’t come home with a single PS2 game. I had to look to the PS1 library to find games that looked like they were worthy of sitting on my shelf. Not every launch is going to feature a Duck Hunt or Halo, but there’s not a single series present in the PS2 launch lineup that screams “this is a game you absolutely have to play.” – Justin Last

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

IN SUPPORT: The GameCube’s launch is a huge step up from the Nintendo 64’s. It may lack a Super Mario 64 or some equivalent, but it more than made up for it with a bunch of smaller, high quality releases. Games like Luigi’s Mansion, Wave Race: Blue Storm, Super Monkey Ball and Rogue Leader proved that the console could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the big boys and also provide that Nintendo charm most of us grew up with and still love today. And if this was your first console for this generation, you had excellent versions of Madden, SSX Tricky and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 there for you as well. It’s well-rounded, it’s full of memorable games, and it’s easily Nintendo’s best console launch since the SNES. – Andrew Passafiume

IN OPPOSITION: It pains me to write anything negative about my favorite system but, like many other successful consoles, it had a crappy launch. Marketing and image issues were a problem right away for the hardcore crowd; it looked like a purple lunchbox. Purple as your main color? Nintendo has long learned its lesson. No Mario game at launch for a Nintendo console? It doesn’t feel right. Luigi’s …Mansion? Sigh. If you’re wanting consumers to spend hundreds of dollars to be an early adopter of a new piece of technological hardware, you better give them a good reason to do it. – Henry Skey

Assassin’s Creed III, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Darksiders II, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, ESPN: Sports Connection, Game Party Champions, Just Dance 4, Madden NFL 13, Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth, Mass Effect 3: Special Edition, NBA 2K13, New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land, Rabbids Land, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Transformers Prime, Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013, ZombiU

IN SUPPORT: Without a doubt, there’s likely some recency bias in this ranking. At the same time though, anytime a Mario game makes a launch, it’s instantly a pretty great launch lineup. And aside from that? You’ve just got one of the largest launches of all time, thanks to more than a dozen ports of great games, many of which are pretty high quality. – Shawn Vermette

IN OPPOSITION: Without a doubt, the Wii U has a robust launch lineup. It’s important to try to think about it in a context that doesn’t yet exist, though: what’s down the line? What’s more, the newness of the system will fade, and we’ll (at least hopefully) get better versions of these experiences. – Graham Russell

Sonic Adventure, Aerowings, AirForce Delta, Blue Stinger, Expendable, Flag to Flag, The House of the Dead 2, Hydro Thunder, Monaco Grand Prix, Mortal Kombat Gold, NFL 2K, NFL Blitz 2000, Pen Pen TriIcelon, Power Stone, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, Soul Calibur, TNN Motorsports Hardcore Heat, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, TrickStyle

IN SUPPORT: This was one of the few consoles I was lucky to have around release. While others (definitely) disagree with me, I feel like Sonic got off on the right foot on the Dreamcast, showing he was just as awesome in 3D as he was in 2D. To be fair, we got overworld exploration and the ability to upgrade Sonic and his friends throughout the course of the game. This was something we never saw before in the franchise. We also had an amazing party fighter that spawned a great sequel, and a weapons fighter that set a whole new standard for how fighting games should be made. – Eric Albuen

IN OPPOSITION: Look, I wish Sega’s console story ended with a better note. The Dreamcast failed, ultimately, due to stuff from years before it even came out. But the launch lineup didn’t help matters. They needed to blow people away with it, and the best they could come up with was about a dozen sports/racing games, a middling Sonic game and two good fighting games. – Shawn Vermette

Halo: Combat Evolved, Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee, Dead or Alive 3, Project Gotham Racing, NFL Fever 2002, AirForce Delta Storm, Mad Dash Racing, Cel Damage, Arctic Thunder, Fuzion Frenzy, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2X, 4×4 EVO 2

IN SUPPORT: Generally a single game doesn’t sell systems, but Halo: Combat Evolved wasn’t just any game. It revolutionized the first-person shooter, and the Xbox was the first system to really outpace an averagely priced PC at the time of its launch. The console wars were back on, and Master Chief was a powerful soldier to have on Microsoft’s side. – Jeff deSolla

IN OPPOSITION: I like the Xbox quite a bit, but let’s be honest here. The launch lineup, assuming you only count games worth playing, was four games, and two of those are in niche genres (sorry Oddworld and DOA3) for a console that Microsoft marketed exclusively at young adults instead of kids. Halo: Combat Evolved and Project Gotham Racing are both great titles, but the stock controller was terrible, Halo didn’t have online play, and any console that launches with a title like Fuzion Frenzy is scraping for quantity over quality. – Justin Last

Pilotwings 64, Super Mario 64

IN SUPPORT: The leap from 2D to 3D was, at the time, the most hyped up transition since TVs showed color. Sure, the controllers were wacky and Nintendo made a very questionable decision to stick with cartridges instead of CDs, but it didn’t matter. Why not? Because we had Mario in 3D. At launch. And it was absolutely glorious. Almost every gamer you know has played and loved Mario 64. To this day, you’ll still see Mario 64’s influence on 3D platformers and camera mechanics. Putting on the flying cap for the first time brought many, many dreams come true. Magical. – Henry Skey

IN OPPOSITION: Two games. If you bought the N64 at launch you could play precisely two games with it. Never mind that both games are great, concentrate on the fact that after paying for a Nintendo 64 you had two whole choices for which game to play on it. That’s embarrassing, and Nintendo learned its lesson. Look at how many titles the Wii U just launched with (including a Mario title) and then tell me that a lineup consisting of two games is good. The launch lineup showed exactly what was wrong with with the N64, the GameCube after it, and the Wii after that: third parties were either unwilling or unable to reliably make money on Nintendo hardware. When you bought Nintendo home consoles, you were tacitly agreeing to play primarily first-party games. Those games are good, but one company can only make so much. – Justin Last

Avatar: The Last Airbender, Call of Duty 3, Cars, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2, Excite Truck, The Grim Adventures of Billy & 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’s Downhill Jam, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, Wii Sports

IN SUPPORT: Yeah, there’s a lot of chaff in this launch lineup. For all the bad ports though, the Wii had a great Zelda game at launch, an amazing party game and the introduction of the craziest lagomorphs this side of Sam & Max. – Shawn Vermette

IN OPPOSITION: The Wii became much more of an interesting console than it seemed like it would later on in its life with strong first party support, but its launch lineup is poor at best. It certainly has a large number of games, but many of them are terrible ports of otherwise good games, bad original third-party titles and forgettable pack-ins that demonstrate the technology and nothing more. Even Twilight Princess, while great, is much better on the system it was originally developed for: the GameCube. Wii Sports may have been a phenomenon, but this was a poor substitute for a truly powerhouse Nintendo launch title that could have both demonstrated what the system does best and delivered a memorable experience. – Andrew Passafiume

Super Mario World, F-Zero, Pilotwings, Gradius III, SimCity

IN SUPPORT: While the library was fairly small, Nintendo brought its best for this launch. Super Mario World is the game every 2D platformer aspires to become, and it was bundled with the hardware.  Though there was a fair bit of competition between Nintendo and Sega, with the exception of Europe, the Super Nintendo was the undisputed champion of the 16-bit era. Pilotwings and F-Zero’s graphics may look fairly crude by today’s standards, but this was a glimpse of the future in the early ’90s when most games were simple sprites on a flat background. Mode 7, guys. – Jeff deSolla

IN OPPOSITION: I really hate being the guy to explain why he doesn’t think the launch was that great, but sadly, despite the SNES being my first major console, I don’t really have a lot of memories with any of the titles. Both the Wii and N64 had better launches for me, since I got to experience most of that launch library and play it for hours with friends. I can’t say the same for the SNES lineup. Don’t get me wrong, though: the console would evolve into something greater and house some of the greatest games we know today, but going strictly by the launch list, Super Mario World is the only game on that list that had any sort of effect on me. – Eric Albuen