When Nintendo launches a new console, it is always to a huge amount of anticipation from fans and a big part of that is the games that come out for the release. Though the number of games brought out for each console’s release has varied for each generation, there are always plenty of hits on launch day.
Whilst discussions have often been had about the best Nintendo consoles and the best games, not as many have considered which of Nintendo’s launch titles were a cut above the rest. Using the review aggregator Metacritic, it is interesting to see which games helped make their consoles release a memorable moment in gaming history.
10 Super Monkey Ball (GameCube) – 87
Released in 2001, Super Monkey Ball made full use of the GameCube controller’s new comfortable analog stick for a fun and polished platforming experience. The gameplay was centered on controlling the titular monkeys as they rolled around in transparent balls and attempt to maneuver them across platforms to reach a goal.
Super Monkey Ball complimented a strong release line-up for the Gamecube but could rival most other launch titles for pure fun and addictiveness. Whilst some consider the game unreasonably challenging, its review score of 87 on Metacritic demonstrates how well-liked the primate-based party game is.
9 Madden NFL 2002 (GameCube) – 89
Although it had already been released on most other platforms for a while by the time of the GameCube launch late in the year, it was a strong selling point of the GameCube that it didn’t leave out huge sports games like Madden. Although it is no longer one of the best major sports game franchises, its huge audience appeal guaranteed that there would be benefits to its inclusion on the platform.
Additionally, the superior graphical capabilities of the GameCube compared to the N64 were particularly pronounced with Madden NFL 2002, with the N64 edition only receiving a 78 Metacritic score, encouraging more players to upgrade as soon as possible. However, it was the edition of new customization features, as well as simple sporting thrills, that gave the game its extremely high critical rating.
8 Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II (GameCube) – 90
Considered a “must-play” by Metacritic, the second Star Wars Rogue Squadron game received universal acclaim for its intense gameplay which put the player in the role of a rebel pilot during battles against the Empire. The game was also exclusive to the new console, making it a massive selling point for fans of the sci-fi franchise.
Placing the player in the cockpit of a Star Fighter turned out to be an extremely fruitful formula, and the new title’s far superior graphics and improved controls were enough on their own to make it a big step forward for the series. Not only was the game extremely good in its own right, more than worth its score of 90 on Metacritic, but in Star Wars the console had a name with broad appeal to match something like a Mario game, which it was initially lacking.
7 Castlevania: Circle Of The Moon (Game Boy Advance) – 91
Although it could be said that Nintendo’s handheld consoles tend to be met with less hype upon release than their home consoles before the Switch, that doesn’t mean they didn’t sometimes release with a ton of new games. This was the case for the Game Boy Advance, which included Konami’s exclusive new title from their hugely popular gothic horror franchise.
The game keeps Castlevania‘s 2D side-scrolling action with the player taking control of the protagonist, Nathan Graves, as he attempts to find his kidnapped mentor in a deadly castle. Circle of the Moon‘s success as well as its critical acclaim led to Konami developing three further Castlevania games for the Game Boy Advance.
6 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (GameCube) – 91
Though it had already been released on other platforms, that didn’t stop the third Pro Skater game from being one of the biggest critical and commercial hits of GameCube’s release. The first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had already been one of the best sports games on Nintendo systems, and the third kept up the fun of the skateboarding franchise whilst also improving some of the aspects of the game that were aging fast.
Of course, there’s no platform where doing cool skateboard tricks isn’t an enjoyable experience, and so Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 became easily one of the best launch titles for the GameCube, receiving a critic rating of 91.
5 Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Switch) – 91
With Shovel Knight already being a beloved series of games and the complete Treasure Trove collection having already been showcased on 3DS, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that including this title at the launch of the Switch was a guaranteed success. The side-scrolling platforming RPG was perfect for the hybrid platform, which allowed players to play casually in handheld mode.
Shovel Knight is considered an excellent platformer to play on the Switch, and its 8-bit art style is as endearing as ever. Despite being non-exclusive and having already been out for a couple of years, the title was able to become the second-highest-rated Switch launch title on Metacritic.
4 Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64) – 94
It is difficult to imagine a game more synonymous with the launch of a console than Nintendo’s trailblazing venture into 3D platforming in the form of Super Mario 64. Far overshadowing any other launch title for the new 32-bit console, Super Mario 64 became an instant selling point for console players.
Although the game is now over 25 years old and has naturally begun to show its age, its three-dimensional movement allowed for thrills that hold up to this day as it remains one of the best Mario games that everyone should play.
3 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (Game Boy Advance) – 95
Originally developed for the Playstation by Neversoft in 2000 and adapted for the release of the Game Boy Advance by Vicarious Visions, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 managed to capture the essence of the Tony Hawk experience despite the limited capacity of the handheld console.
Though it removed the level creator and other significant features by simplifying the controls and switching to an overhead isometric perspective, the game was able to be adapted to the new Game Boy very smoothly. It worked so well, in fact, that it became the most critically-acclaimed game of the Game Boy Advance’s launch and, with a score of 95, one of the highest-rated launch titles on any Nintendo console.
2 The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii) – 95
Also ranking as the third-best game of all time on the Nintendo Wii on Metacritic, Twilight Princess outshone all the other release titles for the console and became an instant classic. Surprisingly, the game was originally being developed for the GameCube and its release was delayed to allow them to improve the game and adapt it for their new console, as reported by IGN at the time.
This turned out to be a smart move, as its status as a launch title helped boost the appeal of the Nintendo Wii and it became an incredible success for the company. The game was darker than Windwaker, the previous outing for the series, and added in new features such as Link’s wolf form whilst telling a deep and compelling story, which contributed to its critic score of 95.
1 The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (Switch) – 97
Releasing along with the launch of the Switch to critical acclaim and instantly becoming one of the best 3D Zelda games, Breath of the Wild was one of the biggest selling points of Nintendo’s new console in 2017. Perhaps learning from Twilight Princess how profitable releasing a new Zelda title alongside a console could be, Nintendo’s inclusion of the game at launch was appreciated by a lot of players.
Although the game kept what fans love about the Zelda franchise, including puzzles, dungeons, fun combat, and incredible music, the game’s storytelling and new open-world style appealed to a lot of new players as well. As a result, Breath of the Wild is not only the highest-rated Switch title on Metacritic but also the best of the Nintendo console launch titles.
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