PS4 has already taken off to the tune of over a million shipped units, and we’re just days away from the latest in ESPN entertainme–er, Xbox One. While we’re caught between console launches, it’s worth reflecting on the greatest launch games I’ve ever played. I’ll be honest with you: this is dangerously close to being a Top 5 Mario list, and heavy hitters like Halo and Soul Calibur are absent. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Wii Sports, and NFL 2K missed the cut as well. So what made my list?
Well, since you asked…
5. Sonic Adventure (DC)
Why not kick things off with something controversial? The original Sonic Adventure may be the most polarizing game in the series, possibly even in the entire Dreamcast library. You either love the intense speed of Sonic and Tails’ levels, or your hate the impossible-to-wrangle camera. You either welcome Knuckles and Gamma’s levels as fresh breaks in the formula, or you knock the game for Amy and Big the Cat’s dreadful quests. You either play proud parent to your Chao or cast off the minigame like a black sheep. As for me, I side with the former parts of those three statements. Give me Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Gamma, and Chao Gardens. And let’s pretend Big’s fishing levels never happened, cool?
4. Super Mario Bros. (NES)
I’m not even going to mention the game’s greater impact. I love the original Super Mario Bros. for what it is: a simple-yet-rich platformer with enough secrets to drown in. World 8 is still one of the high points in the series, and to this day I still shiver at the sight of the Hammer Bros. sprites. The game welcome multiple playthroughs and speed runs, and if that weren’t enough, mess around in the Minus World or try beating every Bowser with fireballs (a bonus requirement in the Gameboy Color re-release).
3. Super Mario World (SNES)
Though many consider Super Mario Bros. 3 the apex of 2D platforming, I don’t even consider it the best 2D Mario. World does everything Mario 3 does, then scales it up for the hefty gentleman: bigger levels, bigger secrets, bigger green dinosaur companions. Sure, you lose out on a few zany power-ups, but in their place you get Yoshi and all his gameplay wrinkles–the extra layer of protection, three different special forms, and those daring hop-off jumps. And let’s not forget that the madness that is the Special World. Mondo? Tubular? Groovy? Right on, dude.
2. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)
If you were an early Wii adopter, you either owned Twilight Princess or had nothing great to play for roughly a year. For a series filled with magic moments, Zelda never felt more incredible to me than the first time I swung a sword with my Wii remote. Waving the controller back and forth for slices and slashes was my first and favorite taste of motion-sensing immersion. Then came aiming arrows, shaking the nunchuck for spin attacks, thrusting the nunchuck for shield bashes–and those are just the controls. Once you nail them down, throw on your green tunic and embark on one of the meatiest, grittiest Zelda quests, complete with nine dungeons, six or seven of which are superb.
1. Super Mario 64 (N64)
Forget for a second what Super Mario 64 means to gaming and 3D gaming in particular. All impact aside, this is still the best 3D platformer on earth. From circling to the top of King Bob-omb’s mountain to grabbing Bowser by the tail and chucking him into the final spiked ball, you won’t find a better run and jump experience in the realm of 3D. Each level was a game in itself, and the straightforward platforming of the Bowser stages kept things fresh. Then you have the time-shaving slide levels (Why couldn’t there be a dozen of these?), the Koopa races, the frantic Rainbow Ride, the tweakable Tick-Tock Clock, the lava surfing, the wildly creative enemies, the Wing Cap, the damned monkey, the endless stairs… the list never ends.