The launch of a console is terrifying. A beloved company could find itself dashed against the cold shoals of consumer culture, or exalted into everlasting greatness and high stock prices. You could end up sinking your hard-earned ~$300-400 into a big dusty brick to be boxed up with your broken VCR, or investing in a permanent fixture in dorms and apartments to come. But there, guiding you to safety like harbor buoys through a thick mist, there are the games launching alongside the console, and every now and then there comes a launch game so powerful, so potent, so perfect, it single-handedly justifies that day one impulse buy or that midnight launch line. Here're the 12 best console launch titles ever put out.
Bright, bumping, and bold, SSX was a gauzy dream of a racing game, trading in the white-knuckled adrenaline of your Gran Turismo or your Mario Kart for a Zen-like downhill flow state, aided by dynamically shifting electronic music. The brilliance of SSX was that, at a certain point, the whole "racing" thing just falls away in your mind, and you become engulfed in floating through impossible topographies, borne on an infinite crystalline carpet, feeling the pulse of the world wash over you like a sonic ocean. I guess what I'm getting at is that SSX is basically just MDMA.
Though it's been years since I last hefted an enormous cursed living sword on the Dreamcast, I will never forget Soulcalibur as long as I live. This is because I see Voldo's unearthly gyrations and gesticulations every time I close my eyes, even for a moment, his ornate codpiece thrusting closer and closer, closer and closer and closer. Because of this, life is a nightmare and I will welcome death with a kiss. But also, because Soulcalibur is an absolute gem of the fighting genre, a pioneer of the 3D fighter with its eight-way run system and, despite some balance issues, a sublime linked combo system toeing the line between the deceptive accessibility of the Tekken series and the extravagant button chains of Mortal Kombat, with cool-ass weapons slopped on top like molten steel gravy. And then there's Voldo... hissing... thrusting...inscrutable and implacable. God. Oh, God.
When the Xbox 360 and PS3 launched, it was hell out there. All the arbitrary, brand-loyal partisan bickering from the previous generation came back in full force like weird hateful sex feelings towards an awful ex. For some reason, video games made us behave poorly towards each other. Looking back, one thing is clear: PS3 buyers had a better launch day, almost single-handedly due to Resistance: Fall of Man (though that the launch closely coincided with the release of Gears of War made it basically the Tet Offensive of console war escalation). Resistance did Perfect Dark better than Perfect Dark Zero did, with goofball guns out the ass, and did Gears of War almost as well as Gears of War did, with a humanity's-last-stand storyline that, while involving no Cole Trains, was still pretty cool. Though it broke no molds, nor shifted any paradigms, Resistance is still a testament to good ideas and compelling world-building polished to a mirror sheen.