With Switch’s arrival a mere two months and change away, and its full unveiling happening this week, there’s one question on all of our minds right now: Which games are we going to be playing on this thing at launch?

The launch lineups for Nintendo’s consoles have run the full gamut; from feast to famine, deep experiences to shallow filler, and with wildly varying degrees of third party support. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and in today’s fickle market this truth is more poignant than ever. So before Nintendo’s next big launch lineup hits – perhaps the most important one that it’s ever assembled – we wanted to take a look back at some of our favorite console debuts from the past, and the titles that made us fall instantly in love with them.

These are Nintendo Wire’s favorite Nintendo launch titles:

Star Wars Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader

Written by Tom Brown

The GameCube could be seen as the last time Nintendo held parity with other consoles in terms of graphical power. Sure, the original Xbox had a slight edge, but compared to the massive chasm between the capabilities of the Wii U and PS4 the GameCube era was one of art design and direction taking precedence over behind-the-scenes power. No launch game quite captured that feeling like Rogue Leader.

Sure, there had been plenty of Star Wars dog fighting games in the past, but I feel this GameCube launch title emulated the movies like no other – the ships were detailed, the voice acting was pretty accurate, even film clips were peppered throughout adding to the authenticity. While it’s a pretty simple game compared to others on this list, it left a lasting impression and showed just how capable the humble purple box could be.


Luigi’s Mansion

Written by Jaxson Tapp

As Nintendo Wire’s resident expert on all things spooky and Luigi, it’s no surprise that Luigi’s Mansion is the first reason that I fell in love with the GameCube. As a kid, nothing was cooler than seeing Nintendo place their bets on Luigi, rather than Mario, to take on the challenge of launching a console. That premise alone made me interested in the title, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Although the game itself is short, the aesthetic of the long, dark hallways mixed with playful sounds and silly ghosts made up for that for me; no other GameCube launch title drew me in quite like Luigi’s Mansion did. If my wildest dreams come true, maybe I’ll get the chance to join Luigi on a spooky mansion adventure once again when the Switch launches in March.


Super Mario World

Written by Matthew Weidner

Anyone who follows my weekly adventures in eShop ranting will no doubt have noticed my fondness towards Nintendo’s super powered system. While it wasn’t my entry point to the wonderful world of Nintendo back as a wee inkling, it held the honor of being the first home console I personally played outside backseat driving my father’s adventures through Hyrule on the NES. Most importantly, though, I associate the SNES with having perfected the formula for many of Nintendo’s fledgling franchises given birth by its 8-bit predecessor.

In this regard, Super Mario World was no exception. Vibrant 16-bit graphics, tight platforming and an interconnected overworld set the bar for what the new hardware could handle in the years to come, made only more prominent by the game’s superb soundtrack and masterfully crafted level design. Couple that with secret stages, multiple exits, creative power-ups and the introduction of everyone’s favorite ride-able dino pal Yoshi and it’s clear this was much more than just a souped-up Mario Bros. 3. To this day its influences on the platforming genre can still be felt beyond the borders of the Mushroom Kingdom, firmly cementing SMW as one of the greatest launch titles of our time.


The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Written by Ricky Berg

That first trailer, right?

Now that that’s out of the way, Twilight Princess stood as an ambitious project for the Zelda series. While Wind Waker was undoubtedly a success, there was a large, initial backlash for its unique aesthetic. Fans evidently wanted a more ‘mature’ Zelda game in terms of design and plot, and while it was developed to be one of the last big titles for the GameCube, it also served as a launch title for the Wii and it’s that version that more people gravitated to. A similar instance is coming up with regards to Breath of the Wild, giving me all the more reason to reflect back on this 2006 title’s release.

Thanks to the presence of Wiimote-based motion controls it offered a new means of journeying through Hyrule, but in time that particular charm has waned. What hasn’t is the game’s narrative, detailing the struggles of the kingdom in the face of dark interlopers from another plane of existence. Their influence is harming Hyrule and early on it forces Link into a wolf-form that allows for distinct gameplay opportunities and introduces new character Midna to ride along the whole way through. She stands out in particular, but the game also allowed Ganondorf to grow as a character and introduced the childlike madness of Zant to the Zelda universe.

The Wii U version is a spectacular revisit and the GameCube may be the “original”, but I’ll never forget the time I spent on the Wii’s launch date starting up Twilight Princess.


Super Mario 64

What makes a launch title special? Is it an experience that lasts? One that allows a new console to really flex its muscle and show off what it’s capable of? Or is it more important that it features revolutionary mechanics or stars well known, beloved characters?

Well, ideally, a perfect launch title should embody all of these traits, and perhaps even more. Being tasked almost single-handedly with supporting the Nintendo 64 when it launched in 1996, Super Mario 64 had no choice but to rise to this task. With its pristine 3D presentation, tight controls and wide array of vast, detailed environments; Mario’s first 3D adventure checked every box on the list. Collecting all 120 stars was the perfect way to spend the first few months with Nintendo 64. Personally, I can’t think of a better day one justification of a new piece of hardware.

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Written by Brittin Shauers

Brittin literally grew up with Link, Mario and Samus. These three characters and their worlds collectively capture everything that he loves about video games.

Brittin Shauers