With the Nintendo WiiU launching back in November, there still isn’t an impressive library. My local game store has one half shelf dedicated to WiiU games. Most of the real estate has Wii overflow from the full Wii shelf next to it.
When you think about it, besides the Mario game that came packed in with the system, most Nintendo launches were weak on the software side. You got that one killer app, but for months, nothing else.
I’m going to break down the classic Nintendo 1st party game, the biggest 3rd party game, and the worst game at launch.
NES (1985): The NES had a soft launch, only releasing to FAO Schwartz in New York originally and eventually would find its way everywhere. It obviously wasn’t a blockbuster seller immediately, but this is the system that built the Nintendo name.
- 1st Party: Super Mario Bros
- 3rd Party: Kung-Fu
- Worst Game: Gyromite
Gameboy (1989): Again, hard to get concrete numbers and dates, the Gameboy managed to sell really well. Most people mostly used the portable as a Tetris machine for the first several months of its life, but eventually the Gameboy would go on to sell more than 118 million units.
- 1st Party: Super Mario Land
- 3rd Party: Tetris
- Worst Game: Baseball (bad port of original NES game)
Super NES (1991): The Super NES has one of the smaller launches in Nintendo history, but they launched with a much greater quality of games.
- 1st Party: Super Mario World
- 3rd Party: Sim City
- Worst Game: Gradius 3 (It’s not a bad game, just the worst out of the launch titles.)
Nintendo 64 (1997): Quite literally there were only two games at the launch of the N64 as far as I can tell, but both games were fantastic.
- 1st Party: Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64
- 3rd Party: N/A
- Worst Game: Pilotwings (?)
Nintendo Game Cube (2001): The Gamecube is often frowned upon as one of the worst Nintendo systems to hit the market. I believe it was the best. But the launch was mostly ports from other consoles.
The Gamecube launched with 13 games. Not only did it have the weakest 1st party launch title in Nintendo’s history, Luigi’s Mansion, it also only contained games that could be purchased for other consoles.
- 1st Party: Luigi’s Mansion
- 3rd Party: Star Wars Rogue Squadron II
- Worst Game: Fur Fighters: Viggo’s Revenge
Gameboy Advance (2001): The Gameboy Advance had a fairly limited launch line up. It had many games, but was almost all ports from other systems.
- 1st Party: Super Mario Advance (Super Mario 2 Repackaged)
- 3rd Party: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Earthworm Jim, Rayman Advance
- Worst: Army Men Advance
Nintendo DS (2004): The Nintendo DS had a mildly better launch than the Game Cube. Since most games didn’t know how to use the touchpad yet, most had little reason to actually be on the DS, other than the cheap production value. The worst game, Ping Pals, managed to get many <1 10s="" 500="" america="" around="" ds="" in="" launch="" media.="" north="" of="" on="" out="" p="" sold="" somewhere="" still="" supposedly="" the="" units="" week.="">1>
- 1st Party: Metroid Prime Hunters: First hunt
- 3rd Party: The Urbs: Sims in the City
- Worst Game: Ping Pals
Nintendo Wii (2006): Nintendo Wii had a weak launch lineup with bang up marketing. Games that were broken like “Red Steel” were pushed like the second coming. The strongest non-pack in release, Zelda, was a Gamecube port. Now Wii fans have been treated to at best, three worthwhile releases a year.
- 1st Party: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports
- 3rd Party: Call of Duty 3, Red Steel
- Worst Game: Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam
Nintendo 3DS (2011): I’m still confused about the 3DS launch. As far as I can tell, there pretty much wasn’t software at the launch of the 3DS. Literally there were games, but not really. Most were rehashing of other games or games that hadn’t figured out the tech quite yet.
- 1st Party: Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs + Cats
- 3rd Party: Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition,
- Worst Game: Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D, Asphalt 3D
Nintendo WiiU (2012): Jokes aside, I want this console to work. Failing consoles are good for no one. Still, it seems Nintendo rushed the hardware out the door knowing that it's tech specs wouldn't be able to compete with PS4 and Xbox One. There weren't a lot of launch games and besides the release of Pikmin 3, there really haven't been many game releases since launch.
Most of the third party games are ports of older games from this generation like Mass Effect 3 and Batman Arkham City.
- 1st Party: New Super Mario Bros U
- 3rd Party: Mass Effect 3: Special Edition
- Worst Game: Game Party Champions
I guess my conclusion from looking at all the Nintendo launches is that I should stop expecting these insanely great pack in launches like the SNES and N64. The launches weren't as bad as I thought, but there weren't many stand outs.
The business model has changed. Xbox 360 launched with nothing. Playstation 3 took forever to get some great exclusives out. Kinect and Move are both jokes. PS4 and Xbox One both have weak launches.
I guess I held Nintendo at a higher level. But nowadays, it’s all about the hardware sales. No one wants to take a risk on an unproven console and install base.