The Top Five Console Launches of the Last 15 Years

By: Steve MacDougall

Today, the Nintendo Switch launches worldwide. With so much attention on the Switch’s lineup, and the debates raging on because of it, we thought we’d take a look at the top five launch lineups of the past  15 years. We picked that span of time because we wanted to keep the conversation more to the modern systems, and where trends are going. Please note that these rankings are based only on the U.S. launch lineups, and only considers games that were available day-and-date of the console’s launch.

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#5 – PlayStation Portable

Launch date: March 24, 2005

Launch games: 

  • Ape Escape: On the Loose
  • Archer Maclean’s Mercury
  • ATV Offroad Fury: Blazin’ Trails
  • DarkStalkers’ Chronicle: The Chaos Tower
  • Dynasty Warriors
  • FIFA Soccer 2005
  • Gretzky NHL
  • Lumines
  • Metal Gear Ac!d
  • MLB
  • MVP Baseball 2005
  • NBA
  • NBA Street Showdown
  • NFL Street 2 Unleashed
  • Need for Speed Underground Rivals
  • Rengoku: Tower of Purgatory
  • Ridge Racer
  • Smart Bomb
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 Remix
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005
  • Twisted metal: Head-On
  • Untold Legends
  • Wipeout Pure
  • World Tour Soccer

That is a long list of titles! It’s hard to believe EA released two different Street games for the system’s launch. While it’s true there probably isn’t a killer app in this list–a phrase that was still very important in 2005 when the PSP came out–the PSP had a ton (27!) of diverse games, and many were very good. Wipeout Pure, Darkstalkers Chronicles, Twisted Metal: Head-on, the Ape Escape port, a completely wacky Metal Gear card game that somehow works, and the PSP’s launch standout title: Lumines.

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#4 – Xbox 360

Launch date: November 22, 2005

Launch games: 

  • Amped 3
  • Call of Duty 2
  • Condemned: Criminal Origins
  • FIFA 06
  • Gun
  • Kameo: Elements of Power
  • King Kong
  • Madden NFL ’06
  • NBA 2K6
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted
  • NBA Live’06
  • NHL 2K6
  • Perfect Dark Zero
  • Project Gotham Racing 3
  • Quake 4
  • Ridge Racer 6
  • Tiger Woods ’06
  • Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Anyone who has followed video games for a while knows that prior to the HD generation, console libraries were much more diverse than they are now. Third-party exclusive titles were also much more common. With the HD generation, costs started going up to the point where exclusives were much more financially risky, and this development was on full display with the launch of the first HD console: the Xbox 360. The exclusive titles were mostly first-party games: Project Gotham Racing 3, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo. But since it launched a year before the PlayStation 3, it also had the best console versions of all its third-party launch games: Call of Duty 2, Madden, Tony Hawk, Need for Speed, Gun and Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

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#3 – Xbox One

Launch date: November 22, 2013

Launch games:

  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
  • Battlefield 4
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • Crimson Dragon
  • Dead Rising 3
  • FIFA 14
  • Fighter Within
  • Forza Motorsport 5
  • Just Dance 2014
  • Killer Instinct
  • LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
  • LocoCycle
  • Madden NFL 25
  • NBA 2K14
  • NBA Live 14
  • Need for Speed: Rivals
  • Powerstar Golf
  • Ryse: Son of Rome
  • Skylanders: Swap Force
  • Xbox Fitness      
  • Zoo Tycoon
  • Zumba Fitness: World Party

When the Xbox One launched, Microsoft’s reputation was in rough shape for the controversial decisions they made before reversing course in time for the console’s launch. Through it all, Microsoft steadfastly asserted that they had a great games lineup. And on that subject, they were right. Dead Rising 3, the underrated Ryse: Son of Rome and the fantastic Killer Instinct reboot are among the first-party highlights. It also saw strong third-party support, games like Battlefield One, Assassin’s Creed 4, and Call of Duty: Ghosts. And though it wasn’t available on day one, it’s interesting to note that Peggle 2 arrived two weeks later as one of the most perplexing timed exclusives in recent memory.

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#2 – Wii

Launch date: November 19, 2006

Launch games:

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Call of Duty 3
  • Excite Truck
  • Happy Feet
  • Madden 2007
  • Monster 4×4 World Circuit
  • Need for Speed: Carbon
  • Rampage: Total Destruction
  • Red Steel
  • Spongebob: Creature from the Krusty Krab
  • Super Monkeyball: Banana Blitz
  • Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Trauma Center: Second Opinion
  • Wii Sports

The Wii doesn’t usually get brought up when discussing great console launch lineups, but a quick look at that list shows that it deserves to. This is Nintendo’s strongest first party lineup of the last 15 years–and the Wii was hugely successful, but why have another such lineup for its next two consoles? Excite Truck, the incredible Wii Sports and of course, a brand new Zelda. The Wii even had decent support from third parties with Trauma Center, Red Steel and Super Monkeyball.

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#1 – Vita

Launch date: February 15, 2012

Launch games: 

  • Army Corps of Hell
  • Asphalt: Injection
  • Augmented Reality: Cliff Diving
  • Augmented Reality: Fireworks
  • Augmented Reality: Table Soccer
  • Ben 10: Galactic Racing
  • BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend
  • Dungeon Hunter: Alliance
  • Dynasty Warriors Next
  • Escape Plan
  • F1 2011
  • FIFA Soccer
  • Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
  • Hustle Kings
  • Little Deviants
  • Lumines Electronic Symphony
  • Michael Jackson: The Experience HD
  • ModNation Racers: Road Trip
  • Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus
  • Plants vs. Zombies
  • Rayman Origins
  • Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen
  • Super Stardust Delta
  • Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
  • Touch My Katamari
  • Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
  • Uncharted: Golden Abyss
  • Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition
  • Wipeout 2048

The number one console launch on our list may surprise some, but just look at that list. A new Hot Shots golf, a new Wipeout, a new Lumines, a new Katamari, a new Mod Nation Racers, and a new Uncharted? That’s stellar. On top of that we had excellent indies like Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and Escape Pan. Normally I don’t give a lot of credit to a system that has ports, but I think it’s a little different for a portable system. Getting portable versions of Rayman Origins, Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Virtual Tennis 4, and Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 was incredible. Say what you want about where the Vita eventually wound up, but its launch lineup knocked it out of the park. Happy belated fifth birthday, little guy!

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What do you think of our list? Where would you put the Switch on this list, if at all? Let us know in the comments, as well as what other consoles you might have included instead.